The Mind Mirror Goes to China
by Judith Pennington
In August 2019, the Mind Mirror took the stage at a Buddhist neuro-tech conference above Shenzhen. Learn about the latest meditation devices. See photos of beautiful people and places.
In August 2019, the Mind Mirror took the stage at a world class conference on "Buddhism, Brain Science & the Future," held in a spectacular mountaintop hotel above Shenzhen, an ultramodern port city across the border from Hong Kong. It was a memorable experience for many reasons, not the least of which was the warmth of the Chinese people and the state-of-the-art technology pervading their beautiful country.

Tech meets lotus
The conference was sponsored by Woodenfish, a Buddhist organization led by Venerable Dr. Yifa, a Taiwanese Buddhist nun currently based in Beijing. Yifa, a lawyer with a comparative philosophy degree from the University of Hawaii and a Yale Ph.D. in religious studies, focused the conference on emerging and existing neuro-tech. The purpose was to explore how Buddhism and technology might work together to advance global mental well-being.

That question was answered by a group of innovators who presented 20-minute talks over the weekend on a wide variety of topics. (See the sidebar article titled "Innovative Entrepreneurs, Novel Neurotech.") The conference topics ranged from phone-app stress reduction to virtual reality geared to empathy, art therapy, mindfulness in the workplace, Holotropic breathwork, and electrically induced meditation, to name a few. Several of the presenters hailed from the University of Hong Kong, with a few others traveling to China from the U.S.

The Mind Mirror and Spirituality
My talk on the Mind Mirror 6 was well-received, as it was the only presentation that connected a technology—in our case, EEG-guided meditation—with inner awakening toward the Buddhist OneMind (our Evolved Mind pattern, which Yifa noted with appreciation). During an afternoon panel discussion, an audience member asked, "What is spirituality?" I answered that question, in part, with a story about spontaneous illumination and what it feels like. Several people later said privately that my answer touched them deeply, as spirituality is a closely held topic in China. "People just don't talk about it," said one woman with tears in her eyes. Other women circling Judith in the foyer nodded in agreement.
My mouth is wide open: whooooo would not love the Mind Mirror?
Conference technical team in a closing panel on the future of Buddhism. A wonderful group of young people: smart and extremely competent.
Yifa and conference organizers. Yifa is deeply loved by many.
Most of the presentations focused, instead, on shortcuts to meditation as the means to stress reduction and enhanced performance. The brain, of course, was a big topic with all presenters, who quoted EEG and fMRI studies to back up their various approaches to mental health and well-being. Audience members were interested and appreciative of the neuro-tech but several people voiced a deep hunger for personal experience of non-ordinary states of consciousness. A large group gathered around psychologist Thomas Amiard, a Frenchman living in Hong Kong who promised to return with seminars on Holotropic breath work.

The Chinese government refused a visa to keynote speaker Mattieu Ricard due to his affiliation with the Dalai Lama of Tibet and at the last minute limited conference attendance to 100. Still, it was a superb event attended by interested, enthusiastic people.
Audience members were ushered into meditation each day by musical performers framed by meditative visuals projected onscreen. Breathtakingly beautiful singing held us captive. The performers themselves, uncommonly lovely and serene, induced peace and serenity in everyone.
Beautiful People, Beautiful Places
I had expected simple accommodations and was surprised and delighted to find the Woodenfish conference taking place at a palatial hotel on a mountaintop about an hour's taxi ride above Shenzhen (taxi cost, a mere $40). The sumptuous Interlaken OCT hotel was beautifully designed and filled with exquisite artwork. Marble floors with inlaid mosaics, massive glass chandeliers, gigantic birdcages with live parrots and songbirds…it was almost more than the senses could take in. The hotel had four excellent restaurants, a swan lake with architecturally exquisite mineral springs lodges, and an extensive park with two performance stages, shops, and restaurants. Above all this luxury, somewhat ironically, a giant Buddha perched on a mountain peak on the site of a former Buddhist monastery. For this photographer, China was a prolonged peak experience. More than one person commented that I was like a kid in a candy shop. With my new Nikon in tow, I was indeed. The children shown in these photos gravitated to me, for some reason—tallish, smiling blonde lady from America?—to exercise their English and enthuse about Spider-Man. People dining on the Western restaurant's lakeside patio wanted to include me in their souvenir photos. Everyone was warm and gracious. I arrived at the hotel a day early to cure my jet lag after the 30-hour journey there. Astonishingly, the price of a one-night stay in our majestic hotel was $148. In the U.S., my spacious, mountain-facing room would have costs thousands of dollars—if you could actually find a hotel of such rare elegance. These photographs show why it was hard to leave this "mountaintop" experience.
Traveling to Beautiful Hong Kong
At the end of the conference, I traveled to Hong Kong with Alvaro Guirao, a friendly young Spanish entrepreneur working with Hong Kong University to create an empathy-inducing VR experience. I'd hoped to take the 20-minute bullet train, but the longer journey via several crowded trains was a good segue from meditative mountaintop to commercial capital. With a population of 7.4 million people living and/or working on 427 square miles of real estate off mainland China, Hong Kong is incredibly busy, expensive, and super-high-tech.

My compact hotel room was perfectly located on the famous Canton Road in the Kowloon District, an international shopping mecca with glitzy designer stores by Coach, Salvatore Ferragamo, Rolex, and the like. Happily, Thomas Amiard met me at the hotel on the first of my two days in Hong Kong and ushered me to the harbor ferry for a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong Island. It was a feast of architecturally stunning buildings, crowded open air markets, double-decker trolleys, winding streets teeming with all manner of shops and restaurants—and thereby, a feast for my camera.

The next day, Mind Mirror Practitioner Trainee and software developer Andrew Tang, a native of Hong Kong now living in New Jersey, ushered me through a flamingo-filled botanical garden to a train station then cable car ride to the mountainous Po Lin Monastery, home to one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Whether the Mind Mirror made any impression on China or not remains to be seen. China certainly made a wonderful impression on me. Since my return, China has conceded the central issue protested by the Hong Kong demonstrators. I did not see the protests or any violence but was keenly aware of what was taking place there.

We can only hope for peace and understanding between China and Hong Kong—and, as Buddhism would say, mutual happiness through the alleviation of suffering, not only there but also in our own lives and throughout the world.

I hope you enjoy these photos of the gorgeous Po Lin monastery and especially the five-minute video of the stunning musical laser light show above the Hong Kong Harbor. You are most welcome to leave comments about this article and its photographs. And by all means, plan a trip to beautiful China!
Innovative Entrepreneurs, Novel Neuro-tech
All of the conference presenters were excellent. The following researchers and neuro-tech innovators are highlighted because their projects might be of special interest to the Mind Mirror community.

Mike Dannheim
Mike Dannheim, an American entrepreneur, introduced Sensie, a smartphone app that measures muscle tension and detects non-conscious sources of stress. Sensie, informed by the user's answers to a detailed set of questions, takes a psychophysiological snapshot of the person's positive and negative emotional states. Then the user speaks aloud a question requiring insight while performing a triple-whip gesture revealing his/her emotional state. The kinesiology-based technology thus provides guidance to any health or life question.

Alvaro Guirao
Spanish social artist and eco-visionary Alvaro Guirao is working with the University of Hong Kong to bring to market a VR experience designed to evoke empathy. The entrepreneur explained his high-minded goals by paraphrasing Buddha's instruction that "happiness does not depend on who you are and what you have, but solely relies on what you think." Guirao believes that increasing compassion and empathy through virtual reality experiences will translate into real-world shifts in consciousness.

Rainbow Ho
Open-heartedness and brain tech were admirably balanced at the conference. Rainbow Ho, an award-winning researcher with the Centre on Behavioral Health at the University of Hong Kong, introduced neuroimaging studies showing that arts activities engage many aspects of brain function and involve nearly every neural substrate system of the brain. She focused on findings showing increased alpha in meditators and dancers, and the role of mirror neurons and empathy in therapeutic relationships. Above all, she said, there is a need in neuro-tech and everything else for intersubjectivity, where "I put the other person in my heart.".
Brain Talk: From Chanting to Electrical Stimulation

Sik Hin Hung
Researcher Sik Hin Hung reported on a study of a master chanter which was conducted at the Buddhism and Science Research Lab at the University of Hong Kong. The Buddhist monk who was studied chanted hundreds of times each day, sometimes up to a million times, in the hope of extending the coherence of compassion into the world. fMRI imaging of his brain activity showed a unique decrease in his sense of self as he enters non-duality. The Buddhist chanter was "uniquely able to deactivate his posterior cingulate cortex (part of the limbic system, related to emotional processing) during meditation," said Hung.

Dr. Bashir Badran
One of most startling presentations was by Dr. Bashir Badran, a neuroscientist working at the Brain Stimulation Division of the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the largest freestanding psychiatric hospitals on the East Coast. Badran explained as context that the brain can be modulated with chemicals (psychopharmacology) or with energy, such as magnetic stimulation, electrical simulation, ultrasound, and meditation, yoga and hypnosis. His neuro-tech device provides a shortcut to meditation via Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) powered by a 9-volt battery which runs current through the brain to turn up or down neuron activity.
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