I’ve always found this a good time of year to try new things. It was two years ago at this time that I introduced my soon-to-be teenager to the quiet art of meditation. We had talked about deep breathing and calming the mind, but I found it difficult to explain the process clearly and he found it equally difficult to understand what he was trying to do. It was like trying to describe the colour red to someone who had never seen it.

Since I believed it would serve him well to understand how to calm his mind and knowing that he was very interested in technology, I researched a device called Muse: the brain sensing headband and decided to get one for the family. Used with an App, the Bluetooth headset functions as a home electroencephalography (EEG) device and provides real-time biofeedback. It told my son when his brain was calm so he knew what it felt like and was then able to get better at calming it.

The feedback is provided in the form of auditory cues that mimic the sound of the sea and wind. The soundscape changes from stormy to calm as your brainwaves calm. Bird sounds might be heard if you are calm for an extended period. While not the same as his favourite video games, he found the process familiar enough to stick to and practiced daily for weeks. Eventually, he used it as part of a school project and racked up so many hours on the device that the company contacted him for feedback.

At the beginning, we made it a family affair by taking turns using the device. My husband and I have practiced meditation off and on for many years and it was interesting to see the graphs and charts that told us what our brainwaves were like at different points. I always suspected that I found holidays somewhat stressful and it was instructive to try the device after a holiday meal. Even though I was trying to calm my mind, my brainwaves remained quite active.

For my son, the revelation came when school started again. While he had shown steady improvement with his mediation over the holidays, he found it difficult to calm his mind after a day at school. As parents, we sometimes underestimate how much can go on in a school day. When you consider the social, academic and physical demands, it’s not surprising that our children are sometimes exhausted by 4 pm.

While we don’t use the device daily anymore, it served its purpose by helping us improve our meditation. Now, our whole family has a common understanding of the difference between active and calm brainwaves. We also know to take time for quiet meditation when we start to feel frazzled and have a better idea of whether we are really calming our minds or not.

If we are feeling particularly stressed, we use the device as a “refresher” in order to receive the auditory cues and remind ourselves what calm feels like. This piece of technology has helped my son take his meditation to a level that took me many years of trial and error to accomplish and now that he’s a teenager; an understanding of meditation is especially helpful.

CATHERINE LITTLE, B.Sc, M.Ed, OCT is a Toronto-based educator, consultant and writer.  Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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