In 2018, I tried my coworker’s Vive VR headset and was utterly floored. I put it on with NO idea how to use it or how the controllers worked. I was immediately overwhelmed by the sense of standing on a rampart, looking down over some valley, and besieged by attackers. Little cartoonish monsters clambering to attack my castle. And I immediately began whipping arrows from my quiver on my back and launching them at the attackers. I destroyed each of them immediately, finding that I was an excellent marksman with a pixel Bow and Arrow.
While killing little imaginary monsters in VR is not my thing, I was still BLOWN AWAY. I couldn’t believe how absolutely and completely my brain bought in to this false reality. If I looked down, I felt like I might fall. If I wanted an arrow, I instinctively knew they were on my back and when I reached behind myself, made a grabbing motion, I took one and nocked it. When something flew at me, I dodged, ducked and parried. To my mind, it was REAL reality. This stuck with me and later left me pondering the implications of this on “REAL” reality. I won’t get in to that in this post, but it’s a DEEP rabbit hole.
A few seeds were planted in my mind that day. One of them was “If the human mind can SO quickly buy in to the false reality, and accept it as real, I wonder if meditation with a group of people in VR might produce that same sense of I-don’t-have-a-name-for-it that you get when you meditate with a large group in the real world?”
If you’ve done a retreat, you probably know what I mean. There’s just a certain quality — one which is hard to explain — that you experience in group meditation that you simply don’t when meditating alone. That’s not to say better…both ways have benefits…but unique to groups. So I finally was able to get an Oculus Quest and begin exploring that question. There is precious little (though more every day) out there for meditation in VR. I mean, who would want an expensive gaming headset so they could close their eyes?! Well, a lot of people it seems.
While I have so far not found that this feeling can indeed be reproduced in VR, what I have found is an amazing community that is trying to seek the same things. A spiritual connection in VR. Enter EvolVR. Jeremy Nickel, a Unitarian Minister by trade, had some similar thoughts a couple of years ago and was ahead of the VR curve. When I found my way to some of the social media apps in VR I found AltspaceVR. Altspace is basically a zoom meeting in VR. You can explore “worlds”, create them, play around in them, mostly to the end purpose of meeting up with people for some reason. Book clubs, comedy shows, dance parties, business meetings, and much more.
Jeremy launched EvolVR, your spiritual community in VR, and has numerous meditations and other fun events hosted there. I reached out to see about launching some meditation, Recovery Dharma groups, etc and he responded enthusiastically. Seems that he no sooner had been discussing having a recovery meeting of some sort, than I appeared and asked about Recovery Dharma!
SO…all of that to say, I am extraordinarily proud and pleased to announce that the world’s very first recoVeRy dharma meeting in Virtual Reality will begin on Sunday April 19th at 3:30pm EST in AltspaceVR (for VR or 2D on Windows 10) hosted by EvolVR!
Once that is up and running I have EVERY intention of hosting other meditation events for our Sangha or the world at large. But first, I hope to see you in whatever reality you wish to join us in as soon as possible! Right now, with us deep in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the VR and Livestreaming Sangha are our only options but I look forward to seeing your faces in person as soon as it is safe to do so!