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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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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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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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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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NorCal & Oregon Roadtrip and “What Comes Next?”

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A snowy Mount Shasta mid summer in northern California. The purple “What Comes Next?” inscription on the back of MoBo, my adventure-ready landship, is always thought provoking but has never felt more poignant. I’m on a community property research expedition stretching from the foothills of the southern Sierra up to Ashland in southern Oregon during which I’m exploring opportunities that are helping usher in the future of what community can look like. How can groups of individuals, ranging from a handful into to the hundreds who share some common thread or set of values, purchase land together? How can the finances and decision making process be managed in a clear, smooth and egalitarian way? How does currency function when some people work within the community, while others do business in the outside world? How will these communities be examples of resourcefulness and self reliance while still maintaining a healthy connection to the rest of society?

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The Requiem for the American Dream… And What Comes Next?

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I’m not an envious person… but Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, gives me straight up brain envy. My thought process often feels like a firehose of impulse-fueled fiction by comparison when I listen to this brilliant man recount facts, clearly outline situations and explain otherwise complex systems with lucidity and objectivity.

I recently watched “Requiem for the American Dream“, a beautifully made film which provides a good overview for many of Chomsky’s insights and explores the compounding impact of such things as as income inequality as well as how to establish independence from of the forces that seek to control us.

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Burning Man Buys Land… And Musings on the Future of Community

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Projecting future retrospect allows us to imagine how we’ll look back on the present, from the future. And this will certainly be remembered as a historic moment! The Burning Man Project recently announced that they bought property adjacent to the Black Rock Desert where their yearly event takes place and plans to turn it into a year-round cultural experiment. While I think the name “Fly Ranch” is ripe for a rebrand, it’s extremely inspiring to see the Burning Man’s evolution as an ephemeral, week long event towards its vision of a year round, sustainable example of what the future of community might look like. The Burning Man’s Project is a non profit whose chief goal is of “amplifying and extending Burning Man culture”. With hundreds of regional events on 6 continents and now a 3600 acre oasis in the desert the reach of Burning Man’s culture continues it’s benevolent march!

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Bark Beetles are Causing Mayhem!

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I surprised my mom for mother’s day and she was so happy. She’s a colourful character and sometimes a little hard to swallow some of her Trumpisms but I know she loves me and just wants me to be safe, happy and creatively fulfilled. I’m glad to be healing our relationship and know that by doing so it’s also healing the relationship with the part of her in myself 🙂

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This is Your Brain on Love

Sure, it’s magic. But it’s also an impressive symphony of brain chemicals! This funny and insightful overview of what love does to you brings me back to the great Mindshare L.A.​ talk by Sena P Koleva​ at our Valentine’s Day event a few years ago!

Personally I’m a little bit of a romantic, and since it’s Valentine’s Day I couldn’t help but think about how my understanding of love has expanded over the years. I replayed the various forms of love that I’ve experienced and the relationships that have shaped me. Needless to say, this made me laugh out loud. And cry a little bit too 🙂 I even have had the honor to officiate four weddings and each time it deepened my understanding of what real love really means.

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