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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wisdom 2.0 Conference

I will be attending the Wisdom2.0 Conference in Mountain View CA Feb 25-27. I will be talking about Digital Dharma at the East-West Bookstore on Saturday night, and hopefully leading a "chakras of communications" session on Sunday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Soul of the "Cloud"

In earlier posts, I discussed how the coupling of electricity with our nervous system started the process of (in Marshal McLuhan's words) "outering" our neurons, leading to the leap into "network consciousness" made possible by the Internet and digital media. We have moved into a noisy twittering world of multiple networks, where the other is everywhere, where everything is a reminder that we are part of something much larger than ourselves.

I believe that this shift in perspective is vertical as well as horizontal. What Steven Johnson has called "long-zoom consciousness" - reflected by our digital capability to "zoom out" from the scale of DNA through satellite maps and deep-space imaging to the enormity of the cosmos - is emerging as contemporary culture's defining way of seeing. It has created a new view of space - interconnected and multi-layered - that is as disruptive to our old ways of seeing as the earlier revolutions of Newton and Einstein. It is also bringing us a new set of metaphors appropriate to the spiritual challenges of navigating the inter-penetrating clouds of evolving human intelligence.

The core metaphor of the Internet is the grid, its energetic centers the throat (fifth chakra) and the third-eye (sixth chakra), and its spiritual challenge is that of connection to the other. As consciousness reaches for higher and higher states of awareness, the work of associated with the Crown Chakra becomes activated, and we move to the challenges of operating in the multiple dimensions of the cloud: a space where we and the "other" recognize that we are the same - just different reflections of the divine.

The reflection of this "always on, always connected" relationship with the infinite is found in the convergence of peer-to-peer communications, universal wireless connections, GPS-based location awareness, and distributed information processing. These forces are the drivers behind what is now being called Pervasive Computing - a set of technologies that will enliven the space we move through by permeating it with myriads of ubiquitous, networked, mobile, reactive and self-referencing miniature computational devices.

Distributed processing technology allows for data storage, software and computing processors to reside out on the network "grid" and be called forth only when needed. Extremely large-scale computing projects can be shared across millions of smaller processors worldwide, each "donating" its spare computing cycles to the functioning of the whole.

Grid computing networks are already tackling the modeling of new cancer-fighting drugs, the mapping of the universe, and the tracking of the smallest quantum interactions. Multiple research labs are being networked together across the university-based Internet2, making possible new forms of collaborative instrumentation and collaborative research. From an esoteric point of view, it was not surprising that one of the first grid computing projects was one focused outwards to the vast universe. SETIatHOME involved over two million users, who analyzed a tiny portion of radio telescope data every night on their home PCs to detect signals from possible extra-terrestrial civilizations.

In addition to connecting data sensors and data processors, the cloud is also becoming the "place" where we store more and more of our cumulative human intelligence, relying on ever-more-powerful search engines and "data mining" algorithms, crowd-sourcing and the "long-tail", to make sense of this overflowing abundance - the unleashed outpouring of the new and the taking from and recreating of the old, the collages and mash-ups, meshes, mixes, remixes of our popular culture - to our computers, MP3 players, and smart phones.

This scenario has a frightening side - in the service of our "lower selves" these technologies can lead us to a beehive-like world devoid of quiet personal space; where global corporations extend their control to the most remote corners of the planet; where the smallest personal action is tracked in giant marketing databases; a world where physical nature and even human love are replaced by computer simulations.

But when seen through the lens of metaphor, the very structure of the cloud offers us a path to a very different outcome: what mystics have understood as "unity consciousness," the simultaneous knowledge of the knower and the known, of individual identity and cosmic oneness. Beyond the communicating appliances, the mash-ups and the long tails, is the vision of an interconnected creative culture. And beyond this cultural vision is a spiritual teaching, the modeling of a world where consciousness connects with every other being, and simultaneously with something greater then itself.

On the net we negotiate with the other, protective of our boundaries, but understand that like it or not, we are all connected; in the cloud we begin to see the patterns of how we're connected in every action, past, present and future. On the net we share some of our localized content; in the cloud we download what we need and return it to the greater good. On the net we process our own data, drawing from external repositories as needed; in the cloud we hold all the repositories in common, maintaining our foreground processing, but intentionally making room for seed programs to use our spare computing cycles for a higher purpose.

A Sufi mystic looks at our physical universe as a manifestation of the Divine's hunger to know itself, and our individual consciousness a limited expression of the cosmic desire, love, and nostalgia: Ishq Allah. For the Sufis, our purpose is not to escape into the void, or awake beyond the limitations of physical life, but to awaken in life: to download from the "Divine Treasury" those latent codes and programs that make our minds isomorphic with the thinking of the universe.

Could it be that we are all part of a great cloud computing project - where consciousness, in its desire to know itself, created billions upon billions of small processors called humans, each thinking its own thoughts and living and dying its own dreams and desires, but each running way in the background a small virus program dedicated to solving some small unrecognizable fragment of this great puzzle?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chakra Meditations for Cyber-addiction

From the telephone to radio and television, from the Internet to the distributed intelligence of peer-to-peer and social networks, we have grown more connected, more accessible, and increasingly more stimulated. In this new environment, we are constantly challenged to set boundaries and create appropriate filters to handle the incessant demands and distracting consequences of data overload.

In my book, Digital Dharma, I offered a psycho-spiritual look at these technologies as extensions on to the planet of our energetic chakras, holding for us reflections of the light and shadow of each of these metaphors of the stages of consciousness. I suggested that the explosion of text-based messaging would stimulate the issues of “Hineini”— Biblical Hebrew for I am here: personal identity, boundary setting, location worry and personal safety. While our new always-on connections to the Internet would bring us face-to-face with the challenges of an over-stimulated fifth chakra: incessant talk, confusion of what is true or false, and boundary loss and the resulting fear of contagion by the other.

The Internet has given us a new freedom to speak truth, to see beyond the masks of individual and corporate posturing, and to build our own “peer networks. It also exposes us to the dangers of connectivity without appropriate boundaries – over-exposure, infection, and false identities. Our extended neurons offer us a chance to experience ourselves as part of a larger web – of relationships, of communities of interest and of place, and by tapping into the emerging networks of global sensors and real-time environmental data streams, of Creation itself. But, without a strong grounding at the first chakra, every message overwhelms, and “multi-tasking” turns out to be a deadly fraud. Distraction from family and friends, the loss of the empathy and attention required for deeper intimate relationships, are all the latest worries associated with “digital addiction.”

We seem unprepared for this newly expanded and networked sensory space: everyone talks, but few know how to listen. Truth becomes a matter of opinion: the latest gossip and manipulated video “going viral” before its veracity can be challenged, the net's constant chatter mimicking the babble and distraction of our planetary monkey mind. Let's not forget that Hermes, the Greek god of communications, is also known as a thief and trickster.

It is no wonder that a number of critics have suggested that we must treat unplugging from the constant stimulation of the net as a “recovery process” similar to AA, or as a religious practice similar to the disconnection of the mundane world as one enters into the sacred space of the Sabbath. Following these models, I would like to suggest some energy yoga practices that strengthen our ability to go back into the global brain without losing our equanimity or our power.

Tuning to the Tweets of the Body:

In a seated position, with feet on the floor, imagine extending the energy cloud of body to the ground. Picture its excess electrical charge seeking to ground with the core of the earth. Allow yourself to merge into the solidity of the earth. Expand this connection. Quiet your mind. Feel cords of energy extending down from your feet as well as your base into the center of the earth. Feel the warmth rising up into your body. Charge your field with this magnetic energy from the dynamo that resides in the center of the planet’s molten core. Feel the “cellular tweets” within your own body: the ‘lub-dub’ beating of your heart, the blood in your veins, the rise and fall of your chest with each breath. Go deeper into these rhythms. Can you hear the circulation in your ears; the tingle of the nerves in your skin; the electricity in your spine?

Slowly lie down. Visualize each body part coming into Being, infused with energy. Rest. Connect with your first chakra. See it pulsing your own special radio "call sign" for all to hear. Grounded and secure in being alive, allow your first chakra to be an energetic lighthouse that announces, "I am here!" Know where you are, strengthen that signal, and let it radiate out to the universe. Open the space; know that you deserve to feel this energetic connection.

Next, move out to the Infosphere, seeing all living beings as chorus of “I Am” transmitters – from the simplest virus, to each and every human. See the planets, the supernovas and pulsars in far-off galaxies, all radiating their own unique beacon. Stay in this place for as long as you like.

Finally bring your attention gently back to your own first-level signal generator. Let it join this universal chorus. Once it is clear and strong, bring your awareness back to your body, to your breath, to your own pulsing aliveness. Wiggle your toes. Gently open your eyes. Return to waking consciousness, but continue to sense your underlying connection to all life.

Firewalls in the Field:

Connect with your Higher Self and become aware of your energy field, especially around the throat chakra. Ask to see any obstacles preventing you from speaking only truth. What filters do you use? Do they need cleaning? Recalibrating? Are they effective or obstructive? Are they quiet or noisy? Imagine returning to a time when your filters became distorted. Who needs to be forgiven for hurting or lying to you? How can you un-learn mistrust and deception?

Visualize someone you need to address, but find it difficult to communicate your true feelings towards… see them on screen; ask the core of your heart to type the message you want to send. Make your words clear and truthful. Say it out loud… Be as assertive as necessary, without aggression. See your words traveling across the net, touching all the others in your universe, clearing out the cobwebs of falsehoods, aligning all of the waves radiating from every human’s fifth chakra into a strong clear coherent symphony of satya – that which just simply is.

Visualize Indra’s Net, the Web around the planet; call on the power of universal love to cleanse the viruses, sending them to the light. Picture it being filled with the pure light of your clear communications, awakening it to its true nature. Visualize your own web of trusted friends, and connect heart-to-heart. Finally, create a strong, effective “protection filter” for all your adventures in cyberspace.

Seeing the Patterns, Changing the Codes

Sit in a comfortable chair. Relax…Follow your breath to any place of tension. Release it. Let go of any thoughts. Ask you Higher Self to support you in this sixth chakra clearing meditation. Feel your feel fully grounded; use your breath to imagine roots growing out the base of your feet down to the center of the earth. Feel a safe curtain of Light rise from the earth and surround and permeate your energy field. Thank your Higher Self (and your name for the Divine) for this protection…Set the intention of opening the third eye center at whatever level is safe for you.

Imagine a small network grid connecting your third eye (at the center of the forehead) to the pineal gland at the center of your brain, to the heart center, and to the physical visual cortex area in the brain (you don’t have to actually know where this is, it’s the intention that counts). Imagine light traversing this network. Slowly ask to “see” one of the patterns of your life that keeps you from fully living your potential. Maybe a person, or a scene of some past or future event appears in your expanded vision.

Ask to “see” the underlying pattern (the encoded belief-system) that brought this challenge into your life. Gently ask to “zoom out” to a wider view. Using your fifth-level skills, ask to see the network patterns and “hooks” at play; maybe you’ve already projected the future outcome of some aspect of your life based on old ways of thinking. Use your skills from earlier visualizations to bring Light and forgiveness from your heart and from the Divine to anyone that helped create these patterns. Once one image is cleared, asked to zoom out to a wide view, releasing and forgiving at each step. If you are comfortable with the idea of a Higher Being, ask to rest in the peace of the “big picture.” Try looking at the whole system as just a pattern being unwound, revealing the pure goodness behind the structures you have held as true. Turn your true face to the face of a loving God.