Can you tell a little about your first VR experience?
My first VR experience was over two years ago. My arthritis issues were getting worse and worse – I couldn’t leave my apartment without going down a flight of stairs. So I was stuck inside quite a lot. I couldn’t go out easily anymore. It was a really hard time getting so isolated. But I had been reading about virtual reality and got intrigued, though I wasn’t sure if it would be too nauseating. So I eventually just got an Oculus Go headset on a Hail Mary bid to ‘get out of the house’ without having to actually leave.
I first used Nature Trek and Guided Meditation, apps like that, and a few games as well. However it was AltspaceVR that changed everything for me. There I found a rich community full of really interesting people who I could travel a hundred worlds with, and go to all kinds of events while sitting right there at home. I took to EvolVR’s meditation events quickly and got hooked.
What makes VR meditation different from traditional meditation?
In VR, you can meditate in any world you visit. You can go to Tibet and meditate in the Potala Palace in VR. You can see Borobudur and meditate there. There aren’t geographic limitations like there are in real life. You can live in Michigan and meditate in Mayan ruins, or live in Thailand and make prayers in a French cathedral. The possibilities are endless and it truly closes the distance in incredible fashion.
What motivates you to lead sessions with EvolVR?
How would you describe the session you lead?
In Meditation for Chronic Pain, we usually hang out for the first five minutes and make casual introductions, and then we start the session properly – we have been using the EvolVR Tibetan Temple which is a beautiful venue. We work through a cycle of different meditations, such as breathwork, mindfulness, and visualizations. I have sat with a couple different Tibetan and Soto Zen groups, and my main style of practice is Zen, lately sitting much more Vipassana. My favorite influences are Shunryu Suzuki, Chogyam Trungpa, Jack Kornfield, Stephen and Martine Batchelor, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Historical teachers I admire include Dogen, Nagarjuna, and Bodhidharma. I follow all sorts of traditions and consider myself a Secular Buddhist.
What is your hope for the future of VR meditation?
In my opinion, the VR world is just getting started! People haven’t realized the power of VR really lies in social apps rather than games. Ready Player One demonstrated the direction VR is headed. But its focus on gaming neglects the potential for all sorts of special interest groups to meet in VR, for interactive game shows, concerts, book openings, training sessions and continuing education… and of course meditation. People won’t need to travel hours just to sit with great teachers and meditate in wondrous environments. There’s great potential for different traditions to co-mingle and I’m super stoked to see how virtual meditation communities will grow and develop.
What’s your favourite thing to do in VR, besides meditate or do yoga?
Working out, marksmanship, and adventure games are my big go-tos beyond Altspace – Beat Saber, Gun Club VR, Red Matter and Shadow Point are my faves. In Altspace, I love shooting hoops, educational meetups like CSinVR, game shows like Avatar Squares, concerts like the ones Reggie Watts did last summer, and festivals like Burning Man… I love the diverse communities and learning new things from skilled people around the world. Most of all, I love world-hopping and seeing all the amazing creations people have made! So many world-builders and developers have put in hundreds, if not thousands, of collective human-hours to make everything from beautiful forests to cyberpunk cities! Quite often I’m just jumping around worlds, and one of my favorite social things to do is cast portals and take people through the greatest places I’ve found to share the magic!
Does your avatar look like you?
Hah, yes! My avatar rocks the beard and glasses look, just as I do in real life. I love purple so my avatar is often wearing a purple sweatshirt and a purple shirt. My avatar’s purple hair’s a slight difference – I don’t have the wherewithal to dye my meatspace hair purple, but it’s easy to do when it’s just pixels in cyberspace!
Do you have one piece of advice for someone new to meditation?
Meditation and mindfulness have helped me so much in my endeavor to gain some control over the ups and downs of chronic pain. My one piece of advice is to try different things and find a practice that really works for you, and try to do it daily. A daily practice is fantastic for inner awareness, gaining some control over our thoughts and reactions, the mental space we need to deal with our problems well. Regular practice is so important for acquiring key self-knowledge and finding increasing degrees of gratitude, patience, kindness and serenity. I truly think it helps one become a more resilient person.
Where can we find more of your work and offerings?
I am working on a website, but it’s not ready yet! You can find my blog on Medium, where I’ve written about a variety of topics, shared meditations, and discussed some of my crazy experiences with the New Kadampa Tradition.
Find Geoffrey’s EvolVR sessions in AltspaceVR.