Ease and Effort

Ease and Effort

This morning, I set time aside to strategies how to make a name for myself at the intersection of spirituality and engineering. I realized I needed to learn, reflect what I learn in a public space, market myself, build my skill set and capacity, and set up accountability structures. My first step was to identifying commitments to myself, and my process.

I am in the process of reading Mindset: The new Psychology of Success, which examines the importance of a growth mindset, which values effort and ability to change, rather than a fixed mindset, which focuses on set and predetermined ability. In thinking about a growth mindset, I started to identify commitments. Here is a list of my commitments:

  • I recognize my potential and passion for being a voice and contributing to discourse at the intersection of engineering and spirituality, and I know that this will take time and effort. I commit to prioritizing my time to take steps and do the learning that is required.
  • I commit to the internal work required to process, reflect, and move forward in awareness and love.
  • I commit to living my convictions, this includes prioritizing my health and wellness, seeking out a natural rhythm that works for me, making time for my family and friends, and addressing social inequalities.

As I was writing it, there as something that did not seem right. There was a dynamic energy inside me that was determined to start reading topics, writing blog posts, and network.  I knew from the past that this energy is often sporadic and overwhelming. I can complete goals on this energy and I did my PhD ridding on this energy.  However,  I constantly felt lost and overwhelmed . Once I was done with my PhD, I did not want this energy to control my life. I wanted to be grounded in a sense of love and ease.

After writing these commitments and recognizing my energy, I went and meditated for 20 minutes. I lit a candle and decided to practice Metta meditation. Metta has the meditator focus on a phrase of love and kindness as the center object of meditation. The meditator continuously wished herself, or others, love. Metta is known to be a healing and purifying practice. I had recently done a weeklong Metta retreat in December and found it to do wonders in cultivating self-awareness and compassion.

As I sat, I chose the phrase, “May my life unfold with ease.” While I was repeating that phrase, I touched the part of myself that longs for ease, and I got flooded with memories of all the times my life did not have ease. To have your mind remind you of the ways your life is lacking is common in Metta practice. I felt the sorrow for the suffering I went through, touch upon the part of myself that longed for eased and continued to wished myself ease.

There was a moment when a great insight came, when I realized that the effort I was putting forward in the meditation practice was the type of effort I wished to bring forward to my work. This effort is present, loving and in touch with the deeper conviction to live a life free of suffering for all beings. I also realized I was going to write a blog post about this insight. This was going to confirm my insight and share with others… if anyone reads this. Soon, my mind jumped into thinking about this blog post, but I was still meditating. I came back to the moment and wished myself ease again, and thankful for my effort.

A few moments later, I decided to sit in the appreciation of the insight I just gained. So I sat with one had on my heart and another on my stomach, feeling the appreciation of the insight I gained on effort and the comfort in knowing that I would write this blog post.

My mind wondered again, I don’t remember on what, but probably politics.

Then I connected to the part that truly wants myself to live a life full of ease, and I started wishing myself ease again. This time, I included my partner and wished us both ease in our life.

Soon my timer went off, I blew out my candle, and went to the computer and wrote this blog post… after checking Facebook to make sure nothing import happened in the 20 minutes I was meditating.

To conclude, I have now added to my list of commitments that I will put forward an effort that is present, loving and in touch with the deeper conviction to live a life free of suffering for all beings.


Photo: “yin & yang” by Jeff Laitila is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reflections: The Bridge Builder

Reflections: The Bridge Builder

By Julia Thompson, Ph.D.

Recently I’ve been seeking ways to facilitate spaces that intersect the technical and the heart. I eventually want to run retreats on the topic.

A few weeks ago, I met with two close friends with similar spiritual and engineering tendencies. I wanted to talk about doing a workshop together, building off the Courage and Renewal (C&R) framework. I talked through a current C&R facilitator in preparation.

We ended up talking through the poem, The Bridge Builder (below). This poem refers to an older man, who builds a bridge, to help those coming behind him bypass the difficulties that he faced.

I love this poem because it speaks to all of us who are creating a world, in hopes to help others and, in the process, help ourselves. We can use this poem as a way to talk about ourselves and the bridges we are building, both metaphorically and physically.

I want to build a bridge that supports individuals to live out their calling in life. Engineering is often not seen as a job that is connected to personal calling, and those who may see it as such rarely discern their work as one who is a minister might.

Yet, I argue much of engineering has a deep impact on the world. Engineers ought to see how their design, their analysis ,and work contributes to the world they seek to live. I believe only when all jobs are sacred, we can start to heal the world we are living in.

We are going to meet again next week, talk about another poem, and invite others to join.

What bridge are you building?

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide. 
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!


Useful reflective prompts:

What part of the poem stuck out to you?

Who are you in this poem?

Where are you in this poem?

What is the chasm?

Who is the young man following behind?




Photo: “The Sunset Boulevard Bridge Spokane WA: from Empire Builder” by  Loco Steve license under CC2.0

Every Craftman – Reflection: Emptiness is the source of innovation

Every Craftman – Reflection: Emptiness is the source of innovation

I’ve said before that every craftsman
searches for what’s not there
to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting you net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it “death”,
that which provides you sustenance and work.

God has allowed some magical reversal to occur,
so that you see the scorpion pit
as an object of desire,
and all the beautiful expanse around it,
as dangerous and swarming with snakes.

This is how strange your fear of death
and emptiness is, and how perverse
the attachment to what you want.

Now that you’ve heard me
on your misapprehensions, dear friend,
listen to Attar’s story on the same subject.

He strung the pearls of this
about King Mahmud, how among the spoils
of his Indian campaign there was a Hindu boy,
whom he adopted as a son. He educated
and provided royally for the boy
and later made him vice-regent, seated
on a gold throne beside himself.

One day he found the young man weeping..
“Why are you crying? You’re the companion
of an emperor! The entire nation is ranged out
before you like stars that you can command!”

The young man replied, “I am remembering
my mother and father, and how they
scared me as a child with threats of you!
‘Uh-oh, he’s headed for King Mahmud’s court!
Nothing could be more hellish!’ Where are they now
when they should see me sitting here?”

This incident is about your fear of changing.
You are the Hindu boy. Mahmud, which means
Praise to the End, is the spirit’s
poverty or emptiness.

The mother and father are your attachment
to beliefs and blood ties
and desires and comforting habits.
Don’t listen to them!
They seem to protect
but they imprison.

They are your worst enemies.
They make you afraid
of living in emptiness.

Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in that court,
remembering your mistaken parents!

Know that your body nurtures the spirit,
helps it grow, and gives it wrong advise.

The body becomes, eventually, like a vest
of chain mail in peaceful years,
too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

But the body’s desires, in another way, are like
an unpredictable associate, whom you must be
patient with. And that companion is helpful,
because patience expands your capacity
to love and feel peace.
The patience of a rose close to a thorn
keeps it fragrant. It’s patience that gives milk
to the male camel still nursing in its third year,
and patience is what the prophets show to us.

The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains.

Friendship and loyalty have patience
as the strength of their connection.

Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates
that you haven’t been patient.

Be with those who mix with God
as honey blends with milk, and say,

“Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets, is not
what I love.” else you’ll be like a caravan fire left
to flare itself out alone beside the road.


By: Rumi

One-Handed Basket Weaving

Door.“by Christopher Rose 



Rumi describes how the builders are seeking to fill in emptiness, akin to a carpenter building a door.  It is when we recognize this emptiness in our society, that we can do something about it. This is innovation, this is change.  Yet, we are each conditioned to avoid our pain.

We must learn to recognize our patterns and open our selves.  It is only through feeling the emptiness directly can we address it. Through this process we experience love.


What if technology was grounded in this truth, what might it look like?



Quakerism and Design: Creating community – Reblogged

Quakerism and Design: Creating community – Reblogged

Pickett Endowment Grantee Blog: Quakerism and Design: Creating community: By Julia Thompson

In April to mid-June, I was working with an organization called Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) to support the design and build process of an outdoor art space referred to as an ArtLot.  YSA is an organization that is committed to empowering homeless and low-income youth through art job training in Berkeley, California.

My personal passion is to explore the intersection of engineering and spirituality. I hold a Ph.D., and have researched extensively using service-learning as a way to teach engineering skills. The Pickett fellowship has allowed me to expand on this work, and to work directly with a community on a design project, one that was rooted in Quaker values.

Through this experience, I was able to work with youth, staff, community members, and architects to push forward the design and build of the ArtLot.  We threw out rubbish that had been collecting in the area, weeded, stained benches, stabilized benches, and built trellises.  We had a number of meetings to discuss the space, and volunteer days to get things built.

Personally, the experience has given me a lot of insight into my gifts and limitations. I experienced the chaos, mess, and love that are present through life. Below are three lessons: my problem-solving mindset, me as a community organizer, and a valuable lesson of homelessness and God.

The ArtLot when I arrived (April 2016)


Two youth using the space to practice poetry and music 


My Problem-Solving Mindset

There were a number of things that needed to be figured out associated with building the ArtLot, and I loved putting on my brainstorming hat and can-do attitude to accomplish these tasks.  For example, there were beautiful benches, which had been designed by an architect student, and there had been a series of volunteer days to build them before I got there.  One of the first weeks I was there, a number of volunteers worked with youth to stain them. However, there were a number of structural issues with the benches.  The benches were designed to fold up, yet the front legs would collapse if you leaned back, the bench was wobbly, and the front legs were shorter than the back – each one being different heights. One of the professional architects and I examined them closely and figured out a way to make them stable. First, we measured each front leg to determine how far off the ground it was. Based on this measurement, we cut off that height from the associated back leg. We also attached nylon webbing and made it taught to reduce the wobble and make sure the front legs would not collapse. Currently, all the benches are relatively flat and stable.  This process of identifying an issue, figuring out a solution, and following through with it, was completely satisfying, and I recognize this as something that aligns well with my gifts and skill sets.

The benches
The volunteer day where we constructed the trellises

Me as a community organizer

This experience was a bit more than I expected. I put myself out there on a number of occasions and felt drained when things did not go as planned. Many times I felt like I was pushing the project too fast, and others were not as interested in being engaged. In the process, I learned a lot about myself; however, I often felt that I had jumped into the deep end.

I would like my next experience to be more in the terms of wading. I am opening myself to opportunities to assist in facilitation experiences, working under mentors who have gifts and experience of holding space. Also, I want to work with communities who have a desire and intention to be present.

My current goal is to run retreats in the next three to five years where artists, designers, architects, engineers, and others can reflect on what it means to build the world with integrity.

Raising up the trellises

God and Homelessness

I would say the most profound lesson I learned about homelessness was talking to one young man.  He arrived in Berkeley from New Jersey, following a meditation guru. He spoke of his love for this guru, and his devotion to meditation and yoga.  Up until that point, there was a naïve and arrogant part of me that believed that it was only through my privilege in this world that I was able to seek God the way I have, and strive to live out my vocation. As I talked to this man, I was touched and I recognized how human is this urge which I have, and how it is not limited by wealth and privilege. We are all children of God.

Community event- Voices Unfliltered: An art exhibition of Humanity (August 6, 2016)

Overall, I am extremely appreciative for this opportunity and the incredible support from various communities. Many people supported me in various ways throughout this journey, from holding me in the Light to giving me places to stay.  I am deeply blessed and utterly grateful.

Cyber-peace: the need for Quakers in the digital age

According to the New York Times, the recent news of hacked emails have resulted in the FBI to consider a question- should America Retaliate?

In cyberspace, the boundaries between espionage, terrorism, activism, as well as state and civilian are obscured and undefined. One action may be taken as an act of war, and may escalate without intent, and may escalate in ways that are still uncertain. There has not been recognized, mutual definitions among nation-states, and thus this platform has no rules.

I see the is a deep need for Quakers to create space and lead in the discernment on how to define, create and maintain cyber peace.

Over the last five months, I have been working as a post doc on the misconceptions students form when learning cyber security, (they actually hired me because I knew nothing on the topic, thus limiting my bias, and I took the position after the discernment of the peace testimony). Throughout these months, I have started to learn a bit about the cyber security, cyber war, and cyber peace and the lack of policies that exist. I am in no way an expert, but I would say I am a bit more educated than most citizens.

I am very interested to connect with others peace makers concerned about this topic, and to start thinking about actions and policies that can result in cyber peace.

I would like to get others thoughts on this topic.


Reflections on Life –  by a Kundalini Teacher and Professional Civil Engineer

Reflections on Life – by a Kundalini Teacher and Professional Civil Engineer

By Mike

My name is Mike, a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Professional civil engineer and Project Manager leading development and construction of large-scale renewable energy projects. I’ve gone through a life-changing spiritual expansion in the midst of leading extremely challenging and complex engineering projects. Here are a few key lessons I’ve learnt.

Professional and spiritual growth happen simultaneously. As the human being expands consciousness, of course their life work will shifts along with the inner world and worldviews. The key is being patient as your outer, professional world shifts to align with your new and improved inner world.

We can think of things in vibration and frequency. Basically, as an individual expands in consciousness, their vibration and frequency increase. And, as the law of attraction states, likes attract. So as your vibration increases, you will begin to attract other high-vibration people, living a heart-centered life. Interestingly, as you become more aware of vibration and frequency you will notice that certain thoughts and actions carry with them certain vibrational characteristics. For example, you will notice that construction sites and conversations about money carry with them very low vibrations, while conversations focused on innovation, creativity, and problem-solving carry higher vibrational qualities. Mindfully overserving the vibration of thoughts, settings and actions will surely lead you to those which align with your frequency.

While on the topic of expansion of consciousness in the work place, it is important to touch on stress. Optimal conditions for healthy spiritual growth are low stress. That is not to say that all stress is bad. Some stress in moderate doses can usually lead to growth, however, heavy stress over long periods of time is detrimental to health and expansion. Ease and stress-free environments essentially promote creativity and healthy growth, from the heart. This can be kept in mind as aspiring spiritual engineers progress their careers.

One last point was given to me by a highly regarded spirituality and meditation teacher. At the end of his workshop I asked how to live in a situation where I felt like the vibration of the people and environment were very low. His response: “treat every relationship as sacred”. I tried it and it worked like a charm. From that day on every single person I deal with at work, I treat as sacred. Amazing.

To end, simply keep your vibration up, keep expanding and let your outer world follow suit.

Sat Nam,



Image source: “Meditation” by Sebastien Wiertz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Poem about Design

I just had a planning meeting with some youth and some others interested in supporting the design and build of the artlot. I started the meeting the beautiful Mary Oliver Poem below. I found it to encapsulate my intentions for the fellowship perfectly by highlighting the power of design, and being a part of something larger. It also has a beautiful balance of stillness and work.

This activity was suggested by a facilitator of the retreat last weekend as a way to opening deeper conversations, and it seemed to be received well by the youth.  I want to ask if anyone has any ideas for other poems. It can be about sacred space, creativity, building, home, community, etc.