When Fairfield resident Bryan Litman began practicing meditation in his late thirties and ultimately adopted the Chan Buddhist tradition of Silent Illumination, he had no expectation that it would turn into a profession one day. Having started his career in commercial production—creating award-winning work for clients such as Chase, Verizon, Mailchimp, Under Armour and The New York Times—Bryan eventually left the advertising industry to start Gendron Design and Innovation with his wife, Claudine. The company used human-centered design to help healthcare organizations elevate their processes, culture and experiences. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Bryan and Claudine decided to launch their own business, based on a need they saw in the competitive meditation marketplace. Enter Hasu—a dissolvable tablet that engages your sense of smell and mouthfeel to center your attention and cultivate a moment of mindfulness. We sat down with Bryan to learn more about his new and innovative product.
Claudine and Bryan Litman
Have mindfulness and meditation always been a significant part of your life?
No, I wasn’t even introduced to the concept of mindfulness until my life got more complicated and stressful, and I felt like it was out of control. Someone I really respect introduced me to the concept of present-moment awareness, and I started exploring meditation and Buddhism. Eventually, I found myself traveling for work, and while my colleagues were going out for dinner, I was in my hotel room with a meditation instructor learning mantras.
Tell us about what prompted you to create Hasu and how you were able to realize your vision.
During the pandemic, I struggled with my own practice. And Claudine and I also saw the need to teach concepts of mindfulness to our kids, almost as a counterbalance to their increased screen time during isolation. The fact that the pandemic lasted so long meant we had an excess of time to work on it and get creative. We were able to observe and question and try a few things together as a family. By experimenting with food with my son, Townes, I became interested in mindful eating. That’s when things started clicking, and we officially kicked off a design exercise on the barriers of practicing mindfulness and how to integrate mouthfeel as a key feature.
What are the main purposes of Hasu and how can micro-meditation impact people’s lives in both the short and long term?
The main purpose of Hasu is to make meditation more accessible, and the biggest “perceived” barriers are time and knowledge. Therefore, Hasu is a super simple and short exercise. Meditation experts and novices can both appreciate the calming effect, and how it can aid one to go from “noise/busyness/craziness of everyday life” to calming your brain for a few minutes. For some, this will be all they want as a meditation practice, and that’s great. You could call that a micro-meditation. For others, it’s a calming ritual they can use for a deeper, longer practice.
There are many individuals who believe they’re unable to meditate. How does Hasu address this?
Research shows that people are most successful with meditation when they are in a guided environment. Especially beginners. It reduces a lot of the questions like: Am I doing this right? What comes next? This is one of the reasons why digital apps are so effective, because they act as a guide. So we spent a lot of time creating and designing an experience that’s intuitive and as efficient as being guided, but you don’t need to be in a class or on an app. The way we solved that, is the form and delivery is the guidance itself. The smell and the way the tablet dissolves act as a timer for the exercise. All you need to do is pick a calm environment and focus on your senses. For people who like using an app, that’s fine too. You can use Hasu before a short Headspace or Calm session as a nondigital complement to your routine. Hasu is a way to meditate in those same moments of the day.
Take us through the process of using the tablet. Are there specific moments and places where it can be put to best use?
Pause. Smell. Mouthfeel. It’s as simple as that. The whole exercise takes about two minutes. As for moments of the day, it will be different for everyone. But a good rule of thumb is that right before bedtime is probably better than during a heavy metal concert.
What are the ingredients in Hasu and how did you decide on the flavors?
Hasu is currently made in a 3D food printer and is basically composed of water, sugar and vegetable starch. The flavors are mint, ginger and vanilla. We’re still testing different scents and flavors and refining the mouthfeel of the tablet as it dissolves. As of now, we’re focusing on flavors that are associated with nature and seeing what’s more suitable for different types of users. In fact, the user is part of how we are working with our flavor profiles. We’ve found that the vanilla tablet is great for kids. We’ve paired it with a raspberry scent to add to the mouthfeel experience. We’re always experimenting.
What important elements contributed to the design of the tablet and its packaging?
It’s been a journey, but that’s what experience design is all about. It started with us playing with clay over a Christmas break. Hasu means lotus in Japanese, and the first version we tested was literally a 3D printed flower that came in a flowerpot, and you would “pick” off a petal to do the exercise. We refined it from there, but we liked the symbol and shape of the flower. We have design principles that have been guiding our design decisions over time for this product. We also take user feedback very seriously; it’s a big part of how we evolve our product.
Is the product suitable for people of all ages, including children?
Yes, absolutely. It’s 100 percent vegan as well.
Do you have plans to expand the brand?
Definitely. The space of mindfulness and well-being has never been more important or relevant. Coming out of the pandemic, we all need time to center ourselves. Quality is extremely important to us, so we want to listen and learn from the phases we’re going through, as we move forward. And, of course, stay in the present moment.
Photographs by Bryan Litman