In this fast-paced world where technology has permeated every facet of our lives, it's no surprise that even the ancient practice of meditation has found itself under the influence of artificial intelligence (AI).
As mindfulness and well-being become more of a priority for people around the world, AI-assisted meditation may be able to help in their quest for inner peace and mindful living. But can a computer ever take the place of a human meditation guide?
Let’s explore both sides. In this blog we’ll take a look at how AI could benefit your meditation practice in the future. We’ll also see why it may never be able to reach the level of skills that a human teacher can provide.
How can AI innovate meditation?
AI has a knack for making things simpler and easier sometimes. When you’re just starting a meditation practice or find regularity difficult to maintain because your schedule is so hectic, AI can help keep you accountable. Digital reminders and session-tracking can help keep you on top of how much time you’ve dedicated to your practice each week, and can ping you when it's time to sit, or if you miss a session. (To some extent, many meditation apps and even health apps on your smartphone already do this). Nonetheless, consistency is key to deepening your practice and personal insight.
AI could create highly immersive guided imagery and vivid visualization experiences in augmented reality, enhancing the users' ability to relax deeply and transcend their daily thoughts, concerns and self-talk. It could also create relaxing music and other calming visual content that facilitate relaxation. (Some would surely argue that this is not traditional ‘meditation’, but more a guided meditation/ visualization journey which could be used for pure entertainment purposes). It may even create virtual teachers whose programs try to react in real-time to students, but this still poses an enormous challenge.
AI could help create personalized, therapeutic sessions using technology like neurofeedback. Neurofeedback systems have been available for a long time for medical professionals and even for at-home use, but they’re not yet on the scale of being affordable for the everyday practitioner. As technology advances and ways of gathering neurofeedback become more simple and accessible, it could be used before or during meditation sessions to help assess what the individual is responding best to or to help recommend certain modalities for their current physical and emotional needs. (A good meditation teacher does something similar by inquiring about a person’s challenges and goals, and teaching them a variety of methods that they can then use as tools when they need them).
AI can translate meditation practices into different languages, making them more inclusive and relevant for a global audience. (This is great news, especially if it’s hard to find teachers in the language that you speak).
What are the advantages to studying with a human meditation teacher?
The connection between a human guide and a meditator is more profound because it's rooted in empathy and shared experiences. Building a meditation practice is a deeply personal endeavor, and it’s often a quest for inner truth and authenticity. AI's involvement can sometimes feel synthetic, lacking the spiritual depth that human meditation guides offer. Human teachers can provide encouragement and motivation during times of doubt or resistance in your meditation journey, which can be highly beneficial in sustaining a regular practice or going deeper.
Despite advancements in neurofeedback and other technology that hopes to make machines more ‘sensitive’, AI struggles with fully comprehending human emotion and intentions. The nuances of meditation, where the tiniest shifts in mood or changes in the practice itself can alter the experience and the outcome, might be lost on AI. The result could be a generic meditation session that fails to address your specific state of mind, and we can find those in books and apps and online classes around the globe. Human teachers can create and share meditation sessions that are tailored to specific intentions, emotions, or challenges— offering a more nuanced and responsive personal experience.
In this modern world, meditation is often an escape from the digital whirlwind that surrounds us— even if that is not the main reason for the practice. The irony of relying on technology to disconnect from technology becomes evident here. Solely using AI for meditation guidance might inadvertently hinder our ability to detach from screens and immerse ourselves in the present moment of human experience, and we may even become more reliant on technology and miss the overarching point of meditation, to go inside and discover our innermost selves. Human teachers leading group classes can also facilitate discussions and those practicing can find a sense of community and understanding that informs and validates their self exploration even more.
Ultimately, the extent to which AI will impact meditation will depend on the intuitiveness of technological advancements and the preferences of each meditation practitioner. So what do you think you will prefer?
We may find that a combination of human and AI meditation guides can work beautifully and has the potential to help more people use these tools more regularly to improve their lives. If so, it will be imperative to lean into innovation while maintaining the core principles of the science of mindfulness and meditation.
Jessica Crow helps people harness the power of meditation and mindfulness to change their lives and the lives of others for the better through practical classes and courses for the everyday practitioner, teacher trainings, and personalized mentorship.
Check out her book 'The Power of Guided Meditation', published by Fair Winds Press and her New On Demand Course 'The Power of Guided Meditation' or anyone who wants to harness the power of meditation in their own lives.