Science and Nonduality: Where Data and Consciousness Meet Puppets and Tea

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After a few days filling my head for ten hours a day at the Singularity Summit, to then spend a few days filling my head with discussions on nonduality had a weird rewiring effect on my brain. This happens often however given I’m such a sponge for all things ‘possible’ and both groups believe that all things are possible. One believes that technology will make all possibilities happen and the other is a bridge to “it,” but with spirituality leading the way. Sort of.

Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.

NondaulityI recently had the opportunity to attend an event that integrates both worlds: the SAND Conference or its longer known name: Science & Nonduality Conference. It’s tagline: The Nature of the Self of course.

An annual event stateside and in Europe, it is held in San Rafael California in October and in the Netherlands in May. Nonduality is the main thread throughout however within that eye’s view, people from all walks of life come together to discuss ‘its’ meaning and explore what is emerging in consciousness.

From scientists, philosphers, physicists, spiritual healers, sufi and zen teachers, yogis, and anthropologists, to musicians, artists, film producers, academics and psychotherapists, the conversation is a rich and rewarding one.

Within the nondual world, there’s a constant reference to ‘oneness’ for aren’t we, after all, one? The problem is there are so many variations of how people view the idea of ‘oneness’.


I spent ten days or so in Fiji a few years back learning the ‘ins and outs’ of the “oneness movement” (some people see it as a cult) and in the process, I became certified as an official Deeksha Blessing giver.

What does that mean exactly?

A Deeksha Blessing is a direct transfer of intelligent sacred energy and in this “transfer,” people may cry or laugh as their heart opens in small or big ways. Inside this opening, everything from small shifts that can modify the dynamics of a relationship to transformations that can alter lives forever, erupt.

It can also bring about clarity or quiet a busy mind in a similar way that meditation achieves. What it doesn’t promise to do, but can do, is open the door to higher states of awareness and initiate awakening…an awakening where there’s a feeling of oneness and not a sense of separateness.

Their goal is to raise the level of consciousness globally through a “ripple effect that goes out to all of mankind.” My personal experience with it was mixed.

BrainIn both giving and receiving a Deeksha Blessing, I did experience higher levels of awareness and it was evident to me at least, that a powerful energy exchange is not only possible, but it can move you into a different state.

In most cases, it’s a purer stage of being where your awareness is elevated and your heart is more open. I saw some powerful things happen as a result of this energy exchange over time…in Fiji, and later in the states.

That said, I believe most of our spiritual growth comes from within ourselves, deeksha blessing or not, as powerful as it may be. It happens when we let go of our fears.

A feeling of oneness in its truest sense comes from a place of unconditional love for everyone around us, not just our immediate family. This includes self love, which more people have a hard time with than loving others.

It’s also about getting out of our own way and most importantly, letting go. Letting go, silenting the mind and being present is when I go to a higher level of consciousness and the beauty about it, is that its consistent.

When I truly turn off the brain and stop my over processing which I do often (aka a state of being paralyzed by “thought”), then magic begins. This is hard work or so we think it is. That’s the paradox. Once we stop fighting our mind’s paralyzed state, then things move as smoothly as a light airy tube flows down a river.

Once we are transformed ourselves, we can transform people around us, including the planet.

Future_BrainTech2-300x225The cool thing is that while spiritual teachers and philosophers have been writing about the concept of oneness and higher consciousness (and living it) for centuries, western scientists are now arriving at the same conclusion:

“The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being – consciousness – subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity: fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.”

Eastern Mysticism is now meeting Quantum Mechanics. If both the left brains and right brains are starting to agree that we’re all drops of the same ocean, why is it that we beat ourselves up and continue to live our lives from a place of fear rather than love and acceptance?

Like so many, I’m often hard on myself (note: that’s “thought” speaking) and so it was no surprise that I was hard on myself several times throughout the weekend. This was the kind of conference where you ‘shouldn’t be’ hard on yourself, I thought. (there’s “thought” speaking again).

Ever have one of those “be damned” conversations inside your head that goes nowhere?

Ginu Yu writes in a blog post on nonduality: “nondualists often resort to the metaphor of a movie that’s being projected on an infinite screen. Even though the characters and the scenery appear to be separate and interactive, the only thing that’s really real is the white, seamless screen that’s accepting the melodramatic and illusory story that’s being projected upon it. Nondualists claim that, instead of you being just a small and limited character playing a part in your life’s story, that, in truth, you’re actually the entire infinite screen itself. From their point of view, you are the very context in which ALL of life itself is showing up in.”

There are obviously people playing and working at various levels of consciousness and when you find yourself face-to-face with a really quiet soul, you become even more aware of the chatter going on in your head. This happened to me on a number of occasions at the SAND event including the brief exchange I had with Francis Lucille, an Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) teacher, who was respected by pretty much everyone I spoke to.

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Even when we know its absurd to compare our states of being with others around us, it happens. For a moment in time, we return to a high school mentality and create a reality that may or may not be true.

Most of the time, the reality is in our heads and when we create that reality, the world mirrors that reality back to us. And so, suddenly what is a perceived illusion does in fact become a reality of sorts, something we have the power to change instantly…in the moment of “decision.”

We are all on our own journey and as an old wise mountain man said to me while I was hiking a trail in Nepal that was clearly past my comfort zone, “patience, grasshopper, patience.”

Rather than be effected by the noise, become the noise, let it diffuse around you as you become ‘it’ and suddenly the voices of that unremarkable high school playground will eventually disappear.

One of the things I loved about the event was the diversity of minds at the table…when science gets a seat at the spiritual table and both sides can respect each other and move mountains together, then oneness starts to take on a new meaning. It becomes Global. Cultural. Intellectual. Spiritual. Psychological. Scientific. And all of it ends at the same place: nonduality. We are one.

On the path to a so called golden age for humanity like everyone else there, I found beauty, purpose and deeper understanding in the simplest of things.

Although the sessions were led by respected speakers who flew in from around the world, it was the conversations in the hallways that moved me the most, sitting down in a circle, listening, asking questions and then just not doing anything at all. Well, maybe nothing at all over a cuppa tea.

I was taken in on more than one occasion with welcoming smiles by two guys obsessed with tea more than life itself. Almost. There were two round tables set up with short backless chairs surrounding them.

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They led tea ceremonies all day, every day and to participate, all you had to do was take a seat at the table. It was called the OmShanTea Lounge.

Sitting was always a treasure because it meant meeting a new soul every time; sometimes it was someone at the middle of his or her journey who was struggling with one thing or another and sometimes it was someone you felt never had to struggle at all. Miraculously, they had arrived on this planet inherently and quietly knowing all the answers by the age of ten.

When we let go of our stories, I find that just when I think I’m the teacher, I’m actually the student and vice versa. More often than not, we are both in every encounter. Awareness of that exchange even if we don’t necessarily understand it, is such a beautiful thing. And, the whole conference was a bit like that.

There were too many sessions and speakers to list since the event is four days (and nights) long but you can get a glimpse of this year’s schedule here. Topics I expected to see included sessions such as: The Practice of Selflessness, The Self and Non-Duality in Sufism, Closing the Gap Between “I” and my “Self”, The Art of Being Present and the Poetry of Infinite Belonging.

But, there were also sessions on health and disease, spiritual ecology and a response to our present ecological crisis, getting the same result through magic mushrooms and meditation, psychedelic research, revealing the self through Kabbalah & Alchemy, theta consciousness and the heart of quantum phsyics. John Hagelin gave an inspiring talk on Higher States: The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment.

A few sessions I missed but would have loved to be sitting front row center for, included the Yin-Yang Theory for Transformation: Applying Feminine and Masculine Principles for Awakening by Mukti, An Integral Approach to Dreams by Fariba Bogzaran & Daniel Deslauriers, Unmani’s Unravelling the great pretence of who you think you are and Adyashanti’s Mystery of Being.

Since I am so physical and being in a creative state through my body is at my core, my favorite sessions were those which involved elevating ‘self’ through movement and music. They had daily activities in a space they referred to as the Experiential Room.

Other opportunities included the energy of sound and Shamanic Practice, African drums, TransDance with Heather Munroe Pierce and a very cool session called the Fusion of Opposites in the Circular Portal, a hoop-dance exploration with Stefana Serafina.

I also had a lot of fun meeting (and then kissing) Puppetji, a puppet who enlightens you through simple reminders of what’s real, and Meriel Gold’s drawing class.

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Muriel’s drawing class seemed to be popular since it was sold out when I arrived. Graciously, a man gave me his seat and announced he was off to carve pumpkins with a two year old. I didn’t know anything about her except that she had an English accent, was from Scottish descent and had that dry sense of humor that only someone who was born there or who has lived there can truly appreciate. I loved her energy immediately.

Scrolls of large paper hung off long wide tables and next to each sitting space was a round block of brown clay, a feather, and a couple utensils that could be used to scatter wet clay or ink on the paper.

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Since I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I didn’t realize until after I soaked my hands in water and bathed them with clay, that I’d be drawing nudes, but without my eyes. Well, sort of.

Her intention was for us to draw with our hands while feeling what we saw rather than putting ‘thought’ into what we saw. As my creative busy brain started to take over, Muriel came straight for me, grabbed my hands and softened them over the paper as they were but an airbrush and the paper was but a cloud.

Alas, I “get it” Muriel, I “get it.” Pure, simple, musical and divine, my hands don’t want to think as much as my brain doesn’t want to really think. “Thought” so often gets in the way of us doing our best work….our most divine work.

I didn’t want to leave the room but eventually afternoon turned into evening and I found myself covered in wet clay from head to toe. Little did I know that I’d still find clay stains on my body and clothes days later even after showers and laundry.

Master Puppetji and I hung out after his performance and of course I fell in love with him. It’s not hard. His message is simple: “you take life too seriously. Enlighten up.” (see video)

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Senegalese musician Youssoupha Sidibe is a Kora player who performed for us. His music fuses traditional West African sounds on the Kora, with the Sufi devotional chanting of the Senegalese Baay Faal community. (see video)

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Pantomime artist David Ellzey inspired the crowd as he brought enlightenment into his performance again and again. (see video)

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Films also played throughout the conference including Kumare, Neti Neti, Nataraja (The Dance of Life), The Unknowable Reality of Things, and others.

Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo produce and run the conference and being around them is pure joy. If you have an opportunity to attend one of their events, I’d strongly recommend it.

If you want to transform your life, engage with some of the world’s leading thinkers and nondoers in the world of consciousness and join a community that bridges the best of the spiritual world with the best of the scientific world, SAND is an incredible journey.

Besides, where else do you have an opportunity to sip transformative tea, kiss a puppet guru, meditate, do yoga, and African dance in the same morning? OR, watch spiritual films, finger paint and grow from some of the most respected spiritual and scientific leaders today in the same afternoon?

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Thank you to Maurizio and Zaya for an opportunity to spend time with so many beautiful souls, my friend Ginu Yu who introduced me to their world and Nick Day for his patience and support while I went off target, back on target and then off target again.

We are all on our own journey. It’s important to recognize this and move the needle forward one step at a time until we are free from the thought (and thoughts) that bind us from living a remarkable life every minute of the day.

Photo credits in order of apperance, IAwakeBlog, HolyBooks, BeforeGlow, Unknown, Unknown, Renee Blodgett (Francis shot), Lands of Wisdom and Renee Blodgett. For more on spirituality on WBTW, go here. Read my latest tweets @magicsaucemedia and @weblogtheworld.

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