Design, Mindfulness & Moral Imagination

Introduction: Astronaut to Spy

50 years ago, the Space Race to the Moon was on. My dream to be an astronaut was thwarted by the War in Vietnam so I traded being a pilot for being an engineer on a Spy Satellite team. I asked myself then and I ask you as a designer now: What will you give your life energy to?


 3 Questions about your life energy and Moral Imagination:

  1. As a whole Human Being, what matters most to you?
  2. As a designer, what future will you create?
  3. What gifts will you develop to bring about this future?

Where is Your Moral Imagination?

THE PEA & THE PUMPKIN  Your conscious mind (the Pea) is capable of 2 or 3 simultaneous thoughts. Your mind-body connection (the Pumpkin) is capable of 2-3 million simultaneous functions.  The Pumpkin, connected to Universal Intelligence is where your Moral Imagination is.

3 Tools to Activate Your Moral Imagination

 Mindfulness--awareness, great for problem solving,      Compassion--open-heartedness, great for teamwork and your relationships,     Connectedness--brings meaning to your life and your genius to design


Mindfulnessgreat for problem solving—to observe & let go of distractions without judgment

 SOLOMON’S RING--non-attachment   King Solomon’s most successful advisor had two gifts:  1.  She listened deeply to whoever was in front of her and,  2. Her friends did not look like her. These gifts allowed her to find the ring that Solomon craved: A ring so powerful it could make a sad person happy & a happy person sad.  Life gives us 10,000 joys & sorrows.  Suffering comes from trying to cling to the joys & resist the sorrows.                                         

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION--observing thoughts    "STOP":  Stop,  Take a breath, Observe your thoughts, Proceed without judgment.  When you are mindful, you are curious and flexible--your most resourceful state.

CALM THE CAT   A chemist and a petroleum engineer compassionately listen to a secretary tell about her Cat and they discover how to refine the drilling operation so oil doesn’t leak into the North Sea.


Compassion—great for teamwork—forgiveness with self leads to compassion for others.

TWO WOLVES   An old man tells his grandchildren that there are two wolves fighting inside him for attention: one wolf is angry & afraid, distrusting & critical, the other wolf is loving, compassionate & understanding. “Grandfather, which one will win?” The children cry.                 “The one I feed,” the old man replies.

ANGEL ON ROUTE 422--Feeding the Wolf of Love & Compassion     Rene made a practice of praying for all those in peril whenever stuck in a traffic jam particularly if there were sirens. One day she got a letter from a traffic accident victim who “saw” Rene praying for her even though she, the victim, was in a coma at the time.

LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION—Practicing  Compassion    Imagine a dear friend, an acquaintance or someone you are challenged by.  Picture this person and with kind regard send them these messages:  1.  May you be free from harm    2.  May you be at ease, moment to moment    3.  May you find delight in the simple pleasures of the day.    Now with the same kind regard, send these same messages to yourself.  Compassion leads to kindness, forgiveness, generosity, empathetic joy, gratitude, love, connectedness to others & the natural world.


Connectedness gives life meaning—Moral Imagination & your genius in design

 The KINGFISHER and The TRAIN DESIGNER       A train designer who loved birds watched a kingfisher dive into the water without a ripple—he recommended the kingfisher’s head and beak as the best design for the high speed trains in Japan.

 UNIVERSE TO BRAIN  The 4.6 Billion year story of the Earth (7 min). A story about our connectedness within our self, with others & with our planet. We are the Earth.     

 THE 3 Ps  In the old days we asked ourselves one question: Can we make a profit with this design?  Now, through our Moral Imaginations there are 3 questions: Can we make a profit with this design? Are all the people who are touched by this design respected? Does the design respect our planet? If these 3 Ps are in dynamic equilibrium the design is sustainable and of service.


Mindfulness + Compassion = Connectedness and Moral Imagination

100 PEOPLE  The story of the human population of 7+Billion being represented with a village of 100…showing the disproportionate advantage our culture has and therefore our commensurate responsibility to promote the common good.

THE MOST POWERFUL BEING  A Japanese folktale about a stonecutter who sought to be The Most Powerful Being. The Spirit in the Mountain granted his wishes to be, in turn: a rich man, the Emperor, the Sun, the Wind, the Mountain & finally the stonecutter again—he realizes that when he shares his gifts with his community he is The Most Powerful Being.


JOURNAL WRITING:   answer the 3 questions from the beginning

  1. As a whole human being, what matters most to me?

  2. As an engineer who designs & builds the future, what kind of future will I create?

  3. What gifts will I develop to bring about this future?