March Mindfulness is our new series that examines the explosive growth in mindfulness and meditation technology — culminating in Mashable’s groundbreaking competitive meditation bracket contest. Because March shouldn’t be all madness.
The sound of silence hasn’t been this popular since Simon and Garfunkel.
A Kickstarter campaign for a double-sided vinyl record containing 20 minutes of silence is the latest crowd-funding project that’s making noise. Eric Antonow and his 15-year-old son, Ben, decided the world could use some quiet.
And Kickstarter supporters agree. The duo has raised roughly $4,300 — seven times more than their $600 goal to produce the record. Their Kickstarter ends Wednesday.
It all started when Antonow and his son were sifting through records at a store and came across “The Art of Meditation,” a relic from the 1970s, complete with groovy artwork. Upon listening, though, Antonow found that more than the cover art was outdated — the meditation itself was just a “directive voice” telling him where to place his thoughts. For him, though, the point of meditation was to let his thoughts go wherever they pleased.
Antonow, who lives in Palo Alto, started meditating after seeing a video on YouTube late one night in 2016. It was a clip of Jerry Seinfeld talking about how meditating allowed him to better manage his life and well-being. Antonow resonated with Seinfeld’s words, googled meditation classes, and learned how to meditate.
He’s meditated every day since. He even started a Facebook page called Pub Med on which he posts videos of himself meditating publicly in order to shake off misconceptions that might cling to the age-old practice. The first time he broadcast himself meditating on Facebook Live, he did so at 6 a.m. one morning and a few hundred people watched. He figured out that he could slowly normalize the act of meditation by livestreaming it.
Antonow is not the only one navigating the glassy waters of the new digital zen frontier. The bridge between technology and meditation has been closing within the past couple years. A flurry of apps have also popped up to help users get their calm on via smartphone.
Now, Antonow is experimenting with different tools to help people meditate. The vinyl, he says, is just one of several he’s been working on.
Though the idea was just a humorous “what if” between him and his son, it (very) quickly materialized into reality. Antonow says they had the idea on a Sunday in January and took action the next day. Making the recording of pure silence took less than half an hour. “I opened up Garage Band, and I dragged the levels down to zero, and I hit record. And I recorded 20 minutes.” Antonow named it “Side A,” copied it, and renamed the second one “Side B.” And that was that.
Antonow predicts that there are two different audiences for the vinyl. He notes that on one hand, there are people who are genuinely interested in finding ways to better their meditation practices. “Then there’s another group of people that’ll be like: ‘This is fucking funny.'”
While he’s serious about the benefits of having tangible silence, he’s aware of the humor attached to his product. “I wanted to make sure both camps were represented.”
Still, Antonow is excited about the possibilities for contemplation offered by the spinning quiet. “This is a mirror, and when you show up and you look in the mirror this time it’s gonna be different than the last time.”
One of the best parts about doing the project for Antonow was working with his son, who found the humor in a silent record. It was also a good chance for a father-son teaching moment.
“Many things you want to make are make-able,” he says, matter of factly. And with the advent of crowd-funding on such accessible platforms, he’s right. “This idea showed up in January, and we’ll have records in people’s hands by April.”
The record is only available in the U.S. right now, but Antonow says there’s interest worldwide judging by the messages he’s gotten on Kickstarter from Russia, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UK. He chalks the interest up to a genuine curiosity around something fresh and strange.
The recent boom in meditation and self-help apps like Headspace and Calm have certainly opened up a mainstream discussion about mindfulness. “I think they’re great entry points into a practice,” Antonow says.
He doesn’t find it odd that we’ve figured out a way to include technology in a practice that inherently rejects it. He notes, however, that we “don’t really know” what it could all lead to, since we’re living in it right now.
“I suspect most people over time will go explore meditation in much more offline ways than just listening to a recording or an app.”
For now, 20 minutes of silence sounds like a good place to start.