Founder – Chief Change Optimist – Author – Host – Speaker – TV/Radio Personality – Mentor
Ariane de Bonvoisin - Founder and Chief Change Optimist

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Big Questions: Live from TED Day 1

I am incredibly lucky to once again be attending one of the most amazing conferences in the world, TED. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, gathers together the best minds in each for a four day discussion around a central theme. This year’s theme is “The Big Questions.” Why are we here? What is our place in the universe? How do we change the world? How dare we be optimistic? etc.

After just one day, I picked up a ton of interesting ideas and observations. True to our theme of change, below is a selection of the most noteworthy things I heard (in no particular order).

The world population grew by 80 million people last year.

Half of the languages that exist on this planet are not being taught anymore, marking the loss of the culture, words and histories of hundreds of groups of people, according to very interesting research by Wade Davis.

There are people in South America who have dedicated their entire lives to just praying for us all to wake up, heal and honor the planet. The Elder Brothers, as they call themselves, are committed to seeing the planet change and come back into balance.

The U.S. has the highest percentage of its population in prison. This must change and what we do with those who are released into society must change as well.

The measure of a society today is not to be judged only by the quality of what it produces and does, but also by its aspirations and what it is taking a stand for. I wondered: What does the U.S. stand for today?

Here some amazing statistics, from Chris Jordan, that really disturbed me and left me crying out for change:

* 2 million plastic bottles are consumed and discarded every five minutes in the U.S. alone. How many are you responsible for?
* 4 million plastic cups are used daily on U.S. flights alone.
* 400,000 people die from cigarettes every year in the U.S.—that’s 1,100 a day. Is anyone talking about this?
* 65,000 teenagers start smoking every month.
* 384,000 women had breast augmentation surgery last year—and the majority are under 21. It’s now a popular high school graduation gift.

It seems as if we are not “feeling” anymore—these statistics don’t mean much without inciting feelings. Where is our rage, anger, grief and ability to affect change? If we can’t derive meaning from these sorts of numbers anymore, how we do we change? That was my favorite question today. How do we change individually? As a culture? How do we each become part of the solution? How does our own behavior impact the whole?

We then heard from an amazing woman, Jill Taylor, a brain researcher, who described with such grace and inspiration what it was like for her to have a stroke—to be the observer of it and then take eight years to recover. Although her expertise around the brain and how it functions was fascinating, the gift she got from that experience and dramatic life change was the highlight of the day! It was amazing to see and feel her life force, her spirit and her ability to see herself connected to every other human being, to feel the expanse of the universe and to know that “you can choose who you are and how you feel at all times.” It was a beautiful call for us all to see ourselves as part of something much greater—to wake up our spirits more than our minds, to be happy and smile again.

Finally, we heard from his Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a lovely Indian sage, who reminded us all of a simple fact—too simple probably for most of us to think it can really create a change in our lives—that we came into this life and took a first breath and when we die, breath is the last thing to leave the body. The breath is the secret to calming the mind and the emotions. It’s the secret to inner peace. Breathing helps stress, addictions, depression and more. The secret to managing all our negative emotions is right under our nose!

With that said, are you breathing—really breathing? When you’re stressed today, worried or something unexpected shows up, just go to your breath. You will become mindful and present again; you will clear your mind and gain perspective.