Everyone needs a break now and then. While some prefer peace and solitude, others like to travel or briefly escape to a virtual world. However it is done, it is not only fun but also a good way of getting some perspective and refresh a usually overloaded mind.
Solitude and seclusion
In today’s world, the paradoxical focus on “having it all” is rather the norm and not the exception. While filling life with constant buzz and activities can be fun and rewarding, there are moments when it is necessary to stop for a little while. Make a break. Silence the noise. Freeze the action. Escape. However, how to achieve this? Some people meditate, others do yoga or go for a run. Some take it one step further and spend time floating in an isolation tank. With the face above the water and the ears submerged, the user floats on water of the same temperature as the skin. With all senses numbed the distractions get reduced, allowing for deep relaxation.
However when in town, surrounded by hundreds of people all hectically moving towards the next destination, the above mentioned ways might not seem feasible. So what can you do? If you are lucky, there might be local initiatives to create a zone of silence in the middle of the city. One such example comes from Linz, where a part of the movie theater Centralkino in 2009 was acoustically isolated and turned into a relaxation room termed “Ruhepol”. For a whole year, people could seek refuge from the stress of the city and enjoy some moments of quietness, sitting or laying on bean bags.
A more recent initiative is the “Raum der Stille” (Room of Silence) located at the Hauptbahnhof in Vienna. Despite being initiated by the Catholic Church, it is a place open for all religions and cultures, inviting anyone (tourists, travelers or employees) to come for some rest or for a conversation if they wish. If you know of other zones of silence, please leave a comment below.
Sometimes it is hard to find a quiet space, for example while at work. Every work place has its own stressful situations, and if you don’t have time to leave your computer and isolate yourself, you can always visit The Quiet Place Project. Just turn off your phone and email alerts, close the door to the office and enjoy a couple of minutes of solitude.
Sometimes new perspectives can be gained through exploration of a new situation rather than isolation. There are multiple examples based on virtual reality. While staying at home, you can dream yourself away to various cities and explore them using AROUNDER. Alternatively, you can embark upon a virtual reality bike adventure anywhere in the world. For older people, such cybercycling has even been suggested to provide cognitive benefits.
Everyone experiences moments in life when one would like to fast forward, including medical and dental procedures. To relieve accumulated anxiety, HappyMed developed an audiovisual distraction, where virtual reality video glasses facilitate a mental escape during unpleasant moments.
Resting through role playing
Of course, fleeing the everyday alone might not be as fun as together. Therefore, many people participate in various online role playing games such as World of Warcraft or pen-&-paper role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Common for both categories is that you can enact any character of choice or live whatever life you want.
As technology moves forward, so do the possibilities of virtual realities. In the future, Microsoft’s RoomAlive will allow a living room to become the stage of a video game – in 3D. Using projection mapping and movement tracking, it creates an interactive gaming experience inside a room.
Those less interested in virtual reality games, but who still want some action, can try Room Escape adventures. During such an escapade you can fulfill your secret dream of becoming a secret agent, a bank robber or even serial killer victim (just to name a few). Locked in a room, you and your team have 60min to solve a mystery by finding clues, solving problems and riddles. The ultimate goal? To escape the room and complete your mission.
There are also more extreme ways of breaking routine life. One example is the recently debated project termed “Seeing I”, a social and artistic experiment intended to explore the boundaries of our own identities. Artist Mark Farid planned to experience somebody else’s life through a virtual reality headset day and night for 28 days. The ultimate goal was to test if technology can change who we are by evaluating Mark’s sense of self throughout the project. However, this project didn’t kick off though due to lack of funding.
Another example of more extreme reality escapes comes from the recent Mars500 mission. Between June 3rd 2010 and November 4th 2011, six volunteers experienced a virtual mission to Mars including flying to Mars, orbiting, landing and exploring the planet and finally returning to Earth. Among the goals of the mission was to investigate how the conditions of a full length Martian expedition would affect the astronauts mentally and physically. The whole journey took 520 days, which the crew members physically spent isolated in a special facility at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.
You don’t have to travel to the end of the world in order to discover extraordinary things. As technology advances, the options multiply. If you simply look around, there are a myriad of ways to liberate your mind from the shackles of reality. Whether you prefer to do so by confining yourself in a mock space-craft for 17 months or just floating for an hour, that is entirely up to you.
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