The Flow of TED

Where can one meet a former Buddhist monk, a local food activist and a film specialist who uses cinema to reach out to thousands of young people, to help transform and engage them, all at one time? Leave it to the TED.
05/17/2012 08:49 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

"Meditation changes the shape of your brain" - Andy Puddicombe, Get some Headspace

"The passion for simple can also be found in the return to, and appreciation for, nature."
From design min's Passion magazine article "The Simple Life" by Erin Skurdal.

Where can one meet a former Buddhist monk, a local food activist and a film specialist who uses cinema to reach out to thousands of young people, to help transform and engage them, all at one time? Leave it to the TED network to bring together speakers who inspire and force you to think in new ways. In the crowd were political refugees from Burma, digital media experts, environmental design gurus, BBC editors, dancers, NGO heads... the mix is always gratifyingly diverse. This is why I keep making the trip from Paris to London to these TEDSalons a few times a year to open up my mind to new ways of seeing, experiencing and participating in the world. These hours leave me feeling more optimistic, knowing that there are people who are resolutely solution-focused and not discouraged by what can sometimes appear to be a world of problems and naysayers.

Sitting here reading my copy of Get Some Headspace by TEDSalon speaker, Andy Puddicombe, I happily admit I have been using his ten minute meditation technique since the TEDSalon event last Thursday in London. I have needed precisely this kind of push towards taking the time to meditate. I am thankful to Tim Lebrecht, who as the Chief Marketing Officer of FrogDesign, is the main sponsor of these London TEDSalons. I met Tim at another conference a few years ago, and he has encouraged me to keep coming back for these wonderful half day events which always leave me enriched and wanting more. TEDSalon serves as an enticement to attend the longer TEDGlobal events, held in Europe each summer.

FrogDesign always hands out a really cool book or magazine, this time it is design mind's Passion magazine with articles on Simplicity, Reason and Passion, and Insights from all kinds of designers and thinkers. I always end up reading their magazines and then passing them around to friends in advertising, or family working in design. The mix of inputs, aesthetics and points of view in the publications reminds me of what the original TED was always about: Technology, Entertainment and Design. Add to this the more reflective post financial crisis philosophies, and the personal tales told by the speakers, and you have a kind of complete human experience which surpasses any run of the mill conference.

There were twelve speakers, as well as performers, a band, comedians and a dancer But I am going to focus on my three favorite talks. They all resonated with me personally in some way. This TEDSalon felt more human, more people were being entrepreneurial, many because they crisis had forced them to be, others because the Thoreau-like questioning had hit them full force for one reason or another.

Filmmaker, Beeban Kiddron, who brings film classics to the classroom via and helped start over six thousand film clubs in the UK was especially close to my heart. She talked about how kids started communicating, opening up about serious issues and looking forward to doing their school work. This reminded me of bringing foreign films to the living space where I worked with teen moms on the weekends. We would watch films about girls like them, people they could relate to, from around the world. Film was an icebreaker and a way to heal. These are also the kinds of important programs which can end up underfunded when austerity is called for or donations disappear. We need to pay attention and keep supporting innovative programs now more than ever.

But everyone's favorite speaker seemed to be Pam Warhurst who received a standing ovation. She co-founded Incredible Edible Todmorden Unlimited which is all about promoting sourcing and growing food locally. This idea of replacing public and private space gardens and shrubbery with edible herbs, fruits and vegetables has been so well received that it has been replicated in hundreds of other villages. Tourists now come to visit the project and the word is spreading. The best thing about what these folks did is that they took the creation of this change in their community into their own hands. They did not write several page proposals, or even ask for much permission, they just went out and did it! And planting edible foods, and introducing children to the art and pleasure of gardening as a sustainable local way to participate in the life of their village and meet one another, has made all the difference. It has also brought people back out of their homes, away from their television sets and computers, to have direct contact with nature, which in itself is always healing.

Overall, I have found both the Paris TEDx I attended a while back and these TED Salons, which are also shorter than the longer three day TED events, to be a good way to recharge, meet people who force me to make connections between things I might not have otherwise, and simply remember there is a lot of optimism and creativity out there. From this TEDSalon, I came away with that optimistic feelings that even in difficult times, we can take our futures into our own hands and do something concrete.

For me, the first concrete step was to really make myself include the ten minute meditation in my life every single day. It helps make life flow better, and that, ultimately, is what living should be, being in the flow.