I'm a product designer with a passion for user centered design. I am also an advocate of creative thinking approaches and design thinking.
I specialize in experience design for software. I've worked on lots of websites, web applications, mobile and social media products, applying principles and techniques from psychology and social sciences, human factors, human-computer interaction, visual design, accessibility and usability. My Ph.D focused on natural language generation and human communication with machines, a combination of AI and HCI.
I have a strong drive for innovation and have designed, envisioned and created new products for different market places and industries from scratch, as well as the strategy for bringing them to market and gaining user adoption. I bring the power and energy of design thinking to both startups and big companies. I like to focus my efforts on large-scale industry disruption.
I love to draw, take photos and skateboard. I'm a student and teacher of Yoga. I'm always exploring new things.
Thanks to Lizi Hamer for all the help and for letting me steal off her! I learnt lots along the way.
"I believe that all software should be designed, using a human-centered approach. Interactions will be obvious, seamless and pleasurable. I will not refer to you as an "end-user" but as a full person, a participant in the software's story. I will fashion experiences for you that do not degrade you, and that allow you to engage with our work in an appropriate manner. I will endeavour to measure the success of our software, not solely based on hard metrics, but also based on your own evaluation of it. I know that you do not necessarily perceive the world in the same way that we do, and I will do my utmost to be mindful of not inflicting our subjective experience of the world on you. I believe in sweating the details, so that you don't have to. I believe in setting a consistent design language, so that you can feel comfortable quickly. If I can do it with less, I will. I believe in ensuring that our software fits seamlessly into your day and life, by remembering that it is not the centre of your universe. Finally, I will ensure that everyone on my team is aware of you, and that they are mindful of your needs and respectful of your time and energy".
photo credit: j / f / photos
Meditation has recently made the mainstream news several times. All kinds of famous and successful entrepreneurs, businessman, actors, sports people and more are saying how it has helped them in their lives. That in itself has been compelling enough for even more people to start trying out meditation and blogging about it, telling others over coffee, or chatting about it around the water cooler (if there is such a thing in offices these days!). Some say we are seeing a "consciousness revolution". I like the sound of that, it's exciting. I can't say whether or not it's true though.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation. the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine (at Massachusetts General hospital) found that people who meditate correctly on a regular basis enjoy measurable changes and the numbers are pretty good:
- 80% of hypertension patients lowered their blood pressure
- Infertile women who meditated have a 42% conception rate
- Women with PMS had a 57% reduction in physical and psychological symptoms
Doctors at Harvard Medical School carried out research on meditation practitioners and found that meditation has a positive effect on health and affects various body systems. Those findings are published in a book called The Relaxation Response. If you're keen to investigate the science around it, there are many resources available to you, and while it's interesting, I think that there is no better way to understand it than to experience the benefits of meditation for yourself.
Where to start?
You do not need any special equipment, not even a quiet room. I have meditated on buses, ferries, supermarket queues and even in the toilets at work. You don't have to be religious to meditate, although it is present in many religions. Buddhist centers around the world offer drop-in classes in my experience, as do some community centers and hospitals. To begin with, having a quiet room will keep you from getting distracted. With practice, you'll be able to stay focused in the eye of any storm. And in some respects this is kind of what we're trying to do. In 3 words: To Be Present.
Pema Chodron says that meditation is all about making friends with yourself. In my last post "Empty your cup" I mentioned that our preconceptions get in the way of life. Being with yourself, passing no judgement, having no opinion, and having no inner monologue going on will allow you to peel back the layers and see yourself. The real you. Just so we have some markers, that's where you're aiming. What happens after that has occurred enough times is change. That's different for all of us.
First of all, there are many many different types of meditation. Not all of them will suit you, you'll need to find a way that works for you. There is heart-centered meditation, breath meditation, mantra, mind-centered meditation, visualisation, chanting, body-meditation (of which yoga belongs to), zazen and countless other kinds. All of these different methods can be understood as different doors leading to the same place. The meditation method is there to help you stay focused on spending time with yourself and not having conversations with yourself or making up stories for yourself. This is exceptionally hard for many of us.
For this reason, you learn to crawl before you can walk. To begin with your meditation practice will be perhaps up to a minute long, and then as you become more practiced maybe several hours long. To start with many of us can't even sit still for a few minutes, let alone meditate, and so just sitting doing nothing is a good place to start. Eventually, you'll start to experience the practice. You have to experience it for yourself rather than intellectualise it. It's a bit like trying to describe how something tastes to someone who has never tasted.
Can meditation be dangerous?
Yes. If it is not done correctly it can harm you. Some people have reported hearing voices, others started feeling unsettled or panicked, there are many more individual experiences that you can read about. Dr Maggie Phillips, a specialist in pain management has been quoted saying:
“I’ve had people that went to these five- to eight-day-long retreats, and they were practically basket cases when they came out the other end. And they’re told, “You just have to be more patient.’ A lot of spiritual teachers don’t know how to look at the internal dynamics and how they interact with types of relaxation and meditation.”
Don't enrol on a Vipassna retreat as a complete beginner, it takes time to build up that kind of mental strength and flexibility. Same as you wouldn't sign up for an ultra marathon, having never run 5km before. Having a teacher really is a wonderful thing, as you will be guided and gently progress at a pace that is suited and safe. You might think it sounds a bit dramatic, but in my experience, the first things you learn about yourself when you start to really meditate, are all the things you didn't know and don't like. I was confronted with the undeniable fact that I was really afraid of failing and that was a big can of worms (for the record, I think failing is important and useful now). It's part of the process I think and insights like that allow you to become a much better person, but it's hard work. After the initial revelations, you reach other levels, but everyone's journey is unique.
How to meditate:
I'm not a meditation teacher or an experienced practitioner, but I am a regular practitioner of several years. I can't tell you what to do in this blog post, but I can describe my usual method, which will change in time and with practice.
My preferred method is to sit cross-legged or in half-lotus, spine tall, chin gently tucked in, eyes closed. Then I scan my body and make myself really aware of what it fels like to be in it. This part allows me to "ground myself" which basically means to gain a greater level of awareness and focus. Then I bring my attention to the breath and the sensation of inhaling and exhaling (feelings like hot and cold, where I can feel the breath in my body). This process allows me settle in with myself and then when thoughts arise, I let them, but I don't get involved with them. It's sort of like standing very still on a very busy (sometimes hectic) street.
It's tough to start with because you find yourself thinking about what's for dinner, and what jobs you still have to do today, who said what to whom, and where you left your glasses and so on. Noticing you're doing this is part of the practice. When you do, just come back to the breath. Eventually, after (in my case) lots of practice, you will begin to notice yourself doing this during your day, and you'll be able to stop your mind from taking over. Many meditators refer to this as "monkey mind". Realising it's there is a pretty good start.
Then it will try to deceive you. I remember using "counted breath meditation" where you count on each inhale and each exhale. You keep going until you lose count (because your mind has wandered) and you start again at 1. My mind managed to keep count and in parallel have a big discussion about which wallpaper wold work best in my fantasy house. I'd think to myself "I must be still focused since I know I've kept count", until it because obvious what had happened. No more counted breath for me then!
My mind loves numbers and patterns, colours and vistas...I try to stay away from those things in meditation because I'm not strong enough to keep my mind tethered. Yet.
There's a nice little story I heard once: A monk kept falling asleep during meditation, so his teacher sat him on the edge of cliff. He never fell asleep again! I think we all have our cliffs...time to find them.
Let's face it, if your mind is not occupied in an endless monologue about trivialities, it'll have a lot more capacity to work on matters of creativity, innovation and generate fresh and useful ideas. You'll notice that not only do you wonder what's for dinner, but you do this endlessly, stuck in some kind of loop. This is really not the best use for that brilliant tool, so stop being its slave and put it to work on things that matter.
A really useful side-effect of meditation is that you end up being a lot more compassionate towards yourself. This understanding allows you to be compassionate to everyone around you. You become more in touch with the world around you and more in synch. This is fertile ground for good ideas. Voltaire was correct when he said "You should cultivate your own garden".
A quote I have been pondering for a really long time is:
“Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.” (Bhagavad Gita)
I guess I conclude that if you can't see everything that is present, then you are missing out on a whole lot of inspiration.
The following are deeply deeply experienced practitioners. Meet them if you can:
“When we come into the present, we begin to feel the life around us again, but we also encounter whatever we have been avoiding. We must have the courage to face whatever is present / our pain, our desires, our grief, our loss, our secret hopes our love / everything that moves us most deeply.”
“What's encouraging about meditation is that even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we're closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance.”
"Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable."