2017

Transformational Technology Conference and the Future of Human Well Being

I may live in an off the grid cabin the the wilderness of Oregon but once in a while I venture out for a little dose of technology, new ideas and social interaction. This weekend I’m in the Bay Area for a conference called TransTech which is “wiring humanity for future” by highlighting technologies and companies that are helping us increase our mental and physical health, improve our overall well-being and connect us more deeply with ourselves, others and the planet. Besides two days of inspiring programming, there’s an expo room that has booth after booth of products that seem like they hopped right out of a utopic sci-fi movie. Products that remind you to breathe more deeply, light therapy visors, heart rate variability monitors that help you get into a flow state, lucid dream activators and other sleep aids, and more than a few VR mediation experiences that promise deeper relaxation and improved focus, these are just a few of the real life products on display.
This morning’s opening talk, presented by Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen, was about creating a wearable, low cost way of seeing into our bodies that is a billion times higher resolution than MRI and has the potential to be cheap enough to be packaged into a consumer level device. The resolution is so high in fact that it can monitor chemical processes within our brains, including the levels of dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin and others that underly our emotions. OpnWatr.io is the company that is producing the technology and is led by Dr. Jepsen, former head of Facebook’s VR devision. OpnWtr employs near infrared light and LCDs worn near the skin to emit, receive and reconstruct scattered light with the use of well established holographic technology. Besides diagnosis and monitoring of all sorts of diseases and chronic conditions, such as clinical depression and Alzheimer’s, the technology could eventually even be used in non medical applications such as producing words and imagery directly from our thoughts. While OpnWatr’s technology is still some years away, it’s coming. In fact there’s already a developer’s kit in the works.
Every year we carry more sensors, more powerful computers and are producing an increasing deluge of personal data. While our digitally connected world has evolved at a rapid rate, our primate brains just simply haven’t been able to keep up. And it’s stressing us out, big time. Anxiety and depression rates are on the rise across the planet. The paradox is that with each app upgrade that promises to make us more connected, we are feeling more *disconnected*, even if we can’t quite figure out why or from what. Most people, besides those few who are are fully aware either through a gift of nature or practice of discipline, are still limited in our ability to deal with the growing onslaught of stimulation and distraction. While the term ‘mindfulness’ is beginning to appear with more societal prevalence, most humans are still primarily led by reactive impulse, survival mechanisms that are a relic of an old world. If humanity is to move beyond a culture rooted in fear and scarcity, and into a world that fosters self-actualization on a grand scale then technology will continue to play an important role in augmenting our existing senses. While the tools are constantly changing, this is nothing new. The most intuitive among us have always felt called to develop and deploy technologies that help us expand our consciousness. In Buddha’s time, his mediation teachings were the cutting edge, and continue to play an important role in our conscious advancement. It’s the experience age, and the ability to have your mind blown wide open has never been more accessible. But integrating these enlightening experiences into our daily lives is where our personal and collective work really lies. Well designed technological systems, systems that combine the best of the old with the best of the new, have the potential to upgrade our humanity in a huge way.
There are already products and services that are beginning to help us maintain and improve our health and well-being, as well as more effectively deal with the stresses and complexity of our modern world. But beyond mere survival and fulfillment of our basic human needs, beyond even the lofty be state of self-actualization, lies a future in which we may experience the oft omitted summit of Maslow’s hierarchy, self-transcendence. Some privileged individuals might have felt brief glimpses of this state through a variety of profound experiences, but what does the world look, and more importantly what does it *feel* like when these experiences and technologies are available to all? We can only begin to imagine.

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The Equinox. Inspired by the Divine Muse

The equal balance of light and dark offers a soulful time to reflect on our own inner cosmology. What is holding us back from shining our brightest, from sharing our true gifts with the world? Where has our pure light become tainted by conceit, greed or arrogance? How are we forgetting the light available within every present moment, instead holding back our shine for a distant future moment? To do this is to harden the edges of our hearts, serving only to push us further from the rediscovery of our true nature. Instead let us chose to soften the beating instrument of our soul at every chance we get, as we collectively remember that each moment contains the opportunity to love more deeply, trust more implicitly and share our vulnerability and innocence with the world. Some may find this easier with strangers, others may find it easiest with those closest, but perhaps most importantly and often forgotten is for us to shine on those who challenge us, who reflect the hidden parts of us, lurking in our shadows as subtle masters of our sweet, shackled beings. Even if your toughest challenger is the most elusive one, yourself. Shine on them all until the shadows have nowhere left to hide.

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The Long March Towards Spring

After a brief flirtation with the sweet promise of springtime, old man winter returned for another round of snow and freezing temperatures. While beautifully frosty and a good reason to stay cozy, it’s no real excuse for idle behavior when you’re (aspiring) mountain folk! More residents are arriving and repairs are finally getting underway. First things first on my end, Davis Galligan is helping me fix a bunch of things on my cabin, which I’m considering rechristening to WabiSabi although that could easily apply to the entire place. We’re starting by rebuilding my door so it finally closes properly and the panes of glass stay in the frame when it’s opened and closed… after that we’ll be enclosing my downstairs room which currently doesn’t have any walls and then moving on to some communal areas of the property including building sheds, designing a recycling center, redesigning the barn and making greenhouse repairs. As springtime draws closer work in the gardens will begin to pick up and we’ll start experimenting with produce and medicinal plants. What, you thought moving to the woods would be a sweet, relaxing retreat? Well in a way it is, as long as you appreciate minimal time on the computer and social media and most of your time being physical, lifting, hauling, digging, hammering, weeding and all that good stuff 🙂 More updates to come as the long march towards Spring continues…

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Escrow is Closed! And So The Adventure Begins!

Well I’m officially the proud owner of Valley View, a small off the grid cabin in an aspiring little hamlet called Trillium. Twelve intrepid collaborators, each bringing a unique skill and united by a shared vision, experienced our first community gathering on the land in late January …and we finally closed escrow on Wednesday after a nine month birthing process! Over the months we developed a lengthy legal contract, covering everything from how decisions get made to outlining exit strategies for all types of situations. As the year goes along we will make all of these documents open source in order to share them with other groups who might find them useful. Also, in the final agreement we created an easement for the former stewards of the land, a beautiful and talented couple in their sixties named Chant and Susanna, so they could keep access to a shaded half acre near the river for when they’re “in town” from their adventures of retirement. By doing so they also take on the honorable position of our village elders, for which we’re truly grateful. Their four decades on the land has given them a deep understanding of the cycles of nature, a voluminous knowledge of the intricacy of running Trillium and a strong reputation and connection within the local community. To be able to continue to water the seeds of love they sowed on this land and to have them remain as part of this wonderful journey is a true blessing for all involved 💓

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Inauguration Day and The Century of the Self

“The original idea had been that the liberation of the self would create a new kind of people, free of social constraint. That radical change had happened but while the new beings felt liberated, they had become increasingly dependent for their identity on business. The corporations realized that it was in their interest to encourage people to feel like they were unique individuals and then offer them ways to express that individuality. The world in which people felt that they were rebelling against conformity was no longer a threat to business but had become its greatest opportunity.”… “If politics is also Freudian, i.e. if it’s a matter of politicians appealing to the same basic unconscious feelings that businesses appeal to then why not let businesses do it? Business can do it better. Business knows how to do it. Business after all is in the business of responding to those feelings.”

— The Century of Self, 2002

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On this memorable day I’m curious about how we strike the right balance with our egos. After all, they can be used as a powerful driving force but left unchecked it can easily run rampant. In some ways it can be viewed as a formless and highly virulent parasite, intent on establishing itself through growing its collection of material objects, reputation and power.

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Planting Flowers for 2017!

For the last year and a half I’ve been maintaining a daily meditation practice with the help of the headspace app. I have completed a variety of courses on such topics as Balance, Focus, Acceptance, Anxiety and Creativity to name a few. The most recent course is all about Generosity and how to nurture a generous feeling for both yourself and others in everyday life. The common thread across all of these courses is that humans are naturally creative and accepting beings brimming with vitality. Our upbringing and very biology itself often create obstacles that make it challenging to fully realize this fact in its entirety. And while for some people especially those with neurological disorders this might be extremely challenging to achieve, I believe the majority of us are ability to learn, unlearn and relearn the necessary behaviors if we become committed to bringing more conscious awareness into all aspects of our experience.

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