Heads up! Paradigm shifting our understanding of death using Virtual Reality – a collaboration with Virtual-Awakening. Death and dying in virtual reality to give you the second chance at life without the need for the heart attack or cancer scare. But how real do you want it to feel? And how real does it need to feel to get the benefits? All important and exciting questions.
The Mindfulness Centre of Excellence believes we can bring mindfulness to any situation. In most cases, it is helpful to be more present, more responsive and kinder. But it’s not always easy and if we are really learning, it can often but startling or even painful. Especially so with a challenging topic like death.
What if we bring mindfulness to the exploration of death and dying? Sages, mystics and philosophers over the ages have suggested that psychological preparation for death is a good idea. Modern science is providing evidence to support these views. Approaching death (and the topic of death) mindfully means we can take in more information, from a larger and more diverse number of sources and with a broader and kinder aperture of attention.
If we are trying to grow and stretch our minds, we can accelerate and enhance our learning if we intentionally care for our brain in the process.
Reflection: Think about your own experience of learning and ask three questions
- What were the conditions that made it a great learning experience?
- What was your body and mind like in that experience?
- What was your motivation or mindset approaching the learning?
Most likely you were relaxed, present, open, feeling connected and understood and allowed to get it “wrong”. You were likely hopeful that the learning would benefit you in some way or open to just being in an experience that will stretch you. Intentionally and explicitly creating these conditions around any learning experience can only amplify the learning. Mindful design does just that.
Mindful XR Design
So what happens in Virtual Reality? What happens when the brain is dramatically immersed in virtual reality? How can we ensure that experiences in VR, if are intended for growth potential or to be therapeutic, can be augmented and enhanced by Mindful XR Design and are not just provocative and stimulating entertainment experiences?
If we need to feel to heal then how real can we make it feel in VR?
In a collaboration with Virtual-Awakening, Mindful XR design was brought to a project exploring the Death Shadow. Death is Fake News is a collaboration between Tamara Russell and Jose Montemayor Alba with logistical support for our pilot research from the The Psychedelic Society.
We curated a mindful exploration of the Death Shadow, including reflections, meditations, group discussion and the VR Experience Death is Fake News. The VR design drew on data from those with Near Death Experiences following medical trauma. See this great video by Peter Fenwick on the topic of NDE. It offers individuals an experience designed to catalyse introspection of death and the death shadow. It is a provocation tool designed to loosen up the conditioning of the default mode network in relation to questions around death and dying. If we can be less fearful of death…..then we can truly live.
Our key question: can we give people the experience of a second chance at life without the need for a traumatic incident?
Death is Fake News 360 Mindful Design Summary
The 360 Mindful Design process ensures that mindfulness and compassion are woven throughout the work from the very inception of the business model to the final delivery to the person using the experience.
Mindful design accelerates and amplifies learning by taking care of the brain and the body that are intimately involved in the learning process. This care and attention makes the whole process take longer but ultimately ensures that energy and effort are not wasted and that teams can work in sustainable ways. The work explored……..
- The meta-intentions of the work – the bigger and most heartfelt “why” of offering this experience to people. Regular meta-intentions regularly guided the work.
- The care of the team in the creation and delivery of the work. Compassionate working practices were designed to optimise body and mind and soul as these transformative educational materials were created. This work is then sustainable, ensuring those delivering the intervention are fully psychologically and physically resourced as they work. This was particularly important in the VR setting as this work requires many hours at the computer. Sitting is the new smoking! It just doesn’t make sense to brutalise bodies in the process of creating content that is about transformation and self-development.
- The content of the interventions, informed by the research which used a deep listening interdisciplinary process that valuing ALL contributions. Great design includes content that resonances at a deeply human level. The VR project drew on the experiences of those who have gone through a Near Death Experience. These were then visualised by the artist within the VR environment. The project also included a mindful approach to the journey through the VR environments, minimizing the times the brain/awareness is pulled out of being fully present in the experience. Also included were processes to amplify embodiment built into the experience.
- The set and setting of the intervention is designed in a brainwise way to ensure maximum impact in the most efficient way. Those with a regular meditation practice will know that the approach to the cushion is as important as what happens on it. The same is true for these transformational VR experiences – adequate preparation of the brain and body and mindful transitions in and out of the VR are vital for real embodiment and generalisable effects when back in the “real” world.
If you would like to experience Death is Fake News contact Jose via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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