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Dr. Michelle Wang, PsyD is an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) coach and international traumatologist. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been trained in state-of-the-art clinical settings including VA medical centers, centers for survivors of torture, and center for survivors of genocide. For the last decade, Michelle has specialized in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. With her extensive research and clinical background, Michelle has been an international trauma consultant for various disaster-relief organizations, assisting with the development of a somatic, body-centered treatment protocol aimed to mitigate the effects of PTSD in school-aged children. Michelle has advanced training in Attachment Theory, Somatic Psychotherapy, Jungian Psychology, Mindfulness and Meditation, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relational and Interpersonal frameworks, Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies, and Time-Limited Psychodynamic Therapy (TLDP). She is co-founder and Chief Psychology Officer at NewPathVR.

John Gilmore
John Gilmore is an entrepreneur and civil libertarian. He was an early employee of Sun Microsystems, early free software and open source author, and co-created Cygnus Solutions, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Cypherpunks, the DES Cracker, and the Usenet’s “alt” newsgroups. He’s spent 40 years doing programming, hardware and software design, management, advocacy, philosophy, philanthropy, and investment. Along with being a board member of MAPS, he is also on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Marijuana Policy Project. He is trying to get people to think more about the society they are building. His advocacy on encryption aims to improve public understanding of this fundamental technology for privacy and accountability in open societies. His advocacy on drug policy aims to reduce the immense harms caused by government attempts to control the mental states of free citizens.

Andrea Brooks
Andrea Brooks is a cannabis advocate, lobbyist for social change, and entrepreneur with a passion for health and wellness. Following a disabling injury in which cannabis played a crucial role in her recovery, Ms. Brooks was inspired to enter the cannabis space. Building on previous experience working with NGOs around the world on program development, she applies her expertise in conducting needs assessments, developing strategic partnerships and creating new revenue sources to her latest venture - SAVA. SAVA is an online marketplace for curated, high-quality cannabis goods that provides access to and education about cannabis medicine, and is based in San Francisco.

Steven J. Gelberg
A child of the Sixties, I turned on, tuned in, and dropped out of college in 1970 to pursue non-chemical enlightenment as a Hindu monk – eventually teaching, writing, and traveling widely throughout the U.S. and India. In 1987 I left the ashram to study comparative religion and mysticism at Harvard Divinity School (MTS, 1990), while also reviving my interest in psychedelics. In 1994, I discovered a creative passion in analog B&W fine art photography, which has continued to the present (www.stevengelberg.com). In 2012, inspired by personal experiences, I began immersing myself in a rather ambitious, full-time project: to curate/create a library of music (and sound) for use in expanded states of consciousness (extensive playlists can now be found on Spotify, under username “stevengelberg”). Discovering early on that the profound and dynamic role of music in altered states has received surprisingly little sustained attention in the psychedelic literature, I set about gathering as much material as I could find, along with excursions into writings on music-related consciousness studies, aesthetics, metaphysics, and healing. All this has culminated in an annotated collection titled Sacred Synergy: Music & Psychedelics, which continues to expand and evolve. A key focus is synesthesia, whereby sound and music create virtual realities, highly elaborated visionary states, often of a healing nature.

Heidi Groshelle
Over the past three decades, Heidi has consulted with 200 technology startups and growth stage companies from the US, Europe and Asia. She is active in the cannabis community and supports women (and men) in educating the market about emerging cannabis businesses. Her clients appear in top-tier, mainstream-media outlets including ABC-TV, Businessweek, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Time Magazine, USAToday and The Wall Street Journal, and in target-right cannabis news outlets like Culture, SF Chronicle Green State, 420media, Emerald Magazine, POHIBTD and TechCrunch. In 1997, Heidi introduced the first plasma flat-screen televisions in the U.S., working closely with Fujitsu, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Starbucks. Heidi has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her passions also include creating raku (a Japanese technique of ceramic firing) and high-fired pieces of ceramic art. She lives and works in the middle of San Francisco, where she grew up. Heidi is a co-founder of Ingrid Marketing, a cannabis-focused PR and Marketing firm. Current and former clients include PLUS Products, Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, Swerve Confections, Kalogia, Solful Dispensary, and many others.

Gina Golden
Gina Golden is the founder of Golden Goddess Botanicals, a Bay Area company known for luxurious, organic edibles and topicals. GG has spent the last 10 years collaborating with cannabis and other plants to relieve pain and elevate pleasure in Prop 215 patients. She considers cannabis one of many plant allies in her pharmacopeia. She owns a holistic lifestyle shop in Oakland called Wild Child, where she offers CBD apothecary, crystal pipes and other finely crafted tools for healing.

Micah James Zayner
As the principal advocate for the Proper Dose Kit, Micah has found a system that works and has helped him find healing in both physical and mental aspects. As director of Sales and Marketing for The ODIN Micah learned about the biohacking movement and played a major role in shaping the community alongside his brother the CEO. Here he learned the controlled methods of microscience and self-experimentation and applied them to the Proper Dose concept. He also is a virtual reality artist performing live at many events in Mixed Reality and is the concept artist on Oculus Launchpad Scholar NeuroExplorer VR. Micah will be offering a cooking demo for his alcohol-based tinctures at the event.

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Buy tickets here or pay cash at the door:
(now $35 general admission / $25 for ages 55 )

Venue will be emailed to registered attendees the day of the event!

Expand Salon Tickets

Expand Salon, an intimate and immersive consciousness expanding gathering on December 22nd, 2017.

What you can expect:

Learn and Dialogue:

  • Moderator (Dr. Michelle Wang, PsyD), with John Gilmore (MAPS), Andrea Brooks (Founder and CEO of Sava), Stephen Gelberg (Harvard Divinity School/Author of Sacred Synergy), Heidi Groshelle (Ingrid Marketing), Gina Golden (CEO of Golden Goddess Botanicals), and Micah James Zayner (Founder of Proper Dose) discussing the mind-expanding self-healing potential of 3 non-pharmacological medicines in symbiosis: cannabis, music, and virtual reality. There will be a Q&A discussion.

Speaker bios

Experience and Embody:

  • 5 VR booths set up with a wide range of awe-evoking, completely immersive VR experiences pre-loaded and ready.
  • A silent disco party with a live DJ Goz (aka Michael Gosney) with 3 music stations ranging from electronic to psychedelic rock to tribal beats. 
  • Edibles and concentrates will be available throughout the evening from Sava, Golden Goddess Botanicals, Somatik, Atlas, and Little Green Bee. There will also be a cooking demo from Proper Dose.

Please be mindful that this event is intended to be an enhancing and expanding experience, which is often achievable through small doses of cannabis. We’d miss much of the subtleties of our experience if we were overmedicated. For those new to cannabis, we will work with you to determine the right strain and right dose.

What Might I Learn?

  • The powerful healing potential of VR, cannabis, and music
  • How to induce elevated states of consciousness
  • How to embody emotions, sensations, ineffable experiences
  • How to create space for parts of us that still requires healing
  • How to integrate insight accumulated during elevated states into practical day-to-day experiences

Requirements You must be aged 21 , be a California resident and possess a medical marijuana card in California*. Please bring your CA identification to the event. No prior experience or knowledge in either cannabis or virtual reality use are required. The only thing you will need is an imagination and an open mind! Important notes: There will be NO sales of marijuana at this event.

Smoking is not allowed on premises. Cannabis products may be consumed in concentrate or edible form. Selected sponsors will be providing THC and CBD samples to attendees.

Location will be disclosed to registered attendees within 24 hours of the event. If you have any questions for us please contact Michelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

* If you would like to obtain a medical marijuana license before the event, you may be able to do so through https://www.eaze.md

Buy tickets here or pay cash at the door:
(now $35 general admission / $25 for ages 55 )

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Dr. Phil's Pat to Recovery ProgramFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RE:NEW VR Wellness Portal to Feature
Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery Virtual Reality Experiences

San Francisco, California - August 21, 2017 - NewPathVR is pleased to announce that they will be working with Dr. Phil to promote Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery on RE:NEW (RenewVR.com), the Leading Source for VR Wellness Experiences.

Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery is a virtual reality recovery reinforcement tool available to help the newly sober make the difficult transition from rehab to the real world.

Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery VR experiences depict various scenarios that are common triggers for individuals reentering the world outside of rehab. Each scenario features a face-to-face experience with Dr. Phil.

This powerful new virtual reality tool for use in the fight against addiction was created with inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in mind. The RE:NEW wellness portal will help direct people to the various facilities that offer DR. Phil’s virtual reality experiences as part of their treatment program.

"Dr. Phil's drug and alchohol rehab experience highlights the type of wellness content that will draw people to VR." said Lisa Padilla, NewPathVR's founder and CEO. "Wellness products will drive adoption because they represent meaningful content people will use on a regular basis to improve and change their lives."

Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery’s two-step supplemental strategy includes virtual sessions with Dr. Phil, accompanied by workbook exercises designed to be completed and discussed with each facility’s counseling staff.

Designed specifically for those struggling with addiction, it represents the culmination of more than four decades of experience Dr. Phil has working in the mental health profession and addiction recovery. Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery uses virtual reality to help people confront all of the problems in their life (not limited to addiction), identify the causes, and start working toward permanent solutions. You'll be able to find Dr. Phil's Path to Recovery VR program on RE:NEW starting this week and at participating rehab centers.

About Dr. Phil
The creators of this program, Dr. Phil McGraw, who has more than 45 years of experience working in the mental health profession, and Jay McGraw, understand what it takes for someone to make a drastic change in the direction of their life. Initially launched in early 2017, it has been enthusiastically received by reputable facilities coast to coast.

About NewPathVR
NewPath VR creates research-driven virtual reality experiences for personal development and emotional wellbeing. The company creates experiences using its proprietary Active Psychology™ platform which is based on extensive psychological research with the goal of evoking positive change through transformative technology. We also power the world’s first VR wellness portal — RE:NEW (RenewVR.com).

Contact:

Ashild Fossum
Marketing and PR
NewPathVR
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
1390 Market Street #2710
San Francisco, CA 94102


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Originating in Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular in the West as the incidence of anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders plague the undercurrent of our fast-paced industrialized way of life. Recent scientific research on mindfulness has demonstrated beneficial effects on several holistic aspects of personal health, including the mind, the body, and behavior. 

Mindfulness meditation has been proven medically effective to decrease stress and improve well-being when practiced consistently. Yet many people still struggle with the concept or application of mindfulness-based therapy. A new wave of delivery is emerging which is combining this ancient practice with modern technology to bridge the gap and appeal to a modern generation of meditators. Studies show not only relaxation, but important shifts in cognition, emotion, biology, and behavior that may work synergistically to improve health. There is also emerging evidence that mindfulness training is associated with greater meaning and peace in one’s life (spirituality), as well as enhanced relationships with others (Carmody et al., 2008Carson et al., 2004)

Imagine you are sitting peacefully on a beautiful beach. You can hear seagulls against a backdrop of pebbles clinking together with each breaking wave. You take deep belly breaths and listen to your meditation teacher as she sits beside you and guides you through the film roll of anxiety and consciousness unfolding behind your eyes. Now imagine that you take off your virtual reality headset to discover you in fact never left your own living room (and saved hundreds of dollars on a flight to a meditation retreat in India.) This is an example of one scenario that modern entrepreneurs are envisioning the marriage of mindfulness and technology to enhance the effectiveness of well-being and relaxation intervention. Virtual reality devices can be combined with health tracking technology such as Provada Health's iOS app; “…incorporated into (the) app (is) the ability to link health-tracking wearables, such as the Apple Watch, to quantify the effects of a meditation session on, for example, your resting heart rate. Or look at how your sleep is being affected by taking time out to meditate.”

Modern gaming technology is another avenue where it seems there is potential for mindfulness to be cultivated. Take for example one gaming app available via Play Store called 'Pause,' which was created through the principles of mindfulness meditation and Tai Chi. The creator Peng Cheng explains, “It started with my own severe experience of stress and depression. I gave myself 6 months, I practically didn't do anything but I meditated and practiced Tai Chi with the goal to do nothing but staying in the here and now as much as possible.” The simple game involves a little blob which follows your finger across the screen and facilitates focused awareness by growing in size as you maintain a slow concentrated speed. “Most of our stress only exists in our head and absorbs all our attention. To break this pattern, I need to focus on what is physical and tangible and actively put my attention in the moment.”

Cultivating focused attention in the present moment is the core foundation of mindfulness practice preached hundreds of years ago, in ancient India, and today via a squiggly blob on a hand-held screen or through a high-tech headset. Proper use of technology has the capacity to transform the quality of our lives and the delivery of ancient therapies such as mindfulness which are being lost on a section of the modern generation unaccustomed or afraid of 'spiritual mumbo jumbo.' Many trials of research have found that people with higher levels of mindfulness – even without “formal” meditation training – report feeling less stressed, anxious and depressed, and more joyful, inspired, grateful, hopeful, content, vital, and satisfied with life (Baer et al., 2006; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Cardaciotto et al., 2008; Feldman et al., 2007; Walach et al., 2006).

Another benefit of mindfulness is the ability to recognize and accurately label emotions (Analayo, 2003). More mindful people appear to have a greater ability to control emotional reactions in the middle part of the brain (the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex [ACC]) by engaging the front part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex [PFC]), which is associated with attention, concentration, and emotion regulation. This means when you’re practicing mindfulness you’ll better be able to control your emotions and correct unpleasant mood states.

Believe it or not, there is increasing scientific evidence to support the therapeutic effect of mindfulness meditation training on stress-related medical conditions, including psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic low back pain, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Several new technologies, including brain imaging, wearable tech. and virtual reality, are being used to look at and extend the potential health benefits of mindfulness. Finally, research is beginning to prove what mindfulness practitioners have known for centuries…that greater focus, awareness, acceptance, and empathy can make for more flexible, adaptive responses to stress, which, in turn, can help free us from suffering and realize greater well-being & happiness.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

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tree1

There are a lot of things in this world that everyone should see but never will. The Grand Canyon is an incredible place, one that all humans should bear witness to at least once in their lives, yet the vast majority never will. There are plenty of similar locations that are unfortunately the same. Landmarks and natural locales are rarely seen by the masses that they should be, but with virtual reality, that could one day change.

One of the most lauded capabilities of virtual reality is how it can practically transport you anywhere in the world. You can live in Louisiana yet experience the scope of the Great Wall of China, and from the comfort of your own home. That said, is it any surprise that virtual reality can be used for nature experiences as well? 

One of the most massive tree species in the world is the Great Sequoia. These trees are thousands of years old, most of them predating the Roman Empire. They’re dozens of stories tall and so wide that ten or more of any other tree could probably fit inside of them. In short, they’re incredible, yet many people will never be able to see them. At least, not without virtual reality.

This particular experience has been constructed specifically in London. It’s a combination of virtual reality and a physical set. With the VR goggles you see the massive breadth and scope of a Giant Sequoia, but thanks to the physical set you can feel it as well. You can even push your face through the outside of the tree, allowing you to see the inside of it as well, making for one heck of an educational experience if nothing else.

You even get to follow the path of water throughout the tree, which means you get to ‘levitate.’ Naturally disorienting since it looks like you’re floating but are in fact not moving at all, this may be the real reason they had a physical set for you to hold onto. Either way, while this particular experience is highly specific towards one thing, it speaks volumes about how virtual reality could be used in the future.

Maybe you could soar over the Grand Canyon (terrifying though it may be), or visit foreign castles and landmarks from any vantage point you want. The options are almost limitless, and perhaps that is what the true beauty of virtual reality is. It can put the whole world at your fingertips. Let you explore things that you never would have been able to experience otherwise. Virtual reality is still in its younger stages, and it has a lot farther to go before it reaches the no doubt astronomical expectations of society. But the best part of it all is that those expectations are not out of reach. They’re ambitions well within in reach rather than dreams, as we can now use virtual reality to see the world and beyond no matter where we are.

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doctor

In an effort to manage patient anxiety and control the costs of surgery, virtual reality (VR) is being used as an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an article by Jo Marchant with the BBC.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In 2004, Dr. Jose Luis Mosso Vazquez, a surgeon at Panamerican University in Mexico City, bought a Spider-Man game for his son. The game, an early form of VR, involved images projected onto a head-mounted display. Dr. Mosso was struck by how immersed his son became in the game and wondered if this was something that he could use to reduce the level of anxiety that patients experience during minor surgery. Dr. Mosso experimented using the Spider Man game with the head-mount while doing endoscopies. Patients were encouraged to play the game during the procedure instead of being sedated. He asked patients to score their pain level during the procedure and found that the immersive quality of the game reduced the need for sedation. In 2006, Dr. Mosso presented his results at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in California.

At the conference, Dr. Mosso met Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a psychologist (and now Director of Medical VR at the University of Southern California), who had been doing similar research with endoscopies. “He presented 10 cases,” says Mosso. “I presented 200.” Rizzo showed Mosso the expensive, state-of-the-art head-mounted displays he was using. “It was another world,” says Mosso. But then Rizzo revealed the equipment with which he had begun – it was the exact same Spider-Man game.

Rizzo was impressed with Mosso’s research and donated a headset to him. Rizzo also convinced a colleague, Brenda Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, to let Mosso use some virtual worlds she had developed specifically for pain relief.

Mosso returned to Mexico and began using his new VR setup in a wide range of procedures, including childbirth and heart surgery. VR helped patients relax in all situations, but Mosso had the most success using VR in minor outpatient procedures where patients are awake but sedated. In these procedures, Mosso used a virtual scenario developed by Wiederhold called Enchanted Forest. This virtual world was meant to relax the patient and allowed them to explore rivers, lakes, trees, and forests. Virtual experiences involving guns and violence are not used because they tend to increase blood pressure, which could result in uncontrolled bleeding.

In using VR, Dr. Mosso found that patients required half as much sedation as they normally would require and, in some cases, required no sedation. In addition to relieving patient anxiety, there has been a significant cost savings for the clinics for sedative drugs such as fentanyl and midazolam, which are very expensive. Dr. Mosso estimates that the cost of surgery has been reduced by 25%. More important, less sedation reduces the risk of complications and recovery times. With these results, Dr. Mosso hopes to see VR more widely used not just for surgery, but to relieve pain in medical situations such as wound care and dentistry, as well as in chronic conditions such as phantom limb pain. And in areas where resources are limited, VR may be a welcome solution.

"Mosso doesn’t have the facilities here to sedate her, or offer her any painkillers more powerful than the local anesthetic, so he plugs in the laptop and switches the VR back on. Veronica keeps Oliveria talking as Mosso works. “What do you see?” she asks. “Fishes, water, stones,” Oliveria replies."

The University of Washington did a striking study with burn victims, showing them an experience they called SnowWorld during sessions of skin grafting. "Pain research using fMRI brain scans show significant reductions in pain-related brain activity..."

 

Photo credit: University of Washington

 

Using VR as a high-tech distraction technique allows surgeons to carry out operations that would normally require powerful painkillers and sedatives, with nothing more than local anesthetic. In addition to significant cost savings, VR has demonstrated that its immersive quality reduces patient anxiety and facilitates speedier recovery. Now that there is research to support these claims and the price of headsets has come down, consumers can hope that more doctors will take advantage of VR in improving patient experience and outcomes.

This attention distraction power is also a game changer for uncomfortable procedures such a dialysis and chemotherapy, waiting rooms, as well as what Mosso has done, for everything from fom childbirth to heart surgery. Distraction VR is sure to be a catalyst in VR wellness applications.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

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neurons

It was an innocent question, but one I’d heard posed one way or another too many times. “Aren’t you the people who do the Bible in VR or something?” While a worthy project, it’s not we’re doing.

As someone who has spent their whole career in communications, I realized I was failing in positioning the company successfully, despite my many efforts. Months into the branding and promotion and hundreds of conversations thick into the business, we were still being misunderstood by some people as a purely religious company.

SpiritualVR began as a development and publishing company with the goal of body, mind, and spiritual learning and health. Although our goal was always self-improvement and spiritual exploration, we were often misunderstood as a religious organization. I believe this is because the very word “spirituality” carries a different connotation to each person. The official definitions can’t even agree with one another.

Google:
spir·it·u·al·i·ty
spiriCHo͞oˈalədē/
noun
1. the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Merriam-Webster:
spirituality
plural spiritualities
1. something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such

Dictionary.com:
spirituality
[spir-i-choo-al-i-tee]
noun, plural spiritualities.
the quality or fact of being spiritual.

And the list goes on. Words have both qualitative and a connotative value. The connotative value is where we get into trouble. If I say the word “chair”, you connote an image of a certain type of chair, because you have your own past experiences and definitions to make up your meaning of what “chair” means to you. It might mean any of the following.

chairs2

It’s the same thing with any word, including “spirituality”. It could mean Buddhism. Nature. Church. Music. Yoga. It could mean chakras. We found ourselves spending a lot of time explaining “what spirituality meant to us”, and not nearly enough time focusing on how we were going to “bring wellness to VR”. We’ve always believed in the transformational power of VR for personal growth. I think now, in the letting go of the name, we will actually be able to do what we set out to.

Buddhists practice the principle of “non-attachment”, surrendering and relinquishing misguided preconceptions that will allow us to experience the essential peace that is within.

Zen teacher John Daido Loori said,

"[A]ccording to the Buddhist point of view, non-attachment is exactly the opposite of separation. You need two things in order to have attachment: the thing you’re attaching to, and the person who’s attaching. In non-attachment, on the other hand, there’s unity. There’s unity because there’s nothing to attach to. If you have unified with the whole universe, there’s nothing outside of you, so the notion of attachment becomes absurd. Who will attach to what?"

And Unity there is. It was the only sound choice for our prototype. ;)

A prototype built by our CTO, Eiran Shalev, proved methods from our Active Psychology toolkit and the self-compassion/cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercise for which we realized there were much wider applications. We now see the larger opportunity to help people build their emotional skills to help them thrive in both personal and professional lives and are developing toward that end.

Technology’s promise has always been to make life more convenient — everything better, and faster. Yet what’s really affecting us, killing us in fact, if not at the very least damaging our quality of life and holding us back from reaching our true potential, are our stress factors and emotional issues. Twenty-five percent (25%) of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. But only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment.

That’s 180 million people missing the psychological support they need, a need NewPathVR is eager to address.

We aren’t abandoning the mission of SpiritualVR, however, we see the impact of the problems of the unwellness epidemic, specifically around stress and behavioral health, contributing to our dissatisfaction, and a 10-15% decrease in economic output. We believe we can change this and help improve health outcomes, through virtual reality.

Stay tuned.

It’s a new path. It’s going to take us somewhere better.

— NewPathVR

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Virtual reality is hitting practically everything in existence right now. From entertainment to exploration and beyond, it seems like there’s nothing virtual reality won’t have a hand in. But will it have a place in religion? Before any cries of blasphemy are made, it would be prudent to consider how virtual reality could affect religion, and maybe even make it more immersive and tangible for some people.

Virtual reality could be used in many ways to alter how religion works in society, and one of the most prominent ways it may do this is through travel. Almost all religions have sacred places. Jerusalem, Mecca, and the like are just a few examples of holy locations that are sacred to certain religions. Many followers of those religions would like to visit those places, and in some cases they are technically required to.

But unless Mecca is just a hop and a skip away, it’s not easy to get there. Not only is it time consuming, in some places in the world dangerous, but expensive as well. With virtual reality, pilgrims may be able to visit their holy location without ever actually leaving their own country. Whether or not this would be accepted as equivalent to a real physical journey is particular to each religion, but the point still stands: virtual reality could allow pilgrims to essentially visit places of religious importance.

But it could also be used to teach. The majority of religions have a holy book or something similar that details the past of that religion, as well as their doctrines and beliefs. While reading them from a page is certainly one way to learn, what if you could actually be there? How would it feel to sit at the feet of Jesus or Mohammed or any significant religions figure as they taught their message? Without a doubt, it would be a very different kind of experience, and may even help followers feel more attuned to their religion as they get to physically see figures of importance.

84 million Americans attend church weekly but that number is declining for a number of reasons, says Pew Research in their 2015 report on America's Changing Religious Landscape. Virtual reality offers a way for people to connect spiritually, from home.

These are just a few of the ways in which virtual reality could influence religion. Without a doubt, some religions will not accept the idea of incorporating technology into their means. Others may accept it with open arms. Either way, the potential is extremely vast, and in the end virtual reality will likely become a major part of various religions, limited only by the ingenuity of the programmers that work on it. Only time can tell how much of an influence virtual reality could have on our churches, synagogues, and mosques, but it’s an exciting anticipation that will no doubt bring some great wonders and marvels along with it.

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An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety

Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. Many people feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders are different, though. They can cause such distress that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. These types of psychological and emotional problems are common. There is a growing body of research that shows virtual reality can be used effectively to treat depression without medication, treat PTSD and phobias, and reduce persecutory delusions. 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Between 30% and 80% of people with mental health concerns never receive treatment. In 2011, 59% of adults with a mental health problem did not receive any mental health treatment. Those numbers are only for serious mental health issues. Acute anxiety can be a serious mental illness. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.

There are many types of anxiety disorders including the following: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobias which are intense fears of a specific object or situation. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can be feelings of panic, fear or uneasiness, problems sleeping, cold or sweaty hands or feet, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but anxiety disorders — like other forms of mental illness — are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress which can cause maladapted behavior.

Anxiety is generally treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. The growth of technology in medical treatment has expanded over the past several years and virtual reality (VR), a newer technology, has shown promise in its effectiveness in treating mental disorders, particularly when it is combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). VR is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors...

Email us to receive the full white paper "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

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candles

Life is hard. That is why so many people look for relief/escape in drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, food, and various forms of travel and entertainment. We are looking for instant gratification, a quick fix, an escape from a reality that has become painful and burdensome. Any uncomfortable emotion is now looked upon as a pathology to be medicated. We are not looking for personal growth, we are looking for relief.

Some people are able to look past the immediate and yearn for something more than a quick (and temporary) fix. They are not trying to escape their present reality, they are looking for a way to understand it and get better at living within it. This can take the form of spiritual tourism, whereby we look for the next vacation, trip, retreat, class, church, temple, congregation of like-minded people, to support us in our quest. While potentially helpful, there is an element of striving to this which is counter-intuitive to any real spiritual experience. And it is a spiritual experience which is required to create meaningful change in how we view ourselves and the world around us.

Virtual reality (VR) offers us the opportunity to experience a reality that is different than the one in which we are experiencing discomfort. What does this have to do with spirituality? All religions have rites and rituals designed to create an atmosphere of the transcendent. These rites and rituals use music, dance, incense, and formal prayers to create an atmosphere which invite us to experience the divine. It is in this mystical environment that we are able to expand our consciousness beyond our daily cares concerns and and connect with timeless truths which can offer us insight and guidance. This path has traditionally been pursued by those searching for a deeper meaning to their existence.

When you put on the headset, you enter into a virtual world that can be manipulated to create a specific environment tailored to meet your needs. Virtual reality has the ability to manipulate the environment and your experience in ways that can easily be more compelling than real life. VR has been successfully used in exposure therapy for treating people suffering from various phobias and from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). VR allows people to experience their fears and past trauma in a safe and controlled environment. People know that the experience is not “real,” but the brain is tricked by the artificial stimuli. The overwhelming sense of “presence” experienced in VR which makes the experience so powerful. This presence allows people to experience VR as if it were real, and to experience the powerful emotions that can be triggered by this experience. It is the triggering of these emotions that has the power to create change.

Anyone on a spiritual quest is seeking a new way of experiencing the world. Those who can afford it can travel to spiritual centers in Tibet, Bali, and other places in search of enlightenment. Most people seeking spiritual growth don’t have access to these opportunities and will need to find something closer to home. In VR, you can attend a virtual religious service along with others in a virtual space, you can listen to a teaching from a spiritual master, and you can experience meditating on a beach in Maui — VR gives you instant access to another world. The brain-tricking power of VR provides us a tool to experience life as those who have sufficient means to travel and to create meaningful connections with others whom we might not ordinarily meet.

In summary, VR can give you the opportunity to expand your consciousness and experience life in a safe environment as a means of achieving personal growth. With VR, technology replaces religious rites and rituals with predetermined stimuli which can be arranged to create the desired effect that the individual is seeking. VR isn’t going to replace religion, it is going to provide an additional tool to enhance people’s lives in a way that religion has not been able to due to the immersive quality of the VR experience.

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