Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What is our story in this moment?

Will the lady with the dog with pointed ears come up the steps to No.1 and ring the bell!!

I found this sign on this quiet footpath that runs behind some houses near where I live.  Please pause reading now and ask yourself, "What would I think if I was the lady with the dog?"

I walked past the sign and noticed the train of thought that ran.  Did they meet and have a conversation that the writer wants to continue.  Did the lady drop something, or to put it delicately, did the dog?

We'll never know. But it made me reflect again on the way we are constantly creating our world. That this created world depends on our mental states .  Maybe if I was feeling positive I would be more likely to fantasize briefly about the beginnings of a relationship.  If I was feeling grumpy I'd might guess that the writer wanted to complain about the dog's behaviour.... 

If I then dwell on this created scenario my mental states are likely to develop along the same trajectory; more positive or more negative and my world changes again.

This is a simple example of Co-conditioned production. ( Pratītyasamutpāda). It's not about simple cause and effect but a mutual co-conditioning that is happening all the time.  It also highlights the importance of staying to these processes.  The Buddha exhorts us to practice right effort. Which can be expressed as 

Develop positive mental states and maintain them.
Eradicate negative mental states and prevent them arising.

This kind of thinking is sometimes called mental proliferation (papanca) There's an interesting discussion by Leigh Brasington here and a rather technical exploration by Jayarava here.  

From the perspective of mindfulness as therapy, we can also talk about this as the secondary suffering which not only subjectively makes the first layer of suffering worse, it can also have effect on the objective content of the pain. See Breathworks mindfulness for more on this.

Now the Blessed One advised the bhikkhus - Well now, bhikkhus, my counsel is: experience is disappointing, [it is] through vigilance [that] you succeed. These were the last words for the Tathāgata.[The Buddha] 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Bio-mechanics of Meditation Posture

An experiment with a prototype Meditation Chair

While testing a prototype for a new meditation chair that has the same benefits of the Kindseat Meditation bench but taller, I became interested in the dynamics of what is happening when we sit. I sat meditating on this prototype and experimented with moving my sitting position further forward or back.


I found there was a point where my body was at the optimum balance point. This was good.  As my concentration deepened, my body naturally started to find its own slightly more erect position.  Now something interesting happened: On this prototype, (it certainly doesn't happen on the normal Kindseat) as my weight shifted back, the seat tilted gently and my back muscles, that had been in balance (neutral) suddenly had to work. I experienced it as quite jarring when I was in that deeper state.


What was going on? As an engineer, I am interested in the forces and stresses that are at work in a mechanism so I have done some desk research into the Biomechanics of sitting in meditation and written an article that explores some of what happens as we change our sitting posture and what makes for good posture.  There are many good guides as to how to sit but none that actually talk about the mechanics and dynamics of meditation posture.

See the article here on the Kindseat website to find out more about the principles of how to sit well in meditation.  I would welcome discussion on the article. Please leave your comments below.

I have also been working on the next version of the Kindchair which is little larger and incorporates the results of this research.  Let me know if you are interested.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to get ready for your meditation seat - Incense

Here perpetual incense burns;
The heart to meditation turns...

Meditation needs setting up for. As with everything else it is dependent on a set of conditions; The Buddha's essential insight into the nature of Reality.  We should not expect to be able to move into meditation just by sitting on our meditation seat.  So what can we do to set up the best conditions for us to be able to meditate?

One way of  looking at the conditions for any human activity is to look for three components to be present:

Opportunity / Chance to
Means / How to
Motive / Want to

We are fortunate that we do have the opportunity to practice.  We have been taught or are learning 'how to'. We might have an idea that meditation is a good thing to do but why do we seemingly forget to practise it sometimes.  Perhaps we need to engage our emotions, our aspiration, our heart and this can be a subtle thing.  In this blog I want to touch on the role of  incense and our sense of smell and the effect it can have on our mood.

As we can see from the first lines of Sangharakshita's poem there's something about smell that evokes memory.  I've just come back from a walk in the Spring and the scent of Balsam poplar lifts my mood. I went for the walk because I felt a bit stale. This might be because it's a pleasant sweet smell or maybe it's affecting my nervous system.  In an article in Science Daily the authors report research that Incense ( Frankincense) may act as an antidepressant.
Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses

In a useful article  "A burning topic: how to best use incense Anne-Marie Cook quotes Dr Thom E Lobe, a licensed practitioner in both Western and Eastern medicine. “These organs of smell are the closest link the brain has to the outside and are located very close to that part of our brain that regulates emotions and other important bodily functions. When you inhale incense there is a direct effect on the brain that is measurable and nearly immediate.”

There is some research that cautions burning incense indoors so maybe we could use essential oils in a burner that gently heats a drop or so in water.

What are the kind of things you use or do to prepare yourself for meditation?

Monday, 15 April 2013

An Improved Website for the Ultimate Meditation Seat

Is there a connection between sitting in meditation and re-crafting a website?

You need to have a clear idea or vision of what you are doing.  The Buddhist term for this is sampajanna - sometimes translated as 'clear comprehension of purpose'.  My vision for the new website is that it helps people who meditate to understand what the Kindseat is and how it could help them sit better.  Now that the first website has been up for 6 months I believe I have a better understanding of what's needed to communicate this. I'm bringing awareness to what's there and what I can do to change.

Here's a screen shot of the present home page.

Kindseat Meditation Seat and Bench Main web page
Well, there's lots going on. Apparently people take about six seconds to decide to stay or move on and I think this page is asking quite a lot!  There are so many good things to say!

The new home page is intended to be easier for people to take in an impression of what is most important about how this meditation bench can help.  Just two points which are expanded on later. Here's a preview of the work so far.
Kindseat Meditation Seat and Bench Main web page _ Revised

So, I have bought some awareness  and tried to practice what needs to be maintained, eradicated, cultivated and prevented ; the Four Right Efforts.

It is sometimes hard to see this, whether away from the meditation seat or on it, but others can help us see our blind spots: If you have anything you'd like to see on the revised site why not add a comment here.

The revised site will be launched on the 27th April 2013 so be sure to have a look. Follow Kindseat on Google+, Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with developments.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Granny Power

Last week I attended a workshop at the University of Exeter Innovation Centre on Options for Business Finance .  Apparently most start-ups seek investment from their Friends and Family as one of many possible strategies.

This weekend I was very grateful to my family as my mother and my partner’s mother gave their invaluable advice and practical sewing skills to assemble the prototype of a special cover for the Kindseat.  Maybe the University had something else in mind?
Help arrives!

The cover for the Kindseat will hold the seat with its detachable legs and the Kindkushion.  The cover’s material is the same as that used on the Kindkushion base which has a sticking quality to it; This prevents the Kindkushion sliding on the seat (a common problem for meditation seat cushions).  Using this material for the cover will prevent the cover sliding out of a rolled meditation mat if it’s carried that way (I’ve had this problem with my old wooden meditation bench as it slipped out on to the floor with an embarrassing crash).

A version of the Kindkushion and the Kindcover will also be available for other makes of meditation stools and meditation seats as they would also benefit by having a more comfortable and compact cushion and something to carry it in. 

Add yourself to my mailing list so that I can let you know the price and availability and to get 10% off the new Kindcover (or to check if it will suit your Meditation bench.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The birth of Kindseat

In this first blog I'd like to share with you how the Kindseat started.

I started thinking about a seat that is portable and that can be adjusted when I was on retreat at the Vajraloka Meditation Centre in North Wales in 2008.

On the day you arrive on retreat there is always the question of where would I like to sit?  Then, what shall I sit on?  Most retreat centres have a range of cushions of different heights but I find it takes me a few sits before I figure out the best combination for me.  Now, I don't think I'm fussy but I don't think there's any point in sitting uncomfortably and I find that what suits me at the beginining of a retreat may not be right half way through.  One man turned up with a Kneeling Chair, the kind of thing you see in an office. He travelled in motorhome so he had room for this. I'd travelled by train so it wasn't practical for me. I've tried them before and I found my knees became sore. It seemed a bit high. I guess you can get a sense of my mind at that stage. It did settle down!

On the way home at the end of the retreat I had a lift. My attention was caught by the sight of a suspension footbridge over the motorway. This was the start of my 4 year period of thinking, trying out an idea by building it. I bought a router - Very noisy (and not good for tinnatus!). You can see some my efforts here.

The main challenge was to get it stable enough and yet have room for my legs under the seat when kneeling. I solved this by using longer 'channels' for the posts/legs to go through. This is the reason for the double thickness of the seat.

Finally at the end of  August 2012 I launched the Kinddeat at the European Convention of the Triratna Buddhist Order +The Buddhist Centre .  Over the three days I sold 8 seats and since then there has a been steady demand, particularly due to a great review by Wildmind. Wildmind  +Wildmind   were so impressed they now sell it through their online shop for customers in America.

For more information about prices and the Kindkushion click here