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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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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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“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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Graceful Equanimity and the Calm of a Buddha’s Smile

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This would be a great poster to help me to avoid these pitfalls, as sometimes I forget! I’m almost at day 30 of a 30 day Headspace meditation series all about “focus”… and it’s been one of the most powerful exercises yet.

I can’t understate what I’ve put myself through out here and one day I hope to share the full story (much of it in just not appropriate for Facebook without proper context… but suffice to say it’s been a true dance between my shadow and my light. This trip has blown my understanding of myself wide open, and as seems to be the pattern that comes with it, the realization that much of the real work is just getting started. That said, I already feel more patience and compassion with myself than ever before, as well as acceptance for my path and commitment to seeing it through.

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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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Solitude vs. Community and Spiritual Bypassing

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FAST FOOD! Cooking your street food, while your buddy drives to the market!

Sheesh, I’ve felt uncharacteristically sad and lonely recently! As an experiment, I found an apartment down a featureless alley on the edge of Chiang Mai for the last couple of weeks. The intention was to have minimal distractions from other people, touristy adventures and to minimize any time spent on creative or professional projects, just to see how I deal with myself. I can say that during this time, I touched the edges of divine bliss and intense despair.

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My 36th Birthday Challenge… To YOU!

It’s my 36th birthday and I’m super excited about it! Ever since I was 30, I decided to use my birthday as a time to give rather than to receive. Maybe some of you remember at the project that started it all: http://causeitsmybirthday.com … So to ring in my 36th year I thought I’d ask for YOUR help in creating a love ripple far beyond my immediate circle! If you want to play here’s how it works…

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The Transformative Technology Conference

I’m incredibly grateful for all of your birthday wishes! Also I feel fortunate to doing some videography at an amazing event in Palo Alto this weekend called the Transformative Technology Conference. As you might imagine it’s a comprehensive future-facing collection of people, companies & organizations that are thinking about how technology will transform our health, wellness and even are very consciousness for the better.

What you might be more surprised by is that a conference like this would also begin the day with a Kundalini meditation and that one of the recurring themes of the presentations is the importance of continuing deep inner work on ourselves as we explore deep outer work with our projects, research and other creations. A powerful and important piece of advice to heed as we explore the unchartered territory at the intersection of our technology and our own humanity.

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The Mind-Body Connection! (I’ve been neglecting the body part…)

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After many years of prioritizing heady-pursuits I am turning my focus towards a more body-centric style of living. I’m looking to connect with nutritionists, personal trainers and bodyworkers… especially ones that might like a dedicated and outspoken case study! I would appreciate any tips on what’s worked for you, as well as suggestions for awesome people, places and activities that I should check out. XOs for a beautiful Sunday… (Art credit: Alex Grey)

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