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!