“I say it clearly as it is — to understand or not to understand, both are mistaken (views).”
Rinzai

The Teachings of Rinzai

Yoga & Design

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The last chapter of my career was a 2 year period in which I specialized in software product design. When I started it I was convinced that it was the best possible line of work for me at the time. To this day I view it as my favorite. I left not because of the work, but because of people – namely customers.

I view design as an opportunity to go deeper – to revisit the purpose of a product, it’s alignment with the larger purpose of a business, it’s value to customers, who the customers are … many questions that come before screens are actually designed, even before user experience and way before usability is addressed. I believed (and still do believe) that having a clear purpose of where you want to go makes everything that comes after that (design, development, testing, sales, support … literally everything!) smoother, more efficient, more pleasant … better. Without it is too easy to drift off course without even knowing it … sometimes until the business itself fails (you can create a failed product with superb usability). All of this, I am happy to say is aligned with my personal beliefs and pursuits.

The problem was that customers did not share my views. Customers would usually reach design at the end of their development cycles – when there were very little time, resources or motivation to actually do design. There really was’t space for raising the kind of challenges design can bring to the surface – it would mostly introduce insecurity, aggrevation & frustration. So the alternative was a compromise. Sometimes the compromise would work OK – not necessarily in the sense that we would arrive at a good product – but a satisfied and paying customer – I never was at peace calling that “OK”. Sometimes it wouldn’t work and that would lead to friction and divert the project into harsh & unpleasant energies – I hated that but  I was OK with it – because I wasn’t expecting anything else. The odds were that “design” wasn’t going to work out well (with one outstanding exception which deserves a separate post).

I do believe that bridges between different views can be built – but that takes care, time, patience and requires that everyone involved want to pursue that. I also felt that there were some pretty long bridges to build. Design, if given a chance, inevitably introduces creativity and unknowns into any process. Most the organizational cultures I encountered were not mature enough or open to these qualities. This would start with top executives who felt it important that the fact “they don’t like yellow” be incoporated into the design process – through to programmers that would decide that some of the visual details were too much of a hassle to implement. Unfortunately the circumstances of little time, budget or patience in which most of the design projects took place – left little chance for any bridge-building.

Many times I felt that the place to start was to take the leading executive aside for two years of Yoga – and then, when the foundations were in place, to resume design. Customers didn’t want that, it wasn’t part of the contract … but it came to a point where I felt that was the only way to move forward. I felt that people needed Yoga but didn’t want it. Add to that the fact that I like teaching Yoga waaaay more then I like design – and you may be able to see why I chose to leave my career behind.

Recently I had another “business-related” incident – which prompted this collection of thoughts. I was participating in a high-friction business-related conversation (there is no customer this time – it is a project I initiated) – and it reached an  impasse that had a deja-vu feeling from my design days. But this time the other side wanted and insisted on understanding. So we got into a conversation about communicating, the limits of understanding and it’s friction with the need to understand … and finally I tabled my theory and said “But this isn’t about me being your Yoga teacher – you don’t really want that!”. Before I finished saying those words I intuited what the response would be – and it was “Yes I do”. Woah!

This stayed with me for a few days – and I began to wonder … is it possible that people I met in business were actually looking (consciously or unconsciously?) for a more spiritual significant context in their lives that I overlooked? Is it possible that many of the frictions I experienced (and sometimes still do) are actually an expression of unspoken words? It is possible that people need Yoga and (consciously or unconsciously) do want it?

Knowing this doesn’t make building bridges any easier. A “mind & control” dominated business relatioship does not resonate well with a “heart & surrender” teacher-student relationship. Reasoning can lead the way in business, but it takes faith to let a spiritual teacher into your life. I have no doubt that qualities that can be acquired in Yoga can be beneficial in business – but they can’t be acquired using the way things are acquired in business.

Things keep going round and round 🙂

Posted in AltEco, Business, outside, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Quality in Family

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My choice to create a life with Andreea in Israel was a revolt – we went up against powerful cultural norms. We were aided by “NewFamily” – an Israeli non-profit organization that is fighting to advance relevant family-status legislation (family status in Israel is subordinate to religious norms instead of legal norms). NewFamily is currently in the news representing a single gay man who has officially and legally born two children with a surrogate in India (because there is no legal framework for it in Israel). The babies are now two months old and the Israeli government is refusing to let them into the country. I am very familiar with the kind of blind bureaucracy he is facing.

But, I believe that if you peal away the emotional layers, this is a wonderful example of intellect attacking social norms and a social system (in this case mainstream Israeli society) struggling to advance. A single homosexual father to surrogate-born twins is more then the current social system can accommodate. You can tell by the government officials’ lame responses – they are not really stupid people, they are facing a frightening change of social values – and their fear blinds them and … well makes them sound stupid. The problem is that the legal system has not yet matured enough and is not yet equipped to process this situation and as a result one man’s struggle is actually shouldering an entire society and its stagnant social values.

My family values are not typical family values – to be honest I don’t know yet know quite what they are. This current event together with my recent immersion in Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality got me thinking about family.

On one hand family is the most fundemental building block in the social structure that is society. Family regulates the biological conditions for bringing new people into society. Family is the first and most dominant environment for transmission of social values to new members of society. Family embodies the most intense emotionally committing relationships. Family often represents a mechanism for acquiring social and economic status through marriage. Family often stretches out into adult life through family-businesses (Dad & Sons Inc.). While there are various social definitions of family, I am guessing that most (if not all) societies have some kind of construct that represent a basic social building block.

On the other hand family is the most exposed social building block to intellect-rooted change. Family is almost exlusively free (even in the most tightly controlled societies) to form it’s own mix of social & intellectual values. In the privacy of a home parents can choose to introduce intellectual values that are not aligned with the social norms of the world outside the home (or even the extended family). Almost all social structures outside the family are by definition larger and therefor more socially dominant – they are often charged with promoting and enforcing social values (especially education systems which are supposedly dedicated to intellectual values). Family is probably the only social structure where intellectual rebellion can find support – a father can choose to support a rebellious teen even though there may be a conflict in values – because family trumps!

Seen from the outside, family is a building block cemented into the foundations of society. Seen from the inside family is an incubator for change. Society is built upon family while family incubates dynamic change that will attack society and force it to change. In the war of social-vs.-intellect, family-bonding is poised (like carbon did for biology?) to tip the scales in favor of intellect.

Marriages (two people choosing to spend life together) that challenge religious and social boundaries, homosexuals, single-parents, surrogates … these are all expressions of change, of personal pursuit for fullfillment and expression, of intellectual liberation struggling against static social patterns … all taking place within family. For me that sheds new and important light on family!

It amuses and placates me to know that people like Andreea & I and this proud gay father are the ones carrying the torch of change on behalf of a unknowing and ignorant society who treats us like enemies.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Reading Lila PDF

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I thought I was finished with Reading Lila – but it resurfaced in my consciousness. This time around the content became associated with my images. So after a week of random & associative browsing through my image archives I have put together a PDF version of the excerpt with a more personal touch and a more pleasant finish.

Click here to download “Reading Lila” in PDF format

As I was working on this PDF, I visited my photography website StillCreation. I wasn’t happy with it at all and so decided to bring it down. I created StillCreation with the intent of sharing some of the inspiration I was experiencing at the time. My experiences took place in unique and intimate settings. I was hoping that my images would extend the reach of those experiences and that the inspiration would travel further. I feel I failed at doing that. If I one day encounter new inspiration and actionable ideas how to do this better – I may try again. For now I prefer silence.

Posted in Lila | You are welcome to read 14 comments and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-23

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  • April was a month of regression for me: http://bit.ly/bo0doY #
  • a student learns when a teacher learns #
  • I'm looking for a 2nd (there is already a 1st) seed investor for an functional&fashionable Yoga gadget product-startup! #
  • If I ever said Namaste to you this is what I meant: http://bit.ly/98CWTu #
  • something nice to ride into a new weekend 🙂 ♫ http://blip.fm/~qpxhr #
  • human nature is to be lost, nature's nature is to find … and when it finds is … sweet 🙂 #
  • "From bitter searching of the heart, Quickened with passion and with pain We rise to play a greater part." #
  • "This is the faith from which we start: Men shall know commonwealth again From bitter searching of the heart." #
  • "We loved the easy and the smart, But now, with keener hand and brain,
    We rise to play a greater part. " #
  • "The lesser loyalties depart, and neither race nor creed remain
    from bitter searching of the heart." #
  • "Not steering by the venal chart that tricked the mass for private gain,
    we rise to play a greater part." #
  • "Reshaping narrow law and art whose symbols are the millions slain,
    From bitter searching of the heart we rise to play a greater part." #
  • @msurman A critical review of Facebook most likely written before Mark Zuckerberg was even born: http://bit.ly/dgfV3c in reply to msurman #
  • I have very little patience left for people who expect that everything be "explained" – I prefer building on of trust & faith #

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

Namaste

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Namaste, as I know it, means something like “I recognize and cherish the eternal light that shines forth from you”. That’s a heavy load for a single word – which is why I don’t use it often. If I say it to you it means:

I am assuming that there is a higher force / god / quality

I am assuming that this higher presence resides in everyone including you and I

I am assuming you can contain my bringing it up

It indicates that at some point in our recent conversation I probably lost track of it

It indicates that I realized I was lost

It indicates that I found it once again

It indicates that I have experienced again that which we have in common and gives us direction in life

It indicates that I am grateful for having seen this through you

It indicates that I am grateful to you for having given me this gift

What do you mean when you say namaste?

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to read 8 comments and to add yours