Aldric Negrier - CEO of ZenVow: Can you build a technology product that supports a meditation practice?
(0-10 minutes) Aldric is a serial entrepreneur from Portugal who owns a 3D printing company which builds 3D printers for designers all over Europe. They also make scans and designs which are all open source and come up with new concepts for 3D printable objects. Its kind of like a research and development company for 3D printing. How did Aldric first get into yoga and mindfulness? Aldric is originally from Mozambique where his mother first introduced him to Yoga. He went to the yoga teachers house every day after school. He wasn't really aware what he was doing for the 3 years. He didn't recognize the significance of the practice at the time. He says that now when he practices yoga he has a whole different recognition of what the practice is and his awareness is much more focused. HIs practice has evolved. Does that have more to do with you maturing as a human being or as a natural by-product of spiritual practice? He says that, as a man, he matured later than most. He was a late bloomer. As his awareness slowly evolved he noticed his reactions to life-changing significantly. He's not sure how to answer the question. Do you have a daily practice? He continues talking about how his yoga practice evolved. After leaving Mozambique for Portugal, he found a yoga teacher at the university and he practiced 2-3 times a week. He normally practices meditation on weekends. He says that he can only meditate after running or walking. Stewart explains how Aldric's experience of needing to move before meditating is consistent with the historical evolution of yoga as a spiritual practice. Thousands of years ago it was developed in order to calm the body and mind and release neurotic energy before sitting silently. The practice of movement or Yoga asana can be from running just like moving the body in more traditional poses in a yoga studio. Aldric says that he most enjoys running into the forest until he finds a tree he likes and then sits underneath the tree for 3-4 hours of meditation. He says he did a maximum of 6 hours. He likes to meditate at night and stays until midnight at his special tree spot. What techniques do you use for meditation? He says that he uses music, in the beginning, to get him in the zone and then slowly transitions to zazen. He says that he likes to sit in half lotus as well. He says he can sit in half lotus for about four hours without pain or tension. He starts off with a guided meditation mixed with music by Alana Fairchild. He focuses on the breath and tries to relax. Sometimes he gets sleepy and he wakes himself up. He says its a struggle, but not a violent. It is a peaceful struggle. He says that afterward he finds himself singing often. Aldric says that many of his worries seem to dissolve, but often times they come back shortly. How do you bring the practice of meditation into your daily life? He explains how he is pretty busy with an important project at the moment so it's hard to fit it into his daily life as he used to. He says that he has to devote more energy to this project and less to wellness. This brings Stewart to interject with the idea that meditation is the practice of heightening and focusing an awareness that is already present every waking moment of the day. Thus it's important to see that the real juice of a meditative practice is to actually meditate when things are crazy and hectic. To bring the practice into everyday life. (10-20 minutes) How does mindfulness or meditation help you do your job better? Aldric says that it helps him for sure, at least indirectly. Meditation gives allows him to conserve energy and to face the day with more energy reserves. He says that he also struggles with insomnia and meditation helps him to rest. He says that right now because of a big project he can only meditate on the weekends. What is this big project that you are working on? Aldric gives a little backstory. He explains how he found Ajahn Brahm and the theory behind meditation. He was so inspired by Ajahn Brahm that he decided he wanted to do something to help spread Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness around the world. He didn't find anything at the beginning and started his 3D printing company instead. Shortly after this, his girlfriend broke up with him and he fell into a depression. He was sitting in the same chair as he is sitting in the interview in his office in Portugal and he tried to meditate. It was very difficult so he put some music on. His suffering was so great and he just started spinning in the chair in circles. As he continued to spin in circles he noticed a meditative state start to unfold naturally. He felt calm and connected. All of a sudden his depression lifted and he felt in the zone. This is where the idea for Zenvow, his new project, came to him. He wanted to find out how to find external markers for the same meditative state he found spinning in his chair. He decided to build a sensor that could sense movement, respiration, and where the body is in space and time. These things could help track whether people were meditating or doing yoga. He also started working with blockchain technology and realized that he could allow people to get paid in cryptocurrency to meditate and do yoga. This is what Zenvow is trying to do. ZenVow will release two products that will help people earn cryptocurrency for practicing yoga and meditation: A meditation pad that senses whether you are sitting upright and a chest sensor that monitors breathing and body movement. (20-30 minutes) Is it possible to give accurate feedback into the meditative state? Isn't meditation in someway immeasurable? Are there external validators of an internal practice such as meditation? Aldric says that its true that meditation is difficult, but as long as you are sitting there with the intent to practice it is enough to get people into the practice. It is aimed at beginners. (30-40 minutes) Stewart explains the Sufi practice of Whirling Dervishes and how they spin in order to connect with a meditative state or an experiential understanding of God. Kids spin a lot. Kids move around. Can you explain the state that occurs after practicing the spinning or other movement practices that bring on this experiential understanding of God or ecstasy? Aldric explains how when he is floating in the water he gets an experience of spinning. This is how he usually finds this state and spinning in circles also brings this on. He explains how awareness is drawn to practices like this. What breathing exercises do you practice on a daily or weekly basis? Aldric brings up the app Prana Breathe which gives him instruction in breathing with a ratio of inhales, exhales and holding your breath. He also uses Wim Hof breathing. How would you describe your creative process? He says that its impossible to accurately indicate who had the amazing idea or why the idea became available to you instead of another. You can say that the neurons themselves and the connections between them created the idea, but then you have to dig further. Why did those neurons form in that way? What was the influence? Likely the idea is an interaction between you and your environment. Aldric goes onto say that when you say that I am an inventor or I invented something, that isn't quite accurate. Each inventor is influenced by their environment so it impossible to say that the inventor had any more responsibility for the idea than the results of the environment around her. He also states that modern physics and science still cannot accurately describe reality. It would be a mistake to say that we know how it works, including when we make mental models of how our personal lives work and why we have experienced the things we have. (40-50 minutes) How do you deal with the conflict of being a separate individual, yet at the same time being part of a greater whole? Aldric says that its difficult for him to speak to this because he has only recently come to understand this conflict and can't speak to it exactly. He needs to practice more meditation in order to speak intelligently on this. He says the wants to design a life that is more dedicated to practice. Stewart explains his own story about wanting to design a life of practice and doing it. He says that it is a common learning experience for most people who find meditation to go off and give up everything in their old life. This can cause issues because the person will have a radical disconnection between their old life and the new one. This makes integration harder which is a key part of the process. You have to integrate the difficult and deep experiences that meditation makes clear. What is one piece of advice or one article or one teacher for mindfulness that you would suggest for our listeners? Aldric says that he more practice and skills which he can share about engineering, but he doesn't have enough experience to talk about mindfulness and meditation. This said he says that Buddhism can give us insight into reality and phenomena. Without seeing into reality, we suffer. Buddhism offers us a way out of suffering by being more realistic about where we are, what we are, and where we are going.
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