Can you tell a little about your first VR experience?
My first VR experience was literally finding AltSpace, creating an avatar, going into the campfire area and seeing an EvolVR meditation event with SanShin and sitting in VR with him. It all felt pre-ordained.
What makes VR meditation different from traditional meditation?
From a session leader’s perspective there’s a lot that’s different than traditional meditation. We can’t look at the faces of the people in the room and see who might be struggling or need a turn of phrase or a little additional support during the instruction, we can’t always tap into a vibe in the space (although sometimes we can). I feel it’s also difficult to truly feel held and supported by all the other meditators in the room which is why I often end my sessions with a small talk about how we might come to a sit feeling like it’s self help, but what meditation practice is really giving us is the ability to be more present, aware, compassionate and open-hearted in the world. I often ask people at the end of a session to look around at all the VR faces surrounding them and try to have gratitude for them, because with real interconnection in mind, all of these avatars are actually practicing to support you, and you are actually practicing to support them.
Some advantages to meditation in VR I think is really the reach that it can possibly have – so many people are trying out meditation and are coming back to sessions over and over & have been inspired to really dive into the practice on their own after experiencing it just virtually. And of course the Sangha aspect is a real big one as well – having a much more available community of fellow practitioners and spiritual friends around you in VR, Discord, etc. I think there’s a bigger and more intimate sense of community that’s developed in VR as opposed to just going to your local meditation center once a week and exchanging brief pleasantries with some folks you don’t really know too well on your way out of the sit.
What motivates you to lead sessions with EvolVR?
Being able to (however briefly) bring a moment of peace, tranquility, awareness, or lovingkindness into people’s lives.
How would you describe the sessions you lead?
The sessions I lead are very much informed by Buddhism, which I have been practicing for 13 years mainly in the Theravada tradition (the root inspiration for the secular Mindfulness Movement), but I have moved towards practicing and studying more in other Buddhist traditions as well which I like to incorporate into my sessions. I’m inspired and very much influenced by the teachings of the Buddha, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, Tilopa & Naropa, Ajahn Chah, The Dalai Lama, Sayadaw U Tenjania, Mingur Rinpoche, Joseph Goldstein, Ajahn Amaro as well as my teacher Sebene Selassie and her teachers Thanissara & Kittasaro.
What is your hope for the future of VR meditation?
My hope is for the community to grow even larger and more diverse, that it can be a big tent community that ecompasses various styles and traditions but one that can still stay nicely glued together with minimal drama.
Does your avatar look like you?
As much as Alt-Space will allow replication of a 6’4 Saudi Arabian bald man LOL.
Do you have one piece of advice for someone new to meditation?
Try to meditate for just 5 minutes a day every day, (first thing in the morning before you look at your phone if you can!) just simply watching your breath come and go. Meditation is much more effective if we can do a little bit every day rather than doing a lot once or twice a week in a session. Try to notice if you’re becoming attached to the idea that you have to have a VR headset on to meditate. Have patience and self compassion for yourself throughout the process and let the self judgement go as best you can…there’s nowhere to go & nothing to do other than being present with ourselves.
Where can we find your offerings?
On Monday afternoons 1PM ET I do a meditation called “Grounding Into The Week” which is really about starting the week off with some balance, tranquility, and awareness. We spend a lot of time being in the body, being with the breath and just being present and allowing for what occurs naturally to come up and dissipate on its own accord. On Wednesdays 5PM ET I do a session called “Looking Inwards” which tends to go a bit deeper, speak more about the Buddhadharma, and do a variety of meditations that are more rooted in its practice.
Read Haroun’s mini-bio here.
Find Haroun’s EvolVR meditation sessions in AltspaceVR:
Mondays 10AM PT / 1PM ET / 6PM UK
Wednesdays 2PM PT / 5PM ET / 10PM UK