Tag Archives: conference

A Year and $100,000 for Positive Birthing

One year. One hundred thousand dollars.

It sounds like a dream, or a twisted prank. But this is no joke. Gold Peak Tea is offering $100,000 and a year off to one deserving candidate. It is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, or to pursue some ambition, or realize some goal. This is a once in a lifetime offer, and I have a BIG imagination. So here goes the wildest, most exciting and ambitious $100,000 Year:

The Birth Connection

As a trained birth doula and aspiring midwife, I am passionate about reproductive health and positive birthing. I believe in a woman’s power and innate ability to bear her babies (at least without, though sometimes in spite of, pre-existing conditions); I believe in the sacredness of menstruation and all aspects of fertility; I believe in sex-positive education; I believe in the wisdom of our bodies.

The first two months of my year would focus on creating a comprehensive database and online social network of doulas, midwives, parents, politicians, anthropologists, social workers, yogis, professors, students, artists, media experts, and writers. We would develop a virtual forum and an unprecedented platform on which to discuss sex, birthing, bodies, gender politics, and reproductive rights. The network’s mission would outline clear, actionable goals to foster ongoing, international dialogue on the above topics. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google + would be employed to maximize connectedness.

Stage 1 Costs: $0

The Birth Conference

With a comprehensive network well underway, I would spend the next four months planning an international conference. The conference would focus on maternal and infant mortality and the power of positive birthing. Sierra Leone and Afghanistan have the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.) Ideally we would host the conference in one of these countries, which would require tireless strategic planning and cooperation on the part of politicians, diplomats, NGOs, anthropologists, and local grassroots organizations.

The three-day conference would feature speakers, panels, and breakout workshops aimed at addressing the global crisis of maternal and infant mortality through education, women’s rights, and medical anthropology. That means: how to train local midwives and doulas in communities that suffer from particularly high MMR rates and restricted medical access, the need to encourage local governments and schools (worldwide!) to support sex-positive and women-positive values, and how to work with doctors, midwives and local healers to envision a new medical model that is as wise as it is effective.

Stage 2 Costs: $10,000 Airfare for our team, $10,000 Food and Paraphernalia, $10,000 Other Stuff I Would Know About If I Regularly Planned Conferences

The Birth Center

After a successful conference, my team of positive birthing strategists would begin work to open a birth center wherever there is the greatest need (in Sierra Leone or Afghanistan). The aim: to create a space in which to train local midwives and doulas, accommodate expecting mothers for their births, and welcome teenagers and young adults for classes on reproductive health, self-care, and parenting. Anthropologists and grassroots organizations would be critical at this stage to ensure our project be executed with utmost respect, intelligence, and efficacy.

The greatest expenses in this stage would be land and building costs for the physical center, labor and travel costs for our contributing doctors and midwives who would help train the first round of birth workers, and medical supplies. We would enlist the support of local organizations and community members to create, decorate, and promote the space. And hopefully, with time, money, love, and cooperation, we would find ourselves six months later with a building, a group of soon-to-be-fully-trained midwives, and the promise of a thriving birth and community center.

Stage 3 Costs: $60,000 Land, Building, Training, Etc. – Yes, I’m an optimist.

Misc. Costs: $10,000 Antonia’s Coffee, Cat Food and Bus Fare

This is my passion and my sketch of a challenging, ambitious, and potentially rewarding year. What’s your passion? What would you do with $100,000 and a year off? Dream big, and ask not what is probable, but what is possible.

photo by: aturkus

This is how to build a movement: Peacelearning at the National Peace Academy

What are the local and global challenges and obstacles to ecological peace – and how are these obstacles nurtured and sustained?

What opportunities exist locally and globally to nurture ecological peace?

What strategies can we use to nurture ecological peace, both locally and globally?

pigeon-leaf-globe illustration
These are questions that participants discussed at the opening World Café event of the National Peace Academy Peacelearning Conference last weekend in Boulder, Colorado. Throughout the conference, participants explored the challenges and opportunities relating to peace and the environment, and planned strategies that we as individuals can take to foster sustainable peace in our communities and beyond.

The National Peace Academy turns three years old this year, and this was the first official NPA conference. According to its web site,

The National Peace Academy supports, advances and nurtures cultures of peace by conducting research and facilitating learning toward the development of peace systems – local to global – and the development of the full spectrum of the peacebuilder – inner and outer, personal and professional. In all its operations, internal and external, the National Peace Academy strives to embody and reflect the principles and processes of peace.

Indeed, principles of peace — such as dialogue, community building, respect, and empowerment — were present in every aspect of the conference. This was not your average conference, where you sit and listen to a lecture and drink coffee. Yes, there was coffee on hand, and yes, there were a few lectures – but the conference was centered on dialogue, engagement, discussion, framed in such a way as to encourage and empower participants to develop plans of action for ecological peace.

What is ecological peace? The National Peace Academy defines peace according to the Earth Charter, which says that ““peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”

Five spheres of peace are defined: inner, social, political, institutional, and ecological. Ecological peace, the focus of this conference, “requires establishing right relationships with Earth and the ecosystems of which we are a part and on which our survival and quality of life depend.” Participant-led workshops included topics such as mindfulness, building peace through food, sustainability in education, nuclear issues, encompassing the full spectrum of inner and outer peace.

Startup Telepresence Roundtable at DC's AT&T Innovation CenterWhy is this important? If we want to live in a peaceful world, we need to not only foster peace in ourselves, but to learn about peace and learn the skills needed to make peace a reality. This is really what National Peace Academy is all about – creating lifelong peacelearning opportunities to foster inner and outer peace. In the opening session, the NPA team discussed how initially the NPA was conceived to be “like a West Point for Peace” – a training academy for peacemakers.

In visioning and brainstorming, however, the founding partners realized that the shape and form of the institution would have to be significantly different in order to align with peaceful principles, more bottom-up than top-down. As such, the NPA has worked to partner with educational institutions and nonprofits around the country who offer peace-related courses, both offline and in-person, for the NPA Peacebuilding and Peacelearning Certificate Program. In this way, a wide variety of peace-related courses are offered by those who are experts in the particular areas.

Meanwhile, these organizations and institutions benefit from being a part of a greater movement. Prior to the NPA’s certificate program, these partners had surely been doing the same work in their corner of the globe. Now, they are part of something greater, and part of a cohesive movement to cultivate a culture of peace both nationally and globally.

As a participant in this conference, I highly valued the opportunity to be engaged in dialogue and discussion with others working in the peace field. I also appreciated being able to learn from my peers through engaging workshops and activities. As a facilitator, I relished the opportunity to launch a new project, PeaceMeal, and share it with my peers. I now have the confidence to take this project into my home community and beyond.

Imagine a world in which everyone learned about peace, and all learning was directed towards creating a peaceful world.  This is the world I want to live in, and the world NPA is striving to create. I hope you’ll join us!

For more information on upcoming NPA courses, click here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: HikingArtist.com

Make a Difference Mondays: Yoga Service Conference

What? The Yoga Service Conference is a first-annual gathering (hosted by Yoga Service Council at the Omega Institute) bringing together people using yoga and mindfulness practices to help people change their lives in underserved and vulnerable communities.

Who should attend? This conference is for anyone interested in doing work to help create strong, engaged and resilient communities. You don’t have to be a yoga teacher or practitioner to attend. The program will benefit social workers, school teachers, health care providers, and other professionals interested in exploring the possibility of bringing yoga and mindfulness to the populations they serve.

What will you learn? Leading teachers will discuss how trauma manifests in the body, and breakout sessions will give you tools to work with specific populations including veterans, the incarcerated, children, teens, and trauma survivors. Sessions will also address the challenges and opportunities of working within social institutions, how to get yoga service projects started and funded, and future of research in the field.

image via Yoga Service Council

Who Will Be Teaching: Dr. Gabor Mate, Beryl Bender Birch, Seane Corn, Kelly McGonigal, BK Bose, and founders of a diverse array of organizations using yoga and mindfulness to serve their communities.

Why We Chose Them: The Yoga Service Council is a trailblazer in bringing together the worlds of yoga, service, and scientific research to more effectively and sustainably uplift under-resourced communities. The vision — to foster joy, resilience, and well-being in every person so that all communities can thrive — is one that we all can get behind.

How You Can Get Involved:

Make a Difference Mondays is a series here at IntentBlog to spotlight individuals, organizations, and causes making a positive difference in our global community. We’ll also be sharing opportunities for engagement and suggesting tangible actions you can take to make the world a better place. 

Social Change Takes the Stage at Wisdom 2.0 Summit

This was my second year at the Wisdom 2.0 Summit, a perfect fit for me as it marries my two greatest passions: spirituality and technology. (Check out my blog post from last year’s conference: “Social Media + Mindfulness = Infectious Enlightenment.”)

Once again, I enjoyed myself tremendously. How could I not be blissed out to see some of my favorite spiritual teachers — meditation teacher and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, A Path with Heart author Jack Kornfield—take the stage with leaders from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay? How could I not rejoice to hear them all talking about the critical importance of personal development, taking time away from our gadgets, making space for meaningful interactions with others, and showing up in an authentic way at work and in life?

But best of all, from my perspective, was that this year’s conference (unlike last year’s) included several conversations about social change:

1)    Yoga teacher and Off the Mat, into the World visionary leader Seane Corn enraptured the audience with her stories of serving prostitutes in the slums of India and children who live on Cambodia’s garbage dump. She described with passion and humility her commitment to engaging others in volunteerism. I loved it when she said, “When you’re doing the work of social change, you can’t have pity, self-righteousness or sympathy—those are all hierarchical emotions. You can only have empathy.”

2)    HopeLab, a nonprofit created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s wife Pam, delighted us with news that it has developed and is distributing a free video game, Re-Mission. The game enables kids with cancer to do virtual battle with their illness—and results in greater adherence to treatment protocol.

3)    Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who is fearlessly bringing mindfulness into the political arena, earned a standing ovation. “I walked into one classroom, and there were 35 kids lying on the floor breathing,” he said, in reference to a school that he’s convinced to give meditation a try. For real.

So the question is: What can we do? We can commit to big change: fighting for social justice. But we also can resolve to take small steps: Like the Silicon Valley execs who spoke about pausing at the start of meetings to acknowledge people as individuals, and taking meditation breaks in their conference rooms, we can do the same. We can make a request to spend the first minute of a meeting in silence, and thereby start a revolution in corporate America.

Each of us is a spark. Together, we can light the flame of social change—whether we do that through leading a 2.0 technology-enabled revolution or simply by opening our hearts.

 PS, check out these blog posts for other perspectives on Wisdom 2.0:

The Wisdom of Authenticity and Leadership Amidst the Social Data Revolution,” by Glen Lubbert, CEO of MojoInteractive.

Wisdom 2.0 from the Inside Out: A Frank Look at the Shadow of the Hyper Connected Self in a Technology Wired Society” by psychotherapist Marguerite Manteau-Rao.

Top 10 Mindfulness Tips from the Wisdom 2.0 Conference,” by techie/yogini Megan Keane.


Elevate! Awaken! Take Action!


I was honored to be invited to attend TEDxBerkeley this past Saturday on a press pass for live tweeting the event. I won’t take you through a play-by-play of the fantastic day—for that, you can read my @meimeifox tweets or view the videos when they appear on the TEDxBerkeley website. I just want to share key takeaways from a few of the 13 inspirational speakers, all of whom are deeply engaged with making positive change in the world.

Nearly everyone spoke of elevating our consciousness, increasing our awareness, and taking concrete action to make a difference. Yet they approached these topics from many different angles, depending on their areas of expertise.

Marti Spiegelman, who holds a BA from Harvard, an MFA from Yale, and has studied for years with indigenous shamans around the world, took a sometimes hard-to-follow deep dive into the subject of consciousness. She argued that while, as humans, the core of our being is perception, the magic is awareness. Evolving our consciousness means feeling rather than thinking, allowing our intuition to flow. “When we practice consciousness, we become people who are in love with everything and everyone!” Spiegelman passionately intoned towards the end of her talk. “Here, here!” I tweeted from the third row.

UC Berkeley urban design professor Walter Hood brings consciousness to cities by adding greenery. Not parks or community gardens, but woods, wild and untamed, like what he’s helped to create on The Hill in Pittsburgh. With great gusto, Hood spoke of the benefits of having places for urban kids to get dirty, imagine they’re lions, and hide from mom and dad. So here was a literal, practical solution for elevating our awareness: Bring nature back into our daily lives.

In the corporate arena, Chip Conley, the CEO of boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre and author of Peak: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow, spoke of the importance of creating meaning in our lives—even, no especially, at work. With remarkable vulnerability, Conley admitted to becoming depressed and near suicidal post-breakup during the economic downturn two years ago. He recommended these three strategies for fixing the business world:

1)    Teach business leaders how to get in touch with their emotions.

2)    Evaluate employee performance based not only on results but also relationship building, as they do at Joie de Vivre.

3)    Teach MBAs not to be superhuman, but to be super humans.

Google product manager, yogi and meditator Gopi Kallayil offered practical steps for elevating our consciousness on a daily basis. He recommended:

1)    Focus on the essential: Narrow down your list of what you think must get done.

2)    Do one thing at a time. Multitasking doesn’t work (studies prove this).

3)    Practice One Minute of Mindfulness every day. That way it becomes an unbreakable habit rater than an unfulfilled commitment. 

4)    Decide what’s non-negotiable and stick to it.

5)    Friend yourself: Listen to the tweet of your own heartbeat!

 In an extremely engaging talk, Shore Slocum, founder of the conscious social network SoulNeeds.com, urged us all to “wake up!” We can do this, he explained, by moving through the Four Levels of Consciousness:

Level 1) I feel like life is happening TO ME: It’s the weather’s fault, my parent’s fault, the economy’s fault. This is the victim mentality.

-> To exit this stage and evolve to the next, we must give up blame and take responsibility for our lives.

Level 2) I feel that things happen BY ME: I understand that I can take charge of my life and get different results. It’s a matter of effort and willpower. The danger with this level is that we become burnt out from constantly striving to achieve.

-> To exit this stage and evolve to the next, we must give up control (especially challenging for us over-achievers!)

Level 3) I believe that things happen THROUGH ME: Life becomes effortless because I am plugged into the Universe. Success begins to flow.

 -> To exit this stage and evolve to the next, we must give up our sense of self.

Level 4) Life happens AS ME: There is no separation between you and me and all the world. We are one.

Jason Atwood, the young founder of a solar-powered computer learning center in Africa called Ethiopia ConnectedED, started the day nervously, stumbling through his talk. And yet I choose to end my post with his rallying cry as he exited the stage:

“Privilege + opportunity = Responsibility.”

I couldn’t agree more. We, who are educated, who are well off enough to take our laptops and high-speed internet access for granted, who don’t worry about our Twitter feeds getting censored and text messages being turned off by our government… It is up to us to heal the world. Going to TEDxBerkeley served as a terrific source of inspiration, ideas, and advice. But now each of us must take up the mantle and go make things happen. We must “be the change,” as Gandhi said.

NOTE: TEDx events, which are independently organized but officially sanctioned “baby TED” conferences, take place around the world all the time. Best of all, unlike TED (which costs thousands of dollars), admission is restricted to $100 max. Click here to find a TEDx event near you!

The New Science: Sages & Scientists Symposium video

The Chopra Foundation hosted the "Sages and Scientists Symposium" at the Chopra Center La Costa.  It was AMAZING!  Great minds from all over the world came together to discuss new discoveries and developments in the new science.  i was lucky enough to be there, and to interview some of the speakers about what they want people to know about the new science, and how we can use it in our own lives, right now.  Here’s what they had to say in a 4 minute video: