MPPGA Mind 2018

We travelled out to the UBC Liu Institute for three sessions of “Sit, Circle, and Explore” in November. We were hosted by UBC’s Masters Program for Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA). We called it “MPPGA Mind 2018”.

We were given a fabulous location on the main floor of the Liu Institute with forest surrounding us on all sides. The Nitobe Japanese garden next door and Museum of Anthropology across the street.

We had room for a sitting circle and tables for sketching.
I started the class, then we formed a circle for the sit & circle.


Slides & Scripts

In these classes I chose to develop the class’s script in slide form. But there were very few slides shown during the class. One of our learnings is that the spoken word and handouts are best. The “slide script” is good for developing timing, follow-up and sharing after class.

The main changes from previous sessions were the “Explore” sections.  In each “Explore” we delivered the instruction in snippets, like a guided meditation.  Then we did small group discussions, and then had an individual speak for each small group to the whole room.  Also, in session #2 I added in “Warrior for the Human Spirit” meditation instruction “Touch & Let Go” and 5 slogans.

The “Touch & Let Go” is a meditation instruction for handling thoughts.  When one notices that they have lost their focus and are off in a thought, then smile, then reach out & gently touch the thought (with one’s mind), and then let go. The approach is to develop gentleness towards the thought and oneself.  It’s consistent with the “Warrior” theme of meeting everything with “Gentleness, Decency, and Bravery”.

The 5 slogans I chose were:
• First, be friendly to yourself,
• Don’t fix, don’t avoid, just be present,
• Come back again and again,
• Maintain your sense of humour, and
• Is it kind?



Also … there is more info here

Fizz Mind 2018 – The Slideware

All of the Fizz Mind 2018 “slideware” is available on my slideshare account.

Day by Day

All Slides — I also included a version with all the slides and brief notes.

Tools for the Post-Truth World

Here are 5 books that provide tools for navigating the “Post-Truth” world.

Each book was uncomfortable to read. They provide examples that force me to “open my eyes” and move away from “willful blindness”. They describe biases and errors my mind makes, and then how others are attempting to manipulate me by attacking my biases and faulty perception.

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The Books

“Post Truth” — by Lee McIntyre

“Who Do We Choose To Be” — by Margaret Wheatley

“Rebalancing Society” — by Henry Mintzberg

“Win Bigly” — by Scott Adams

“Skin in the Game” — by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I learned a lot from Lee McIntyre’s recent history of “the press”, and especially how the “Prestige Press” operates. I was surprised to learn that the “Prestige Press” uses a “two-sides to the story” approach to provide “balance”, and that they do this even when there is only one side. For example, climate change gets “two-sided” coverage even though there is very little scientific support against it.  The “two-sided-ness” makes it appear to readers that there is doubt.  The debate is “manufactured” and the attempt at “balance” produces “imbalance”.  I also learned that many lobby groups are trying to recreate the success of the “Tobacco Lobby”,  which fought for a “two-sided” discussion, and thus delayed action on “Tobacco” for decades. My synthesis is that it is very difficult to get “all the information”, and that historically we’ve never really had it.

Scott Adams “Win Bigly” is absolutely terrifying, because he does a great job discussing how good Trump is at persuasion. I was sad, for many weeks, after reading this book. It’s that convincing.

Margaret (Meg) Wheatley and Henry Mintzberg are great reads because they provide me with something to do. She says that the world needs “Warriors for the Human Spirit”, and Henry Mintzberg says that we should get out to support our “Plural Sector”.

I summarize Meg Wheatley’s “Warrior for the Human Spirit” action plan as 1) learn how to meditate, so that I can strengthen mind and to begin to sort through all this manipulation and 2) Stand up, be a good person, don’t succumb to the post-truth mentality, and help others with this disorienting time.

In Henry Mintzberg’s book he talks about the loss of balance between Business, Government, and Plural sectors of our society. He defines the “Plural Sector” for us in the hope that we’ll work hard to restore balance. Sadly, he doesn’t hold out much hope for us doing this quickly. Here is his definition of the “Plural Sector”

“Consider all those associations that are neither public nor private—owned neither by the state nor by private investors—such as foundations, places of worship, unions, cooperatives, Greenpeace, the Red Cross, and many renowned universities and hospitals. — page x

Finally, Nassim Taleb is always worth reading. He sees the world differently and can back up his views. He is important and must be taken seriously, no matter how difficult his views are to stomach.

More – Defining Post-Truth

Lee McIntyre provides a definition of Post-Truth that sends shivers down my spine

“Contention that feelings are more accurate than facts, for the purpose of the political subordination of reality.” page 174 of “Post-Truth”

Wow! Half Way Through Fizz Mind 2018

Wow! We’re halfway through Fizz Mind 2018. That’s 3 Fridays of meditation class, and 3 to go.

It’s a big group, around 60+ people. We’ve got the UBC Fizz – Year 2 Cohort, 3 Professors, and 5 volunteers.

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Best Moment So Far

I loved the eyes, and body-language on day 1. At the beginning of the session the group was all loose, and cool, with learning about mindfulness. Then I got up, told them that this class was about experiencing mindfulness, and that our first meditation would be starting now. There was — mild shock <smile> ❤

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What Are We Really Doing?

The sessions have 3 sections – Sit, Circle, and Explore.

In the Sit section we meditate. On day 1 we learn about: the Structure of a meditation, Aspiration, Posture, Technique, and Review. Then we do a couple 1 minute meditations and a big 3 minute meditation. I love how long that first 3 minute meditation feels. It’s a big deal! On day 2 and 3 we increase the time to 12 minutes. It’s a guided meditation and a few minutes of silence. No one complains that it’s too long.

In the Circle section we do a technical review of the meditation. In particular we’re interested in three things: our ability to focus on the breath, our ability to be mindful of our process (that is noticing when we lose focus on the breath and bringing our focus back to the breath), and how we feel in our body. Each student gets 30 seconds to a minute and we go clockwise in the circle once or twice. In this way we support each other in collecting and sharing “meditation data”. It allows us to improve our technique, set expectations for experience, and feel comfort in our similar responses. Note, that we have experienced meditators who have volunteered to lead the sit and circle sections. We are 4 groups of ~15 people each. Thank You John, Noreen, Ross, and Katie.

In the Explore section we do career planning exercises. For Day 1 and Day 2 the Sit and Circle dominated the hour. In day 3 we did a quick mind mapping exercise called the Work Life Manifesto and had a group chat.

In the next three sessions the meditation will shift to the practice of “Open Awareness”, add a few more review points, and we will do a couple 5 Year Planning exercises from “Desiging Your Life” and “Iain’s own design/hack”.

Creating the Container — The weirdest, and/or most uncomfortable, thing we do is reading a statement at the beginning of each class wishing all people to be “Well and Happy”. I do this because I want to set the tone for everyone that this work is a big deal and that we are trying to be in a perfect world for this hour. We want to create space so that we can relax and regroup. To support that we need to say something strongly memorable, and something that we can’t argue with.  So … we practice doing a very memorable thing — that is wishing everyone to be well and happy — for 6 weeks. It feels great to do this.

The Reading Stack

The core practices in the workshop are supported by the following books: “Mindfulness in Plain English” (Sit), “The Way of Council” (Circle), and “Designing Your Life” (Explore). More detail can be found in “The Breath of Awakening” (advanced meditation technique), and “Joyful Wisdom” (Open Awareness).

Inspiration for maintaining a regular meditation practice can be found in the following books “The Art of Communicating”, “Self Reg”, “Joy on Demand”, and “Search Inside Yourself”.


The Quest University connection.  It’s very cool that two of our volunteers, Ross and Katie, participated in the February workshop in Squamish.

I wrote in detail about the Q Mind and Fizz Mind project here

One More Thing

A big Thank You to Andre Marziali for supporting this class/experiment.

A big Thank You to Bonni Ross for her support and guidance in developing the content of this class.

Mind 2018 — Sit, Circle, Explore (Meditation, Mindfulness, and Career Planning)

My project for 2018 is the development of a workshop that Mashes-Up Meditation, Mindfulness, and Career Planning. The activities are meditation sit, meditation circle, and exploring career planning through sketching. In short “Sit, Circle, Explore.”

My intended audience is University Undergraduate Engineers of the creative type, the kids that take Engineering Science degrees. The first prototype of the workshop was hosted at a liberal arts college which has an exploratory educational style like Engineering Science offerings.

My core reading stack is “Mindfulness in Plain English”, “Way of Council”, and “Designing Your Life”. There are lots of tidbits borrowed from the late Namgyal Rinpoche, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Bonni Ross, Chade-Meng Tan, Stuart Shanker, and more.

The inspiration for this course came from a UBC Engineering Physics student group request for Mental Health offerings (in the fall of 2017). I heard of that request and thought that I could reframe my entrepreneurship workshops towards mindfulness.

Class Package – Q Mind 2018 – eBook (epub and pdf)

I captured the workshop in a blog format, and then archived it into an eBook.

Reading Stack

One More Thing – Next Steps

The first workshop ran for 6 weeks through January and February 2018. The next offering is planned for May and June with UBC Eng Fizz students.

Calm Is A Big Word

“We skip over too much when we rely too much on language” — Dr Stuart Shanker

For example here is his definition of Calm.

More — A few years back I was introduced to the “Self Regulation” work of Dr Stuart Shankar. I really like how he explores the complexities of regulating oneself versus controlling oneself. Recently his book came out in paperback.

Thank You -— tip to West Van Schools Sandra-Lynn Shortall @SLShortall

Timeless Advice For Today’s Activists (Forest, Merton, Hahn)

Timeless advice for today’s activists.

Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist » Jim and Nancy Forest is an essay discussing a set of letters between Jim Forest and Thomas Merton during the Vietnam War.

you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

That last sentence became for me one of the most important insights that I ever received from Merton: “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” I know it by heart and recite it often. It sums up incarnational theology. Words and slogans and theories are not nearly as important as how we see and relate to each other — the relationships we build — and not only with friends but with adversaries. In the context of peace work, it suggests getting to know, as best we can, the people and cultures being targeted by our weapons.

More — Christianity Meets Buddhism

I originally came upon this essay in a Buddhist book, Margaret Wheatley’s “So Far From Home”, and have always been curious about why she quotes a Catholic essay as the basis for her book.

It turns out that Jim Forest, a Catholic, spent a lot of time with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist. In fact Forest toured Nhat Hahn around the US for a while. Here are 4 essays that discuss his work and time with Thich Nhat Hanh. Super interesting.