Technology supporting mindfulness meditation: Using physical gesture and sonic feedback to help maintain focused attention on natural respiration.
Abstract. (download full document here)
Meditation has a long history in human culture, from practices originating in ancient India at least as early as the 5th Century BC to recent developments in Western medicine, there exists an array of methods with many different intended goals. The concern of this proposal is primarily upon secular meditation practices that stem from Buddhist traditions, commonly known as ‘mindfulness’. These practices are here explicitly differentiated from other sorts of meditation techniques.
Over the past three decades in the West, the term ‘mindfulness’ has come to mean more than a psychological trait: a set of meditation practices, a manner of observing one’s experience grounded in an embodied perspective, a lifestyle choice, and a successful clinical therapy approach – mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, Teasdale, 2002).
With the increasing popularity of mindfulness meditation practice has come a surge in technologies purporting to be able to induce it, to support it, or that appear to be inspired by it. An initial survey in this area, shown in the table at the end of the document, has been carried out.
The increasing weight of scientific and clinical evidence supporting mindfulness meditation presents a challenge to the design of these technologies that is both methodologically rigorous and deeply compatible with the practical and theoretical foundations of mindfulness and its different meditation techniques.
This document is first a proposal for such an approach to the interaction design of digital technologies.
An initial design is suggested, based on supporting focused attention on the sensations of naturally occurring respiration – a technique widely used in mindfulness training – through gestural interaction and sonic feedback.
With the marriage of digital technology and mindfulness practice, opportunities for inquiry arise such as ‘how does digital interaction affect mindfulness meditation?‘ and ‘how does being mindful and using mindfulness-based technology mediate technology usage and well-being?’.
This document is additionally a proposal to research these questions.
This work was produced as research under the EPSRC-funded MAT programme.