Here’s a thought for you. What if we aimed our efforts toward researching and catalyzing peace, compassion and unconditional love on a global scale? We’re currently living at the junction of many different fields, from ancient wisdom traditions to biofeedback and wearable technology. It’s a totally new field and it’s growing fast. So fast that navigating it can be mind-boggling at times. And guess who’s leading the charge into this new field? Yep,
Silicon Valley is at the forefront again! It’s far from the first time that this area of innovators, venture capitalists and serial-startup whizzes has pushed the edge of the envelope to expand our collective knowledge. This time the new buzzword is Consciousness-Hacking, and it is currently technology’s “wild-wild west.” Silicon Valley is already switching its focus from performance enhancement to wellbeing as Consciousness Hacking becomes more mainstream.
“Over-stressed and ego-driven”
OK, what’s that mean? Consciousness-Hacking is an effort to de-stress, quiet our egos and find a new way forward. Or, in other words, a way to “get out of our own heads.” Sounds like a healthy thing for all of us to do at some point. I like the way Jamie Wheal puts it, “Most of us are living in a highly distracted, over-stressed, ego-driven experience. No one built an off switch, and in order to self-soothe, we rock Ambien on a nightly basis. We binge-watch Netflix, drink three whiskeys a night and self-gratify ourselves on porn (that’s men and women, as one-third of all visitors to porn sites are now women). We swipe Tinder or Grindr, join Headspace and Fitbit away our anxiety in a desperate bid to keep up. Everyone is trying to alter their consciousness,” Wheal says. This serious stress has brought about a resurgence for extraordinary experiences and consciousness and mind expansion!
Checking out our mental state
Cutting-edge engineering seems to pour out of Silicon Valley, so why should mixing this with enlightenment surprise so many people? A wide variety of people currently practice the avant-garde, eye-catching, multi-goal and difficult-to-define subject of Consciousness-Hacking. Unless you’ve been directly involved in this, it’s going to sound a bit “la-la and foo-foo.” But trust me, it isn’t. Googling research on the subject will turn up a gold list of studies from top-name universities that will amaze you. Thanks to neurobiology and brain imaging, we can now check out our mental states, determine their origin and figure out how to best exploit them with new technology. One study focused on Buddhist monks’ experience while meditating. Findings show that the brains of these monks are not only different, they also experience reality differently than we do. That’s some pretty “heady” stuff. What if we could all do that without having to spend several decades and countless hours practicing? Could we become happier and smarter? Could we silence our pre-frontal cortex, i.e., that “nagging inner critic?” Could we hack everyday nirvana? Could we use real-time biodata to provide interactive feedback to help us learn how to change our state of mind?
The murky relationship
One person who not only believes we can but is actively working to discover how, is Gino Yu, an associate professor and director of digital entertainment and game development at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Yu researches the consciousness – the “murky relationship between mind and body” – by using a mind-boggling battery of techniques: video games, Virtual Reality (VR), electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map perception, experience and the inner workings of the mind in real-time. Julia Moss-bridge, a Northwestern University neuroscientist, who specializes in artificial intelligence and examines how our conscious and unconscious minds perceive and process time, is another. Researchers like Yu and Moss-Bridge want to explore how to help people who go to work every day, asking, “Is this all there is? Shouldn’t there be more to life than this?” And the answer is, there is. We now have the technical knowledge needed to help us get in touch with our humanity and to regulate our emotions. And given the state of the world today, I think people are ready!
Most of us are struggling to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Studies have shown that more than half of us are “disengaged” at work. We are dissatisfied, overworked and underpaid, at least that’s how we see it. So, is anybody doing anything about it? Well, yes. A number of big-name companies are already offering mindfulness training to their employees, hoping to not only help us relax and de-stress more but, in some cases, even to “shift our consciousness” to some extent. After all, who wouldn’t want to get a dump of happiness chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin at work? Consciousness-hacking groups are sprouting up around the world.
I like the way the San Francisco-based group, Consciousness-Hacking, explains what they are all about on their website. “Consciousness Hacking is a global community exploring technology as a catalyst for psychological, emotional and spiritual flourishing. It’s an inside-out perspective on how technology can serve us by changing our relationship to the world, rather than the world itself.” Whether you prefer new technology, old-school methods or a combination of the two, Consciousness-Hacking will open up new avenues of thought for you. As Hindu guru and philosopher Sri Nisargadatta says “Love tells me I am everything. Wisdom tells me I am nothing. And between these two banks, flows the river of my life.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m relaxing on my inner tube and floating down that river of life, looking for new experiences and insights. It’s been a great journey so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend! Maybe some consciousness-hacking for me, too?