SAND 2015: Where Consciousness Gurus, Yogis & Scientists Converge

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From experiential classes on sound, art, meditation, Qigong, yoga, mindfulness and tantra, to lectures that range from the convergence of Quantum Physics to consciousness and everything in between, the SAND Conference brings together the smartest and most creative minds for one long weekend, where it’s hard to not leave just a little bit transformed.

By Transformative Travel at We Blog the World, we mean just that — unique experiences that will transform how you view the world, whether that be hanging out with polar bears in the Canadian Arctic, meeting ice glaciers on a luxury cruise ship in Chilean Patagonia, simple reflective moments on Curacao’s Caribbean beaches, or being present at a consciousness conference where you will inevitably meet some of the most interesting and caring people you’ve ever met.  (see my write-up from 2014)

Pre-conference workshops covered a myriad of things from the Salka Experience of Consciousness and Feeling the Universe to transforming your life through the Power of Sound. Sacred Science and the Mystery of Christ even ended up on the agenda, so whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, a believer in God or have no opinion at all on the matter, SAND (otherwise known as the NonDuality event since SAND logistically stands for Science and NonDuality), is a great venue for exploring all the things that keep you awake at night. What is the universe? Who is the universe? How are science and religion connected? Are they connected? All of this is done without religious dogma, which is a chief mission of the conference.
For those of you who may have a consciousness and mindfulness practice already but are wondering what NonDuality is all about, I explain it in a bit more detail in my 2012 write-up of the event, which is worth reading as well. For those of you who try to merge religion with a meditation practice, but want to leave the guilt behind, then experiencing SAND will also leave you feeling not just transformed, but free from those complex connections that often prohibit you from a more peaceful life.
As I get older, serenity and tranquility are more and more important in my life. While I would argue that they were equally important in my twenties, they weren’t always a priority over adventure, creativity and simply having fun, which usually involved a whole lotta energy, at least in my case.  While adventure in many forms is still an integral part of my life, it almost always involves nature — every day I re-discover how much nature can by such a healing force. On the last day, Andy Salamone gave an insightful talk about both natures and consciousness:  The Nature of Consciousness and the Consciousness of Nature, which of course also has to do with returning to your “natural nature.” A.H. Almaas addressed consciousness, its nature and role in experience.
Experience is an integral part of this very connected event founded and run by husband and wife team Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo. (see my interview with Maurizio at the event from last year). A man of passion, dedication and love, his commitment to not only making SAND thought provoking and life changing, but fun, is woven into the culture of the event.
Awareness and Gratitude are common themes throughout the weekend’s activities regardless of whether you’re trying Breema for the first time, or trying to get your heart around a dialogue with consciousness guru Rupert Spira on Being Aware of Being Aware.  As someone who lives from a place of presence and getting out of your head, encouraging us all to do the same, you find yourself over analyzing everything he says at times even though you’re fully aware that it is counter to letting everything ago, ego being the first you’d like to kick out the door.
Above, Rupert Spira in fireside chat with Deepak Chopra
Where it got really interesting was during the appearance of Deepak Chopra this year, who led more than one session, including a fireside chat with Rupert Spira (above).
See my video clip below to experience some of the on-stage magic.

As always, Deepak’s individual talk to the group took us on a wondrous journey, some of it deep, some of it lighter but always….profound.

The Human Universe: Universe = Consciousness

We moved from the history of the Divine Universe (God focused), the Classic Universe (Newton focused) and the Relative Universe (Einstein and relativity focused) to the Quantum Universe (electrons, photons and particle focused), the Copenhagen Interpretation and ultimately to the Human Universe, which Deepak argues is the only that that is rooted in real consciousness. Conscious agents create reality in our own image. The new formula in the Human Universe therefore becomes U = C, which is that the Universe = Consciousness.

This migrates to perhaps that I AM the Universe. God is the foundation of the Universe and that Science is consciousness. That ultimately we live in a Qualia Universe. The problem with Quantum Mechanics and Physics is the misunderstanding of it and the fact that there are so many versions and interpretations of it today (15 or so interpretations alone in Wikipedia). Says Deepak, “the Quantum Universe has led to many mathematical guessing games, all leading to the Uncertain Universe.” See my separate write-up on his talk and his fireside chat with Rupert Spira which includes video. (also below)

We explored the meaning behind “I” in the context of our lives. The “I” that is the center of all of our experiences cannot be found — not in the brain, not in the body, not anywhere in the Universe. If there’s no “I” to experience the Universe, then the Universe is perhaps an illusion and doesn’t exist either. The “I” is dimensionless. Eternity and Infinity are dimensionless but for without them, you can’t have this experience.
Hmmm, I found myself pondering. “Why, if consciousness and being present is only about the here and now, not about space, time, the past or the future of which doesn’t exist, then why are we often so deep when we explore the roots of consciousness, science, spirituality, religion and even breath itself?”Julia Mossbridge took on consciousness, non-consciousness and time. SAND gives you a deeper understanding however of how close science is to understanding consciousness and that is precisely why those deep and heady conversations happen. Each year, things shift and each year, there are new speakers with new insights and reflections in the world of science and medicine.
Deepak’s group is working on how mindfulness and simple practices can heal conditions and even reverse diseases in some cases, which they discovered with something as easy as keeping a gratitude journal. The power of gratitude and kissing the worry and woe misery that arises daily from the Lizard Brain (see Seth Godin’s piece on Quieting the Lizard Brain) is one of the most powerful things we can do in our lives.
From the benefits consciousness and awareness can have on our physical health to the astonishing impact on our mental health, it’s worth taking note. There were no shortage of psychologists and doctors present who have seen the positive results consciousness and meditation are having on soothing the mind and healing emotional wounds. Bravo!
Newer on the conversation radar this year were discussions around TRAUMA and RELATIONSHIPS. With trauma, we often associate the word with severe cases, such as a physical accident or scarring from life as a soldier through war time. We haven’t paid enough credence to the long term social and physical effects that early childhood trauma even if only emotionally based, can not only haunt us as adults, but show up as physical ailments that can’t be explained a half a century later. I love the fact that these conversations are happening, starting in a safe container if you will and then moving into more of the public domain. The cool news is that it’s becoming a little safer and more accepted to be vulnerable to the world at large.
Just this past year, industry pal Robert Scoble went public with his childhood haunts on social media which received hundreds of comments from people sharing similar stories and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who expressed her pain on her personal Facebook page over her husband’s death in the rawest words you’d ever expect to come from a COO of a globally known company on everyone’s radar. In both cases, they showed tremendous bravery and compassion and in both cases, people were moved at a minimum, enhancing their own sense of empathy. Some of course, were transformed by their public sharing of something so painful in their lives.
Prajna Ginty did a session on the Power of Consciousness to Heal Trauma and it was a topic on many people’s lips at lunch tables and after hours. After all, on this spiritual path in life, we often feel as if we have to get there alone. Isn’t it in our own suffering after all that we are set free? Just a moment sweet grasshopper, there’s more….
While so many consciousness gurus have followed the mantra and path that through solo meditation, you will meet your divine, ultimately rising to the highest of spiritual levels in your own awareness, some sentiments are shifting. This is not to suggest that you cannot and will not be transformed and heal a boat load of demons if you do a silent retreat in India for a month, but the notion that it just might be possible to enter into a higher spiritual awakening WITH someone else is revolutionary in thinking, especially among the “greats.”
It wasn’t the “greats” who weren’t exploring relationships as an inclusive route to higher consciousness, but it was a topic of discussion by many speakers and attendees over the course of the conference. Within and outside this context, Dorothy Hunt took on Untying the Knot Of Separation whereas Amoda Maa Jeeven embraced Duality, Nonduality, and the Feminine Face of Awakening.
Above, the floor during our Breema session, which was the first time I ever experienced it.
If after all that, you’re sitting there thinking, “this all sounds great, but I’ve gone on a spiritual journey or 2….or 3, and my mind still won’t shut up,” remind yourself that you’re normal, and that is just part of being human. If we didn’t spend a life time trying to get away from the ego and our lizard brain dominating our “story” and daily mantra, then what would we have to learn in this life time? While I say that with irony, wouldn’t we all love to be born a little more evolved so that we experience just a little less pain in our daily lives on our path to becoming “wise”?
Is wise the absent of pain? Is wise the knowing of all? Is wise the purity of humans? We all have our own definitions and interpretations but ultimately the seeking of peace often leads to the opposite. Only when we stop the seeking, we are often greeted with the sense of peace we desire.
Kristin Kirk talked about Surrendering Self & Co-Creation, Canela Michelle Meyers spoke on Befriending the Mind, Grace Bubeck talked about our Heart’s Knowing: Exploring Non-dual Awakening in the Heart and Eileen McKusick addressed Tuning the Human Biofield. We even took on language and the art of language in a talk (and experiential performance) by Lorin Roche and Camille. (below)

From expression and language to feminine energy and sensuality, we also heard from Lyn Hunstad and Marlies Cocheret on Erotic Meditation and Using Sensuality as a Spiritual Tool. I loved Sharon Ellison’s Changing Blueprints, Changing Reality for it is through a conscientious choice to change the canvas we’ve grown tired of and who we’ve become known as, to a brand new one that is fresh, colorful and will better serve the second chapter in our lives. I have created Intention Boards and notebooks for years now and have found them to be wildly successful — from my dreams and goals to creating new realities in my life.
This brings us to self awareness and self love so it was fitting that Francis Bennett took on Integrating Humanity with Divinity and Robert Dittler‘s session on What God, Love, and Sex have to do with Consciousness.
A big white dome was set up on the lawn of the Hayes Mansion, the setting for the conference this year and for the past two where experiential sessions took place, whether that be early morning Yoga, Trance Dance or Quantum-Playtion: Activating the Human Body Field through Play.  While it may be easy for all creatives to embrace all sessions in the Dome, the left brain attendees were able to sit in on science and quantum physics discussions or even explore Art,  Consciousness and Shamanic Technology. Ekabumi Ellik did a talk on Sacred Art: Illustrating Spiritual Principles and Re-Patterning Consciousness while J.F. Martel took on The Mind of Art: Consciousness and the Aesthetic Dimension.

Also so very lovely were the tables set up around the lawn where you could buy jewelry or simply go back to your childhood and walk on stilts or do the hoola hoop. Music was integrated throughout the event, from classical instruments to folk guitar, to a mashup of Eastern European and Middle Eastern sound by a band one evening, that jolted the party to come alive. Healing sessions of various forms were also available on-site.

People danced freely throughout the grounds as musicians performed for the crowd, their catchy vibrating music dictating the rhythm and flow.
 
The Saturday evening performance was by Diego’s Umbrella with Catalyst Artists (above), which included Fire Dancers and Stilt Walkers, as well as a show by Magician Ron Sonoma Magic.  Late night activity turned the ballroom into a dance floor led by Samantha Sweetwater and DJ Dragonfly .

The band and late night instruments ringing in the night were not the only music contribution at the event. Each day, musicians performed on the lawn, near the dome and among the attendees, and in that way, it was highly experiential and I’d add, intoxicating.

They also had art installations on-site, such as the one depicted below. Inside this out of this world creation which glowed with colors and lights, you could spend time inside and reflect.

More creativity on-site.

Did I also mention that the food was outstanding? We absolutely loved this decadent but vegan chocolate cake.

I’ve always been a huge fan of combining knowledge, awareness and experience as a way to become transformed through an experience and SAND is a master at doing that, adding new dimensions to its event every year, with art, music, lectures and reflection. If reading this either confuses or rejuvenates, then be glad there’s a strong reaction regardless of what it is. Rather than fleeing from which disturbs, either positively or negatively, its important to stay with the feeling and emotion which arises. Answers from the universe will come to you if you’re open to receiving them and ultimately we are not alone on this journey.

We are now in a collective field of consciousness and the awareness which is increasing year-by-year. While the uncommon bond that Jung speaks of will and does get in the way of getting to that silent place, there’s also a bliss from relationship, which when brought back inward to yourself, can be invigorating and healing….a bit like a serendipitous mystical experience we can’t quite explain.

It’s beyond a solo Transformative Experience and can transcend you to a higher level when the “junk” and “noise” that arises from being interconnected, doesn’t show up. Being aware of it is a path to reducing that noise so transcendence through relationship can occur. Grace and Grit is a great Ken Wilbur book that addresses the fight between disembodied teaching and unified/relationship experiences.

Bravo Maurizio, Zaya and team to another intoxicating year of SAND!!!

 

Renee Blodgett
Founder
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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