Giving up meditation after Muse


#1

I have been using the Muse headband for a month, working up to two 30 minute sessions each day. The only success i have had is learning that i am one of those people who cannot meditate. I thought i had seen improvement, averaging between 70-85% calm over a period of several days. This then dropped to an average of 48% calm per session, and proceeded to worsen until my last session, which showed 11% calm.

I am not sure how this helps or trains calmness in any way. I have turned the feedback up or down to try to address anticipation and its effects. I have counted breaths and other methods with nothing but failure. I guess my question is what is the point of this device if It doesn’t offer anything in the way of improving calmness. I know its just to track brain function/calmness and not really a trainer, but i am just frustrated with the whole experience and think i will just give up.


#2

Hey there, I am having very similar results to your’s. I started out with some 50%-60% calm seasons and have steadily gone deadhill to a record 1% calm, 10 minutes session earlier this morning.

The more I focus on getting the the birds to sing, with every conscious or unconscious effort, the less calm I am. The more I focus exclusively on breathing, the less calm I am.

I too have tried counting breaths, etc. On the days I’ve gotten calm readings I cannot correlate those to anything I was doing, thinking or feeling. I can’t find anything to anchor my results to.

Maybe some of the apps could better illustrate the connection between my mind, and awareness, and a calm state? What should I FEEL to get a calm reading on MUSE? What EXACTLY should I do with my mind, consciously or sub-consciously, to reach a calm state as interpreted by my MUSE headset?


#3

Insofar as I can tell, it’s actually because of a poorly thought out algorithm with Muse. Basically, Muse tracks ‘calmness’ based on your original baseline, if you are calm in your baseline it will track that you are basically at a moderate state of calmness (equally between calm and agitated) during your meditation if you remain calm.

This is why I’ve stopped using Muse, their only app isn’t very well thought out imo, I wish there was a better developer community actually doing useful things with Muse but it doesn’t seem that’s the case atm.


#4

I dunno Anthony. I have some sessions with MUSE where I come out feeling deeply relaxed and energized and MUSE tells me that those are not calm sessions.
I can’t quite crack the code in terms of what types of actual feelings and/or awareness is associated with the calm readings.
Maybe the MUSE Monitor app would give me data that would help me link up my happy, deeply calm sensations internally - with actual brain activity.
I just can’t consistently dial in a calm state with MUSE - sometimes I’m 41% calm and the next time I’m 4% calm. And the 4% calm session felt the most transcendent and clear while meditating, and left me feeling most invigorated and relaxed afterwards…
Maybe my “happy place” is different than the one the MUSE program identifies as “calm.” No idea.


#5

By “original baseline,” do you mean the first time that Muse calibrated before the first meditation session for the individual, or each specific calibration before each meditation session? My understanding is that Muse starts a fresh baseline during the calibration before each meditation session. Otherwise, why would it need a new calibration each time?

So the trick would be to make sure that the mind is active during each calibration. Do not try for a calm state of mind during the calibration. Keep the mind active. Recite multiplication tables in your head. Count from 1 to 10 in English and any foreign languages you know. Do a math problem.

In my experience, keeping the mind active during calibration has helped keep up the bird and calm scores during the Muse meditation session. But I’ll see how this works as I go forward.


#6

If you are calm during calibration, that could skew the results for the session. You’re setting the bar too high.

But even after calibration, during the meditation session itself, being calm isn’t all there is to meditation. If the Muse algorithm looks specifically for brain waves and brain wave combinations that are indicative of a calm mind, it will misinterpret some of the deeper states of meditation.

As the meditator reaches access concentration and begins to enter the jhana states, there will be some joyful emotion and pleasant sensations. It’s not all alpha waves. There might be - I’m sure there are - other brain waves entering into the mix that could be misinterpreted by Muse as something we should not want in a meditative state. Be we should want them! That is the problem.

Muse is probably set up to reward meditators for calmness and mental focus. But that is only the first stage of meditation. Muse seems to be set up for only this initial stage of meditation, not the deeper states. Which is good as far as it goes.


#7

Hey Sarkikos,
Thanks a lot for the tips! I have played around with the calibration sessions and it does seem to make some difference, but I can’t say for sure. Anyways, I’m really looking for an approach that will get me to Muse’s “calm state” without hacking it.

Looking up the jhana states and reading about those progressive, transcendent states of awareness, helped me a lot. These states describe much more nearly the actual experience I have always had when meditating.

And in one article, https://www.lionsroar.com/entering-the-jhanas/, the author sums up the problem I have getting the birds to keep singing on Muse:

“If your practice is anapanasati—mindfulness of breathing—you may recognize access concentration when the breath becomes very subtle; instead of a normal breath, you notice your breath has become very shallow. It may even seem that you’ve stopped breathing altogether. These are signs that you’ve likely arrived at access concentration. If the breath gets very shallow, and particularly if it feels like you’ve stopped breathing, the natural thing to do is to take a nice deep breath and get it going again. Wrong! This will tend to weaken your concentration. By taking that nice deep breath, you decrease the strength of your concentration. Just stay with that shallow breathing.”

This is where the rubber meets the road for me with Muse. I have a very difficult time ascending into these higher states of consciousness, and maintaining them, without allowing my breath to become very slow and subtle. And as soon as I do, the birds stop singing. I can start breathing heavily and regularly - and the birds will start singing again. But I can’t do the heavy, regular breathing AND continue in my jhana state.

I think Muse has helped me a lot to focus on my breathing but sometimes breathing in the way required by Muse to give me singing birds - actually brings me out of my “jhana state.” I have to let go of that complete detachment and utter boundlessness, and come back down in my level of consciousness, to simple breath awareness.

My goal is to have the birds singing non-stop, and to do it WHILE experiencing those truly elevated jhana states. Are you able to do this? Is anyone out there able to do this?

I believe that these transcendent levels of awareness constitute the true heart and soul of mediation - and I can’t really reconcile the Muse people’s unwillingness to discuss or even acknowledge this component of the meditative process.

Here’s another quote from the article I quoted above:

“It’s important to let go of the breath when you make the shift to the pleasant sensation. The breath (or other meditation object) is the key to get you in—”in” being synonymous with establishing strong enough access concentration. When you come home from work, you pull out your key, you open the door to your home, and you go in. You don’t then wander around with the key still in your hand—you put it back in your pocket or purse or on some table. You’re not cooking dinner or watching TV with the key still in your hand. The key has done its job, and you let it go. It’s exactly the same with the breath or other meditation object. Totally let go of it, and focus entirely on the pleasant sensation.”

I like the Muse and I intend to continue using it everyday for a long time and I think it truly helps me. But it certainly doesn’t train you to continue deeply into the jhana states as I understand them. Thats my goal!
Jim


#8

checkout my last post on this thread… i have the same problem… and once i realized that everything is attached to that calibration phase i wrote to customer support… and thats what i got:

Thanks for Contacting Muse Customer Care!

The results of a Muse session are dependent on the quality of the calibration before your session. Discrepancies in your sessions are generally tied to the calibration stage. This stage is important, as it provides Muse with a picture of your active brain to compare against during the session. Any sharing of your account, testing during the calibration, calibrating with your eyes open, being overly active, moving or visualizing things during the calibration could potentially skew your data creating an inaccurate baseline for your sessions to compare against; generally resulting in a higher calm score over each of your sessions.

Our application uses each individual calibration as the baseline for the corresponding session. It is very important that you are sitting in a comfortable position keeping your eyes closed lightly when using Muse, as having open eyes will impact your corresponding session. Muse is a very sensitive device and will also pick up even the small electrical activity from muscles around the eyes, jaw and the brainwaves from visual processing.

The more naturally active your mind is during calibration, the “easier” the session will be in terms of getting a high calm score. This introduces a challenge for users who arrive at their meditative practice with Muse already in a state of peace, therefore creating more difficult circumstances in which they can learn to focus and broaden their band of acceptance.

Meanwhile those users who find they have a very busy mind during calibration but manage to settle into their meditation and allow their thoughts to grow still will be rewarded with an easier practice, encouraging them not to give up. Of course, you can do your best to skew your data by deliberately thinking rushed thoughts, but if you do this, you will never enhance your meditation as your data will never be accurate.

I hope this information is helpful. Please advise if you have any further questions!

Have a great day!


#9

Sorry for being so late in responding. Lately I’ve been posting on the Muse Headband User Forum rather than here on the Muse blog.