Project Glass

Guided meditation … by the riverside

I recorded this guided meditation using Google Glass while sitting by the river that runs by my office. Glass, which is like a mobile phone that you wear on your face like a pait of glasses, shows a first person view, so you’re seeing what I saw during the part of the meditation that my eyes were open. In fact this is a meditation that, unlike most of those I lead, involves starting with the eyes open.

If you have any problem viewing the video, you can watch it on Youtube instead.

My purchase of Google Glass was made possible, in part, by a kind donation from Adrian Lucas, who runs a hydroponic microfarm in Florida, and who teaches other people how to do likewise.

Thanks, Adrian!

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Looking with loving eyes (through Google Glass)

glass buddha projectI picked up Google Glass, which is essentially a smartphone that you wear on your head, on July 6. I’d made a pitch to Google in order to get Glass, saying that I wanted to explore it as a tool for teaching meditation and mindfulness.

The timing in some ways wasn’t great, because I was working a second job at the University of New Hampshire over the summer, teaching personal development and study skills to teens from low income families. And when that seven-week stint was up I had a heck of a lot of catching up to do back at Wildmind.

But one of the things I did do with Glass while teaching at UNH was to use it to record some guided meditation sessions I led with my teens. You can’t actually record just audio on Glass, so what I’ve done here is to take a video and strip out the audio.

I’ll be posting more about my adventures with Glass now that I’ve caught up.

A word about the quality. I was teaching in a large room with constant noise from the air conditioning and from the fan of a projector. So I had to talk much more loudly than I would normally do, and you can also hear the machine noise in the background. But here’s the recording, which is 12 minutes long.

The meditation starts with a brief body scan and then turns into a lovingkindness practice. It uses an approach that I call “loving gaze,” which is a quick and easy way to evoke a sense of kindly, caring, compassionate attention.

I was able to get Google Glass thanks to many generous donors who covered the costs involved. (Although I won a competition in order to become a Glass Explorer I still had to pay for the device.) One of the most generous donors was Adrian Lucas of Sassakala Microfarm. I’ve visited Adrian’s microfarm in Florida, where he gets an amazingly bountiful crop from a vertical hydroponic farm with a tiny footprint, and it’s very impressive. In fact, Sassakala catered a retreat I led in Florida this February, and the veggies were delicious.

sassakala logo

Sassakala’s aims are:

  • to show kids where real food comes from
  • to encourage you to take control of your health by growing some of your own food at home
  • to show you how much fun it can be to cook beautiful, healthy meals for yourself from the food you grow
  • to show you that it’s not only possible but also amazingly rewarding to put food on the table that came from seeds you planted and nurtured yourself
  • for you to grow your own food

Please visit Sassakala at Sassakala.com

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Meditation, technology, and Google Glass

glass buddha projectNew Hampshire magazine had a nice piece on some of the meditation facilities and teachers available in the state, and part of the article was about my work.

The Future of Meditation?
You’d think not much has changed about meditation in the two and a half millennia since Siddhārtha Gautama sat beneath the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. After all, it’s hard to modernize a practice that involves little more than sitting down and shutting up.

But according to Bodhipaksa, the founder of wildmind.org, an online meditation resource, meditators have been early adopters of technology ever since the invention of the book. “The world’s oldest printed text was a Buddhist book.” He explains that they understood the potential. “Buddhists were on it, ‘Oh, this is a way to reach people.'”

Bodhipaksa (pronounced bo-dee-pack-sha) started Wildmind as a grad student in Montana when he realized meditators were falling behind the curve in the Internet age. Now from his offices in Newmarket he publishes guided meditations online and via CD and mp3. He leads live Google + hangouts where meditators chat (and meditate) together. People from as many as six different countries have attended online sessions.

“For some people the sun was just rising and for some people it was kind of late in the evening and for some it was right in the afternoon,” he says. “It was fascinating.” On the other hand he has at least one student who attends classes online from just up the road in Newmarket.

The wildmind.org website gets about a million and a half visitors a year, he says.

“Whenever new tools come out, my first thought is ‘how can I use this to reach more people?'”

He’s currently experimenting with Google Glass (pictured) and has found that it can be a tool for teaching good meditation posture and perhaps offer a view of a serene landscape to someone actually surrounded by a bustling environment.

With various apps and social media, it’s possible to find support and fellowship online. “Someone who is geographically isolated can feel the power of being involved in this community,” says Bodhipaksa.

“How can I use this to reach more people?” pretty much sums up my attitude to technology and meditation, although “How can this be used to teach meditation better?” is an equally important question.

I’ve had Google Glass for a month now, but for most of that time I’ve been involved in a rather intensive project to teach study skills and personal development skills (including meditation) to teens from low income families, in order to boost their chances of getting into college, and that’s slowed down my explorations of Glass as a teaching tool.

But I have found Glass to be very useful as a recording device. I recorded several of the guided meditations I led for my summer teens, and although for reasons of confidentiality I probably won’t be posting the video on Youtube, I plan to extract the audio and make that available.

I’ve also made a couple of initial explorations of the potential for using Glass to show how mindfulness can be practiced in daily life. For example I might be driving while wearing Glass (yes, it’s safe) and get stuck behind a garbage truck doing its pickup, and record just a 30 second video explaining the situation and showing how rather than getting impatient you can use the time to connect with your body and your breathing, and to experience gratitude that there are people who help make our environment a better place to live in. It’s very early days with these explorations, but I hope to post some videos along those lines before long.

Lastly, I’d like to express my gratitude to the many people who contributed to our Glass Buddha Project in order to help me buy Glass so that I could experiment with it. In particular I’d like to acknowledge the exceptional support of Adrian Lucas of Sassakala Microfarm. Sassakala promotes “urban homesteading” — creating vertical microfarms in tiny spaces. Earlier this year I visited Sassakala’s microfarm in Florida and was blown away by the amount of food that could be produced in a truly minuscule space. Please visit Sassakala’s site. You never know, it may bring out the farmer in you!

sassakala logo

 

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The Glass Buddha Project: Technology + Mindfulness = Awesome

Blue glass buddha statue on a yellow background

I’m fascinated by technology and committed to exploring ways to teach meditation more effectively. I want to use technology to reach as many people as possible in our global village, so that we can spread the benefits of mindfulness and compassion.

An amazing opportunity has come up. I won a competition and was selected by Google to explore the potential of Google Glass, the new wearable computing gizmo with a head-mounted display, voice recognition, and audio and visual recording capabilities.

This could be an amazing tool for teaching.

  • I’d be able to record audio and video of my classes more easily.
  • I’d be able to open up retreats I lead so that people not on the retreat could participate live in events.
  • I’d be able to lead guided meditations from anywhere.
  • I’d be able to record notes for blog posts when ideas pop into my head at odd times.
  • I could conduct interviews.

I also intend to explore the potential for developing an app that would help people to set spiritual goals for themselves (like being kinder to others), and then deliver short messages during the day to remind them of those goals (“Remember to stay in touch with your heart”). The amazing thing about Glass is that you don’t need to reach into your pocket, unlock your phone, and then stare at a screen when a message like that comes in. The message is just there, hovering in space at the edge of your vision. You don’t need to disconnect from the world to see it. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though. Developing such an app is whole project in itself. For now I need to experiment with the technology so that I can understand its strengths and limitations.

Winning the competition was great. I’m one of just a couple of thousand people worldwide who will be able to explore Glass. But Google still wants me to pay $1500 (plus tax, which makes it $1633). And I simply don’t have that amount of money.

So I’m crowdfunding! I need to raise $1633, and so I’ve created a fundraising project on Indiegogo, called The Glass Buddha Project.

There are generous rewards for different levels of donation.

Check out The Glass Buddha Project on Indiegogo, and please support me in this project.

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