“A Group Journey Into Ourselves”: UX Perspectives on Mindfulness in VR

Starting a mindfulness and social-emotional learning program in VR has already led to amazing discoveries– and, we’re only two sessions in! Last week, I shared some of my personal reflections about the experience and why it’s different than what we might expect. Practicing mindfulness together in a social VR space brings up a lot that makes it special and standout. Yet, don’t take my word for it. After our first two sessions, what do participants have to say?*

When asked why they were motivated to join this series, users shared reasons that might ring true for you, too. “Understanding how mindfulness can improve peoples’ lives” and “becoming better at managing stress and distractions more skillfully” were among the goals pointing to increased quality of life. “Experiencing closeness and vulnerability in this new medium” and “bringing joyful, moving, and meaningful experiences to others” reinforce VR’s potential to serve as an equalizer that uplifts, connects, and allows us to be incredibly… real.

So, can VR help us to become more human… or, rather, closer to ourselves and each other? Well, that’s part of the invitation, and one of the questions that this training series brings up: Can we use social VR to talk about and practice mindfulness, and to be authentic together, as we create new paradigms for relational trust and authentic interactions?

These reflections help to show me what’s making an impression for users coming to join something entirely new. The ENGAGE platform is our shared social space, which has captivating environments for meditations, exercises, and group conversations. Some of the responses after the first experience included: “unity,” “fascinating” and simply “wow.”

In learning environments (IRL and virtual), everyone should feel welcomed, safe, inspired and invited to both join in AND to celebrate expressing their style and their special uniqueness. When participants were asked how the VR learning space felt to them, their responses made an impression:

“Comfortable. Connected. Exciting“

“Virtually ‘there’“

“I felt a sense of curiosity, relief, wonder and familiarity.“

“Both virtual and actual.“

“Transported. Peaceful, wonderful group.“

Something that’s both wondrous and familiar?! And, that leaves us feeling transported!

Certainly, hearing back that someone feels transported AND also recognizes the peaceful nature of the group, PLUS feels that support from community, is a powerful mix. Sharing this feedback is an aim to compass-check, seeing how keeping in-tune with the goals of the series, and the needs of users, can inform the structure and growth of the next stages.

There’s a Design Thinking exercise that goes, “I used to think… but now I think…” and the survey asked participants to use that frame as a model for some of their reflections. Their responses:

“I used to think that it might be more of a challenge to work into the experience and now I realize that that it felt very easy and natural right from the start … The positive interactions were comfortable, respectful and uplifting.”

“I used to think it was the future, now it is the present. It has arrived.”

“I used to think… It was a solo experience in a group setting. But now I think… It is a group journey into ourselves.”

These are some initial thoughts gathered from surveys after the first and second sessions. Collecting feedback along the way is vital. This type of firsthand feedback about the user experience informs how we’ll be running future sessions exploring mindfulness and social-emotional learning in VR. Care to join us and transform your learning, too?

*All participants gave open permission to quote their feedback. Future sessions will continue to track user experience and feedback. Join our future sessions — dates and times posted at caitlinkrause.com/vr

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Caitlin Krause

Caitlin Krause

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immersive story. experience design. wellness. MindWise founder working to build a mindful metaverse. Author of Designing Wonder. www.caitlinkrause.com