Inspiration

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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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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One Year Ago… Yoga Teacher Training Graduation!

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Wow, amazing how much can happen in a year! After feeling entirely burnt out in 2015 I decided to put everything in storage and attended yoga teacher training last winter in Thailand. It blew open my mind, gave me new tools to heal my body and revealed aspects of my spirit that I didn’t even know existed. What I thought it would just be a quick one month retreat and-then-back-to-business-as-usual turned into a deep 5 month exploration of consciousness. A subsequent journey through Thailand and Bali provided a backdrop for revealing all sorts of old junk and a lingering, unresolved anxiety at the core of my character. The more I observed, the more I realized that this subtle yet persistent feeling had been influencing my behavior since childhood. In fact I’d crafted a complex world of distraction as a way to avoid it. I didn’t feel like I really belonged anywhere. I never really felt at ease. And no matter what I achieved outwardly or how elaborately I distracted myself, the feeling was always there, just under the surface until it bubbled up in outbursts of unresolved emotion.

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The Morning After….

Did you pay to get Trump elected? I did. And I’m betting you did too. Maybe not with your money or your vote, but we paid with our attention. Every time we laughed at brazen remarks or spread memes intended to disparage. Every time we taunted and laughed, we were inadvertently chanting his name and bolstering a campaign built on fear. We watched this ultimate reality show, unbounded by channel or network, play out across our screens, feeds and news outlets. And we couldn’t help ourselves. We willingly poured our most finite resource, our attention, into the gaping mouth of a ravenous beast that swallowed it all and still gulped for more. Each time we asked one another: “Can you imagine if he was actually elected?” we were subtly praying for it to happen. If you ever wondered about whether our thoughts create our reality, well welcome to the wake up call.

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Lucidity: The Crossroads of Eudaimonia

I’ve attended the past five Lucidity Festivals as an attendee and it’s seen me at my highs …and at my lows. Sheesh, let’s not even mention 2015! Earlier this year I returned from Asia and Lucidity was the first event I attended during which I met a few of the cofounders and I loosely mentioned how I’d like to support the project in some way. Within a short few weeks and through a string of unexpected circumstances, I met more of the core team and we began to interweave our dreams of community and collaboration. With each interaction I am won over by this crew’s kindness, authenticity and open-hearted spirit.

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Transformative Technologies Will Affect Us All (Because They Always Have)

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What I learned at the TransTech conference further convinced me of what I already intuitively know: transformative technologies have the power to be a huge gamechanger (and money maker!). While technology can’t solve everything, I’m a great supporter of incorporating the full spectrum of both old (think meditation and yoga) and new (think biometric sensors and data visualization) technologies to connect us more with ourselves, others and the planet.

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Evolving from Burning Man to Permanent Villages

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On one hand this is a perfect week for posting a response to this article …if I want to avoid ruffling any egos. Or perhaps it’s the perfect week to inspire those who stayed at home. Either way I have a mob of friends at the Burn and I bet they’re having an awesome time. Of course I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have a *little* FOMO, especially as the week builds towards what will no doubt be an explosive climax in the dust 🙂 I love Burning Man, and it has played a huge role in throwing open the doorway of my soul over a decade ago. And while Burning Man continues to be a mind-blowing, ever-evolving experience that has the power to open the hearts and minds of of its attendees, I continue to be niggled by a nagging question: “OK, so what do we do once we ‘get it’? What comes next?” It’s a question that I know is in the hearts of many and now that Burning Man org bought nearby land it seems like they are asking the same thing.

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“American Commune” & How to Learn from the Pioneers

I just watched an awesome documentary last night called “American Commune” and I can’t believe I’d never heard of “The Farm” before! As we look towards a future where communal land stewardship and regenerative living are becoming increasingly common, it’s crucial that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. How to successfully navigate decision making processes, financial frameworks and healthy social systems will be vital to the long term flourishing of these projects. I’m very grateful for the brave pioneers that paved the way. May we learn from their achievements and their mistakes so that we don’t fall into the same traps 🙂

TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaToe1m7DGU
FULL VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajABrxILYFI

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