Speaking Topics

The following list is a sample of speaking topics with descriptions.  Todd has presented these many times to diverse groups and can do so for your organization or event.  Each presentation is fun, engaging and interactive for attendees and offered as: 1) lunch and learn 2) workshop 3) seminar 4) mini-retreat or weekly/quarterly training depending on duration and goals.  These topics are designed for people and teams looking to support personal and community wellness, improve cooperation, and inspire positive work culture and commitment to core values.

 
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You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
— Marcus Aurelius

Inner Calm: The Science of Mindfulness

What we focus on, think about, and repeatedly do can literally change the structure of our brain.  For example, scientists have discovered that playing the violin grows the map of the hand in the motor areas of the brain, and that juggling enhances all the areas involved with detecting visual motion.  This malleability is known as neuroplasticity, and mindfulness is a way to self-direct our own brain development.  Mindfulness involves paying attention in the present moment without judgment.  It is about awareness as opposed to thinking.  This evidenced-based and therapeutic practice has many benefits for our physical and emotional well-being, with an abundance of new research showing that people can find inner calm despite outer circumstances.


Attendees will learn about the basics of the mindful brain and have the opportunity to experience simple, effective techniques for mind-body wellness.  Three mindful qualities will be discussed: 1) intention 2) non-judgment and 3) acceptance.  These qualities can be utilized to connect more deeply with the present moment, ourselves and each other in order to enhance self-awareness and empathy, communicate with insight and lead with goodness.

 
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So much has been given to me I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.
— Helen Keller
 

Growing Grateful: Ancient Origins and New Neuroscience

Gratitude has been called the mother of all virtues and the key that unlocks all doors.  This talk explores the etymology of the word gratitude, tracing its origins to Latin and other ancient languages around the world. 
There will also be a summary of the modern science of the grateful brain.
Neuroplasticity is an aspect of our brains that allows for malleability. It means that our brains change and develop more cortical thickness or gray matter in certain areas to help us perform functions that we engage in frequently. What we pay attention to and think about is very important. It is a type of exercise for the brain. 
For example, if worries keep us up at night, we get better at dwelling on the negative through this habitual pattern. Alternatively, the regular practice of gratitude and focusing on the positives before bed can help reverse that tendency and improve our ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Specific gratitude practices will be taught that are scientifically proven to grow key regions of the brain, increase life satisfaction and enhance overall well-being.
 
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Tree are poems that the Earth writes upon the sky.
— Khalil Gibran
 
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I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.
— Carl Jung
 

Democracy Of Trees: What The Forest Can Teach Us About Community Health

Trees care for each other in very special ways. They have family relationships. Sometimes, the offspring of a felled tree will continue to keep the parental stump alive with its roots, even for centuries. There are bonds beyond family as well. For instance, Fir trees and Birch trees take turns supporting the other in winter and summer. Nutrients and information are shared underground via root systems and the mycorrhizal network of fungi. This is evidence for the importance of biodiversity.

The poet John Donne wrote, "No man is an island... and any man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind." Trees seem to live this wisdom and understand on some level that every tree matters to the well-being of the whole forest. If even one tree is destroyed, the eco-system becomes comprised, the canopy has a hole and the micro-climate shifts in temperature and moisture jeopardizing the health of all trees. 

Therefore, they employ unique mechanisms to protect the community.  In this presentation, Todd explores the philosophy, mythology, history and ecology of the forest world and how it relates to human potential.

 

Bouncing Back: New Perspectives on Resilience

Psychological resilience typically refers to the ability to regain emotional balance and stability after encountering stressful or traumatic events.  Participants will learn how emotional maturity, positive attitude, and creativity influence this life skill.   
Emotional maturity involves responding to the environment in an appropriate matter.  This can be achieved through mindful grounding techniques.  A positive attitude takes practice and when we achieve it, we can see more possibilities.  This is known as the Broaden And Build Theory in psychology.  Creativity requires that we makes decisions.  Unlike math, there are more than one answer in art.  This leads to problem-solving in real life.   
Additionally, recent studies and scientific evidence will be shared that expand our conventional understanding of resilience and demonstrate the need for mindful strategies for changing our relationship with problems.
 
 
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True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.
— C.S. Lewis
 

The Paradox of Humility: Humble Yourself and Grow Yourself

In social psychology, illusory superiority is a cognitive bias in most of us that overestimates our abilities and intelligence. For example, in a Stanford survey of MBA students, 87% rated themselves as above average academically compared with their peers. In another study, 55% of Americans think they're smarter than the average American; a sort of self-defeating statistic. 

Humility is often defined as meekness and refers to having a modest opinion of one's importance and yet, it is practiced as a virtue in spiritual traditions around the world as a way to manage the ego and part of a path to self-actualization and transcendence.

Now, we have new scientific evidence and research from Duke University that shows how being intellectually humble actually expands one's influence, enhances leadership and makes us all-around better people. 

This talk shares the science and art of humility.
 
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Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”
— Miles Davis
 
 
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You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.
— Walt Whitman
 

Bending Time: How Culture And Mindfulness Change The Clock

It flies and heals. People try to make it, buy it, save it and kill it. Yet, there is never enough of it, and it might not be real.  It is T I M E.
Most of us are familiar with the sensation that time is moving faster as we get older. Perhaps, it is because each unit of time becomes a smaller fraction of our total life. For example, one year to a one-year old is literally forever while one year represents only 3% or less of known time to anyone 33 years of age or older. This is why parents perceive their children growing up faster than the children do.
In theory, there is a logarithmic "perceived time." This means that it is stretched in the beginning and compressed in the end, mathematically making our "perceived life" half over by age 7 and making our summer vacation at 9 years old feel as long as our whole 35th year. 
However, there is more to how our perception affects this phenomenon. 
Research suggests that children tend to be more spontaneously and naturally mindful. That is, more present with the surrounding environment often because they are experiencing things for the first time. Thus, there is more "written" in the mental journal which gives the feeling that time moved slower.
As adults, our minds are often preoccupied with the past and future because we've already "seen it all" - making it seem like nothing happened and that time flew by. This would help explain why our days are still long but the years are short. Looking ahead into the future, we continue to see a year as a long time but looking back we recall it as a small part of what has been.
This talk breaks down our ideas and beliefs about time to illuminate a radically different but potentially happier and saner approach and like a child, even a slowing down of this strangely beautiful flash of life.
 

Anatomy of Habit

A habit is a regular tendency or practice and, ordinarily, hard to break. There are 3 R's associated with habits: Reminder, Routine, and Reward. 

Many of our habits are actually routines and do not require an impulse to do them. We often do not even recognize routines as habits.

We have countless routines associated with common activities like hygiene, eating, driving and so on. We can perform them with very little awareness. This is why we tend to go on autopilot which disengages the prefrontal cortex - the executive decision-making and higher thought center of the brain. It helps the brain conserve energy, but we are also at the mercy of instinctive brain regions involved with reward, survival and emotion.

But if we become conscious? Our prefrontal cortex activates and everything changes in the brain leading to emotional regulation and psychological growth.
 
 
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Our true nature is like the sky, not the clouds. Our true nature is like the ocean, not the waves. Clouds and waves come and go. The SKY and the OCEAN remain.
— Mata Amritananda

Clarity: Cutting Through The Clouds

Beyond the clouds, the sky is always clear. Similarly, most diamonds have flaws known as cloud inclusions, which reduce the clarity of the otherwise precious crystal and limit its brilliance or shine. A diamond is the most concentrated form of pure carbon on Earth, and the flaws are often hard to detect with the naked eye. 

The human mind also has subtle clouds that obstruct mental clarity. In psychology, these are known as cognitive biases or heuristics - patterns of flawed shortcuts in the brain.

An example is the fundamental attribution error - we tend to think that what other people do is because of their character and what we do is because of our circumstances. Another is the confirmation bias. If we accidentally sleep through our alarm, hop in the shower to find no hot water, and then get a flat tire on the way to work, we may very well believe the day is doomed. With that in mind, it will be hard to notice anything good as we subconsciously seek for more evidence to reinforce and confirm our negative belief.
This interactive presentation explores some of the most interesting and common distortions and systematic deviations from logic that block clear thinking.  These insights will help participants make sounds decisions and grow their leadership abilities.  By cutting through these clouds, we can naturally illuminate the mind and let the light of knowledge shine through us.