Updates

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 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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#CabinLife and the Winter Solstice

*** #CABINLIFE UPDATE *** A wilderness journal entry, written beside a wood stove in the historic Trapper’s Cabin, the oldest structure on our land. Incidentally we’ve decided to rebrand the cabin, switching to the far more friendly and appropriately named Beaver Lodge 🙂 ***

After a soft move in by a handful of the Trillium residents, we have made it through to the winter solstice, the longest night of the year when the sun rides its lowest arc across horizon of the northern hemisphere. Last night I went to an interdenominational service in Ashland that included talks, music and traditions from a diverse lineage of spiritual philosophies. A Rabbi led the service which included reps from the realms of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism and indigenous Animism. He told us that it was the first event of its kind in that synagogue and was a testament to the deeper and more diverse interconnection that people have been asking for as a result of the tumultuousness of our current political, ecological and social environments.

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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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Announcing the Trillium Project

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This year I’ve been learning the ins and outs of community owned property and I’m incredibly excited to announce my latest collaboration: behold Trillium! Together with some of the founders of the Lucidity Festival, we are bringing to life a beautiful and inspiring land project outside of Ashland in southern Oregon. Trillium spans 80 acres and includes 17 existing structures spread across a scenic valley, meadows and raw wilderness. The land is nestled up against 3000 acres of old-growth forest that already includes 30+ miles of trails that weave through the pristine land. Trillium has exclusive water rights to the creek which flows through its valley until it meets the healthy Applegate river at the base of the property.

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September is Bringing Permaculture & Symbiosis!

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I might be skipping the Burn but to avoid any FOMO I’ll be attending TWO awesome festivals in September! It’ll be my first time at the North American Permaculture Convergence in Hopland in mid September and then on to Symbiosis Gathering for some righteous end of summer celebrations! If you haven’t heard of Symbiosis it’s kind of like Lightning in a Bottle’s flair blended with the deep, intentional aspect of Lucidity …and all taking place on a beautiful reservoir filled with art boats and swim up stages and installations! ALL HAIL GLORIOUS WATER!

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“Know Thyself” and the Systems that Support You

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The quote “Know Thyself” comes from an ancient greek aphorism and I don’t know of a more short and powerful directive. During unstable times, social structure is always at its most malleable. Historically powerful forces actually embrace (or even create) the chaos that brings fear and unrest as an opportunity to seize more control. But times like these also offer an equally huge opportunity for positive evolutionary shifts to emerge.

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Gratitude and a One Year Celebration!

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The last week has been full of beautiful, unexpected alignment so I just wanted to express some gratitude for it! I’m happy to say that I’m more excited about life than I have been in quite some time. Romances are blossoming, a new community project is forming and I just went for coffee with a friend and left with a peaceful west side apartment for the month. THANK YOU!

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Creativity and the Lure of the Open Road

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Reunited with my van and my pup, headed to our extended family’s farm in North Fork California and listening to TED Radio Hour’s “The Source Of Creativity“. In this episode Elizabeth Gilbert suggests that following your curiosity may lead to your deepest passion …or it may not. But regardless, “If you get to do that, that’s a wonderful way to have spent your time here…” What a comforting thought.

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Permaculture in Northern Thailand

I just arrived at a beautiful place in northern Thailand called the Panya Project where I’ll be undertaking a two week intensive course on permaculture design. First thing tomorrow I’ll begin learning about natural building practices, efficient water systems, alternate energy harvesting and land and soil resource management. It’s cool to already feel my RISD design skills being stoked… I’m surrounded by novel and evolving solutions to immediate challenges. It’s like living in a big hands-on puzzle! Amazingly the people that run Panya are even nicer in person than they are in this video! And as for the students, it’s a diverse group of wonderful spirits, creative problem solvers with open hearts and a desire to be part of the solution to heal our world. I’m also proud to say at least 5 of the 25 are from California! Together we’re growing the revolution, my friends

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