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December 11, 2013

Sparq Labyrinth meditation tool helps computer users relax

NORMAN — After hours of studying or during a lull at work, computer users may visit Facebook, Reddit or a number of other Internet websites for mindless fun. But visiting social media websites does not enhance productivity or counteract stress as well as Sparq Labyrinth, creator Matt Cook said.

Sparq is an interactive mindfulness tool designed to counteract stress and promote wellness in computer-centric work and school environments.

It made its debut on Nov. 17 at the University of Oklahoma. Labyrinth meditation, as engaged by Sparq, is a full-body-engaging activity. Traditionally, labyrinth meditation was used in monasteries by monks but has since been documented to reduce stress and anxiety in hospitals, schools and prisons.

Cook said while in graduate school at OU, he was looking for ways to apply ideas of philosophy to the library environment. Libraries engage cognitive abilities. However, more libraries are full of books that are never read.

Instead, libraries like Bizzell Memorial Library on OU campus are full of students with laptops, iPads and smartphones.

Cook said Sparq utilizes technology but engages the whole body to combat fatigue, which can occur from staring at a computer for many hours and only using one’s eyes and hands.

Cook, who had meditated some before the development of his mindfulness tool, said meditation can take a lot of time and training, but the opposite is true of Sparq, which makes it appealing.

“You can walk into it without any training,” Cook said. “It’s distracting but not frustrating. It distracts from stress and takes less than five minutes in and out.”

Sparq users can choose from six labyrinth patterns, each of which represent various cultures, including medieval Europe, Celtic, ancient India, Serbian, Native American and a literary labyrinth inspired by the “Lord of the Rings.”

At the meditation tool’s current location, explanations about each culture along with suggestions about what users should think about while moving through each labyrinth are displayed on the wall.

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