If you think about all the things in life that have been impacted by modern technology, the ancient art of meditation probably isn’t one of them.
Yet for two South Carolina brain experts, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Dr. Bashar Badran, a neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, and director of the Neuro-X Lab; and Dr. Baron Short, a physician dual trained in medicine and psychiatry who is also a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and director of the Brain Stimulation Service, became friends nearly a decade ago and bonded over their shared dedication to meditation.
Together, they would go on to develop a device called Zendo that gives meditators like them a leg up, achieving maximum benefit in a fraction of the time.
In addition to helping practitioners achieve a calm and clear mental state, meditation is said to deliver a number of physical and mental health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress, reducing anxiety and managing pain. With increased practice, meditators learn to manage their feelings and thoughts differently, while applying intention to their moment to moment activity. Meditators can relax their mind, develop an enhanced focus and improve their overall health with routine and consistent practice.
The folks behind Zendo say meditation sessions with their device last just 20 minutes and are two and a half times more effective than app-based or traditional meditation sessions alone. Users are calmer, less stressed, and more mindful after a short Zendo meditation session, they say.
According to the Zendo website, in 2014 a group of researchers found eight brain regions that are consistently altered during meditation — specifically areas involving memory, emotional regulation, sensory and body awareness, and higher-level brain communication.
The following year, Badran and Short discovered that low levels of electricity could be used to activate those very parts of the brain and accelerate the meditation process.
They spent the next five years developing the Zendo system, which sends safe and gentle electrical signals from a cell phone-size device to two comfortable pads that are worn on the meditator’s forehead. Zendo became available to the general public in July 2020, with the promise that using it is as easy as three simple steps — putting the pads on your forehead, picking a mode, and meditating for 20 minutes.
The stimulation then helps deliver deeper and more immediate meditation effects for the user.
Badran and Short say Zendo makes it easier for someone with a busy life to meditate by greatly reducing the time and dedication required.
And anyone can use it, from beginners to experts.
“We understand that meditation is a loaded and often intimidating word. It’s a lot to take on in our already busy and chaotic lives,” said Greg Ditmer, Director of Partnerships & Marketing for Zendo. “Traditional meditation is full of sacrificial choices and commitments like time, dedication and prioritizing it over our daily routine. This is why we built Zendo. Zendo makes meditation easier and replaces all the reasons not to meditate with reasons to meditate.”
For more advanced users, that means achieving their desired mental state in minutes rather than hours.
“Not surprisingly, more advanced or expert meditators meditate for longer periods of time per session, to achieve desired and enjoyable mind states,” said Ditmer. “Often, more advanced meditators will sit for hours at a time, however when these experts use Zendo, they get there faster.”
It’s easy to see why some people might be skeptical of using technology to improve a time-tested and ancient technique, but the folks behind Zendo say it’s just another step forward.
“We live in a time where major advancements in science and medicine make it possible to positively change the way the brain functions,” Ditmer said. “Zendo is a new technology that safely and effectively changes the way the brain functions for the better, and we are using this technology to activate the parts of the brain associated with expert meditation practice.”
“It’s modern meditation, intended to get you there faster. We’ve had multiple monks in several countries try and love Zendo — and many of them still use it in their daily practice,” he added.