Dharma Hacker, Future of Work, Sense Making

How to respond to global challenges mindfully and the 3 stakeholders in success

The title of this post is hopefully not too oblique and its clear I’m referring in part, to the challenge of our time – COVID-19. And when I say mindfully, my principle context is the practice of meditation, where paying attention is key. By paying attention you become more aware. You become more concentrated and achieve states of natural clarity. All the better to manage responses (or non responses) to circumstances effectively. By stakeholders I mean the individual and groups, like organisations and broader societies.

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As a Service, Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

Zen and the right view of cloud technologies

On the path to the cloud, just as in life (as the Buddha would have us understand), one must submit our most cherished assumptions to rigorous questioning. We would make better decisions if we were clearer about the foundations of our own thinking. Cloud technology is a vast subject and this post tackles just a few assumptions, in the spirit of the DharmaHacker.

I am not presuming to have all the right views by any means and this post is also not going to tackle all aspects of this vast subject. Just the right few based on some recent conversations 😁

Firstly there are three clouds to speak of and I will focus mainly on the one that is normally atop a pyramid or stack: Software as a Service. The other two are Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service.

Do a search for more on this because there are many good views but I like this one from Giva because of its simplicity and my sympathy with their philosophy, notwithstanding the fact they accredit Rackspace with the original definition. For the sake of easy reference I’ve pasted it below:

SaaS is on the top of the stack because users interact primarily with software hosted on the cloud, and not the platform or infrastructure on which it runs. PaaS allows users to create and deploy applications. IaaS is simply the infrastructure and hardware that powers the cloud.

It also serves to make an important point I often emphasis with colleagues at the moment.

Where I work (Microsoft) there is a huge transformation underway on our journey to the cloud. There is much emphasis on our ever expanding set of cloud services that form part of Azure at Microsoft. Microsoft 365, the productivity cloud that fits into the top SaaS tier where I focus, sometimes gets short shrift because of the drive to expand usage of the underlying tiers.

I often emphasise the point made in the Rackspace definition about users.

It’s the users, stupid

Not only that, it’s the business. I don’t mean to underplay the importance of getting the foundational tiers up and running and operational for customers. This has to be properly in place.

But it is in the top tier where users are active and driving business outcomes that matter most. Whether on a pre-existing SaaS platform or on applications developed on top of the foundational tiers, you have to be focusing on what users are using, why and to what end. Everything else is secondary. Most importantly, this use in the top tier also drives use in the others.

And even when use is by a thing, as in IoT, it is still about who is using the output of all data generated in the IoT activity and to what business end is it being put that matters.

How SaaS works

A separate view I have to address is based on another conversation I had. It was in relation to digital transformation and the role parts of the business need to take in making it successful, like HR. It was also about using SaaS platforms to support the transformation and the role they played. A quote from an article was used to kickstart the conversation with someone from HR – article here, quote below: Digital Transformation is a Workforce Transformation and HR Must Assume a Leadership Role.

For digital transformation to succeed, internal processes need to follow the customer experience, not the other way around. This often results in radical changes such as the dismantling of processes and functional roles, as well as the demand for new skills and capabilities to meet evolving customer demands.

Based on the persons recent experience, their view was that:

HR processes have to squeeze into the new software configuration that due to high configuration costs can’t be modified to fit the desired process. Through implementation it becomes the tail wagging dog”.

My response, verbatim:

Firstly, in terms of the customer experience and internal processes referred to in the article, I see it as a cyclical process – captured in a doodle below.

“Then I think with cloud software (as a service) where you don’t run the software yourself, configuration (strictly speaking, its customisation) is not possible because all customers use the same version. This is opposed to when you ran an own version of the software on premise and could customise it to your hearts content to meet desired processes. That was costly and not just due to customisation effort.

The value in the cloud SaaS model is that you benefit from the feedback of many customers in frequently released versions of the software, with new features that meet the needs of most customers. Innovation can be focused on by applying technology to meet the majority of evolving business needs, instead of focusing on highly specialised solutions that take a long time to build and are costly to maintain and upgrade.

Not all clouds are viewed equally it seems. Let’s hope all generally end up with a silver lining though, whatever your view.

Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

Homo Deus and the cosmic dance between humans, mind and machine

I’ve just come back from holiday where I read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

It focuses on many things and chiefly the direction is forward looking, as opposed to his first book, Homo Sapiens, which looked backward from whence we have come.

One aspect I was fascinated by was his account of the recognised decoupling of consciousness and intelligence and how this might play out in the future given the rise of “machines” and their impact on humans.

With machines and technology getting bad press of late, I thought it would be useful to highlight the positives that I see.

It’s very much in line with my take on Dharma Hacking – more below.

I created a #daneldoodle of course, to summarise my thinking. Here it is:

And some added notes to elaborate:

Why the Dharma Hacking in the title? There is more here on what it is but essentially it is based on the the interplay between humans finding our way, developing our mental capacity (especially consciousness) and using technology to help.

We have only just scratched the surface in terms of expanding our known mental states and utilising our super consciousness.

Technology, far from being the bogey man that it currently is, can greatly help us get there.

It plays its role (intelligence), we play ours (consciousness), in a unique cosmic dance of creativity.

In this past post (The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation) I think I was somewhat deluded in my belief of what will distinguish humans based on their unique skills in the future. Intelligent technology will be able to master these skills and are already (see next point) but it will be advanced levels of consciousness (super consciousness) that will be our unique differentiators.

AI and Super AI is already doing credibly well with being creative and innovative. Check out the comments in this video I uploaded a while ago of famed theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku (you’ll need to view the video on YouTube for that). He also it appears, was deluded.

How technology will help us develop our consciousness and to what ends is outlined in some of the elements I position in the doodle. Essentially it is between the island on which we currently find ourselves with our known mental states and the antipodes of the mind as I call them. I’m not sure what these supporting roles and end states all are yet but I will be exploring further – watch this space 😊

Dharma Hacker, Future of Work

Welcome to the adventures

Thanks for visiting. This is a welcome post to orient you around what this site is and its core focus areas. I’ll break it down in three:

What

Mostly blog posts plus a few additional pages intended to capture adventures by the author and others, of the mind and at work 📄

Mind

So much of what determines progress happens in the mind and how we manage our attitude. Mastery is at an early stage. 🧠

Work

So much time is spent at work and business is a driving force for so much that happens in the world. It’s ever evolving and exciting. 🚀

Find out more about the author of this site, his adventures and latest work by sliding open the menu.

And one more thing on “why”. Because in the words of a famous adventurer of the spirit who has come to inspire millions:

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Helen Keller
Dharma Hacker

The battle for the self and the essence of being

The other day in a meditation session I arrived at an insight – roughly represented in the doodle.

In my best sessions when I can get to that calm place, insights arise.

Finding that place of calm, focus and insight is difficult and not always achieved in a meditation session. Sometimes just getting to calm is my best outcome. That’s because of all of the things that come into play to take you away from that place.

This situation is kind of a metaphor for life. I wanted to write a post to share my insight about why meditation is such a powerful tool. It can lead to many insights and one of the most important is about our true self.

In meditation, many things keep us from practicing well with good outcomes. Discomfort with sitting, distractions like noise, thoughts, etc.

In life, many things detract from the ability to enjoy and be productive every day. Some are cirmcumstancial and others of our own doing.

If we can but learn to see past circumstances, distractions and our own bad habits, we can arrive at the essence. The essence is where we are enjoying who we are and what we are doing. When we are in that state of being, we can be productive and lead meaningful lives.

Being aware of the barriers is the first step. Doing that consistently takes practice. Meditation is one such practice.

Getting to the truth or essence you can then start distilling that further and form insights about reality.

Allow me to elaborate on the main elements in the doodle.

Distraction

These are the minutea that get in the way of a focused, productive and enjoyable life. Many are of our own making and we allow, even encorage them. Whittling away fruitless hours on social media with the contsant dings of notifications to entrench it. Endless but pointless to do lists that don’t have any meaningful outcomes – shallow work instead of deep work. Even circumstances that require our attention but we sometimes overblow just because it allows us to avoid facing a painful self.

Ego

This is the persona or identity of who we would like to be but is most often the furthest away from our true selves.  It could be the vision of the person we would like to become yet so frequently becomes a mirror of what the media and modern society tell us we should be. We very often face a battle between the structural identities of our idealised selves that Freud wrote about: Id, Ego and Super-Ego. We can spend hours playing out these mental games without any discernable enjoyment or benefit as research is increasingly showing.

Thought

Many of the thoughts we have when we have the time and are not distracted by the mundane, are useless. They are often in service to the ego as mentioned but can be equally mindless as other distractions. Daydreaming for example is a pernicious type of mind wondering that research has started to show is either useless or even leads to unhappiness. Mostly it is the aimless flitting from one thought to the next characterised in Buddhism as the Monkey Mind.

Emotion

In my doodle I have emotion as an offshoot of thought. I often find I have a thought and the emotion follows. If the thought is negative, the emotions that arise are negative. This flows into an ever downward spiral. I’m no psychologist and have no idea if this sequence is correct. This is just my observation. In the long term its as if continuous thought leads to a cementing of an emotion. It becomes ingrained, like a habit. At some point I feel like these habitual emotions start leading and effecting my thoughts. The key of course is to stop the cycle and mindfulness and meditation practice always does.

Essence

When I mediate and achieve that state of untrammeled calm I recognise a form of being that is pure. It’s a pretty beautiful state and feels authentic, not shrouded by any masks. It is also thoughtless and emotionless. But it doesnt mean that insights cannot arise. These insights are sensed. They don’t become articluated into thoughts until afterwards. It’s difficult to describe which is kind of the point. Our words are just a way to attach meaning to something. Most often we confuse and get things wrong by applying our cognitive biases.

In my best sessions I sense this state to be the true version of myself that is fully present and aware. A state of mindfulness that leaves me refresed and focused for the day. Over time I’ve become more attuned and closer to this state on a permanent basis. Every so often I achieve these breakthrough insights.

Dharma Hacker

Product review of Spire-a Quantified Self Device which measures breath to increase mindfulness

Today I am reviewing a wellness gadget / device called Spire which measures your activities like steps, walked distance, burned calories like other fitness trackers but it is very unique when tracking breath and analyzing tension, calmness and focus times.

As you can see on this pictures it comes with a beautifully designed wireless charging plate and a USB cable, also a free slot to charge another USB-device. Spire can be worn on a belt or bra. I am using it now since 3 months and quality is very high which means: bluetooth connection to the iOS App (Android is under development) is very stable, battery lasts minimum 5 days and I don’t notice it while wearing on my belt. Congratulations to the Spire time for an excellent complete redesign of the iOS-App which was launched June 28th!

Now I am going to coverage the most important usage scenarios for me:

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Measure your breath in Real Time

In the landing page of the App I can easily see how often I breath per minute. 11.5 is very relaxed and calm (until 15 BPM). “Focus” is defined as 15-19 BPM and “Tense” is > 19 BPM. Really helpful insights if I am currently in a certain situation (e.g. phone conference) and see how it changes depending on my activity (listening vs presenting), engaged vs disengaged or topic (interesting / boring)
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Get a Boost when you are feeling tense

Spire knows when you  are tense and can push a notification alert to your smartphone (if you want) and recommend an exercise. This can be a calmness or meditation exercise around breathing (from well-known teachers like Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hanh) or freshness and productivity booster for work.  I have tried all exercise and really enjoyed the style. Very nice voices, short exercises which are easy to integrate into everyday life (around 3 minutes) and they bring me directly back into calmness and  more mindful and present state.

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History of your week: Breathing and Activity Pattern

Spire App also offers a weekly review where you can see how calm, focused and tense you were. Easily it can be switched between activity and breath. That certain Wednesday was a successful working day because I wasn`t stressed, had more than 1 hour of calmness and relaxation and more than 2 hours of full focus time.

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I can also drill down and find out where I was in a tense state. So yesterday for example I had a tense situation at 5:57pm at our Kindergarten Festival. It started to rain and I was in a rush helping to move kids and stuff inside.

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Summary

Spire is an excellent gadget for Quantified Self of measuring calmness (should I rather say: Quantified Selflessness?), focus time and tension additional to activity tracking of steps and distances. 129.95 US$ are not too much because it is currently the only device in this price range and market segment which can track your breath. Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab.  was involved in the R&D of this beautiful product. I find it very useful if you really change your daily habits and that is the most difficult thing: wear Spire everyday and make the exercise without skipping if the alert notification pops up. Exercises are great and helpful but it is is so easy to agree to its effectiveness without doing it. The magic is not inside the device, it is in your daily practise and your personal way to become more mindful and know what is good for you and not. It can help to discover patterns of chronical stress that you were not aware of. That is maybe the most important use case.

If you understand German, you also might want to watch my son`s review on Youtube

 

 

Dharma Hacker

Review of Jiyo-a Wellness Wellbeing Mobile App by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, a well known and leading figure in the meditation and alternative health movement, has launched on June 12th together with his his co-founder Poonacha Machaiah a new service called Jiyo.

This wellness services is focused on a mobile App experience (iOS, Android) and also works fine in a browser. It collects a lot of data from sensors and content sources like Apple Health, Fitbit, Moves, Jawbone Up, HeartCloud and Google Fit

Jiyo wants to prevent intensive typing. You can easily share the lessons you have done on Twitter and Facebook, adding your own comments, experiences or/and photos. You can interact with other members (freemium or premium) but it`s a difficult to search for people because it does not search through your address book, Facebook or Twitter account. So currently I still have zero followers and no interactions or motivations from a peer group as you can see in my profile.  It also shows that I have done these two exercises around breathing which I found really helpful, easy to do (less than 3 minutes) and great inspiration to do something in your daily habits (before you dive into your dreams or start your working day)

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As you can see here a number of different kind of exercises are available. Quality of the content (videos, photos, inspirational ideas) is very high and I found every single one useful and could recommend it.  There is so much more content in the premium channels which I haven`t purchased yet (1,99 US$/month).

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Here you get a short impression of the varity in the premium Jiyo+ Channels, currently counting 24 channels.

Jiyo+

So how does a Jiyo landing page in the Browser look like? Here you can see that you see a summary of your own activities like average number of steps this month or hours you slept combined with content. I have not spoken to other Jiyo Users yet but it`s possible that the content / exercises in my Jiyo are customized for me because it knows my gender, age and activity patterns.

 

jiyo Landing

Here is one notification about a sport exercise which I have received on my mobile app and found very useful. It`s a stretch exercise with your bike which opens chakras.

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First summary:

I am very impressed about the excellent usability and user interface of the mobile App. It is so focused on exercises which are easy to do and achieve, integration into daily habits and routines shouldn`t be an issue. Notifications on my mobile help not to forget that this App is existing (yes, that already happened to other meditation Apps I have installed).

I really love the idea of integrating usage data from other activity and wellness trackers and get tailorized content. That`s an extra value I would pay for and I am close to subscribe to Jiyo+ – and write a second blogpost. I would also allow Jiyo to access my breathing patterns and history from Spire.

Finally I want to close with this remarkable and beautiful quote from Deepak Chopra why he actually built Jiyo. Nothing to add:

“I’ve always had this idea, I don’t know why, but the idea was that if I could reach a billion people and help them personally transform, we would have social transformation. Because society is a function of a critical mass of people with similar intent. If I want a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and happier world, then we have to be the change we want to see in the world, as Mahatma Gandhi said.”

Dharma Hacker

What tools for the quantified self of the mind?

@ragnarheil you’ve already published an awesome write up on your use of Neurosky and have covered some other tools. You made some really good points about what they do.

I thought why not try #workingoutloud to capture a comprehensive list of considerations when evaluating tools for the benefit of others. I also think its important to understand what you are trying to achieve? So maybe we have a list with the main tools and then a some of the main outcomes you can expect or should target. Something like this below:

The tools

  • MindWave Mobile: Brainwave Starter Kit – See review linked in opening paragraph
  • Spire – Device and iOS app
  • mindBot – A chat bot available for leading messaging apps
  • Muse – A brain sensing headband with iOS and Android apps
  • Thync – A device for monitoring your brain and helping influence it
  • PIP – Stress Management Device
  • Foc.us Gadgets for Lucid Dreaming and V2 Brain Stimulator. Coming in 2016 EEG Flow
  • MyndPlay – Brainwave Sensor
  • OURA Ring – Tracks and improves sleep
  • Bosurgi VR App – Virtual Reality delivery mechanism for the Bosurgi Method™
  • Heart Math – Application that measures your heart rate with device and provides feedback in real time, visually
  •  GPS for the Soul – Uses your phone’s camera to assess your heart rate with tools to guide and improve your mental state
  • Nome – Avisual and auditive neuro-feedback device thatsupports meditation
  • Bellabeat Leaf – A device that tracks activity, sleep, menstrual cycle and meditation
  • The WellBe (Indiegogo project) – The WellBe is a bracelet and mobile app designed to support your emotional well-being. Find out what your stress triggers are and learn personalized meditation and other well-being exercises to release stress.
  • Sona – Connected bracelet for mind and body. Also has app and focus is on physical activity as well as managing stress
  • Prana – Wearable which combines breath and posture tracking to help you make the most of your sitting time
  • Embrace – A bracelet that provides activity monitoring, sleep monitoring, stress management and seizure monitoring
  • Feel – A wristband with integrated sensors that measure and track biosignals throughout the day, while a mobile application visualizes the results and provides personalized recommendations to improve emotional health
  • Jiyo – Using data from the sensors in your phone and other fitness devices, Jiyo gives you tips for brief tasks that are supposed to improve your well-being, like doing a stretch after a long flight, or meditations and other routines that might improve your sleep if you haven’t been sleeping well.
  • Zenta (Indiegogo project) – A personalized coach for both body and mind. Through sophisticated tracking of your physical and emotional wellbeing, ZENTA helps you discover how your habits and actions influence your stress and happiness over time.

The outcomes

  • Tracking emotional states alongside daily activities so you can determine what leads to stress and what calms you
  • Tracking your state of focus, for when you are meditating for instance, and alerting you when you become distracted. This could also be used for work and help you become more focused
  • Gamifying your practice so that you can track progress and set and strive for new challenges
  • A chat bot could act as a teacher, a guide to help steer you in difficult or challenging times, building a mindful awareness habit and/or self development goal tracking

If we discuss and add tools, outcomes and general ideas in comments then I can add to the main post as we go. What do you think?

Dharma Hacker

Meditate and measure your Brainwaves: Review of Neurosky MindWave

My first blogpost here at Innerventures is about a review of a Brainwave measuring gadget which I use for my meditation practise: MindWave Mobile: Brainwave Starter Kit.
I bought it online for around 99€, using it since over a year now and want to share a summary of the use cases I experimented with. This headset connects via Bluetooth to your Android or iOS Smartphone or tablet, it also supports Windows PC and MacOS. Pretty easy to use: you just put it on top of your head, switch it on, pair it with Bluetooth and connect one part with your earlobe. Fits to adults and kids and is not uncomfortable.

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Measure your brainwaves
Even if you are not very interested to use this device to measure, control and analyze your meditation sessions, it is very easy to use to get more insights into your brainwaves and activities in your mind. I really enjoy to use apps like “Brainwave Visualizer” (Link to iOS,Android, Windows, MacOS) to see how my brainwaves are changing when working, thinking, calculating, reading, listening to different styles of music, power napping and much more). Data can be exported to e.g. Dropbox in case you don’t want to watch the App while practising.1

Gamification
Kids are usually not interested in technical or neurological data from brainwaves but yes, they always like games. There are many apps on the market where you usually have to lift up a piece or animal like a bird within a cage in this example screenshot. This certain game does not trigger the bird if you are meditating, here you need to focus and concentrate which are very different brainwaves. Other apps which are commercial are bit more complex and have better graphics. Mindhunter for example has got three kinds of weapons: the slingshot, crossbow, and shotgun. To use the slingshot, the attention value should be above 90 to lock the target. Using the crossbow, the attention value should be above 80. Using the shotgun, the attention value should be above 65.

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Coaching, Productivity & Wellness

Especially ZenZone offers many apps which help you  to be more focused, healthier,  less stressed, relaxed, productive or learn better by giving you an audio guide while meditating. I haven’t purchased these apps, just listened a few times to their free version but cannot talk about the value here in detail. Let me know in your comments in this blog if you have made experiences

Meditation
Yes, that is my favourite use case! I use it a lot while meditating and the App offers these features which are really helpful

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  • Zen Bell rings when time is over
  • Start a meditation and set a countdown (e.g. 20 minutes)
  • Measure your brainwaves in the meantime (in a different view you can also see which kind of brainwaves are actives, so you see more than Dezibel like in the left screenshot of my brain)
  • A growing green plant in the apps displays progress
  • A diary journey keeps track of your meditations
  • Recommendations how to use it
  • Last but not least the best: A voice tells you when you are attached to your thoughts and says “Come back to your present moment and see how you breath in and out”.That is amazing and my number one reason to use this headset! It really helps me to come back into the deep meditation state while meditating.

 

Dharma Hacker

Dharma Hacker – An Overview

Dharma Hacker

What is a Dharma Hacker?

A Dharma Hacker takes a balanced approach. Eastern philosophical aesthetics combine with modern technological influences. See it as the yin and yang of modern existence, the combination of right and left brain, the intersection of technology and the humanities, etc.

Dharma has many different meanings. The one associated with Buddhism is the one being considered here. Particularly how it represents a pathway to various teachings, truths and natural laws. It’s a kind of pathway to enlightenment. It also involves practice of the mind, ultimately to harness it and not be subject to its whims.

Hacking as it is being referred to here (not the dark side), has its roots in software programming. It often takes a quick fix approach through simple coding workarounds or solutions. These often end up enduring. Nowadays startups apply it to growth and even culture, innovation, life and productivity are open to hacking. Hacking is a very experimental approach. You learn by doing and observing outcomes, progressing quickly with what works, discarding what doesn’t. This is very much in tune with Buddhist philosophy.

The personal journey to mastery

In the context of InnerVentures and seen through the lens of a Dharma Hacker, the focus is at a personal level, as opposed to an organisational level. In an increasingly busy, information abundant, faster paced and complex world, the Dharma Hacker foremost but not only looks inward for solutions and progress. Mindfulness practice through meditation is one of the key tools at our disposal.

Yet it is not just inward we must look as we are not islands. We have friends and also colleagues at work where we spend much of our time. We must look to what impact our inner journey has on our friends and colleagues and on the world we try to create. Organisations where a lot of this plays out and which have become so vast and influential in the world must also be looked at in terms of what impact we can make on the way they are run.

And increasingly we should look at what role technology can play as we contemplate the progress on our journey, positive and negative. There is seeming incongruity between technology that creates much of the distraction the modern world is subject to but a deep interdependence too. We create the technology that creates much of the ills but by the same token, as the creators we can master it too and have it drive positive outcomes. Technology is not going away and must also play its part in our progress if we learn to master it.

Technodelics and the use of technology like VR (Virtual Reality) and Apps can help with meditation for instance and are being put to work already. Bots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help guide us through tracking and understanding our emotional states and how our thoughts and ultimately reality are defined by this, since our thoughts create our reality.

Posts in the Dharma Hacker category and in the page created to capture all these posts will cover this evolving landscape.