Ellen Jackson:
Hello, and welcome back to the Potential Psychology podcast. This is Episode 58. I am your host, Ellen. And before I introduce you to our amazing guest today, I have a little challenge for you. It might be a little exercise, something you might like to try. I have been talking to a number of clients, both, groups in organizations, and also individual coaching clients, recently, about the power of noticing, the power of paying attention.

Ellen Jackson:
And I think this kind of links to the conversation we had with James Garrett on the show a week or so ago, a couple of weeks ago now, about finding our 2.0: who are we going to be, who do we want to be if we have the chance? To kind of, perhaps not reinvent ourselves, but discover who we are at our best, and then really play to that, really enact that, really become that person on a more consistent basis. And if we think of that as our 2.0, how do we go about it?

Ellen Jackson:
So this is a little practical task for you to try. It's something that I've done, again, with individuals and with groups, particularly lately. And I want you to think about a time in your life, maybe an event, or a project, or a task, or just a period of time that was really satisfying and enjoyable. That was really you at your most alive, or maybe at your most at ease, or most comfortable, or really in the zone. Something that you've done, an experience that you've had where you've really felt like you were operating at your best. It just came easily and naturally and it was energizing as well as positive, perhaps inspiring or satisfying: lots of different ways we might describe it. And there's no hard or fast rules, you can't get this stuff wrong so just have a go.

Ellen Jackson:
So think about that time, that period, that event, or that project, and just reflect on it for a moment. What were you doing? Who was there? Why was it so enjoyable? Why did it give you energy do you think? What were you doing that perhaps tapped into your super-power? How did it make you feel, both, at the time, and also how does it make you feel to reflect on it right now? And then, just spend a little bit of time kind of unpacking that, thinking about it. What does that experience, or the feelings that come from that experience, tell you about yourself? Because it might tell you something a bit about your strengths, or your interests, or the importance of certain experiences to you as an individual. It might tell you something about the way you interact with people, or don't. It might tell you just something about what most energizes and inspires you.

Ellen Jackson:
Because what we know is if we can tap into those feelings more regularly, that contributes to our wellbeing. But, also, if we have to make decisions about how we're going to live our lives, who our 2.0 is going to be, what that's going to look like, then trying to recreate some more of those experiences, or take the themes from those experiences and try and recreate those, or find opportunities to have those feelings, do those things, use those strengths, engage in those tasks more frequently; if we get the chance to do that, we're going to be living our best life. And, surely, that's what our 2.0 should be?

Ellen Jackson:
So a little bit about the power of noticing and reflection, and it links I think, nicely, into today's conversation. Which is all about the most incredible possibilities. It's about taking chances. It's about technology. And it's about the power of the mind. Let's listen in.

Ellen Jackson:
My guest today has a fascinating and eclectic background in psychotherapy, art, fashion design, neuroscience, technology, and start-ups. She's a co-founder of InteraXon, developers of the Muse, which is a brain-sensing headband. And she and her co-founders are on a quest to have a positive impact on humanity. She's here talking to us from Canada about how they're pursuing that quest through mind-controlled computer technology.

Ellen Jackson:
Welcome Ariel Garten.

Ariel Garten:
Thank you. It's a joy and a pleasure to be here.

Ellen Jackson:
And you are speaking to me, you just told me from a cottage, actually in Canada? Is that where you are right now?

Ariel Garten:
Yes.

Ellen Jackson:
Enjoying the last little bits of your summer?

Ariel Garten:
Soaking in the last summer. I hear it's your winter?

Ellen Jackson:
It is. It is. Which is, as we were just saying off-air, by contrast nothing compared to a Canadian winter. Although I am in the south-eastern corner, here, in Australia. We did have a little bit of snow a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't last long.

Ariel Garten:
But when don't we have a little bit of snow in the winter? Technically, typically we are saying we have a lot of snow, and hey, there was just a little bit last week. How rare! Yep.

Ellen Jackson:
It was the highlight, a point of conversation for just about everybody in my town, was the fact that we had some snow, because it doesn't happen every year. It's kind of an every ... once in five year type event.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, thank you. And I've given you a little intro there, but you do have an eclectic background. You have a wide and varied background. Can you tell us a little bit yourself and how you came to be the CEO of a neuro-tech company?

Ariel Garten:
Sure. So my background really is varied. I've sent my life weaving between the arts and the sciences. My mother was an artist, so I was used to seeing people create out of nowhere on a blank canvas, just have an idea and make it come to life.

Ariel Garten:
I was really fascinated by the sciences, and from a very young age really wondered how the world works, how you make things that shift people's perception and understanding. Why tables are hard? And once I got through the fascination with how the world worked, I then became very fascinated with how we work. And that brought me into the field of neuroscience, to try to understand the complex interactions of our brain that create our human behavior, our self, and our perception of the world.

Ellen Jackson:
Wonderful. So you were obviously a very curious child, to be thinking those thoughts about how the world worked, right from a very early age?

Ariel Garten:
I was an incredibly curious child. And now that I have my own child, who's massively curious about the world and constantly experimenting and figuring it out, I can see more of my perspective and perception at that age and how it all made sense to me.

Ariel Garten:
So I took all of that curiosity and trying to figure things out. And I was trained as a neuro-scientist. And then, opened a clothing design company, because I was also fascinated about fashion and how we create our identity and our personality. And then, went on to be trained as a psychotherapist, as another way to try understand the internal self and how we can shift and change it.

Ariel Garten:
And then began working with an early brain computer interface system in the lab of Dr. Steve Mann. He's one of the inventors of the wearable computer. So he had an early brain computer interface ECI system with a single electrode, that we were using to actually make music with the mind, as crazy as that sounds.

Ellen Jackson:
Wonderful!

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. We would have single electrode placed on our head, and by shifting our brain state, by focusing and relaxing we could change the music in the room. And I stood back and said, "Oh my god! We're literally interacting with the world directly with our brain. We're able to take a part that's inside of ourselves and make it tangible, audible. The brain is typically a place that we have no access to, and all of a sudden we have access to it. Like, "What can we do with it?" And so, I said, "We need to take this technology to the world."

Ariel Garten:
So I formed a start-up with Chris Aimone, who is an amazing, brilliant engineer who worked in Steve's lab. He was his Master's student. And Trevor Coleman, a friend of mine who is great at promotions and business. And the three of us got together regularly in Trevor's basement, trying to figure out what we would do with the technology and what it would become.

Ellen Jackson:
So, Ariel, you strike me as somebody who ... I mean, just for starters, moving from your initial training, starting a fashion and design- you actually had your own clothing brand, I believe, in a store?

Ariel Garten:
Yes.

Ellen Jackson:
Is that right? Yep?

Ariel Garten:
Yep.

Ellen Jackson:
And then this, just, kind of leap into neuroscience and computing and technology. What kind of allowed that to happen, do you think? What was it in you that helped you to jump, just, from one field to an entirely different field? Because I know that's the kind of thing some us may dream about, but we always feel kind of limited in our ability to do that. What do you think made I easier for you?

Ariel Garten:
One: I was very young, so I had no responsibility. You know, no fiscal responsibility, no family responsibility. Two: I had a deep belief in myself that I could anything. So I was always, kind of, doing everything. I was always thinking, like, "Oh, this is a great idea, let's make it happen." And I knew nothing about technology, but that didn't really scare me or intimidate me; I simply partnered with somebody who was brilliant at it.

Ariel Garten:
And so, I could very clearly see that there is a future in which in this technology was going to be really meaningful in our lives. And I had a background in neuroscience, so I was bringing the neuroscience side of it, but I was really bringing this vision of what this technology could be. And it didn't matter that I didn't have a ton of background in business, it didn't matter that I didn't know how to raise money yet, I just had this deep belief that I could figure it out. And it turned out that deep belief was really true, and I had this ability to just see something and inspire other people to come on-board and do it with me.

Ariel Garten:
So it really didn't matter that I didn't know how to do everything. Thank god I didn't! I would have never been able to move forward if I tried to do it all myself. But I could just bring on-board the people that I needed to. And I had an amazing team with my co-founders Chris and Trevor, and the three of us really initiated a little engine, and we kept engaging folks that were the right people to take us to the next level.

Ariel Garten:
And so, if I had a single trait, I would actually say that I never had the inner critic inside me, telling me I couldn't do it, or it wouldn't be right, or I shouldn't start. And so, I think, if there's one single trait, it is the mentality of possibility that just shone right through me.

Ellen Jackson:
And that really strikes me, just as you were describing, then, that experience, or what you think it is that's contributed to that, I think one of the things I loved was that you said you didn't know how to do it, or you didn't know anything about technology or raising funds ... yet. So that kind of "yet" type mindset of, "I don't need to be an expert in this ... yet, you know? There's lots of opportunities there to find, to discover, to learn, to grow, and to do it. Which is is a real kind of mindset isn't it?

Ariel Garten:
It really was. I think I just stumbled upon that naturally. And, I, ultimately raised 18 million dollars in venture funds from venture investors in Silicon Valley, and New York, and Hong Kong. Again, I really managed to go for it. I knew nothing about raising funds. I had zero formal business background. At one point I thought I should go do my MBA, but I was deep into the business that, like, "Why waste my time doing that?"

Ellen Jackson:
You're learning on the job?

Ariel Garten:
Seriously learning on the job! And also recognizing when it was beyond my ability to learn. You know, you referenced that I was the owner of a neuro-tech company, and I was for seven years, and at that point it became a company that was probably 45 people. And I looked around and said, "Oh shit! I've never worked in a company myself, and yet I'm leading a company."

Ellen Jackson:
You've grown on!

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. And we'd done pretty well. We were up to 45 people, and we had product in Best Buy. That's when the board sort of got together with me, and we're, like, "Uh, I'm really not the best people to continue to run this company." And so, the gentlemen who was my COO came on board on the CEO, and I stepped back into other parts of the business.

Ariel Garten:
So an important trait is knowing that you can learn everything you want, and also recognizing when it's better off to hand the reins to somebody else who you trust. And to be able to build trusting teams and relationships.

Ellen Jackson:
I know you do have a TED talk that I have watched. And in it you talk about that notion of "Know they self," which was Aristotle I believe? The trait, I suppose, or the practice of self-awareness. So it sounds to me as thought there has been a lot of that. You've been living that as well as speaking it, in order to really unpack who you are and where your super-powers are. You know, that bringing people together, you mentioned. Working out what you're good at, and then knowing where the limitations are to that. Would that be fair?

Ariel Garten:
That would be fair. I think when I was young I felt like I had no limitation, and then as you grow you discover your limitations.

Ellen Jackson:
Which is part of self-awareness isn't it?

Ariel Garten:
And necessity shows them to you. Yeah, which is totally appropriate.

Ellen Jackson:
Fantastic. Okay, so by this stage you've got all of this happening around you, one of the things that your organization was involved in was the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And I think this is another wonderful example of that, just seeing possibility and perhaps not limitations, and having a go at something huge. Can you tell us about ...

Ariel Garten:
This is the most nuts example possible I think! So it's 2009. We are literally three people in a basement. Myself, Chris, Trevor: we were literally in Trevor's basement. And we had this very early technology that allowed you to interact with stuff with your brain. And we thought, what's the biggest thing we could do with this? And we're, like, "We know the Olympics is coming to Canada next year. We could use this technology to help how people control the lights on rings at the Olympics, the Olympic rings."

Ariel Garten:
And so, I pulled the photo off the Internet. We wrote a one page ... Of some rings. And we wrote a one page proposal talking about how people were going to control the Olympic rings with their mind. I didn't know anybody in the Olympics, but I knew somebody, he had a television station, who was sort of tangentially a media sponsor, so I sent the proposal to them. And then, by chance, at the same time, we were recognized by the Ministry of Research and Innovation, Canada's research innovation arm, and they wanted to do this installation for their big awards. And I said, "Hey! Here's somebody from the government. You must know somebody from the Olympics. Can you just hand this proposal to someone from the Olympic-side of the government please?" Super-naïve.

Ariel Garten:
And we got a response back two weeks late, saying, "This is great! Can you do it in the province's colors? And that began this insane project, where the three of us, with our entirely unproven technology that had only worked for a demo in the lab, we were commissioned to create a massive installation at the Olympics. It was going to be Ontario, the province's showcase at the Olympics. We were going to let people in Vancouver ... Vancouver's in the west side of the country, control the lights on the CN Tower, the Canadian [Prov 00:17:50] Buildings, and Niagara Falls. So these icons are about 2,000 miles away. And they were going to do them with their brain, throughout the course of the Olympics.

Ariel Garten:
And so, all of a sudden we were saddled with this insane project, on a very, very short timeline, for a deadline that absolutely would not move, for the Olympics. And somehow we pulled it off. Over the 17 days of the Olympics, 7,000 people got to individually interact with these massive icons. Like, the CN Tower is 1800 feet up in the sky, and it has this insane 1300 lighting system on it. And you could sit 2,000 miles away, focus on it, and be able to actually change the lights on the CN Tower just by thinking, by focusing or relaxing.

Ellen Jackson:
And so, what were these people doing? Did they have like a headset on? What was the actual kind of apparatus that allowed them to, then, use their minds to change these lights on the other side of the country?

Ariel Garten:
Yep. So they slipped on a little headset. At that point there was actually another company who was making the EEG devices, and who were able to use that device. And we created all the technology, the experience. It had to work for people across languages, so we couldn't even use English to describe what to do.

Ariel Garten:
And people would spend two minutes training their brain on a small screen, focusing and relaxing, learning to see what actually goes on inside their own brains. And then they would go live, on a huge live feed, to one of the CN Tower, Canadian [Prov 00:17:51] Building, or Niagara Falls, and then be able to literally interact with that massive icon, with the lighting system on it, directly with their brain. And it was extraordinary.

Ellen Jackson:
I can just imagine. I'm going to go back and look for footage now. And I'll certainly put that in the show notes for our listeners, so that they can see as well.

Ellen Jackson:
But I'm just thinking, what struck me there is I'm visualizing three of you starting from a basement, and then you're literally on a world stage with this technology, with this idea, that was just an idea that you had to pull together and prove, very much in the public eye.

Ariel Garten:
In the most public eye! We had like 250 articles about us in multiple languages.

Ellen Jackson:
Incredible!

Ariel Garten:
And it worked.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah! Which is amaz- ... Well, perhaps it's not amazing. I suspect from the tone of your voice that, to you, it felt pretty amazing that it worked!

Ariel Garten:
No, it was amazing. It was insane that it worked!

Ellen Jackson:
That you pulled it off.

Ellen Jackson:
One of the interesting things about that, for me as a psychologist, is that because I talk to lots of ... my clients and groups that I see, about the notion of testing and learning. You know, I've got an idea, and whether that's a micro-thing in their life, or in your case the most macro, this idea of having something and just thinking, "You know what? Let's just have a go. See what happens. And what can we learn from that?"

Ellen Jackson:
And it sounds like, for you, there must have been a massive amount of learning, both through the process, but also it was really testing that philosophy that you have of we can do anything is we try?

Ariel Garten:
Yes. And it was rather shocking that it actually worked, that we were able to pull together a team of people, that a team could even come together in such a short time to execute on this, is also an incredible demonstration of the resiliency and the intelligence of the people around us, and the team that we were working with. And ultimately we stood back and said, "Wow! Like, we just pulled this off for the Olympics." We were on top of the world. We could anything we wanted. And everybody was looking to this technology to see where it was going to go next.

Ariel Garten:
And that created an interesting moment for us. Because we were, like, we have this great technology that controlled the light on big buildings, but how useful is that? Not particularly. We did this thing that was so extraordinary, but actually not very practically useful. So we then set about trying to figure out what was the best application of this technology. And what we recognized was, as much as it's amazing to control the lights on things outside of you, to control technology outside of yourself, even more powerful is the ability to control the technology inside of yourself.

Ariel Garten:
And while we were teaching people on that small screen how to focus and relax, and actually showing people what was going on in their brains, showing them they were focused, showing them that they were relaxed, we recognized that that was the most important moment of what we did. Not that it was massive building across the country. Not that it was the Olympics. But that we were actually able to show people, in real time, what was happening in their brain. That we were able to take this intangible, untouchable, unvisualisable process that goes on inside of us and make it really tangible and practical. We recognized that if we could take that and bring it to the world, that's like understanding that there's an internal state that you can control and shift and manage and learn from, that then we will be doing something great for the world.

Ellen Jackson:
And that's so interesting. So the learning there, I suppose, for the three of you, in all the possibilities of things that you could learn from that Olympic's experience, came back, perhaps, to finding something that felt meaningful to you. Would that be right? That really did feel like you were making a contribution to something important?

Ariel Garten:
Absolutely. Because after the Olympics we went on to make all sorts of silly things, like thought-controlled soccer machines, and thought-controlled beer taps, and God know what! All the time trying to figure out what this technology could do, and feeling really ... as it cool as it was, really unsatisfied by it, because it was not making a meaningful contribution to people's daily lives.

Ariel Garten:
It was finally when we hit upon this notion ... It was really Trevor and Chris that identified it, and what we ultimately recognized was, what we were teaching people to do, essentially, was to meditate. We were teaching them to focus and relax and shift internal state. And we deeply believed that if we could get more people in the world meditating, that we would make the world a better place. And it didn't really matter if the technology worked or not: it turns it works phenomenally well. But we were, like, "Even if the technology doesn't work, if we can just get more people meditating, then we will have done something for the world."

Ellen Jackson:
Wonderful! I love that, that just kind of meaning and purpose component of a project, to do something that really does give you a sense of satisfaction. To feel that you are contributing to something greater than yourself, and to be able to use your skills, and the possibilities, in order to do that.

Ellen Jackson:
And I guess that means we're starting to talk about Muse and what it is. Can you tell us a little bit about Muse?

Ariel Garten:
Sure. The Muse is a brain-sensing headband that helps you meditate. So everybody knows that mediation is good for you. Everybody knows that you're supposed to be meditating, but, frankly, most people don't do it because it's hard to do. You sit down, you're like, "I'm going to meditate now. My mind's just going to go blank and it's going to be amazing." Of course, none of minds ever go blank, they bounce all over the place. The person ends up being frustrated because you don't know what you're supposed to do, you don't know what supposed to go in the black box of your brain. There's nobody there looking in your brain telling you what you're supposed to be doing during meditation. And you get frustrated and you get up and you don't do it.

Ariel Garten:
So we recognized that with this technology, we've the opportunity to literally show somebody what was going on in their mind; when they were focused and when their mind was wondering. To be able to show them how to meditate, and to be able to help you track the process, to know when you're quote unquote "doing it right", to see your improvement, to show you what to do. And with that we could get more people meditating, by making the process really obvious, tangible, and even enjoyable.

Ariel Garten:
What Muse does is it tracks your brain while you meditate. So it's on a little headband. It's like wearing a Fitbit but around your forehead. And it gives you realtime feedback on your meditation by letting you know when you're focused and when your mind is wandering. And the metaphor we use is your mind is like the weather. So when you're thinking, distracted, you hear it as stormy. And as you bring yourself to quiet focused attention it quiets the storms. So, this really simple feedback, where it's stormy and your mind's wandering. It's quiet, and you're focused. And this really is able to very quickly guide you into a state of focus, to keep you there.

Ariel Garten:
And then, after the fact you get all sorts of data. Charts, scores, graphs, to tell you what you're doing moment-by-moment, and help you chart and see your improvement.

Ellen Jackson:
And I have been testing this myself. You kindly sent me a Muse. And I have to say I love it!

Ariel Garten:
Woo-hoo!

Ellen Jackson:
I have that exact experience. And I do love that metaphor of the stormy weather. I think it really ... You know, it's both soothing and indicative at the same time. So for me, as I sit there, and I've got my headband on, and it's connected to the app on my phone. So I put my headphones in as well, so I get the little introduction and then a description of ... And it does calibrate as well, just to make sure it's all working. So that's all good.

Ellen Jackson:
And then, yeah, as you start you can ... And it's beautiful, gentle soothing weather sounds. So even when it's stormy it's not kind of aggressive stormy, it's just giving you an indication that your mind is wandering. The first time I tried it I was sitting there at home, and no one else was home so it was quiet, but there were cars occasionally passing. And I could notice that, even if I got down to that calm state, so the weather was calm, and the wonderful little thing that kind of ... it's almost a gamification type element of when you get to a calm state you start to hear the little birds chirping. So a kind of satisfying feeling when you feel the little birds chirping.

Ellen Jackson:
But I could sit there, and even if I got the birds chirping I would notice ... I'd kind of somewhere in my mind hear the car go past, and then I noticed almost like a split second later that the rain would start to fall, in the app, and I could hear that through the headphones. And I'd sort of go, "Okay, yeah, that's probably my brain just noticing that car," bring my attention back to my breath. See if we can get the birds to come back again?

Ellen Jackson:
And, yeah, it's just another level of insight as you described. We don't know when we're meditation whether we're doing it right. We can feel the effects if we're doing it well, but certainly if it's early in your meditation experience, just kind of sitting there going, "Well, I don't know. Is this how it's supposed to feel? I don't know if I'm doing this right?" So being able to kind of get that instant feedback in such a lovely soothing, almost sensory way ... I suppose it is a sensory way. It's a hearing. I found enormously helpful, even as somebody who has meditated on and off for a long time.

Ariel Garten:
Oh, that's wonderful. Yeah, that's very common feedback that we get. So it's awesome to hear that you had a wonderful experience with it.

Ariel Garten:
We find it's useful at various levels. So when somebody's never meditated before, Muse is a fantastic tool to just show you what to do; it just makes it really easy to start meditating. If somebody's a more experienced meditator, what it's doing is it's helping you enhance your metacognition. So as a meditator what we're doing is we're observing the process of our own mind, we're noticing when it wanders, we're choosing to return it, and we're watching the whole process.

Ariel Garten:
So Muse brings your attention to things that you maybe wouldn't have even noticed. Like a car goes by. And actually that has grabbed your attention for a moment, so you now have another level of observation and ability to see what goes on inside your mind and then continue to make choices about it. So it's increasing your ability to be mindful, as opposed to just mindlessly sitting there.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. And I guess that is what it is. I said to you, off air, just before we started that I've always felt a bit like a "meditation failure" in inverted commas, because I've never felt that I've sat down and done it consciously enough or rigorously enough, or had enough of a routine around it. I have practiced yoga for about 18 years, so I think that has helped.

Ellen Jackson:
And this something that I talk to others about, if you're trying to establish, or you're interested in getting into meditation, then just having those little micro-moments of awareness, of just noticing your breath, or noticing what's going around, and kind of building up the practice from there, can be really helpful. So I discovered that I actually am perhaps better at meditating than I thought I was, by using the Muse, because-

Ariel Garten:
Yes!

Ellen Jackson:
... I could actually get into that calm state quite quickly. So that was very gratifying. And quite motivating as well. You kind of feel like, "Oh, I'm better at this than I thought I was. I might keep doing it."

Ellen Jackson:
But also, as you say, for those novice meditators, people who are just wanting to try, to be able to have that kind of, start with micro-moments and then try the Muse out, let it give you that feedback to tell you when you're doing it "right", in inverted commas, whether you're managing to calm your mind back, is just an extra level of super-power when it comes to your meditation.

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. And it really does, like, super-hone your meditation. So it's based on a focused attention on the breath exercise. And focused attention on the breath, you focus your attention on your breath, your mind wanders, which all our minds do, you then choose to return your attention back to you breath. And often when you're sitting there it can be one, three, five minutes till you notice that your mind has wandered and you're on the grocery list! And if you're doing a 10 minutes meditation, maybe you'll get five returns back to your breath during that 10 minute meditation, or even 10.

Ariel Garten:
And that active noticing and returning, that's like the exercise of meditation. That's the bench press rep at the gym. That's the honing of the attentional loop. And so, with Muse, you're instantly cued as soon as your mind wanders. So within, as you said, half a second, very briefly you're now notified that your mind is beginning to wander, so you can very quickly identify the wandering thoughts, and become very sharp at honing that attention to your own thoughts, and very quickly return. So within a 10 minute mediation you could get a hundred times where your mind has wandered and you've noticed and returned. And, essentially, a hundred bench press reps at the gym.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, I like that analogy. I'm actually practicing ... I'm getting my brain fitter in terms of my attentional focus and my ability to come back to my breath and those mindful moments; the things that we know help to rejuvenate us.

Ellen Jackson:
One of the other things that I noticed, Ariel, just as you were talking, it reminded me that I, in practicing, and I've tried using it at different times of the day, just to see whether ... Again, a bit of testing and learning, to see whether there's a difference. And I had always been a bit in the habit or meditating before bed, because I found it a relaxing thing to do, improve my quality of sleep. But what I've discovered through using the Muse is that I'm actually better at bringing my mind, or staying on task, I suppose, maintaining my focus on my breath, in the morning than I am in the evening. In the evening I got more stormy weather and I have more of those returns that you spoke about, which is probably good; it's better training. In the morning it comes far more easily. Which was interesting feedback that I don't think I would have ever got via any other means.

Ariel Garten:
That's awesome! That's a really fascinating insight. And what we're doing, again, is we're honing our ability to notice the self, and understand the self; your changes at various points in the day. And what does that then change? Does it change your decision making? Does it change your rituals before bedtime to help you calm that mind more effectively?

Ariel Garten:
We often hear people who meditate before they go to bed so that they can sleep more effectively. But we also hear a lot of people just love to do it in the morning because then it sets their day. And really what you're doing, whether you're doing it morning or night, is you're building the skill of meta-attention mindfulness, that you then apply throughout the day.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. And I'm starting to think, maybe, because I've always considered myself not a morning person, but I'm starting to, at the age of 46, re-shape my thinking on that. That other level of self-awareness, you know, maybe I'm actually better in the morning than I think I am, and maybe therefore I could reshape my day to make more effective use of that morning time. There's always those practical challenges of having children I've got to get to school, and the general chaos that goes on.

Ellen Jackson:
But it is starting to change my thinking about how I use that morning time. Would I actually be more productive, perhaps, if I focused a little more on creative pursuits, or elements of my work that require me to hone my attention more quickly, and do that in the morning rather than the evening? I don't know. It's all an experiment.

Ariel Garten:
It's amazing. You're potentially unlocking a super-power here.

Ellen Jackson:
You never know! It's going to be a big surprise for anyone who knows me, because I've declared myself not a morning person for my entire life. But we can all change and grow and learn, even in our mid-40s.

Ariel Garten:
In our middle life, yes.

Ellen Jackson:
Exactly. Exactly.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, have you had any feedback on ... You said that there has been feedback from customers about how they use it. Are there particular groups of people, do you find, that this is something that really appeals to the new meditator, or are there people, perhaps, in certain professions who are using the Muse as a tool?

Ariel Garten:
It's really across the board. We have literally hundreds of thousands of people that use Muse every day. It's been out now for almost five years believe it or not, I can't believe it's been that long. People who have used it for like a thousand sessions, like really meditating regularly. Novices love it because it helps them start meditating. Experts also love it because it gives them a new eye and a new insight into the practice.

Ariel Garten:
Clinicians love it. So doctors, psychiatrists, life coaches, chiropractors, naturopaths. Anyone where you previously would have told somebody in their practice that, "You should meditate," for whatever reasons. You'd recommend it to your patient. The patient goes home and, of course, never meditates, because nobody really knows what to do when their doctor tells them to meditate, and it's hard to stick to. The doctor, the clinician usually doesn't know how to meditate themselves so it's hard to teach.

Ariel Garten:
And now we're finding that in a clinician's office, regularly people just recommend or hand out Muses. Some of them have them on loan, some of them we'll send a code online to purchase. And it just gets your patients meditating, so that's been actually a niche that we never imagined.

Ariel Garten:
Then we also have lots of studies with Muse.

Ellen Jackson:
That is a fascinating audience I suppose, you know, client group, the use ... Because I can imagine for people that would be, if you are trying to encourage people to meditate. And as a psychologist it's certainly something that I do, and I know my clinical colleagues do. But, yeah, giving them something practical, a tool ... It kind of makes it a bit more fun, too, if that makes sense? A bit more engaging than just sitting there on your own. You've got a gadget to help you along. I can imagine that would be very appealing, both, to the clinicians, but also to their clients.

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. We've also seen it in schools. There is one study bringing meditation into Grade 8 classroom, meditating with Muse, and they saw a 72% decrease in kids sent to detention.

Ellen Jackson:
Wow!

Ariel Garten:
So that was awesome. It's popular in colleges. Stanford it in one of their courses, two of their courses actually. And IT does as well. So they give it their students actually as part of the course.

Ariel Garten:
We see it in first responders. We have lots of athletes that use it. Literally, NFL winning, Superbowl winning football players that use it. Tennis. Skating. Several soccer teams. Major League baseball. So it's been wonderful to really see it adopted across the board. And really just furthering the mission of bringing meditation into all of these areas where it may not have penetrated or stuck in the same way. So that's really the end goal, to get more people meditating. It would do so much good for the planet if we just all meditate!

Ellen Jackson:
Rolling it out on a global scale.

Ellen Jackson:
And, yeah, I can, again, just thinking along the lines of that as a tool, a tangible tool that people can use. There's certainly people in our population for whom a gadget is a wonderful thing. And if they've got something like that, a piece of technology that they can use, that may well open their mind and their eyes up to actually engaging in meditation in a way that they might not have. They might have perceived it as being ... And I know when I'm introducing it as concept, often in workplaces I say, "It doesn't have to be sitting cross-legged in the Lotus position and going. "Om!"," that's not what meditation need to be. Because there is a perception, perhaps, that that's what it's like or how you're supposed to do it. And that's very unappealing to some people.

Ellen Jackson:
So to be able to use a piece of tech and say, "Here it is. And it's really cool. And by the way you're going to learn to meditate at the same time," would just open up all sorts of possibilities for new audiences.

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. We'll often find, Mom who loves doing yoga, will bring it home because she likes to meditate and loves having a new meditation device. Then, Dad, or boyfriend, who's an engineer and hates meditation and would never in a million years think to do it, all a sudden start stealing it, and using it regularly.

Ellen Jackson:
Yep.

Ariel Garten:
Then, teenage kids get on-board, and now they're meditating because they love the gamification, and it's like a video game to them. And all of a sudden you've got the whole family meditating.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah! Perfect. And I must admit that's exactly how I'm hoping it might role out in my family. Because I'm using it and so I'm going to, shortly, encourage my husband, and say, "Why don't you have a go? It's pretty cool. See what happens?" And yeah, you know, I don't think the kids will be too far behind. I mean, meditation in itself has become ... I'm sure it's the same in Canada but, all ready, my children in primary school here, they do a little bit of meditation in some of their classes. They've been introduced to the concept of mindfulness, even from pre-school age.

Ellen Jackson:
So I think, yeah, the possibility of ... especially once I explain that gamification element to it, see if you can make the birds come? Will be very appealing to them. I've got two boys. I think they'll be right on-board with that.

Ariel Garten:
Awesome! I also understand why meditation is really useful for you. I've got one boy, that's enough!

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah!

Ariel Garten:
I get the delightful chaos. But with two?

Ellen Jackson:
It can be very full on. It can get very noisy and very physical in my house.

Ariel Garten:
Awesome!

Ellen Jackson:
Hence the meditation.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, what's next, both, for the Muse, but also for yourself? Because we talked about this kind of mindset around futures and possibilities, and all the amazing things that you might be able to do, or that your organization and your colleagues- anybody might be able to do, really. Just that possibility mindset. What does the future look like for you and for Muse?

Ariel Garten:
So with Muse we recently came out with a new device: Muse 2. So everything that we've been talking about now is realtime feedback from the brain. But meditation is more than just the brain. So with Muse 2 we added a sensor to track the heart, the breath, and the body. So while you're meditating you can listen to the beating of your heart, like the beating of a drum. You literally get to hear your own heartbeat in between your interoception, you're ability to sensitively understand your own internal state. You can find stillness in your practice. For a lot of people just finding stillness in your body is the first step to finding stillness in your mind.

Ariel Garten:
And then, there's a breath sensor and guided breathing exercises, so that you learn to manage your physiology. So that if you're in a situation where you're having anxious thoughts or you're feeling stressed, the first step is to learn to see what goes in your mind, let go of the thought, return to a neutral object. Take deep breaths and use your body and your physiology and your breath to be able to relax your body and guide you. Tune into your heart and help it slow down and calm.

Ariel Garten:
Once you begin to understand and work each of the systems in your body, and understand how they work together as a whole, you have a much greater ability to have more choice and flexibility in how your mind and body react to different scenarios.

Ellen Jackson:
Amazing!

Ariel Garten:
So that's Muse 2.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah!

Ariel Garten:
And so, that's the next amazing journey.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. Having practiced yoga for a long time, that was sort of got an introduction really, certainly from an experiential point of view, to mindfulness and meditation in terms of the mind, was actually that awareness that I got of my body and my physiology through the practice of yoga. So starting with the breath, but also noticing where the tension in your body is, being able to breathe into a pose. It has been a mind and body experience, but it's taken 18 years of yoga to do that. And whilst that still is something that I advocate for lots of people, this is obviously a tool to be able to do that so much more easily.

Ellen Jackson:
I'm wandering whether it would actually be really cool to sue a Muse 2 while you were doing yoga? I don't know if that's possible, but to get all that feedback!

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. It's something that we've looked at. You can't do the EEG stuff while you're moving, because EEG requires complete stillness. But we've played around with tracking postures, and, yeah, using it for tracking. That's not something that's available commercially, but it's something that we're working on internally.

Ellen Jackson:
So, again, possibilities maybe?

Ariel Garten:
Yes.

Ellen Jackson:
So, yeah, that sounds wonderful. And, again, lots of applications there. I'm thinking, too, for people who perhaps experience anxiety, being able to kind of start to notice how you're managing your heart rate, how you're managing some of those physical symptoms that come with anxiety, by getting that biofeedback and using that, then, in the practice of using your breath, or other ways that you might try to manage anxiety. That sounds very cool.

Ellen Jackson:
And it sounds like there's probably lots of other applications for Muse 2 as well?

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. It's been really amazing and wonderful to see all the ways that people apply it and use it. And then, it's also being applied just as a clinical grade EEG. So there's over 200 published papers using Muse, either as a meditation tool, or as an EEG device in neuroscience research.

Ellen Jackson:
Oh, incredible. Incredible. So making forays into the academic side as well as the practical side?

Ariel Garten:
Yeah. I mean, we all come from the world of science. And so, ensuring that there's both scientific validity and the opportunity to move science forward through it has been, both, top and mind, and so, so, so gratifying that it seems to evolving in that way.

Ellen Jackson:
I can imagine.

Ellen Jackson:
And beyond Muse 2, are there other possibilities at this point in time?

Ariel Garten:
So the next thing that we're becoming interested in is sleep. And we have a good understanding of what happens with people during waking, and that's only half you day. And so, we're now becoming very curious about what goes on during sleep. So keep your eyes open from us on that front.

Ellen Jackson:
I will. I will. I'm fascinated by sleep. My mum has conjured ... She's one of these kind of scientific curious thinkers as well, so she's got all sorts of theories about dreaming in particular, and the changes that occur in dreaming over a lifespan. So she's in her seventies, and she swears she dreams differently now, and about different things than she did when she was younger.

Ellen Jackson:
So who knows what the possibilities might be?

Ariel Garten:
I'm curious, what has your mum shared about the changes in her dreaming. If you don't mind sharing?

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah, no, that's ... On mum's behalf, she actually asked me to ask an expert on this, so perhaps this is the opportunity to have that conversation. What she's noticed, if I can recall quickly, it was that when she was younger her dreams were more unrealistic, if that makes sense; disconnected and weird and wonderful, the really kind of expansive, creative, weird sort of dreams. And she's noticed, and I think she said my dad had as well, they've obviously conversed about this, that as they've got older their dreams have become far more practical. So they tend to be about real people, people that they know, things that have happened, things that are far more tangible.

Ellen Jackson:
Now, that's a sample size of two. Who knows if that's the case for other people? But it's just something that she has observed and is curious about.

Ariel Garten:
So I'm going to answer, not as an expert, here, just as an average layperson coming up with some theories.

Ellen Jackson:
Cool!

Ariel Garten:
So don't hold me to any of this.

Ellen Jackson:
No, no, course not.

Ariel Garten:
One of the functions of dreaming is to consolidate our memories during the day. So when you're young you have a very large neural space of possibility. When you're very young have a highly active imaginary world, you exist as much inside your head as you do out in the world. And some experts say that when you're young your locus of experience is very internal, not external, because you don't have a fully developed model of the external world. And that's how kids have these amazing imaginations, imaginary friends, and get scared of the monsters that are really just the pillows in the room.

Ariel Garten:
As you get older your brain literally prunes, and the space of neural possibilities start to decrease. You become fixed in the way that you understand the world and its interactions, and you also become fixed in your own pattern of interacting with the world. And, in the brain, the more that something fires, literally the deeper the grooves get and the less branching tends to occur in our lives, because we walk in very small paths. We do the same thing every day, we brush our teeth in the same way, we have the same people that we like to talk to, et cetera. So the neural space of possibility tends to diminish.

Ariel Garten:
Which is why as you age you want to do as much as you can to try to expand that neural space of possibility by taking new routes home, and learning new languages, and constantly stimulating yourself with new information, so you can try to continually build new connections and new ideas, rather than limiting.

Ariel Garten:
And so, if one of the functions of dreams is potentially to replay the events of the day, consolidate learning and consolidate those connections. When you've narrowed the space of neural possibility to a bunch of relatively well-worn paths, it seems far more likely that when you dream, those are the paths that you're going to be reactivating. And those are the kinds of memories, aka dreams, you're going to be having through the night.

Ellen Jackson:
There you go! And that makes absolute sense to me as another layperson. So if that's a layperson to layperson explanation ... although that did sound it came from somebody who knows a fair bit about this stuff. But that makes a lot of sense that over time, just because you don't have that expansive possibility in your mind that, yeah, little kids do have. And then, we're just replaying some of the same more well-grooved patterns as we sleep, hence the more practical dreams.

Ellen Jackson:
There you go, mum, if you're listening, there's the answer to your question! Or at least a possible answer to your question.

Ariel Garten:
Oh, yes. Definitely a possible answer, an off-the-cuff theory. I'd be curious as to what happened if your mother started to expand her input possibilities; if she would spend days staring at cool patterns and watching things on YouTube that she would never in a million years think of watching. And watching more surreal content. And shifting the way that she starts to receive or look at the world. Look at different art. Although, if she's doing this intentionally as an experiment and if it shifts her dreams you have to wonder about the intention. There's going to be a lot of ... This is not going to be a great experiment if she knows why she's doing it!

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. Yeah.

Ariel Garten:
Nonetheless, it would be interesting to discover if her dreams become more varied and fanciful through this process.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. Look, that's a really good experiment. She is of a scientific nature herself, so she may well be keen to sign up for that.

Ellen Jackson:
She's actually heading off from Australia to France to spend a couple of weeks painting. She's an artist herself. With people. So it will be new surroundings, it will be new people, it will be a whole set of ... I mean, she's done this sort of thing before, so it's not entirely new, but it's certainly not the everyday. So I will tell her to track her dreams during that period, and see whether she notices any difference.

Ariel Garten:
Awesome! And then, to even push it further, and look at artists that she's not used to looking at. Like, stare very deeply at paintings of artists that perhaps she doesn't even like and doesn't have an affinity towards. See how she can mix it up in her own mind and see what the outcome is.

Ellen Jackson:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Okay, she's got her homework task for her holidays. And we'll report back in, see what she's found. We do love a bit of self-experimentation, here, on the podcast. So we're just putting it into action.

Ariel Garten:
Also, your mum sounds awesome!

Ellen Jackson:
She's pretty cool! She's pretty cool!

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, what about for you, what does the future of possibilities hold for you, do you think, at this point?

Ariel Garten:
I'm really enjoying being a mum. My little kiddo is three, so a lot of my time and energy is really focused on drinking in this time, and engaging with him and learning from it. And having my own mind shifted and blown through the discovery of this tiny little person.

Ariel Garten:
And then, what's beyond that? I don't know. But I'm very fascinated right now by approaching fears. And whenever I find anything that's fearful, I will go into it, and I will feel it, and I will wait till it cracks, and I'll get to the freedom on the other side of the fear. So where that will lead me, I've no idea. And I don't think I need to know.

Ellen Jackson:
You don't. It's full of possibilities.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, thank you so much for our conversation today. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've learnt a lot. I hope our listeners have learnt a lot. And I hope they're inspired to practice their meditation, and just to think about future possibilities as well.

Ellen Jackson:
One of the things that we've been talking about a little bit on the show, following an interview with James Garrett, who's a U.S. based psychologist, also interested in neuroscience and neuro-tech, is this notion of our version 2. So, who is Ellen Jackson 2.0? Who is Ariel Garten 2.0? Those future possibilities. And I hope that through the conversation today, because you've demonstrated just the power of possibility and having a go at things, I hope that that's inspired people to consider that as well.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, if people want to find you, or find out more about you, and of course find out more about the Muse, where do they go?

Ariel Garten:
You can go to choosemuse.com. And you can find me on Ariel's Musings on Instagram. And ariel.garten on Twitter.

Ariel Garten:
Now, just in that space of possibility. So, to me, that's not an as-well, when you put it next to meditation. To me, meditation opens the space of possibility. We're used to just-

Ellen Jackson:
You're absolutely right.

Ariel Garten:
Yeah, we're to just going through our rote thoughts, the thoughts that we're used to having. The brain that just has thoughts and the thoughts think us and that's just the day that we have. But when you insert meditation into that process, what you're doing is you're giving somebody the opportunity to change the internal state, the opportunity to shift the thinking, to say no to the common thoughts that we keep having every day, and in doing so open up an extraordinary space of possibility. Open up the mindset of possible. Shutting down the negative thoughts that hold us back, like the I don't know, and it's not good enough, it won't make me enough money, my mother won't like it: whatever.

Ariel Garten:
We finally have the opportunity to observe, change, shift those dialogs, and open to whatever and whoever we want to be.

Ellen Jackson:
So it is absolutely integral to discovering our 2.0?

Ariel Garten:
Yes.

Ellen Jackson:
It is.

Ellen Jackson:
Ariel, thank you again for your time. And enjoy the rest of your holiday break. For everyone who wants to find out more about Ariel, about Muse, about all of the things that we've discussed today, you can find them all in the show notes for this episode.

Ellen Jackson:
But for now we're going to say goodbye and thank you again.

Ariel Garten:
Thank you. A total pleasure and a ton of fun!

Ellen Jackson:
How amazing is Ariel? And how cool was that conversation? I didn't expect to end up talking about my mum's dreams, but that's one of the things I love about podcasting, is that I never know where a conversation is going to take me, or you, as it turns out.

Ellen Jackson:
To find out more about Ariel and Muse, pop over to the show notes to this episode where you'll find the links and resources, everything you need, plus more. That's at potential.com.au/podcast.

Ellen Jackson:
And if you'd like to keep in touch with the podcast, and everything that's going on in the world of Potential Psychology, you can subscribe to our newsletter at potential.com.au/subscribe. And if you think there's someone else who'd love the show and our guests please tell them about it. You can do that in any way you like. You'll also find us on all the socials. Just search for Potential Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter; wherever you like to hang out online.

Ellen Jackson:
I'd love it, too, if you could rate and review the Potential Psychology podcast on Apple Podcasts. That is still the best way to raise the profile of the podcast so that more people can benefit from the wisdom, inspiration and practical tips provided by our guests.

Ellen Jackson:
Next week on the show we're talking about aging, and age care and wellbeing towards the end of life, with an Australian psychologist who specializes in the field. Her name is Julie [inaudible 00:54:29] Smith, and here she is to tell us a little bit more:

Julie:
The impact of poor mental health in clients has much broader issues in terms of the workforce, their job satisfaction. And for families it's also quite difficult because they're seeing changing in their loved one's physical health, but also emotional as well. And that can affect them and their own wellbeing. So if we look at the ways of how we can create mentally healthy age care facilities, we're likely to see a broader impact on that in the entire environment.

Ellen Jackson:
That's next week on the Potential Psychology podcast. A must-listen if you have elderly or older family members, or a personal interest in the latter years of life.

Ellen Jackson:
I'm looking forward to being back with you then. But in the meantime go forth, thrive, flourish, and fulfill your potential.