Muse versus Emwave device


#1

I have had Muse for 51 days and have meditated every day since getting it. However, my results seem to be all over the place. It doesn’t seem to train me to relax more or meditate better it just seems to do its own thing.

Some sessions I will be completely self-absorbed fretting over an issue and yet get lots of birds, and yet another time I will have just got out of the bath, be incredibly relaxed, and hear nothing but wind and zero birds.

Prior to Muse I was using a Emwave from Heartmath. This measure HRV rather than brainwaves. With the Emwave I meditate and can totally relate to the results. Sessions where I am clearly stressed will generate the expected results, and sessions where I am pretty much zen like throughout, will reflect those results.

It is a shame as after building up a streak of over 7 weeks I feel like I want to continue that streak, but at the same time I am seriously question just what exactly Muse is measuring and why the results seem to bear little resemblance to how well or how badly I meditate.

Does anyone else have experience of both Muse and Emwave, or is anyone struggling with Muse as I am?


#2

Hi Yorkieman,

Yes I have the emWave2 and the muse headband.

I had the orignal software for the muse where the clouds would form and go stormy when your mind drifted. This biofeedback was the best and I was able to really get a good session in. Unfortuantely, Muse has changed the software to be basically the calm app and that biofeedback feature is gone and they have no intention of going back to that. Luckily I have it on an old tablet that has not been updated.

The emWave has that biofeedback feature and you can really tell when you are in your heart space, calm, etc. The different games keep your focus.

Like you, I have NO IDEA what the muse is using in its algorithm for scoring. I’ve found totally distracted sessions to yield more birds and calm scores. Using guided meditations, or listening to music of all sorts also yield better scores. Vipasna or TM seem to give really weak scores. So what’s going on here?

The Muse monitor app is great for actually seeing what is being produced by the mind.

Why I am going back to emWave2. Sensors and Battery life on the muse headband are frustrating to say the least, Lets say you want to do a 20 min session with the muse. Sometimes setup takes 10min to get through, then signal drops and battery approaching a max of 20 min after a full charge is infuriating.

EmWave2, on the other hand, simply plug into computer, clip on the ear sensor and start a session of any length. Done! On top of that you can experiment with different types of meditations to see if you stay in the green zone, add distractions … etc.

Therefore, the emWave2 is far superior and cheaper. So far the muse still seems like a beta model and the app integration has gotten a lot weaker than the orignal. Promises of new developments remain vapourware for now.

I hope that the muse team can fix these issues, but for now I’m going to go back to the emWave2.


#3

Just read your reply, which was a coincidence as I had, only minutes earlier, finished an excellent session using both the Emwave and the Muse. I turned the volume on the Muse down to zero and used the audible prompts from the Mac version of Emwave 2(i.e. the let you know when you move in and out of a zone).

I have t say, there is no comparison. The Emwave2 is far superior as you can feel the connection between what you are doing and the result. With the Muse I can sometimes been mulling over a problem and the birds will be tweeting away like crazy, and then I’ll have a calm 10 minutes and there’s nothing but wind.

I think my Muse headset will be going up on ebay shortly, as it seems like the publishers have lost interest in developing it further, which is such a shame as the potential was HUGE.

Funny that the Emwave2, which is has been out for quite a few years and costs way less, is still a much more effective tool.

And one massive plus for the Emwave is that I can take it with me and even use it on the train without people thinking I’m weird - which hey, I might be weird, but there’s no point advertising the fact :slight_smile:


#4

It seems that there are more and more doubts regarding the accuracy of the feedback. You can find more, old discussions on this forum about it. The calibration seems to be an issue and, at the same time, a way to “hack” a good session if you are active right before the main meditation - as opposed to what you are instruct. Even though there are some inconsistencies like described by you and others. I have hope that Interaxon will sort things out soon. The collective frustration is growing and so is the wish list…


#5

Totally. I’ve logged almost 2,000 minutes on Muse and I feel like I am about 1 inch closer to commanding the singing birds, than when I started. They sing when I’m worried. Next time the birds are completely silent while I sit, basking in what feels like sheer bliss, for 10 minutes. It seems all over the place. My best score was an 82% reading for a 40 minute session. The birds never stopped singing. For the 10 days since I can’t get back to 30%. Very few birds. And I am not able to distinguish even the tiniest difference in my state of mind between the sessions. I’ve counted breaths. I’ve emptied myself of everything. I’ve used mantras. Eyes open. Eyes shut. At night. Mid-day. I also have the Muse monitor app., but that hasn’t really helped either. The Muse gives you results without any way of understanding the underlying data - the Muse Monitor gives you underlying data without any way of understanding the results. Surely someone out there knows what one’s brainwaves need to do - to register a “calm” reading on Muse. Or, a feeling, a state of mind, a mental focal point, SOMETHING!


#6

Your experience is almost an exact match of mine Jim. Hours of meditating and not a clue as to what causes birds and what doesn’t. Like you I have tried, and even made notes, of various things I’ve tried in my attempt to perfect it.

I’ve tried my best to have positive thoughts about Muse, but there’s a part of me that now thinks it is just a snake-oil type gadget. If it really does measure brainwaves then surely it is possible to come up with a range of programmes to help people. For example, it could be something to develop the ability to go into an alpha state - something as simple as that.

If Emwave can be so effective with HRV measurements, then surely Muse can use a similar levels based method to help teach relaxation, focus, calm, or whatever.

I wish I had returned mine whilst it was still in the trial period, but I try to really give things a chance, but after over 7 weeks I figure it is time to move on.


#7

I’m just too stubborn to give up. (Remember Einstein saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?” Well, thats me to a T. But, damnit, it somehow does seem, when the birds sing (usually unexpectedly) that there is some common thread, something that links it to the other times - but I simply can’t repeat it consistently.
If you’re interested I’ll detail my own history. Maybe between us we can identify some commonality? If not I totally understand that too! Moving on as you say.
But here goes, if you care: I got mine for Christmas and didn’t register any real results for about 2 weeks. Then one day I felt really down (even clinically depressed maybe) and I meditated with my Muse. I was in such a deep hole emotionally that all I was really aware of while Musing was deep, rhythmic breathing. No thoughts. No dreams. Bleakness. And that was the first time that I had a 75% calm score. Well, I thought, at least I know its linked solely to breathing and has zero “emotional” score involved in a calm reading.
Since that time I have tried repeatedly to replicate those results focusing exclusively on deep, rhythmic breathing. Down to earlier today, when I used my Apple watch breathe app. to PRECISELY regulate my breathing and I completely focused on my breath for 30 minutes. Deep, rhythmic breathing. No thoughts, no dreams… 42% calm.
Other times while Musing I would feel really, really happy and I would get lots of birds. Eureka! I thought, it really IS about my state of mind and this is guiding me so that I can find my inner Happy Spot I can always go to, and hear the birds sing.
Next time really, really happy. No birds. Wind. Sounds.
Then I decided it must be both! Breathing and feeling happy. And I’ve tried that over and over and still no repeatable results. ITs almost like its a moving target that changes each time. Maybe thats the trick. If we could figure it out and get birds instantly whenever we wanted, we would stop Musing.
Bottom line, I agree that, if Muse does what they says it does, then they should be able to develop a bio-feedback system that would repeatedly, and consistently, lead you to whatever they are calling a “calm” state. Isn’t that the goal, to learn how to find a perfectly calm (and for me, transcendent) state of awareness, and to be able to repeat that consistently?
I thought Muse would help me learn to do that. I can’t tell its much different than just meditating and wondering if I’m doing it right or not and just going by my own subjective perceptions.


#8

Excellent post Jim.

Mine arrived in December last year as well, and I used t religiously until Tuesday of this week, without missing a day.

Your eureka moments were very similar to mine. Alas, like yours, they didn’t not bear fruit over the long term.

As well as trying to feel a certain way such as happiness, joy, calm, I also experiment extensively with trying to focus on different things such as:

  • the finger-tips on my left hand (a Jewish meditative apparently)
  • the connection between the thumbs when my hands are resting in my lap
  • my heart region
  • the area five inches outside of my body in front of the heart region
  • my breath in the nose
  • my breath in the abdomen

I also tried imagery such as:

  • sat on a tropical beach
  • imagining a statue of a Buddha in front of me

Occasionally, I would think I’d figured it out, but then additional sessions would disprove it and I was back to square one.

Having read-up on various things over the last few decades (Silva Mind Control for example) it is very clear that it is possible to ‘do things’ that alter our state of consciousness as far as brain waves are concerned. I can’t figure out why on earth the makers of Muse won’t provide us with the tools to work on that kind of thing.

For example, spend a minute doing the initial set up (makes sense) and then the rest of the session trying to achieve whatever your chosen objective might be. So, if you were wanting to work on alpha waves you could set the software so that you’d hear a gentle alert when you increased it by 20%, 50%, 100%, or whatever you’d set it to.

That way we could all set up our own bespoke programmes to meet whatever goals we figured out, and we could then have an amazing forum to discuss our findings. So, if you discovered that increasing theta by 10% made a massive difference you could share that with everyone, and we could all become amateur brain scientists. Gosh, the thought of that kind of experimentation thrills me.

To be honest though, I think they’d need to get their act together and come up with a professional quality Mac/PC as this would help view results and set up experiments. Not everyone will be as keen to try out new things, but for those who are not (which will probably be the majority) they can either choose from a variety of predefined programmes of possibly use a bespoke programme set up by another Muse user.

Sorry if I’ve got a bit long-winded here, but like you, I think there is potential here, but at the moment it is just one big fat wasted opportunity. The more cynical side of me does worry that this device is simply nothing but a toy and the makers know that it really isn’t up to the kind of suggestion I’ve made above.


#9

I have same issues with Muse as well. I got it a month ago and am now on 29th day streak, and I am very grateful that it has helped me establish daily meditation habit, even though it hasn’t thought me yet how to get to the birds at will! I noticed a few things though:

  • If I do a session after session, with no or very small breaks, the calm results would usually improve in later sessions.
  • If I start the session with lots of loud sounds in the beginning, there seems to be no way to get to the birds, no matter how calm it seems to me that I get
  • If I end the session that gives me just loud sounds and start a new one, I will have usually no problem getting much better calm score and hear birds from the start of the session. The difference would be huge between the two back to back sessions, first would be 4% calm and then the next one 74% calm, even though nothing changed in between, I wouldn’t even take Muse off my head. I wondered if maybe my attitude changed somehow with the fresh session - it’s still hard for me to tell.

So this makes me wonder what really happens with calibration and how it affects the ability of the app to accurately send feedback based on brain signals it measures. As Raf said earlier, “calibration seems to be an issue and, at the same time, a way to “hack” a good session if you are active right before the main meditation - as opposed to what you are instruct” - it does make sense to me that this is happening, and would love to not cheat, but it’s hard to even know what exactly I should be doing during calibration to make it right, when it’s instructing me to let go of the effort to pay attention to anything (including the voice?). I hope I can still make some good use out of Muse though.

Edit:
This clarifies things a bit -
"The results of a Muse session is dependent on the quality of the calibration. This stage is important as it provides Muse with a picture of your active brain to compare against during the session. " - this is from Muse FAQ found here. So not being calm during calibration is the key?


#10

Guys,
Same, all around. Yorkieman, like you, I’ve tried everything I know… Vipassana techniques, mantras, Deepak, etc. etc… All completely hit and miss.

nBojana, I have also at times found that I could do several 3-5 minute back-to-back sessions and get dramatically better results each time. But not every time. Not right now when I tried. As nebulous as it sounds, it does seem to have something to do with intent. Those increasingly successful sessions had me eager to get back in there and do it better each time.

And I’ve actually tried to deliberately hack the calibration. I’ve tried moving around, blinking my eyes, etc. during calibration and during the ensuing session I might, or might not, have birds singing. No apparently correlation. Most often, I just follow the instructions exactly, “Take a deep breath, etc.” and go straight into deep breathing throughout the calibration and the session. I can tell no difference in results between one calibration approach and the other.

As I mentioned I’m also using the Muse Monitor app. in an effort to shed some light on what makes for a “calm” state. Viewing a live feedback image with the Monitor app on, I can go into a state of predominant Alpha waves pretty much at will. Given that I can almost never get birds to sing at will on Muse, I’m fairly certain that their “calm” state is not just an Alpha predominant state.

When deeply relaxed with Muse monitor, I get generally straight, untangled raw data lines with the highest percentage of Alpha waves, with Beta and Delta at the second and third levels of intensity, with Theta fourth, and Gamma always lowest in intensity.

I find that Delta and Beta both respond to movement, thoughts, etc… I have a more difficult time deliberately bringing up activity in the Theta range but when I’m deeply relaxed, it will generally increase.

These results lead me to speculate that Muse is looking for some combination and overall percentage of brainwaves much more complicated and difficult to intentionally achieve than just predominant Alpha waves. Purely anecdotally - I’m guessing that it may include certain percentages or patterns of Theta and Gamma waves, just because those are the most difficult for me to manipulate and control and certainly whatever state of mind constitutes a Muse calm state - is most difficult for me to manipulate and control. But that’s total conjecture on my part.

As crazy as it makes me, I’m not giving up yet. On the occasions when I have had nonstop birds singing I did feel really, really good. And I don’t think it was just because I was getting positive feedback. I think I was actually in a uniquely deep, truly meditative, state. In 33 hours of Musing, only once have I had a period as long as 2 minutes and 15 seconds where I was continuously in the calm state. It is usually very difficult for me to get 1 continuous minute of calm.

If I try to put my finger on any single factor that might link my good results, it quickly becomes entirely subjective. Nothing objective explains it. As close as I can get is to say that those sessions seemed to come at times when I felt really good about myself, when I was energized and eager to go deep into my mind. I honestly can’t tell anything different regarding my breathing or thoughts from a bad session to a great session.

If only they made a combined program where you could see your individual brainwaves AND get a signal when they were perfectly arranged. At least that way you would have some objective measuring stick. This way just leaves you blindly guessing…

Thanks so much for sharing your own experiences! Please let me know if you guys come up with anything at all that helps you and I’ll do the same.
Jim


#11

Gentlemen, I thought this was interesting:

I betcha we’re looking at some kind of Gamma related event when the Birds sing. Obviously that’s total guesswork on my part.


#12

I too experimented with different kinds of breathing. I started with “box breathing” with some mixed results but then I discovered the most powerful hack - diaphragmatic breathing. With that technique I can do 100% calm sessions. It simply switches the mind completely. Simply breathe as quickly as you can and as deeply as you can with no breaks in between. Give it a try :slight_smile:


#13

Whoa! 100% calm! Dude, you are a Master Muser! I’ve never even come close to that. I’m going to practice diaphragmatic breathing right NOW! Thanks for the tip. If you make any more breakthroughs lease let us know.


#14

Here is a link to the first session when I switched to rapid breathing. First part is my usual box breathing. The second is the result of diaphragmatic. I don’t do it very often though. It’s too powerful. I do it only when I struggle to get calm :slight_smile:

http://www.choosemuse.com/calm/?session=5cf592ba93674ed3b9be6ba8290d225d&utm_source=socialshare&utm_campaign=1


#15

Raf, thanks man! It’s so dramatic! I tried the same thing. I practically hyperventilated through two 3 minute sessions and got 89% and 91% calm respectively! I was about to faint at the end of them. And it took that much forced breathing to keep the birds singing - if I backed off even a little they would stop.

Since I’m also trying to second guess what brainwaves are associated with the Muse “calm” reading, I also did a session with my Muse Monitor app. using this deep “diaphramatic breathing” technique and I can’t see any obvious differences with earlier sessions done with regular, rhythmic breathing. Maybe a little more activity at the Theta level.

Which makes me wonder all over again… what DOES Muse monitor to register a calm reading? Whatever it is Raf, this is the closest I’ve come to being able to control my results!

Yorkieman, nBojana are you guys reading this? Try this crazy deep breathing technique (until you see spots kind of deep breathing) and see what results you get. This is that benchmark I’ve been looking for. Even if its a hack, at least its a way in to see if that window can be expanded gradually to a truly restive state. Instead of feeling really dizzy, which is how I felt for my 91% reading.

Won’t it be funny if there is NO real brainwave Holy Grail and its all just about breathing really, really hard! That will be a great Zen ending to my quest to discover the Ultimate Truth of my own Being if all I have to do is - hyperventilate.


#16

That last paragraph had me laughing out loud Jim. Years of searching for enlightenment only to discover you just needed to hyperventilate :smile:

I am going to give that a try tomorrow. I shall report back on the results.


#17

Well done @Jimgoza :smile: I created a separate topic below for all to share their own hacks to a calm session:


#18

Yes I use a similar device to Emwave in addition to Muse - both with myself and with clients. I think they are apples and oranges. Actually I guess that the evidence base is maybe a bit better for heart rate variability (emWave) than neurofeedback (Muse). You may well find that one is more useful for you than the other, depending on what you are trying to get out of it.

My feedback from Muse is reasonable, but not as consistent as the HRV. I think that’s just the nature of the beast. In both cases, probably the main benefit is to encourage regular practice, as opposed to anything magic about the feedback itself. If you don’t like the feedback, I would play with the calibration until you do.


#19

Raf, I also got a 99% calm reading when I followed your recommendation to “breathe as quickly as you can and as deeply as you can with no breaks in between.” After logging well over 1,500 minutes and racking up 133,310 points this “99% calm” score represents by FAR my longest continuous “calm” reading ever.

After months of questing, I DID IT!!!

Unfortunately, breathing that way also made me really dizzy. I actually felt like I was on the verge of blacking out before my 3 minute session ended. I also felt a vague headache for a couple of hours after. So, while I had the birds singing mightily, this technique is obviously not going to lead me to the results I’m seeking.

A few days before my breakthrough session, out of increasing desperation, I emailed Muse the following letter:

“I’m a raving fan of the Muse headband. I’ve now logged about 2,000 minutes with Muse (1,114 minutes of saved results) but, I still struggle to make the birds sing on command. (I also use the MUSE monitor app. in an effort to better understand the exact mental state required to register as “calm.”) Nothing I have read, or seen, or any of my results tells me what “state of mind” registers as calm. I’ve read a blogger that calls it “interested.” It would help me greatly to know what I am trying to achieve in terms of the raw data. I understand that the algorithm used by MUSE is proprietary, but is there ANYTHING, or ANYONE, who can give your loyal fans a little more information on what we are trying to achieve in terms of our actual brainwaves? ANYTHING?”

Muse responded with this: “:-1:

DENIED!!! So thats actually pretty funny but, as you can imagine, it didn’t provide a lot of helpful guidance.

To be fair, I guess Muse never expressly claims that faithfully following the Muse program will lead you to enlightenment, but they certainly claim that by using Muse you will gain any number of meditation-based benefits. I personally feel more of those when I don’t follow the Muse program. My own short but exhaustive experience doing Muse for hours every day basically only led me to conclude that the answer - is really deep breathing.

I will continue trying to understand my lack of success with the stated goal of achieving a “calm state,” and I’m even willing to admit that my failures are entirely my own fault, but I just don’t know where else to turn. Except to lighten up and drop my adherence to the suggested Muse “achievements” starting with my daily streak - and just go back to meditating like I know and pick up Muse occasionally to see what results, if any, I get.

Its been really great overall though. I have rarely meditated as long and as hard as I did following the Muse program to get the birds to sing. As I successfully completed the Muse challenges and avidly pursued the Muse program, I read everything I could, I blogged, I really tried to understand how to succeed. At the same time, it has become undeniable that my overall mediation results are declining and that, in fact, Musing is moving me away from my well-established and deeply rewarding meditation rewards.

Thanks guys for sharing your own experiences. Please let the rest of us know if you have any more breakthroughs!


#20

I had a chance to give fast deep breathing a try today in half an hour session, and it seems to have had the opposite effect for me - resulted in loud windy noises. I tried it a few times amid the loud feedback and whilst in neutral and also calm states to see how it would affect it and probably because of change my mind gets more alert, but then the attention also gets locked in more on breathing because, well, it gets quite attention grabbing :slight_smile: I did hear a bird or two, but generally noticed that it seems to get me into active state. Breathing surely can be used to induce various deep altered states, examples such as rebirthing and Stanislav Grof’s holotripic breathing come to mind, and pranayama in its own way.

I am slowly getting a feel for the calm state and I think that at times when I honestly think that I am calm while getting feedback that I am constantly in active state is perhaps when the calibration didn’t go quite well and restarting session will yield much better results. Otherwise I do get a sense that I am moving into certain inner space where birds sing, where even some faint thought can sneak in but it’s in the background and goes away without starting up a stream. Subsequent sessions after short breaks will usually yield improved calm results, and I can relate to that.

I was just reading some books on concentration, and in there I notice that with suggestions on how to prepare for successful practice, the author lists things like humming a tune that brings one into happy mood to dispel any negative feelings, and bring to mind a quote that speaks of deep truths to get the mind off trivialities of daily life and uplift it, and things of that nature. Another thing that’s suggested reminds me of an affirmation in some meditation programs like the one from Monroe: “I am more than my physical body…”, but in addition it’s also important to separate oneself from emotions and thoughts. The quote given in Book Concentration by C. Humphreys is from Lazenby’s The Servant and it goes like this:
"I am not my physical body, but that which uses it.
I am not my emotions, but that which controls them.
I am not my mental images, but that which creates them."
Finally, just affirming that I am simply not interested in any thoughts seems to allow the thought machine to come to a temporary halt and so I am able to be more continuously focused on the breathing, and feel settling in slowly, to finally hear the birds. I found that some sort of surrendering has to occur, and what it means to me is to drop all interest, especially in thoughts that tend to take note of that, and say to myself that of course the score doesn’t matter, so there’s no pressure, all is good… and then I can have easier time getting calm and staying there.

I still got hopes that Muse will actually help me train in concentration, but I think it will probably be of little use (with Muse app at least) to reach specific altered state. For instance, point of conscious state that Tom Campbell talks about, and specifies it as being at or about 4Hz, so in Theta somewhere. I wonder if we’ll see apps for Muse that will allow us to get audio feedback as we’re entering into such specific altered state, if that’s even possible, as who knows if it registers that clearly on EEG, as clear it is to the meditator that he is tuned into this or that astral proper, or having a vision or revelation of some kind. I hope to experiment with Muse Monitor app and some brainwave entrainment audio to see what the graph shows. On the other hand I suppose that Muse would be akin to training wheels and would lose its usefulness at some point if all goes well, in other words, it may help to develop the ability to stay in focused state, but when it comes to directing that focus and tuning into non-physical realms for instance, we might be left to our own (non-electronic) devices. I am still a n00b with only 1200 or so logged minutes and still in the process of training the body to sit upright and still for extended periods of time, which seems harder at times than dealing with untrained mind.