Action Research Case Study: The Death Incubator

Action Research: The Death Incubator

The Death Incubator was a live action research collaboration between VR artist Jose Montemayor Alba (Founder of Virtual Awakening) and Dr. Tamara Russell (Founder and Co-Director of the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence).

The purpose of the work was to explore the intersect between mindfulness, creativity, immersive technology (virtual reality) and transformative education. The topic, death.

You can watch a short documentary about the project work made by Freethink. Or read on to find out more about this action research case study.

Web content from the DI Project with Jose Montemayor Alba and Virtual Awakening.

Now more than ever, the benefits of reframing our relationship with death are becoming apparent. Many great thinkers and artists agree that regular contemplation of death allows us to live a fuller and more meaningful life. Death literacy was already a topic of increasing interest but we are now literally forced to deal with death at the collective scale. 

Web content from the DI Project with Jose Montemayor Alba and Virtual Awakening.

Approaching difficult topics is never easy, and using artistic expression is one way to open up challenging conversations. Jose’s VR experience Death is Only the Beginning used VR as a medium to visualise the scientific reports of Near Death Experiences. His early sharing and documentation of reactions to the Death is Only the Beginning experience suggested this transformative technology warranted a piece of deeper inquiry.

Transformative tech is a growing sub-sector within the technology space exploring how to transform consciousness in the service of human flourishing. You can even find out about transcendence tech here. While many great innovations start with good intentions, this is one sector which would benefit from processes that support mindfulness and ethical (non harming) actions. Psychological safety and knowing what you are doing (and why) are paramount.

The Mindful 360 Process was used to help understand more fully the possible potential and pitfalls of using this transformative technology. The Mindful 360 Approach is a design process that seeks to ensure the mindful principles of care and attention are (as far as possible) key features of any design from conception to the execution. It is for projects who prioritize ethical and safe conduct (beyond lip service) as a key feature of their purpose, process and production line. They are committed and resourced to do the thinking to mitigate against unintended consequences.

Slides from the DI Project with Jose Montemayor Alba from Virtual Awakening

Mindful 360 Process – Key Features

Purpose: a deep questioning into intentions

People and Personnel: an exploration of personal, collective, conscious and unconscious intentions (particularly for Founders), and relational processes.

Process and Production Line: care and attention given to the minds and bodies creating the content (self-care first) and what’s kind in the “next gen” production line, as well as the user experience.

Pricing – Planet: remaining cognizant at all times of the “true cost” and essential, invisible and priceless structures that hold everything in place.

The Death Incubator was a piece of innovation work that expanded learning in a number of areas including 

  • use of this particular technology to modulate or expand consciousness
  • embodiment in the VR environment
  • the application of the Mindful 360 Approach 
  • How to work with the topic of death and dying explored in this unique ancient meets modern manifestation. 

The research blended these various digital and analog tools and created three different versions of the DI. An initial one-day retreat (the pilot of our first M360 VR experience combined with analog inquiries). A longer package (including assessment, webinars, VR experience at a day long retreat, integration), and a “micro” package (individual coaching and a day retreat). The latter formed part of a short documentary about the work for Freethink.

Slides from the DI Project with Jose Montemayor Alba and Virtual Awakening.

Our Action Learning Cycle included

Preparation phase – developing interdisciplinary working, intention setting, creative explosions, allowing time for innovation and mistakes.

Piloting the day retreat with a group of mindfulness practitioners and technology developers with an interest in contemplative practices or “consciousness hacking”. This event was documented in Psychologies magazine.

Public Event An expanded retreat version. Some images can be found here.

Micro version with two participants and documentary makers Freethink.

Events: This work was presented at the Association for Transpersonal Psychology 50th Anniversary Conference (2019), and The Mindful Society Conference (2020). See Jose sharing the wider vision of his play/work at the Mystics and Scientists Conference in London in 2019.

This year-long project on a topic and methodology of significance, is now transitioning mindfully – pausing, reflecting on the immense learning and with the intention to share the learning from this experience to those in the community who wish to wisely harness the power of technology. We use the mindful action reflection learning tool (Russell &Tatton-Ramos, 2016)  to explore the qualities of mindfulness in this work at both the systemic and project levels. This is the next stage of the work to integrate and consolidate this learning.

For further information about Death is Only the Beginning and Jose’s work with VR please contact

For further information about M360 Design, Tamara’s Tools to Transform (121 or Group) or Learning through integral practice, please contact