Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Backgrounds of Meditation

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Backgrounds of Meditation

Article excerpt

Preliminary Thoughts

Preparing for meditation--Establishing the view

Engineering Design has traditionally focused on immediate action and product generation, with little regard for longer-term reflection or feedback on the consequences of that action. However psychologists since Osborn (1953) proposed that 'reflection', in the sense of 'contemplation' or 'rumination', is intrinsic to the process of creating. Rumination of course also requires time for mental incubation of problems (though the scale of this can range significantly). To be more pedantic, the process of rumination and feedback on any theme must also have an aim, if it is ever to have an outcome. To that end, we can add the biologists Maturana and Varela's (1992, p. 24) definition that 'reflection is the process of knowing how we know'.

There exist very few methods, which can facilitate the process of achieving perfect, early stage feedback in Engineering Design. The soft science of 'Action Research' (Heron & Reason, 1995; McTaggert, 1996; Reason, 2002; Schon, 1983, 1987; Wadsworth, 1998) is perhaps the only validated method currently available to Western researchers, to facilitate cycles of action and reflection in teams. Since its relatively recent inception, however, said method has not been widely accepted in the hard science, and it has not evolved much detail. In respect to engineering needs, it is certainly too general and unsystematic. It has no structure to help identify or incorporate common and necessary elements of conversations of teams of Designers and Users when there are conflicting viewpoints. The formal structure of Buddhist meditation, on the other hand, can fill this gap. The 2500 year old methods are designed to make reflection on complex sets of actions with one or multiple stakeholders systematic.

We must now digress for a moment to point out we use the term 'meditation' in this paper in two senses. One is the sense that there is a formal structure, which provides a 'mirror' (this term is from Vajrayana Buddhism) and therefore also reflection on one's action and purpose. The other is that it is a complete ritual and a complete experience, which encompasses both the action of being and its reflection as well as the awareness (which we will later in this paper call 'knowledge') of the co-existence of the two. The insider Buddhist definition of meditation as an 'effortless resting in the way things are' (Seegers, 2007) refers to the experience of aware co-existence of the two worlds (but see also Prebish & Keown, 2004). However, since the latter is considered an advanced realisation, it is the first sense of the term that is most generally used. In order to distinguish the two senses, we capitalize the formal Meditation practise, which is structured as a map or method, for the remainder of this paper.

Intrinsic to reflecting on one's actions, is knowing one's reason, purpose or motivation for even wanting said reflection. This is especially important, when one is using a ritual, map or method for reflection. It is less beneficial to follow someone else's footsteps blindly. The preparation for Meditation therefore, requires one first to contemplate the situation where one actually is right now, and why one might want to be somewhere else. Buddha's first teachings, known as The Four Noble Truths, generally provide an impetus for refining one's wish to move towards another more ideal state of existence. The wish to move includes a wish to employ methods that lead to an understanding and experience of a world where action and reflection are unified in a continuous feedback.

The Four Noble Truths are ordered in a way, which Westerners and Theravada practitioners would generally recognize as coming from a problem-space or problem-oriented view. In short, they acknowledge (i) we experience problems in our existing world, because we do not understand the natural order of things (ii) there is a cause for our problems in that we want things to be a certain way, which is not in their nature (iii) there is a solution to our problems, in allowing things to be as they naturally are (iv) there are methods to reach the solution and we should use them. …

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