Left and right brain stuff

A Moment Of Happiness


Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.

We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.

The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.

You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.

The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.

In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

About things that matter

Every once in a while I manage to touch the lives of people in a big way, most of the time it is not intended that way, though my desire is probably working undercover, guiding me towards new horizons.

IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Photographed by Sarajevo-x.com, 25 March 2007. (IAEA = International Atomic Energy Agency.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago I was working at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a division of the United Nations Organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The office has about 4000 employees coming from almost every country of the world, on the surface the culture is very diverse and colorful, with six official languages spoken and many more unofficial ones and any racial differences that are driving so much conflict around the world are left outside the office complex when we came to work every day.

But as we are all (still) human there was also some clamoring for positions, blaming others for one’s own personal gain and a widespread “me first” attitude which bothered me the longer I worked there.

Going into my fifth year with the IAEA I decided to do something about this.

I assumed I would not get permission for the Ethics Campaign I had in mind, so I went ahead and and did it undercover. I designed about 16 large posters (3 x 5 foot) with challengingly simple messages and strong visual appeal. The design concept was layered, to pull the reader in, layer by layer, from the large headline text, visible from afar, to small captions underneath the pictures you had to get very close to read. My intent was to make people stop, read, ponder, reflect, react — and then go to a companion Website to express their opinion about all that.

I only informed my immediate supervisors about my plan when I was almost finished with my preparations. After a moment of consideration I got full support and a wave of excitement started spreading.

One night three of us conspirators put up hundreds of posters throughout the hallways and meeting areas of our vast office buildings, not really sure about the reactions we might get the next morning.

Below are a few examples:

6594264-ImSorry6594265-ITrustYou6594267-OneHouse Next morning I was waiting with my camera to watch and capture reactions.

To my great relief most colleagues reacted very positive, with comments like “finally someone is doing something about it”, “what a great idea!”, “why didn’t we do something like this much earlier?” Some people hated the posters, “what a waste of money and resources”, “this is offensive”, “I will file a complaint”.

Here are a few pictures from that morning:




The buzz was building up! Who was behind all this? The impact was too big to assume that this could have been done by an individual.

Very soon the consensus was that this must have come from the very top, from the Director General’s office. After two weeks the Director General’s office actually issued a statement that this campaign was indeed sanctioned by the Director General.

I was as happy as can be! I did not mind at all that my colleagues gave credit for this campaign to someone else. What really mattered was the conversation had started in a big way and the forum on the companion Website was getting heavy traffic, people were discussing the topics wherever I went.

Then in 2006 I left the IAEA.

I assumed my posters would be taken down as the wave of excitement subsided and my initiative would fade into history. It was nice as long as it lasted.

But just a week ago I spoke with a colleague who still works at the IAEA and he told me that some of my posters are still around! How extraordinarily amazing is that?

I knew then that I had made a lasting impact on a large number of people by touching something very deep in them, something that binds us all together as humans, no matter what culture or belief we come from.

There are things that matter to all of us.

PS: In 2005 all employees of the IAEA together with its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei were awarded the Nobel Peace Price, very cool!

6594274-Nobel Price


A Taoist Poem.

The mind of a man searches outward each day.
The further it reaches,
The more it opposes itself.
Only those who look inward
Can censor their passions,
And cease their thoughts.
Being able to cease their thoughts,
Their minds become tranquil.
To tranquilize their mind
Is to nourish one’s spirit.
To nourish the spirit
Is to return to nature.

Tao The Ching 52, trs. Chang Chung-Yuan, from Creativity and Taoism, Wildwood House, London 1963

English: A Taoist monk, Beijing.

English: A Taoist monk, Beijing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Support the World Mural Walkway

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The Public Art Academy would like to build a new sidewalk called World Mural Walkway, at the feet of the Inspiration State College mural, a tribute to the figures from the State College and Penn State communities who have been an inspiration to so many.

The mural artist Michael Pilato would like to expand the artwork and add additional inspirational figures that showcase the greatness of Penn State, such as THON, the Blue Band, and Penn State‘s world-renowned academic programs like Agriculture, Meteorology, and Engineering.

In addition to supporting the adding of new figures to the mural, purchasing a brick will also support the ability to apply a protective coating that will shield the mural from adverse weather and acts of vandalism, extending its life and stories for years. Individuals and organizations can now purchase bricks that will then be engraved with your name. It’s your opportunity to publicly show your support for our community.

Please help spread the world about this project! Installation will begin as soon as the Phase One goal of 2200 bricks sold has been reached.

Learn more about this project and purchase a brick here.

My evolving TED story in a nutshell

Since the first TED talks were made publicly available in 2009, they have intrigued me. I wondered, can TED talks be a relevant tool for relating, learning and sharing at Penn State?

Shortly after I started working as a creative director at Penn State University, together with a small team I invited colleagues from our office to watch TED talks over lunch, we supplied pizza and soft drinks, I served as moderator, presented the theme, introduced the talk, and facilitated the follow-up conversation. People loved it!

When I saw a small poster in early 2010 calling for volunteers to help organize a first TEDx event at Penn State, I was very excited to get involved in TEDxPSU. Admittedly, I didn’t fully know what I was doing at first, but our team managed to spread tremendous excitement around campus and to organize a memorable first event that generated considerable buzz. More than a thousand people showed up and several of the talks from this event are now featured on ted.com.

Since then I helped organize other TEDx events at Penn State, each experience enriching my personal and collective involvement in the global TED phenomenon.

Opportunity emerged to participate in the weeklong TEDxSummit 2012 in Doha, Qatar, and recently in a groundbreaking TEDx event, TEDxJNJ, within the corporate world of Johnson & Johnson.

TEDActive 2013 proved to be yet another culminating TED experience, meeting hundreds of fellow TEDx organizers, TED fellows and TED celebrities, while enjoying live the incredible energy of thousands of attendees at TED 2013 in Long Beach, California.

And just recently, on March 17, 2013, I stood on the TED stage at TEDxPSU with my own TED talk “Water is One”, click the link below.

About my TED talk – Water is One

My talk at TEDxPSU 2013

My TED talk ‘Water is One” at TEDxPSU 2013 (Penn State University)

On March 17, 2013, I stood on the TED stage at TEDxPSU, an independently organized TED event at the Penn State University.

Facing an audience of 900, plus a large number of people watching live online, I gave a talk about how the current of my life led me to uncover my inner potential and how that experience awakened within me the realization that in reality we are all connected.

At the end of my talk I led the audience into a meditation during which they would be able to replicate my experience within themselves and feel its tangible effects on their own nervous system.


TedxPSU (Photo credit: TEDxPSU)

When I opened my eyes after the exercise I was amazed to see that almost everyone in the audience had followed the meditation!

For a moment everyone felt beautifully calm, peaceful and centered, so cool!

Just one person in the foreground in this picture below seems to have blissfully fallen asleep.  :)

Audience meditating

Meditating with my audience at TEDxPSU 2013

When I left the stage I felt it would be great to provide a bit more support, more information and the opportunity to deepen their meditation experience even further.

So for those of you who are interested in learning about meditation, here is a very simple and free technique, called Sahaja Yoga, which I have learned over many years directly from my teacher Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi.

Learning Sahaja Yoga meditation is no different than acquiring any other new skill. It takes practice to establish a routine, doing it once or twice a day, preferably first thing in the morning and again before bed, for a couple of weeks until you’re sure about the benefits.

Here is a link to a more in-depth meditation exercise than the one I had time to do in my TED talk, it’s the third video down on that page. Then take some time to check around this site for additional information – in case you’d like to understand a bit more before you decide to embark on this amazing inner journey.


meditation (Photo credit: HaPe_Gera)


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Back from TEDActive 2013

Today it’s back to work for me, and I’m still on cloud seven. I am also anticipating to hear this question: “How was it?” many times.

So I sat down and extracted some bullets from my notes, as well as borrowing heavily from the hilarious summary at the end of TED 2013 by the SNL comedian Julia Sweeney writing to her friend Bonnie about her impressions.

Some questions may get require a short answer, like a casual meeting in the elevator or from my boss shortly before a meeting.

But there will be times where I can dive deep into my list below and relive precious memories.

I also plan what we call here at work a learning lunch where I’ll have 90 minutes to unfold the TED 2013 story in all its glory for my coworkers.


Herbert at TEDActive 2013

So here are some of my talking points:

  • It’s was great!
  • It was in Long Beach & Palm Springs.
  • There were 64 speakers in 12 sessions.
  • Economist Robert J. Gordon said global economic growth is over.
  • Physicist Neil Gershenfeld from MIT disagreed, they had a debate, it was a draw.
  • Bono was there! He uses his celebrity to fight against social injustice.
  • Sergey Brin was there too, showing off his Google Glasses.
  • Peter Gabriel was there too, he is co-founder of WITNESS, which distributes digital cameras to empower people to document human rights abuses.


  • A squid lady was there too, she documented the largest squid specimen ever recorded.
  • Legal activist and lawyer Larry Lessig, inventor of Creative Commons, said we don’t have a democracy as long as money can buy politicians. He recommended Lester Land instead.


  • TED Prize 2013 winner Sugata Mitra told us how young kids learned about neuroscience through a computer in a hole in a wall.
  • President Freeman Harbowski was great!
  • I led a meditation workshop, an encore and then helped a few stragglers getting started along the way.
  • A brave African undercover journalist working on exposing corruption in Ghana appeared undercover on the TED stage.
  • Beijing based artist Liu Bolin silently commented on modern sociopolitical conditions by dissolving into his art.
  • Elon Musk of Tesla, PayPal and SpaceX wants us to settle on Mars any time soon and  made an entire rocket return to earth.
  • 14 year old nuclear scientist Tyler Wilson is the youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion.
  • 15 year old inventor Jack Andracka invented a cheaper, more sensitive cancer detector. And it costs only a few bucks.
  • Environmentalist Steward Brand plans to not only bring extinct species back but to restore them to the wild. Say Hello to the woolly Mammoth!
  • LA renegade gardener Ron Finley said, the problem with sustainability is you have to sustain it.
  • Researcher Jim Flynn asked why Western armies march a total of 5 times into Afghanistan, why haven’t they learnt from the previous ones? He also quotes Samuel Johnson, remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience.
  • Belgian scientist Kees Moeliker gave an xxx rated talk about dead ducks. More info available only on request.
  • Orly Wahba talks about acts of kindness and shows a short film, Kindness Boomerang
  • The Eric Whitacre choir closes TED 2013, again, this time with a life choir on stage plus 30 singers from around the world skyped in. Thumbs up to Skype!
  • Dr. Seuss says, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!”



Hungry soap dispenser

Seen today in our men’s bathroom. Very creative!

Hungry soap dispenser

Hungry soap dispenser

Hungry soap dispenser
Very hungry soap dispenser


The fisherman and the businessman

Reposted from Paulo Coelho’s Blog


There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.

As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?”, the businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Classic Brazilian story, probably also present in other cultures. Someone found the English version, but I could not identify the translator