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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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My Future as a Two Marshmallow Adult

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Moving from a one marshmallow kid to a two marshmallow adult means learning how to delay gratification …and it can be a real bitch let me tell you. That said, life seems to have a habit of throwing curve balls at our plans and expectations so it seems like an important skill to master. Some of us may have had the good fortune to learn this early on from parents or other role models during our formative years. For the rest of us, it means some real dedication and often sitting in some uncomfortable ass situations while the lessons get woven into our behavior. And just when we think we’ve got it, WATCH OUT! It often seems like the moment we have the hubris to think “I’ve got this” is also the precise moment that the universe counters: “Oooooh really, let’s see how much you’ve got this!” BAM!

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Walking Meditation and the Motorcycle Accident

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It was a day of adventure, from Lod Cave to Pai Canyon! And after a body melting two hour coconut oil massage back in Pai, I decided to get some tea at the night market before walking home. As I walked I watched for any cravings I experienced as the aromatic smells of the food stalls wafted all around me. After one week of juice fasting, I’m impressed that I’m not feeling more tempted! I attempted to just enjoy witnessing the pleasure of others as they ate dumplings, grilled corn, and all sorts of fried and BBQd goodies. Humorously, I seem to be at ease in the extremes, but moderation remains so elusive! Step by step 🙂

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False Prophets and Being Willing to Look Inward

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I just watched Kumaré and it’s a thought provoking and wraps up with a simple yet compelling take away 🙂 Plus it is pretty hilarious too! More info: “Kumaré is a documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. At the height of his popularity, the Guru Kumaré must reveal his true identity to his disciples and unveil his greatest teaching of all.” You might find a better quality version on Netflix but here’s a free version…

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Accepting That Sometimes You Just Need An Open Return Ticket Home

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Well I just officially slept through my return flight home. No alarm went off. No taxi came. In fact I was 100s of miles away from the Bangkok airport in the mountains of northern Thailand. Just as I planned it! Because that was my *original* flight… and I now have an open return ticket!

I just finished a 20 day meditation course on “Acceptance”. During each session I was prompted to ask myself “Who or what am I resisting in my life, right now?” At first I was quick to think I wasn’t resisting anything. I’m totally peaceful! But then as usual this meditation business got deeeeeep! Ha!

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Going Deep at the Bali Silent Retreat

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So this is my modest room at the Bali Silent Retreat for the next few days. It comes equipped with a small bed, wooden chair and a large screen which shows the Jungle Channel 24/7. With a daily schedule of yoga, meditation, healthy food and plenty of time for reading, writing and self reflection I have no doubt it will be a very beneficial experience and a good opportunity to focus on increasingly subtle habits and behavior patterns. I’m currently going deep on the topic of self love, something that might well be the number one most important thing we can master but that many of us still find elusive. This inability to truly love and accept ourselves causes all sorts of misery for ourselves and others so I am grateful to have had the book “You Can Heal You’re Life” by Louise Hay recommended to me. So far it’s been a fascinating insight into all sorts of unhelpful stories, beliefs and assumptions that we have about ourselves and the world around us, as well as strategies for how to create upgraded, healthier stories that actually benefit us. After all if I am truly taken care of, then my ability to be of service in this world increases dramatically. And that is a cycle that feels great for all involved 🙂 OK, phone off! See you on the other side.

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Meditations on How to Deal with Anxiety

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I’m happy to have just completed Day 30 of Headspace.com ‘s anxiety themed meditation challenge. I never thought of myself as anxious until I stopped doing all my regular activities and just observed myself over an extended period of time. Again and again I kept wanting to distract myself with a creative project, old (often unhealthy) habit or environment change just to avoid feeling a persistent underlying anxiety. Fascinating discovery! The key take away of the 30 days is being able to label your thoughts/feelings as they arise in the following way…

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