In the world of spirituality, nondualism which is also referred to as non-duality, refers to a mature state of consciousness, where we have transcended, awareness is ‘centerless’ and we are all one.
The SAND Conference (which stands for science and non-duality) is an annual event which took place in the San Francisco Bay Area in mid-October, and one I applaud and have been attending for years.
Non-Duality & Consciousness: Heart & Mind
The unique (and I’d argue, interesting) thing about SAND is that unlike so many spiritual conferences, it also brings together a number of scientists and technologists who come at it with a scientific understanding of non-separation and oneness.
For the first time at SAND, while I didn’t miss some of the visionary speakers like Deepak Chopra, Rupert Spira and Francis Lucille, I ventured into more experiential sessions than ever before. Where heart drove the conversation rather than the mind. But….let’s start with the mind.
Here’s our video recap from the event.
SAND from and for the Mind
On the main stage and in breakout sessions, there were no shortage of incredible voices this year. I most resonated with Donald Hoffman who addressed When Human Science Lifts Human Spirit, Charles Eisenstein who explored Science, Politics and the Unmeasurable and Bruce Damer who took us into the world of AI, consciousness, the origin of man and ancient stones.
In his powerful talk about the origin of life, consciousness and how we ‘show up,’ Bruce showed us a piece of Stromatolite from Australia, known to be the oldest discovered. Fossilized stromatolites apparently provide ancient records of life on Earth by these remains, some of which may date from 3.7 billion years ago. Says Bruce, “our intention has volition over our future.”
“We shape our probability engine through intention. It may be the most powerful tool we have.”
Then, Robert Lanza gave a talk entitled Rethinking Time, Space and the Nature of the Universe, after which we heard from the voice of Ayelet Waldman who shared with wit and humor how microdosing LSD brought her out of depression and back into the living world.
An applause for Julia Mossbridge and her team for tackling the challenge of creating loving AI — in other words, creating machines with algorithms and programming that can teach us to love. Elon Musk has been sounding the alarm on artificial intelligence who says, “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”
While he’s certainly not the only one to think so, his accolades that include pioneer, inventor and billionaire, invariably hold some klout. Truth be told, robots are being built at a faster rate than many in the mainstream may realize, so they may as well have love and caring pre-dispositions programmed into them, or we may be in for a rude awakening when our world starts interfacing with them more regularly.
I loved the raw and sweet storytelling from mathematician Edward Frenkel who ever so authentically shared his awakening through the rediscovery of his lost inner child. He says “we need to speak openly more about our internal journeys, conflicts and finding the wounded child in all of us.”
In the session with both Adayashanti and Edward Frenkel, Adayashanti asserts that “Unity is the deepest possible experience of intimacy to all existence. It is the heart opening up to a deeper reality of all existence.”
Fascinating to me was the combination of their two very different backgrounds tackling the topic of the wounded child, trauma and awakening in front of a live audience: Frenkel is a Russian-American Professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley and Adayashanti is a spiritual teacher who has been compared to early Zen masters and Advaita Vedanta sages and is devoted to serving the awakening of all beings.
While Frenkel’s discipline may be mind-driven, he so beautifully weaves mind and heart together in his best selling book Love & Math.
Chris Fields gave an eloquent talk that bridged the mindfulness and scientific worlds, suggesting that All Science is Intuitive.
And, I loved the energy of Helen Palmer who talked to us about how we can use the Enneagram to better understand how we react to situations and adapt so we can show up differently to others and ourselves.
Stephen Jenkinson, otherwise known as the Angel of Death, helps people die “wise” in a human and sane way. He argued that our culture embraces the opposite and finds it astonishing how often we avoid the word death even when it is fast approaching.
Stephen asserts, “if we don’t use the D word, what secret are you helping hide in your house? If you don’t use the word when a family member is about to die, what are you postponing?”
“Dying is What You Do, It Doesn’t Happen to You.”
We don’t even use language that is sincere when the time comes for losing a family member or loved one. He feels that we have a duty to be as true and sincere as possible at the pivotal moment of death. Stephen suggests that if we fail to acknowledge this, it’s a crime against humanity.
In a society that is so irrevocably death-phobic, it becomes increasingly hard to truly understand our birthright. In other words, what part of our life is being affirmed when we replace the word dying with hope and dope? What aspect of life is being affirmed if we refuse to die when we are in fact dying?
It was a powerfully moving talk, however controversial for so many who need a less honest and authentic ‘veil’ to get them through and see this perhaps more sane and sincere path he is suggesting, too hard for them to bear.
In a talk entitled When Human Science Lifts the Human Spirit, Donald Hoffman asks “Can there be a science of consciousness?” He went on to quote Rumi.
“Silence is the Language of God, Everything Else is a Poor Translation.” -Rumi
He asserts that space, time and colors exist in consciousness, that colors and tastes are subjective properties of consciousness and we’re living in the matrix of our data structure.
As an American quantitative psychologist and Professor of Cognitive Sciences at UC Irvine, Donald uses the theory of conscious agents to solve the combination problem of consciousness, both for the combination of subjects and of experiences.
He then went on to discuss the relationship of these findings to the account of entanglement given by quantum-Bayesian interpretations of quantum theory. Donald really brought it home for me — we need more conversations like this in science and technology communities.
SAND from and for the Heart
While one can argue that many of the talks “from and for ‘understanding’ the mind” cross over into the heart, and some of the speakers who embrace the heart first, also attempt to understand the mind, talks “for and from the heart” for me are when I FEEL emotions in my body that shift my perception of something, which includes myself, my contribution to humanity and the world around me.
I see a growing interest for embodied experiences as a way forward in our path towards higher consciousness. Whatever is a challenge for us to embrace is precisely what we must tackle.
In other words, even if you’re living from a place of love and everything feels in sync in your life, better understand the mind for with that better and deeper understanding, you can then relate at a more meaningful level to the scientists, technologists, philosophers, academics in your sphere. From this place, you can have more impact and better relate.
The opposite is also true. If you have a strong spiritual practice, but haven’t had many experiences IN YOUR BODY, then march forward and experiment, even if its the hardest thing to do for you. It will not only allow the feminine side of your being to lead when it may be a better option for you, but it will lighten your load. It will lighten your being. And, it will deepen your breath and sense of knowing.
From and for the heart at SAND this year included speakers who taught us how and what it means to embrace our inner divine feminine, how connecting to the heart can create more meaning in our spiritual madness, and how awakening it can help us come home to our senses through authentic movement.
There were embodiment sessions on Breema which I experienced at SAND for the last two years, Pranayama, understanding healing through orgasmic energy, meditation, Kundalini, Tai Chi and other martial arts as well as a nose dive into Somatic Intelligence and experiencing the Human Mandala, which they did at the closing ceremony of the event.
We also explored the power of sound in our awakening process. For example, an Inner Landscapes Sound Journey was shown by Laura Inserra. A favorite of many at the conference came from Tim Freke, who spoke on the main stage and also led Emergent Spirituality in an experiential session on the last day.
From the feminine divine perspective, Vera de Chalambert says that everything is welcome on our journey and nothing should be rejected. Everything gets nourished, including our own confusion, our chaos and our imperfection. We can be an invitation to everything. She adds, “let’s dance the wild dance of non-hope and stop making deals for a safe passage.”
“Let’s Dance the Wild Dance of Non-Hope”
Dr. Deborah Johnson blew things wide open when she addressed non-duality in the context of our political, economic, and religious systems which are currently based upon a world view that is simply put, the ‘natural order of things.’
She asserts that the dominant systems that we have inherited in the 21st century are in dualism – heart vs mind, energy vs matter, masculine vs feminine, wealth vs poverty, pecking orders of species and so on……collectively referred to as “othering.”
In a moment of reflection, she asks us, “How much of your identity is tied to not being them?” In other words, identities develop around what we are against, not what we are for. Membership is based on it making compassion treason.
I felt this reality at the core of my being, so much so that it was chilling. As a white woman born in the Northeast, there are very raw ‘otherings’ that we don’t see or embrace because we’re too entrenched in our own world order. Even if we’re compassion and empathetic beings, too much is invested in a world dominated by hierarchies.
Her gift among other things, is getting us to see these contrasts for what they are, rather than hide behind them, assuming we need not deal with those ‘otherings’ because they don’t affect us in our daily lives. Not getting the raw truth and only seeing what is through our own filtered lens is merely postponing a truly non-dual world. Thomas Hübl addresses this in spades in his spiritual teachings as well.
The Power of True Embodiment
Because I tend to play and work in my right brain hemisphere more often than not, I’m always taken out of my comfort zone when I attend some of the more theoretical talks each year. The more theory, the harder my brain hurts even if I intellectually understand it. Even if it resonates. Even if I can integrate it at some level.
You see, unless I embody knowledge, it rarely has a lasting effect on me, and never a transformative one. I’m not alone. It’s why so many on a spiritual path meditate regularly, turn to yoga or even starve themselves at a silent retreat in India for a month. That ’emptying out’ experience which quiets our mind long enough for us to hear our voice, often tells us what we already know.
But, what if you’re one of those people who has tried meditation, solitude and still time, but it hasn’t moved the needle towards enlightenment in the way that you had hoped? Is it because you’re resisting in some way or could it partially be because you’re still holding onto trauma (from this lifetime or a past one) or could it be that we FEEL, SENSE and KNOW in some other way? Likely, it’s a combination.
There are so many other things we can explore on our path to higher consciousness, which may accelerate things for us in ways we never quite imagined.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment…
For example, music (tuning forks, chanting, guided music meditations, gongs and singing bowls and more) is incredibly powerful as a tool for awakening and healing.
There’s also being present and alone in nature — (its transformative if you give it time) — you may just start hearing and understanding your higher self in a way that never showed up before. Read my piece on getting lost in Curacao and how nature can heal you.
Have a hard time sitting? Then try walking meditation (labyrinths are great for people who really connect to motion). Or language over silence for example.
Kim Rosen brought me and everyone else in the first two rows to tears, as she read poetry to music. The beauty in language and words can wake us up beyond our wildest dreams.
My world revolves around intuition and what I’d refer to as that “inner knowing” — we all have this “inner knowing” and yet so many don’t trust it. For each of us, that connection will come through different ways, so rather than trust that one master’s path is the way and if it doesn’t work for you, you’ve ‘failed’ at the process, just trust that there are many ways and your higher voice will guide you when you take the time to listen.
As we all march towards enlightenment and spiritual growth, just remember that there is no ‘failure.’ Says Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: “I Am That” and all that “that” means. I wrote about my battle with my own ego when I felt “less than” as I saw others around me having spiritual connections I wasn’t getting in my first article on SAND this year.
There’s no place for this contrasting in the non-dual world. In other words, it’s important to embrace all of you and all of the other: the sad, the wounded, the internal trauma you’re afraid to face, the angry, the not so perfect part of you and others around you that show up every day. This is part of what it means to be human.
When we realize that perfection is so so counter to serenity and inner peace, it’s so much easier to get there.
This year at the conference, I heard an increased interest in exploring the path through more and more embodiment, as if there’s a hunger for it. To “feel” healing in our body, to “feel” letting go of trauma, to “feel” love for ourselves, to “feel” love and compassion for others, knowing that the fear and vulnerability that is so often attached to doing so will show up and that too is “okay.” Beyond okay, it’s beautiful when you see it all unravel before you.
Consciousness & Awakened States Thru the Heart
And so my friends, venture to your uncomfortable zone and embrace it. Get into your body more, sit with nature, BE okay with the process and where you’re at, for where you’re at is precisely where you’re supposed to be at.
I can assure you that it will all come together the more you trust and let go of resistance. The universe in all of her miraculous spiritual divine energy will take care of what you’re here to be, to learn and do. Trust your intuition and let your voice be the guide. It knows the way.
Hopefully I’ll see you at SAND next year. If you’re interested in a more awakened life, check out their site for insights, news and updates.
Off the Stage at SAND
Other Great Articles You May Like
- A SAND Dialogue: Non-Duality and the Emergent Universe
- Thomas Hubl on Awakening
- TransTech Conference
- SAND 2016: Why We Are Not Our Thoughts
- SAND 2015 – Where Consciousness and Science Meet
- Martial Arts: Enlightenment and the Quiet Mind
- Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra Take on Dream States
- Shelley Warren: Where Astrology Meets Crystal Grid Mapping
- Singing Bowls and Gongs to Relax the Mind
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