13 August 2012

Why we love (and hate) things

Here's a trio of TED talks that can be applied to both increasing joy in our lives and developing products for social enterprise. The first is by Paul Bloom on "The origins of pleasure." Bloom talks about why origin stories matter in the valuing of art. He really points to how human beings value labor and the creative process. 

Here's a talk by Simon Sinek on "How great leaders inspire action." It should really be titled, "Why we buy what we buy--and how to get people to work for you for free." 
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it," he says.

Sinek touts a WHY-HOW-WHAT mandala of attraction citing Apple, the Wright Brothers, and Martin Luther King as examples of how people are drawn to the beauty of a cause more than practical functionality. His theory may seem simplistic in this short talk, but he presents a useful tool for injecting purpose into the language we use everyday to describe what we do.

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak talks about why people love social media, why we trust each other and what makes us generous. He prescribes at least 8 hugs a day as a formula for happiness.

02 August 2012

Kill the Clichés

My first mock-ups of potential AKSHA products from March. Featuring artwork by Phra Pol Kuwiangwei (left), myself (center), and Somyot Kumsang (right). 

Ok. I've been cogitating on the question, "What is innovative design based on meditation and spiritual practice?"   ...What does it look like?  What elements are important?

I'm not interested in plastering the face of a meditating monk unto clothes and calling it cool. There are things about traditional institutions like churches and monasteries that are useful. They provide community and structure. They give people a place to enter into another gear. They remind us to pray, reflect and meditate.

But I also believe that what's important about the spiritual path is found in our ordinary everyday life. The difference is the lens that we use to recognize the beauty--the deity--in everything.

Artwork by Ang Tserin Sherpa.
"That's the thing. I am dharma. Don't know if you're aware of it, but you can be too. It's about the quality of who you are: being logical, compassionate, cool, chill. Anyone can do it—not just Buddhists."
That's 23-year-old incarnate Tibetan master and hip-hop rapper Gomo Tulku, recently quoted in Details.com. Joseph Hooper's article on maverick young tulku's struck a chord with me. The piece is called, "LEAVING OM: BUDDHISM'S LOST LAMAS"But contrary to what his title would suggest, I don't think these guys are lost at all. I think they are being incredibly honest, simply real

Like millions of people, I (mostly) live in the concrete and traffic, glamour and gutters of cities. Somehow, amidst the melee of advertising and noise, in demands and stresses of modern life, I need to find spaciousness, equanimity, love.

My next few posts are going to focus on this topic, How do we design the spiritual path into contemporary form? I'll call this crafting AKSHA's Liberation Aesthetic. 

The challenge is to design pieces that are supports to practice, where meaning is built into both form and function. I want pieces that won't just transport me to some other fantasy world. I want pieces that will transform my present one--wherever I am, be it Bangkok--New York City--Hong Kong--Delhi... Furthermore, I don't just want the same images printed on existing products. I want to own things that wake me up!

"Graffiti Bodhisattva" by Felicia Megginson.
In the coming weeks I'll see the first prototypes for contemporary prayer beads that I've been working on with designers, Nine and Don of Good After Nine. Its a project all three of us find challenging and fulfilling--a departure from commercial design that demands we go deep while innovating on convention. Don was a monk in the Thai Theravadin tradition who became a rapper while studying architecture and metal fabrication. They met at the university where Nine studied jewelry design. 

I can't tell you how excited I am to be working with them. We'll give you a peek into our process in the weeks to come.