Is There a Market for Happiness Apps?

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Flying on Delta Airlines this month, you’ll find me in the seat pocket in front of you. Buckle your seatbelt, grab a Delta Sky Magazine, and turn to an article entitled “Who says you can’t buy Happiness?” You’ll find me there as the author discusses the Happiness market, the size of the addressable market, how an investor might look at it, and then speaks about some of the companies in the marketplace.

The marketplace for well-being is hard to estimate, but on all accounts it appears massive. Ofer Leidner, the President of Happify (one of our portfolio companies), says in the article that the market is worth $750 billion dollars. As I read this, my first response was one of sadness, because a market that large means billions are suffering. However, as a conscious investor with a mission to help people connect more deeply with themselves so they can live healthier, happier lives, I see opportunities to support change and create meaningful investment returns.

According to the the American Psychological Association (APA), only 33% of Americans are happy. Fifty-two percent are completely dissatisfied with their jobs. Stress is reported to be on the rise, fueled currently by concern over our nation’s future. This has numerous consequences for individuals, families, companies, our health care system, our military, our schools, etc.

We’ve been supporting many companies who are trying to address this problem. But after reading the article, I came away with more questions:

  1. How big do you think the Happiness market could be?
  2. What is larger, the Happiness market or the Unhappiness market?
  3. Do all people want to be happy?
  4. What is the best way to quickly scale enterprises that can help people become more happy?
  5. What are the things in your life that make you the most happy?
  6. If we were all happier, where would we shift our focus of attention?
  7. If we shifted our focus of attention, what industries would be threatened?

While we are passionate about our mission at Bridge Builders Collaborative, we also believe there is a lot of wealth to be created in helping solve the great problem of unhappiness. Some of that is financial wealth that will accrue to investors, some of that is wealth that will support employees, and some of it is spiritual wealth that will benefit our collective consciousness.

I want humanity to fly (I love to fly Delta, but that’s not the kind of flying I’m talking about). I want people to connect to their purpose, have healthy and authentic relationships, and enjoy the time they are given on this beautiful planet. As you read this article, I’m wondering what you think.

So let’s come together, put our seat backs and our tray tables up as we get ready for landing. We are not going to solve these problems in the air. We must be grounded, practical, willing to take some risk, utilize practices that support our well-being, and change our behaviors — all to create a happier planet.

Proliferation of Mindfulness Apps

Who would have thought that a meditation app would be worth a quarter of a billion dollars? Now, there are two.

This week, we learned that Calm is raising $25 million at a valuation of $250 millionHeadspace has already raised several rounds of financing, securing over $75 million with a valuation estimated at around the same level as Calm.

As I learned of this news, I had many conversations this week with other entrepreneurs who are wanting to launch their own mindfulness apps. There are now hundreds, if not thousands of these apps. It leads me to a wonder, how many mindfulness apps do we need and how does the future look for them?

Many of the investor decks I review for meditation apps have similar premises. They show a growing need to confront societal stress or other health issues, have interest in spreading mindfulness, and possess research that seems to indicate that mindfulness can be helpful in many ways. After I glance over these slides in company investor presentations, I’m interested to learn what these entrepreneurs see as their company’s unique point of difference.

I was struck by two conversations I had this week after viewing presentations. The entrepreneurs asked me what I thought their point of difference was. It’s a good question. However if an entrepreneur is asking that question without conviction of what is wholly different and unique and setting them apart in the marketplace, they are not likely to be successful in a saturated field.

The trends on which I see apps focussing include: specific teachers, targeting health conditions, adding new features that others don’t currently have, and segmenting target audiences. And, some think their scientific credentials might be better than others.

One of my concerns is the number of entrepreneurs who have gone on a meditation retreat or had a recent transformative experience and are now attempting to change the world with another new mindfulness app. I’m much more interested when an entrepreneur has had a deeper and longer experience with the practice. And, I am listening for how these entrepreneurs have actually integrated the practice into their lives.

While I wonder what the future of mindfulness apps may be, I increasingly tell people:

  1. If you’re launching a mindfulness app around a teacher, use a platform instead. We like Insight Timer (and we are investors in the company) . It’s a great place for teachers to be able to share their wisdom and insights.
  2. If you are an entrepreneur who believes you can launch a mindfulness app to compete with well-funded brands, I wish you luck. And, I believe it will be very difficult to succeed.
  3. If you’re an entrepreneur that wants to create an app that’s targeted and build a smaller business where you don’t need to raise a lot of investment capital, there are opportunities to do that. It could be that there are several smaller apps in the future that generate $300,000 to $500,000 per year without needing to raise millions in outside capital while providing good wages and payouts for the owners.
  4. The science of meditation does not prove the science of your app.

Althought I continue to speak with entrepreneurs about these apps, I am more and more skeptical that new entrants can be successful. I still believe it’s possible a new and fresh approach could either succeed or could be added to a larger platform.

Congratulations to Alex Tew and the team at Calm on the fundraise (we are not investors in Calm but I’ve always liked their product — we are investors in Headspace). In the end, it appears as if there is still a lot of excitement in the investment markets to support unique and differentiated mindfulness apps.

Living in the Questions

When Bridge Builders Collaborative started investing in mind-training, we were questioning whether the science of brain fitness had reached a point where innovative applications could be scaled through investment. Seven years later, that question has been answered. However, as we deepen are understanding of this movement and as more opportunitites evolve in the field, many more questions arise. Here are some questions for consideration. I hope these questions will ignite other questions — please feel free to post yours, or send them to me.

1. Is mindfulness just a passing fad?

2. The physical fitness industry exploded 30 years ago, and yet our country is seemingly less physically healthy than it was then. Will the same thing happen in the mind-training space?

3. Will the U.S. ever value mental health as we appear to value physical health?

4. Will mindfulness be reimbursed by insurance companies? When will that happen (or is it already in some cases)?

5. What role does the wearables segment have to play in the emergence of mind-training?

6. Will software ever be proven to be more effective than pharmaceuticals for mental or behavioral health conditions?

7. Will caring ever become a valued currency?

8. Will our species consciousness evolve faster than technology, and if not, will we be able to survive as a species?

9. How will Artificial Intelligence contribute or play a role in the burgeoning mind-training space.

10. What role will Virtual Reality play in the evolution of the mind-training field?

11. How can emotional intelligence become a standard part of curriculum for youth? Could it become more important than grades and test scores?

12. How will spiritual teachers be included and valued as interest in this sector grows (this is a topic for a future blog)?

13. Who will be the first mind-training unicorn? Does it matter?

14. Will there be a “roll-up” play or consolidation in the industry and if so, when will market conditions be right for that to happen?

15. What roles in mind-training can be replaced by robots? Perhaps, psychotherapists, doctors, mindfulness teachers? Others?

16. Will meditation studios become as ubiquitous as yoga studios?

17. How can we more effectively heal trauma?

18. Since almost all of our spiritual traditions are patriarchies, will we ever consider changing them?

19. How can we ensure we include diversity in the movement?

20. Is there a tipping point to any of this and have we reached that tipping point?

Along my journey, I increasing learn more and realize how much I don’t know. I have questions, more than answers. And I’m interested in yours.

Investing in Mind-Training

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Entrepreneurs continuously ask me, “What is Bridge Builders Collaborative looking for in investments?” Having made ten investments over the past several years, I can offer the following considerations as part of our decision making process:

1. We are investors in mind-training. We look for companies whose product or service helps people connect more deeply to themselves, so they can live happier, healthier lives. We look for enterprises with a social mission that we believe can impact a large number of people. Some examples of our investments include: companies improving mind-training through mindfulness practices, platforms offering access to wisdom, innovations addressing mental and behavioral health, technology increasing training outcomes through a better learning platform and assessments, and a platform to support finding relationships and connection.

2. We typically invest in Series A or Series B offerings. Our capital is provided to entrepreneurs who have a clear strategy to high growth and have tested their business model to the point we can help the enterprise to scale. Typically we look for companies that have at least $1 M in revenue.

3. We invest in collaborative, authentic leaders who are passionate about their missions. We work best with entrepreneurs who are willing to listen to our counsel and have managed egos. Our goal is to be partners with our companies.

4. Companies of interest have significant sustainable points of difference from others in the marketplace. Those points of difference can vary from intellectual property, to differentiated approaches, to proven scientific validity, to strong brand recognition, to comprehensive data sets.

5. Scientific validity is very important. Our intention is to back companies that have great science that underpins their products or services.

6. While we are focused on high growth businesess, we also focus on cash flow. We look for credible pathways to positive cash flow.

7. Finally, we consider the distribution channels the company is pursuing along with their expertise in areas in which they want their products to sell. We have invested in both B2C, B2B, and B2B2C companies. We have companies that sell into retail channels, through the app store, into large corporations, into insurance companies, and into the medical system. Each of these channels acts differently, and we want to ensure the companies are experienced in selling into those channels or have the capacity to pivot.

As a group of experienced, collaborative, and compassionate investors, we believe we add four things to our investments:

  1. Counsel — Bridge Builders Collaborative partners have deep business experience and can help entrepreneurs by sharing their wisdom and practical experience.
  2. Connections — We have access to a wide range of connections that can support entrepreneurs.
  3. Credibility — We are well known as a value added investor in the mind-training ecosystem.
  4. Cash — While entrepreneurs might believe this is our most valuable contribution, we belive it is our least.

To learn more, check out our portfolio companies.

Mind-Training Goes to School

Many innovative efforts having been bringing mindfulness, yoga, and compassion into school systems and into the lives of young people. The majority of programs are gaining momentum and expanding because of significant positive results. Parents, teachers, coaches, and others working with youth are seeing a multitiude of changes in children and teenagers. They report witnessing kids with a greater ability to focus, with more resilience to stress and anxiety, and with more problem solving skills. School systems see results in less detentions, better classroom environments, more focused students, and greater teacher resilience. And some students are coming home and teaching their parents how to practice mindfulness.

This week, I intend to highlight three amazing organizations that are creating real changes for kids, teachers, parents, and educational systems. There are many other organizations doing great work in this field as well.

MindUP™ is a program of the Hawn Foundation, founded in 2003 by Goldie Hawn. Goldie wanted to support educators in improving student focus and engagement. One of her aims was to bring joy back into the classroom. MindUP™ is designed to help reduce stress and anxiety so kids can both enjoy and improve engagement in their learning. MindUP™ is now taught on 5 continents and in over 12 countries. It has reached 6 million school kids.

Goldie has told me that her intention is not just about helping teachers and kids to improve learning, but also about supporting people to live with open hearts.

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Holistic Life Foundation was founded in the inner-city schools of Baltimore, MD, by three incredible men, who embody unconditional love. Brothers Ali & Atman Smith and Andy Gonzales founded the organization to help students cope with the anxieties and stresses in their lives. As schools began to adopt the program, they found incredible results. In some schools, detention was eliminated because students where sent to Mindful rooms instead of the Principal’s office. Schools use a Mindful Moment 15 minute meditation to help kids get into focus at the beginning of their school day. The program provides meditation and yoga practices and is now in 22 Baltimore schools and growing.

The non-profit has expanded by teaching other people from across the world how to bring these programs into their schools and by providing teacher trainings for their approach and curriculum. In addition, they employ students, who had participated in their program and have graduated, creating new jobs in the inner-city.

Recently, my wife and I had an opportunity to enjoy a desert adventure with their joyful presence.

IBme, Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, was founded by Jessica Morey as a way to help take students deeper: into themselves, into community and relationships, and into vulnerability & authenticity. iBme’s programs introduce young people to transformative practices and activities that foster self-awareness, compassion, focus, and better communication. They have a variety of programs and retreats, including a one week wilderness experience that provides students with mindfulness practices within the context of Mother Nature.

Having recently attended an event with Jessica and some students who had attended iBme’s programs, I was impressed by the presence, self-awareness, and composure of these teens. Here are some comments made by the participants of iBme:

“My experience was life-changing.”

“What you experience is a deep familiarity with yourself.”

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

“It gives us time when you are really just allowed to be silent, and it’s ok.”

“Surrounded by people who appreciate and don’t judge you.”

I have briefly mentioned three examples of innovative efforts that are providing mind-training to our youth. Currently, the most comprehensive study of integrating mental fitness, wellness, and compassionate character into K-12 education is The Compassionate Schools Project in Louisville, KY. I intend to highlight their efforts in the future.

The Intersection of Wisdom & Technology

Wisdom 2.0 has been a leading force in coalescing the mind-training field. As the vision of Soren Gordhamer, Wisdom 2.0 has become a community that facilitates discussions focused on exploring the intersectionality of wisdom traditions and the world of technology. Started as an annual event in San Francisco several years ago, the conference has expanded into several events in New York, Singapore, Hawaii, and other venues such as community meet-ups. The intention is to bring together wisdom teachers, business leaders, spiritual seekers, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and others, who are interested in incorporating wisdom traditions with technology movements.

Having recently attended my sixth Wisdom 2.0, I was reminded by thousands of people from more than 30 countries how transformative the mind-traing field has become. I have thoroughly enjoyed attending the conferences. At the same time over the years, I have observed a lack of diversity in both participants and speakers as well as a focus on mindful meditation at the expense of mindful action. In addition, many participants have commented on a a club-like atmosphere developing, as happens with many annual conferences.

However, the energy of this year’s conference shifted, both in increasing the diversity of speakers and audience participants and also in the encouragement of taking action. I witnessed an emerging shift with a powerful force of strong female leaders, a diverse group of speakers, and a focus on action. The feminine experience had a stronger presence.

A highlight of the conference for me was hearing Tarana Burke, Founder of the #MeToo Movement, tell the story of how her work, which started in 2005, was ignited and launched into a global movement this past year. I heard her concern that once this happened she’d be forgotten because so many black women, who have done remarkable things, have seen their work erased in our culture.

Roshi Joan Halifax and Sharon Salzberg were interviewed by Karen May of Google. When asked what was present to her at this moment, Roshi Joan commented on the courage of the Parkland students.

I was inspired by Ivy Ross of Google. She spoke about how she leads a large team by consciously using both her feminine and masculine qualities in encouraging and empowering others.

I heard my partner Bo Shao, Founder of the Evolve Foundation and a Bridge Builders Collaborative Partner, talk deeply from the heart about his life story, which inspired the launching of a $100 M fund to support entrepreneurs in the consciousness and spirituality space.

There was much more diversity in the people passing by in the hallways. I had more conversations about deeper levels of conscious awareness, and less discussions about mindfulness itself. There were more entrepreneurs focused on deeper levels of consciousness that approached me.

It was heartwarming to see the shift of energy and consciousness, and I applaud Soren and his team for facilitating a dialogue that has encouraged wisdom practices to evolve into mindful activism. My sense is there is still more work to be done to increase diversity, to facilitate group action, and to improve access to other communities.

Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation, being in the moment, and practicing non-judgement. It’s about showing up as a human being, knowing your purpose, and taking action to improve not only your own condition, but also supporting others in improving theirs. It’s about speaking truth to power: honestly, forcefully, and with empathy and compassion.

Nature, My Mindfulness App

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A couple years ago, at a Mindful Leadership Conference, I was asked the question, “What is your favorite mindfulness app?”

The answer was simple: Mother Nature.

In my role at Bridge Builders Collaborative, I’ve had the opportunity to test, evaluate, and review opportunities to invest in many mindfulness and meditation apps. According to many sources, there are now more than 1,000 mindfulness apps in the iTunes and Android stores. There’s likely to be a whole lot more. The proliferation of mindfulness apps has been interesting to watch — and in future blogs, I’ll speak about some of the varieties and characteristics designed into different approaches and platforms.

As more people are benefiting from some mindfulness apps, I have a concern about using technology as the primary source of connection.

From my own practice, I find that nature is the best mindfulness app for a host of reasons. First, when in nature I feel connected to the Earth, connected to other beings. I feel a reverent awe for the creation of the universe and the beauty I can see, guiding me to connect more deeply to the beauty inside of myself. In nature, I find connection to the collective consciousness, to something that is greater than myself. I find joy in witnessing the beauty of a sunset, the flight of a hummingbird, and the elegance of a pink rose. The more present I am in nature, the more awestruck I become.

Over the past several years, science has been validating the relationship between nature connectedness and happiness as well as psychological well-being and mental health.

I encourage the use of mindfulness apps and the intention behind many of them. The apps offer an invitation to find opportunities during the day to become present, grounded, centered, focused. Clearly, they serve a purpose in our technology enmeshed lives, and it is important to remember that connecting with nature is a technology free path to presence and flourishing. I encourage everyone to spend more time outside, enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature.

Pushing the Boundaries of VR

Virtual Reality and Healthcare Symposium on March 5–6 at the Harvard Medical School, will provide an overview of how the coming wave of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology will impact medicine, clinical care, and personal health and wellness. Having been invited to speak on an investment panel, I’m excited and energized to hear the latest updates from the attendees and speakers — some of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, and companies integrating VR into our culture. I have researched several investments in this area, and have observed how some of our portfolio companies are exploring how to integrate VR into their service offerings.

As a participant in several conferences, I’ve had interesting experiences with VR. I’ve tested VR applications supporting meditation and mindful practices, overcoming phobias, being taught by a VR teacher, and shifting focus as a way to reduce pain. One of our companies, Interaxon, has demoed a technology integrating electroencephalogram (EEG) so that you can partially control a VR experience using your mind. While I’m not considering buying VR hardware for my personal use, I am convinced it is becoming increasingly valuable as a tool used in various distribution systems — movie theaters, entertainment facilities, doctors offices, recovery centers, hospitals, and nursing homes.

One such effort is coming out of USC’s Innovation Lab, which assists people in becoming more empathetic and compassionate towards the suffering of others. Although entertainment, social connection, and gaming will drive the initial adoption of VR and AR technology, the deepest and most significant impact of the next generation of VR/AR technology will be to enhance clinical care and to improve personal health and wellness. VR and AR technology will also help facilitate the shift of medicine to direct personal care. While seeing practical benefits that keep me curious, we have not made a specific investment in this field yet.

As Bridge Builders Collaborative considers VR and how it can help in the mind-training field, I am observing:

1. Will VR become ubiquitous? As VR continues to envelop our culture, I see significant benefits of use in segments of the population with particular needs or conditions. Will VR be used as a mind-training tool to support treatment or healing within those populations?

2. What type of companies will be the long winners in the VR space? Will it be the hardware companies, content creators, or other companies that integrate VR into larger platforms.

3. What is an ownable investment thesis regarding VR? First, I wonder whether existing companies will just integrate content in their offerings or if whole content companies will form who dominate the ecosystem.

Dr. Walter Greenleaf of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab is an innovative leader in this field. According to Dr. Greenleaf, “We know from decades of clinical research that VR/AR technology can provide breakthrough solutions that address the most difficult problems in healthcare — ranging from mood disorders such as Anxiety and Depression to PTSD, Addictions, Autism, Cognitive Aging, Stroke Recovery and Physical Rehabilitation, to name just a few.” At the upcoming Symposium at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Greenleaf and his colleagues are assembling leaders pushing the boundaries of applied VR within healthcare to help fuel collaboration, exploration, and discussion.

I’m curious about others’ experience with VR and how you see it impacting physical or mental health. Please share your insights.

The Digiceutical Revolution

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Could you imagine your doctor prescribing a video game instead of a drug, or in combination with a drug, for a variety conditions? Believe it or not, it’s already happening, and there is a word for it — digiceuticals.

Last year was a significant time for the integration of mind-training innovations into mainstream approaches to human flourishing. Many meaningful breakthroughs, public announcements, and company financings led me to believe this global movement is gaining traction. Perhaps, the most significant news in the field was PEAR Therapeutics receiving Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for reSET® app, a software product to be used in conjunction with standard outpatient treatment for substance use disorder (SUD).

FDA approval of reSET® sent tidal waves across the mind-training landscape. It proved that a government regulated software product might actually have a pathway to insurance reimbursement. The implications are unlimited for a multitude of players in the health care system: consumers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and clinics, health insurers, and other startups in the space.

Recently, I was encouraged by A new sort of health app can do the job of drugs,an article in The Economist, which provides interesting insights into what’s happening in the field, and the implications for current innovators in the space.

Pear Therapeutics, along with companies like Akili InteractiveClick TherapeuticsWellDoc, and more than a hundred others are pursuing strategies akin to drug manufacturers. However, instead of researching how molecules will impact a patient’s health, they are proving the benefits of how apps can impact conditions like addiction, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression, diabetes, and many other conditions. Akili Interactive describes itself as “a prescription digital medicine company combining scientific and clinical rigor with the ingenuity of the tech industry to reinvent medicine.” Doesn’t it sound like a revolution?

What these companies seem to be telling us is that in place of taking chemical molecules to treat adverse conditions, the power of our training our minds with apps may facilitate and support healing. Imagine having a solution that transforms and heals while eliminating all those adverse side effects listed at the end of pharmaceutical commercials.

As Bridge Builders Collaborative continues to consider the power of digital therapeutics, the following questions stand out:

  1. Will our society be willing to reduce dependence on prescription drugs?

2. Will mind-training solutions be a threat, a solution, or an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry?

3. While digital therapeutics will be prescribed, will patients engage with the products? And will their adherence to digiceuticals be greater or less than current drug regimens?

4. What will be the power of user experience vs. just the scientific evidence behind the solutions?

Looking ahead, PEAR Therapeutic’s Chief Executive, Corey McCann, and his experienced team are not resting on the success of their first FDA approval. They have begun applying for FDA approval of their software and pharmaceutical combination, reSET-O™ — which is reSET® in combination with opioid replacement therapies — and a whole product portfolio of potential FDA approved software and drug combinations.

It’s still early and there’s a lot of risk and unknowns as digiceuticals come to market. From where I sit, the tidal wave is gaining momentum and it could reshape the prescribing of pharmaceuticals. What are you seeing?

Check out Bridge Builders Collaborative partners and portfolio. Follow Charlie on LinkedIn and Twitter @ShiftIt_Inst.

Why Mind-Training?

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From an Eastern perspective, mind-training is any method that implants a set of ideas, perspectives, and experiences that work to dismantle habituated patterns of behavior, emotionality, and perception. For those who want to explore how human conditioning and our subconscious minds impact our experiences, mind-training applications can be a guide through the weeds.

Similar to how the physical fitness industry compiled years of science that led to new approaches to improve physical health, the field of mind-training is offering innovative methods to enhance cognitive, mental, and emotional health. Some of the benefits include:

  1. Stress Reduction — decreased anxiety, improved sleep, less worry
  2. Productivity/Focus — increased focus & retention, more energy
  3. Self-Awareness — better self-care, less reactivity, enhanced relationships

With mind-training providing the cognitive exercises to become increasingly aware of how thoughts, emotions, and reactions impact how we engage with ourselves and others, we can practice and strengthen our capacity to transorm consciousness and to create conditions for well-being. Beyond the individual, I see corporations, health care providers, and the health insurance industry tracking the benefits for people and outcomes for orginizations. Some of the outcomes include:

  1. Health Care Cost Reductions
  2. Productivity Improvements
  3. Employee Recruitment & Retention
  4. Innovation, Creativity & Safety
  5. Enhanced Team Work
  6. Improved Customer Service

As the sciences accelerate, discoveries about the brain, mind-body connections, and consciousness will continue to create opportunities for further exploration. As a result, mind-training innovations that enhance our well-being and human potential will continue to expand into the emerging frontier.

 

Charlie's New Blog on Medium

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Mind-Training:The Emerging Frontier

By Charlie Hartwell

Seven years ago, three visionary business leaders asked the question, “Has the scientific discovery in the field of Mind-Training reached the point where innovative entrepreneurs with scalable applications need seasoned investors?” They began searching for someone to help them answer that question, and created an endeavor, the Bridge Builders Collaborative (BBC).

During these exciting seven years, I have had the unique opportunity to support BBC partners (three more have joined the Collaborative), and to help build a global movement around scientifically valid Mind-Training. We have invested in 10 companies that are providing innovative technologies and platforms to support mindfulness/meditation and self-awareness, to improve short-term memory, to explore happiness, to provide neuro-feedback, to address addictions, and to enhance relationships, just to name a few.

Our mission is to fund and support the visions of social entrepreneurs who have scalable business models for applications, practices, products and tools that build bridges for Mind-Training and its impact on our lives. We see a world where those who imagine deeper, richer connections with themselves and others are offered practical paths to achieve meaningful growth in their lives. Our companies offer practical paths to improve sleep, address mental/behavioral health, build relationships, decrease anxiety and depression, increase focus and productivity, reduce addiction, and much more.

We have the privilege of supporting passionate, seasoned entrepreneurs who are both mission aligned and know how to scale products/services into different global distribution platforms. We make introductions, educate, and respond to organizations that are exploring the potential of integrating Mind-Training products and tools into their workforce or industry. From science to application, our investments are scaling into Fortune 500 companies, the insurance industry, hospitals, the military, educational institutions, and even into government.

Having gained so much knowledge and wisdom, it’s my intention to begin sharing some of my insights weekly through this blog. I hope you’ll follow along, share your comments, and pass this on to others who might be interested.

Does Women's Health Have Value? Published on HuffPost 4/13/2016

Imagine a society where the National Institute for Health devotes approximately 12.6 percent of its budget to study women’s health. Or, where the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations does not address the question of sex in clinical trials; there is no formal requirement that women make up a significant portion of a trial’s patient population or even participate at all. Imagine the audacity of a society discounting the importance of more than half its population’s health and wellbeing. I guess it’s not that hard to imagine... since it is just women.

Being a woman means being defined in a social construct as less than a man. We are valued less. We have fewer opportunities. We are expected to work harder to prove ourselves yet get paid less. We are sexualized and objectified as well as violated and assaulted with impunity. Systemically, we are raised to be deferential, desirable, and dependent while being expected to be the caretakers of familial systems. We are acculturated into a structure of dominance and suppression without knowing any differently, so we accept it, normalize it, and internalize it. Half of the human population is welcomed into the world suppressed and disempowered. In addition, the health care practices females receive have been predominantly shaped by the medical research based on men. Somehow, we have had the resiliency to survive.

As a social scientist, I have spent the past 30 years working with individuals, couples, families, and various corporations and organizations to facilitate paradigm shifts in consciousness and behavior. My intention is to support human flourishing with a multidimensional, whole systems approach. Consistently, I have witnessed that the major obstacle to embracing and integrating systemic change is the attachment to our conditioned gender norms and stereotypes. Bell Hooks, American author, feminist, and social activist, shares her experience, 

“Individual heterosexual women came to the movement from relationships where men were cruel, unkind, violent, unfaithful. Many of these men were radical thinkers who participated in movements for social justice, speaking out on behalf of the workers, the poor, speaking out on behalf of racial justice. However when it came to the issue of gender they were as sexist as their conservative cohorts.” 

This sexism, which has been disempowering women from birth, has been so tightly woven into to the fabric of society that fear and panic ensue at the mention of empowering women.

By definition, to empower is to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. Empowering women means shifting to an equality paradigm where women have the power and authority to make decisions of their own for their benefit as well as for society. We know that when a person has choice they can feel empowered. We also know that when a person has the right to live a life with a sense of self-worth, respect, and dignity as well as have complete control of their life, both within and outside of their home and workplace, they have the potential to flourish. We know this because men have had this opportunity for centuries and its been researched and documented. 

As health and wellbeing continue to be discussed in science, education, politics, and business, we must include the negative impact of sexism on a woman’s capacity to be healthy. Could we consider that women have different health issues, which need to be researched as vigorously as erectile dysfunction? Could we explore how empowering women transforms their health and wellbeing? Could we research how personal sovereignty, as a woman’s right, may not only improve women’s health but also the health of communities? What would science discover if it considered the inherent injustices in our social construct of gender and included it in medical research? Perhaps, we would discover that valuing women and their health benefits everyone and sustains humanity.

Cultivating Mindfulness

"Developing inner values is much like physical exercise. The more we train our abilities, the stronger they become. The difference is that, unlike the body, when it comes to training the mind, there is no limit to how far we can go." ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Having had the opportunity to be in several small gatherings with His Holiness and leading scientists discussing the theoretical evidence of contemplation, compassion, altruism and consciousness, I have been in awe of the impact of mindfulness on humanity. When each of us takes responsibility for being aware of our thoughts, feelings and motivations, we are empowered to change ourselves, which changes the world. Mindfulness creates the space for us to be in our bodies, in the present moment and aware of our consciousness. From this zone, we can choose not to project onto others, not to react to our triggers and to regulate our emotions. We can choose to live the life we want to live, the live we envision.

Mindfulness is easy to accomplish if you are willing to cultivate practices just as you would commit to the routines that keep you physically fit. Mindfulness practices are simple and fun. They are not religious and certainly not about Buddhism, as His Holiness frequently reminds us. They are about being aware of your awareness with neutrality, paying attention in the now without judgment. Meditation, which includes many forms, is one way of developing the muscle of mindfulness. There are many other simple practices that will shift you into mindfulness, which can become your automatic operating system, if you commit to the practice of developing that muscle or way of being.

What would you be like if you trained your brain to be mindful? What would life be like you were able to be aware and neutral as you engaged in the world?

Embracing Change

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." ~Leo Tolstoy

I appreciate how challenging and scary change is and how creative humans can be at resisting it. Understandably, change requires letting go into the unknown and not being in control. And yet, as hard as we try to stop or avoid change, it is constant and happening all around us. So much of human discomfort is caused by tenaciously holding on to the old and arguing against the new and unknown. We are masters at rationalizing, justifying, explaining and defending.

The first simple step in embracing change is to understand that we only have control over our attitude, choices and behavior. The only way we can change the world is by changing ourselves. Humans are designed and equipped to be adaptable and resilient. Unfortunately, as we develop, we are conditioned into a state of amnesia - forgetting our true nature. 

What if you lived this year with the intention of embracing change within and around you? What if you reclaimed your abilities to be adaptable and resilient by remaining true to yourself? What if you stopped rationalizing, justifying, explaining and defending yourself or others? What if you made space for the unknown? 

Being grounded, neutral and compassionate are key qualities in accepting and navigating change. They are the foundation of resiliency and adaptability. I am offering free guided imagery meditations to support you in grounding and strengthening your neutral observer. 

2012 - Transcending the Self

 

"For authentic transformation is not a matter of belief but of the death of the believer; not a matter of translating the world but of transforming the world; not a matter of finding solace but of finding infinity on the other side of death. The self is not made content; the self is made toast." ~Ken Wilbur

Happy New Year. The year ahead will offer opportunities for many to embrace authentic transformation. Being a year of deepening and expanding with a call for love and compassion to be leading forces within humanity, we will need to align our energy and consciousness with the wisdom of our hearts and release the beliefs that reinforce the separate self.

Remember, the electromagnetic field of the heart is at least seven times larger than the electromagnetic field of the brain. Therefore, we feel, intuit and know energy and information before we contaminate them with the conditioned belief systems used in our thinking. Thinking is important to sort, analyze and conceptualize data but please don't ever confuse it with wisdom. Wisdom comes from the mind of the heart, which is paradoxical (both/and), unlike the brain, which is dualistic (either/or).

Trusting the heart and the wisdom of the heart is challenging in a culture where the thoughts of the brain dominate us and others by justifying, defending, rationalizing and explaining. Our hearts, full of love and compassion, will lead us through the terror of authentic transformation to the infinite oneness contained within our souls, not found in our egos, identities and separateness. May you have the courage to question your legitimacy, your translations, and shatter the self.

"And therefore, all of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart--perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakeable public example--but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you." ~Ken Wilbur

Please click on the link below to read more of Ken's inspiring words. As you contemplate your intentions for the new year, what are you willing to let die? What is your shout from the heart?

A Spirituality that Transforms by Ken Wilbur

Tuning Up with Your Song

November 11, 2011 is a day of opening and may be volcanic for some. November 10th is a full moon - fullness, expansion, completeness. Astrologically, the energy of our warrior will oppose our spiritual energies and our wounded healer. It is an exciting opportunity for us to expand and welcome nurturing energies to stretch us beyond our self-limiting ways. The cosmic energies will support us in healing our soul bruises by reclaiming our soul songs - our unique individual vibrations. Please take a moment today to connect with your soul's nature at your very core and sing your song, or make your sound.

As we embrace the emergence of interdependence and interconnectedness on the planet, we are called to bring the gift of our soul song through our bodies to impact the world. To fully embody your soul song, the heart center needs to expand. Please see below for a simple exercise.

For many, expanding the heart center means facing our loneliness. It takes courage, commitment and vulnerability. There is a well written article, which I linked in the upper left box, in today's Huffington Post.

Heart Expansion Exercise:
 Start by imaging your heart center, sternum, being gently pulled up toward the sky. Allow your chest to be lifted and your shoulders to open wider and drop. Naturally, your upper back will straighten and you may feel a pull across your chest. Notice any resistance in your body. Take a few deep, centering breaths and focus your attention on your heart center. Imagine gently breathing in and out of your heart center. Allow any feelings or sensations to come and just observe with neutrality. Now, allow yourself to remember a time of great joy or happiness. Using your mind's eye, see your self there, at that time. Experience it as if it is happening now and let all the joy into your heart. Revel in the memory and allow the joy to fill your body. Notice what happens to your heart center. Notice what happens in your body. Notice how you feel. Surrender to the joy and sing or make your sounds. Vibrate with your unique sound. Enjoy.

 

Trip to the Dalai Lamas' Residence in Dharamsala

The dialogue was entitled Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence. As a social scientist and mystic, I enjoy the opportunity to blend my worlds and discover scientific evidence that supports so much of what of I have been teaching and facilitating over the years. Consciousness has the potential to expand beyond what our brains can conceptualize. Perhaps with a better scientific understanding of the mind and conditioning, humans will overcome their resistance, rationalizations and attachments.
 
I am aware that since change is constant, truth changes and so does scientific evidence. So to thrive as humans, it is to our advantage to be adaptable and aware. Since our attention is limited, we need to be aware of our focus, of how we make decisions and of how we create change.  

During the Dialogue, we explored the overwhelming evidence of climate change and the human footprint. As humans, our attention is limited so what do we focus on? How do we make decisions? Do we use our heads, hearts or both? What is the conceptual framework for change? Can you start to consider your handprint or even your mindprint? If we are interested in alleviating suffering on the planet, where do we begin? 

Of course, we start with ourselves. We take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, actions and impact. We are capable of being aware of what we think, feel and do and what the outcomes of our choices are. As humans, we have the capacity to strengthen our neutral observer and compassionately pay attention to how we live our lives and to what we are manifesting. We have the ability to change our patterns, beliefs and behaviors once we know what they are. Since we don't know what we don't know, it is our responsibility to be willing to keep exploring and discovering new ways of being and doing. Remember, change is constant so we need to change too.

The Dalai Lama spoke of losing his freedom when he was 15 years old and his country when he was 24. For a moment, consider how he has adapted to those loses and the impact he has had on the world as a result. He is a great teacher of compassion, kindness and resilience. 

Awareness Exercise: Take a few deep, centering breaths and allow your awareness to pay attention to where you may be feeling frustrated, powerless or like a victim. With your neutral observer, detach and review the situation. What choices do you have? What is your part in giving up your power or allowing yourself to be a victim? Keep breathing and allow your higher self or consciousness to show you new possibilities or new ways of being in the situation. The only thing you can change is you and how you respond to the situation. If nothing comes, ask for the willingness to know and to change. Ask a trusted person for their suggestions on how to do it differently. It is OK to ask for help. If you decide there is another way for you to engage, be aware of your willingness and courage to try something new and see what happens. Be aware of your resistance to change, of your comfort in the old familiar pattern and of your attachment to drama. Find your self-compassion and breathe into it. You are capable of letting go of what no longer serves you and finding new ways of being. Humanity thanks you. 

First Noble Truth of Buddhism

Before I summarize my experience in Dharamsala, I want to repeat what His Holiness the Dalai Lama consistently articulates: "The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is to alleviate suffering." I am not a Buddhist, nor is my involvement with the Mind and Life Institute and His Holiness about Buddhism. I am passionate about alleviating suffering, our own and others, as well as raising human consciousness which requires a state of awareness achieved through mindfulness and our neutral observer. I have been blessed over the past couple years to participate in several dialogues between the Dalai Lama and a variety of scientists regarding brain activity, states of consciousness and a variety of human conditions. The scientists provide the theoretical evidence for discussion. People like myself (practitioners, change agents, activists, leaders) apply the science to our work in creating sustainable change within individuals, organizations, communities and humanity. We are taking the scientific experience out of the lab and into the world, discovering what actually works and what doesn't in reality.

 

Shifting Paradigms

Many have been asking about all the speculation regarding 2012. Of course, we won't know what, if anything, will change until we are in that moment. What we do know from our cosmology is that the Sun and Galactic Center will align for the first time in 26,000 years. The Galactic Center is in the center of the Milky Way. Also, there is speculation that the alignment will occur on October 28, 2011 not December 21, 2012. Regardless of the exact timing, we can hold the intention of shifting paradigms.

I sense that we have a period of time in this galactic alignment to welcome cosmic consciousness and the creation cycle through our hearts and transcend our limited beliefs. I am a committed Soul that continues to challenge social consciousness so that false and limited structures give place to the experience of service and love in the world. 

This transformative time may be described as follows:
Veils are dissolving.
New ways are being birthed.
Consciousness is expanding.
Divine Feminine is being embodied.
Presence needs to be grounded.
Heart frequencies of self, planet and cosmos are aligning.

We can choose to become self-responsible, intentional and aligned with our truth and use the cosmic energies to fulfill our divine purposes. If you are uncertain or unclear, now would be a good time to gain understanding and direction from the cosmos through a personal analysis of your Multidimensional Human Design 

 

Push Play

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  ~Mary Oliver 

So many people ask, why am I here? What is my purpose? I hear it asked over and over with such heartache. Having asked myself those questions many years ago, I understand. As a social scientist, I live and love in those questions. I am compelled to see the big picture, to notice the systems in which we navigate and to embrace the dance of life. As I've pondered these questions, personally and professionally, I realize I'm just curious and have learned to let go of any attachment to an answer or an outcome. 

I notice human beings' tenacious hunger to have answers to those two big questions (as well as others) yet I observe their relentless unwillingness to step outside their comfort zones to uncover the possibilities.  They ask the questions while thinking they can control the answers, avoiding the need to push the play button. The play button starts your one wild and precious life. Having the courage to push the play button means your small, conditioned self is no longer in control and the mysteries of who you are and why you're here can be revealed.

As most of us are born into the lives of our parents or caregivers, we quickly learn the rules of their game in order to survive. Through trial and error, we learn what is expected, what is acceptable, what has value and what beliefs are 'right'. If we venture outside of that framework, we are corrected one way or another. Resistance, dissent and disobedience are rarely tolerated. We become conditioned human beings, just as our parents were, finding ways to manipulate the system, losing more and more of our essential self.  

For many of us, there is no concept of a play button. We are just thrown into the pre-recorded movie reel. The projector is humming in the background with our conditioned life unfolding before us as if we are on autopilot, with someone or something else in charge. Do we really have any choice? If we attempt to exercise that choice outside of the conditioned framework, we are met with disapproval or even punishment. We wonder what if... and then pull ourselves back together. We must fit in, we must be liked, we must fall into line... No wonder we don't know there is a play button for us to push.

Of course, for some life becomes about resistance, defiance and revenge. They must rebel against the conditioning, frameworks and systems in order to have any sense of self. They completely lose their essential self to the game of making everything into which they were born wrong. Since there is no play button available to them, they must push the reject button. 

For some, like myself, curiosity has been my main lifeline. I have come to discover that very few people approach life with curiosity as I do. They are content with what is told to them, with falling into line and with making everyone else who sees differently, wrong. They want to know the rules and follow them. It allows for some sense of security or control. If they can strategize and maneuver in their conditioned world, it gives them some sense of accomplishment. They're saying, "This is my box, please let me stay in it, I know how to survive, it is comfortable and familiar and I'm too afraid to take risks." In fact, they believe they will be completely alone and die outside the box. Even when some venture out of the box, they take all their preconceived notions and apply them to the world outside, not allowing for the new and different to be revealed. I understand. It is a basic human need to feel safe, secure and stable, to belong. However, they pay a huge price for their fear and ignorance: loss of the essential self and an inability to discover the mysteries of the questions. They lose the essential human experience of transforming from surviving to thriving. 

In the search for answers, there are two important universal truths that cannot be ignored. First, change is constant -  there is no stasis. Second, we don't know what we don't know. 

What I have discovered with curiosity as my rudder is that change is easier when you accept it rather than resist it and refusing to know more keeps us small. How does not knowing serve anyone or anything, most of all yourself? I've also learned that knowing there is a play button and taking the risk to push it is the courageous action of the heart, not the head. It is risky pushing play and letting your heart be your guide - you take full responsibility for your life and there's no one to blame. In addition, the heart is not rational, you can't make sense of it or figure it out. Your head fights hard against your heart with doubt, self-loathing and fear of rejection. When you choose against the wisdom of your heart, your sacred play button, you discover an amazing human ability to rationalize, justify and explain away your authenticity. As author Sue Monk Kidd has described it, "It was easier and simpler to please the culture and the family that shaped me than to uncover and tell my own truth." 

For many, it is easiest to stay in the movie of the culture and family that conditioned you rather than push your own play button and discover your own truth. However, the world needs your truth, your gifts, your uniqueness. 

So go ahead, push the play button. You have nothing to lose and everything, including your essential self, to gain. You will have to leave some people, places and beliefs behind. As you let go, the abundance of the new will be more than your small self could ever imagine.  

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong. ~David Whyte 

Copyright Maureen Pelton 2011