Truth be told, I’ve known about Petaluma-based IONs (Institute for Noetic Sciences) for awhile now, and have attended some of their smaller workshops and events over the years. That said, we weren’t aware of their annual IONS International Conference , now in its 18th year so were thrilled to team up this year as a media partner. This summer’s event which was held from July 18th-21st in Santa Clara, California brought together over 900 scientists, spiritual teachers and consciousness explorers all under one roof for several days of discussions around cutting edge research in consciousness science, personal transformation, and expanded human potential.
So, what makes this event so special?
The fact that they can gather so many respected scientists, researchers and business entrepreneurs together to embrace spirituality publicly in a way that is rarely done is astonishing in itself. By embrace, I mean that those in the world of cutting edge science are listening to spiritual teachers and wisdom keepers in a way they haven’t in the past and moreso, trying to figure out a way to not only deepen the conversation, but allow both sides an equal seat at the table.
Moving away from the “us” (those who need data to be proven in traditional scientific ways for it to be real) and “them” (those who connect to the unseen world without proof and embrace ancient wisdom of top spiritual masters regardless of faith), is the way forward. You see, those who have had a mystical experience have often had more than one and they don’t need scientific proof for their experience to be real, valid or self-affirming. Wisdom keepers are those who LIVE a spiritual life and while some have a religion which may be attached to it, more and more, people do not. For so many, their “religion” may be of an ancient belief system like Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity or Islam but for others who are awakening now, particularly millennials, we are starting to see that their ‘faith’ if you like or connection is to that of the Earth, the elementals, and rituals which indigenous elders have worked so hard to keep alive for thousands of years. And, for others, it’s the stars themselves — they have an inner knowing that they are part of a greater universal make-up beyond the Earth and even beyond our Galaxy and Universe.
This year’s theme at IONs was “The Possibility Accelerator: Creating our Future, Now.” What was so beautiful was that science is starting to catch up if you will to some of the profound observations mystics have had for years. And while we heard from some of the scientific and research powerhouses like leading thinker, author and speaker Deepak Chopra, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, who addressed the perspective of interpersonal Neurobiology. Dan included contemporary insights from the physics of reality and used the Wheel of Awareness to explore these questions and their practical implications. ION’s Chief Scientist Dean Radin (see our interview with him) spoke about some of his latest research findings.
We also heard from visionaries like Shamani Jane (CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI), who also led a pretty interesting interactive embodiment exercise in her breakout session. Julia Mossbridge, Ph.D. spoke on the “Precog Economy,” and what we can do to mitigate some of the risks.
I’ve heard Deepak speak a number of times over the years — in this powerful talk on day one, he spoke about intentions and manifestations. In other words, there are countless ways we make our intentions come true. So true that some people manifest their deepest dreams, wishes and desires while others do not. Deepak Chopra addressed the power of your view of reality (The Nature of Reality) and practical ways to experience transformation and healing in the process.
I’m relatively new to Rupert Sheldrake’s work, however his name has been coming up quite a bit lately in the context of morphic resonance, a process whereby self-organizing systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems, which essentially means that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. According to Sheldrake, “the hypothesis of morphic resonance also leads to a radically new interpretation of memory storage in the brain and of biological inheritance. Memory need not be stored in material traces inside brains, which are more like TV receivers than video recorders, tuning into influences from the past).” This concept apparently lacks mainstream acceptance and has been characterized as pseudoscience however we see it as a reality in our work all the time. Rupert Sheldrake gave a talk on the main stage which addressed the various aspects of spirituality, from mainstream-like things like rituals, meditation and prayer to the impact of nature, flowers, gratitude, pilgrimage and music, which have no specific religious affiliation whatsoever.
Chris Grosso spoke about what it means to be Perfectly Imperfect. He shared his so called messy story with the audience, including his past addictions and his path to leading a clean and balanced life. Throughout this very tough process, he found healing and love although it wasn’t an easy road. He asks: what does it mean to accept yourself fully in all of your perfect imperfection? He spoke of using our own difficult life experiences and tragedies as catalysts towards spiritual awakening through various meditations, creative exercises, compassion practices and more.
Director of Development and Communications Alex Morrison introduced IONs President and Chief Scientist Cassandra Vieten who I’ve seen speak before and we LOVE her energy!
Cassandra Vieten summarized things beautifully which included interactive breakout sessions with others in the main room. As a workshop leader and professional trainer, her research has focused on spirituality and health, transformative experiences and practices, development of mindfulness-based interventions for emotional well-being, and enhancing the effectiveness of change agents. Her primary interest lies in how psychology, biology, and spirituality interact to affect experience and behavior. She wrapped with a question for all of us as a community to ponder: what kind of ecosystem can we create that will support the changes we want to make and the world we want to build? Her assessment included creative ways we can become world builders and change makers together collectively as a community.
ION’s CEO Claire Lachance also graced us with her beautiful presence on the main stage. Although I didn’t get time to connect with Claire for long, I loved watching her navigate the floor before, during and after the event. One thing I noted was how authentic she was when connecting with others, whether they be vendors or complete strangers. Her passion lies in values-driven strategies, organizational sustainability, and servant leadership. The key now is integrating those leading-edge business practices with valuable learnings from science and ancient wisdom traditions. I’m so excited to see what she has in store for IONs in the coming months ahead.
Ervin Laszlo talked about the resurgence of the search for meaning and oneness through social togetherness. This has led to the cultivation of spiritual and transcendental experiences which is helping to restore coherence at a time when the world most needs it. Charles Eisenstein addressed Eco-Healing. He asserts that today’s ecological crisis can best be understood as the inevitable terminus of an age-old story of separation. In other words, our separation from Mother Earth — we love his work. John A. Jowell suggests that “othering” and “belonging” is the problem of the 21st century. He led a keynote address on Friday as the underlying issue we face today is who we are and what our relationship is to the “other.”
Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. shared the science of the Gloabal Coherence Initiative, which leverages decades of research at the HeartMath Institute (we’re fans!). Rollin talked about the interactions between humanity’s energetic field and that of the Earth. If you don’t think Gaia has her own consciousness, think again!
Roger Nelson, Ph.D. is the Director of the Global Consciousness Project (GCP). His focus is on mental interactions, anomalous information transfer, and effects on physical systems by individuals and groups. He created the GCP in 1997, building a world-spanning random number generator network designed to gather evidence of coalescing global consciousness. And we loved seeing Yvonne Cagle on the agenda. I first met her when I was involved with the Singularity University team many years ago.
“We are Stardust.” — Edgar Mitchell, Founder of IONS
Yvonne was part of an Astrophysics Meets Theology Panel on Thursday evening together with Brian G. Keating, PhD. & Professor of Physics, Ginny Whitelaw, Ph.D. (and Zen Master), Luxas Mix, Ph.D. Priest & Researcher, H. Bruce McEver, MBA and Bruce Damer, Ph.D., Scientist, Designer & Author. The panel kicked off with a reference to a quote that IONS founder Edgar Mitchell was known to say: “we are stardust.” The dialogue built bridges between these two arenas of exploration and how spirituality and astrophysics are not mutually exclusive but are complementary to and inform one another.
We also loved the humor and authenticity of Frederick Chavalit Tsao, MS who came over from China. His talk was on Pioneering the Oneness Worldview in China and Beyond. He founded the SANGHA Retreat by OCTAVE Institute, he is creating opportunities for societal healing in China in a unique way and a festival is tied to it (its coming up in November 2019 in Shanghai). In an effort to foster harmonious communities, Fred shared his own story, one which reflects his belief that worldviews can essentially shift when people have the opportunity to be more mindful about the way they live, lead and gather together as a community.
Inner Knowing From the Heart: Compassion, Forgiveness & Love
There were also plenty of voices from the other side. IONs board member Azim Khamisa has his own personal story and journey, which some of you may have heard as it hit national news in the states. Hailed by dignitaries such as the Dalai Llama, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Azim delivers his inspirational message to a world in desperate need of forgiveness, peace and hope. Following the murder of his only son Tariq in 1995 through a senseless, gang-related incident, Azim chose the path of forgiveness and compassion rather than revenge, and this amazing choice led to the establishment of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) and the subsequent forgiveness movement which has reached millions.
Azim Khamisa presented the NextGen Consciousness in Action Awards to Lyla June, Jewel Love and Sarah Peck. Lyla is a poet, musician, anthropologist, educator, public speaker and community organizer of Dine, Cheyenne and European lineages. She also performs poetry, hip-hop, acoustic music and other performances. Jewel is a licensed psychotherapist and CEO of Black Executive Men, which is focused on wellness. His work helps black men in corporate America find inner peace through psychotherapy and other programs, including his work at Urban Healers, which aims to promote healthy masculinity through modern ceremonies and rituals. And, Sarah Peck has been leading spirit, mind and body programs at Teachers College, Columbia University for a decade, which includes her dissertation work working with spiritual healers and clients with serious illnesses.
Lyla Love really moved me with her talk on stage, addressing the importance of all of us reconnecting with the Earth and the ancient wisdom of our ancestors. She played the drum and sang an indigenous song from her own lineage, which is included in our wrap up video below.
It wasn’t until Lyla was on stage that I learned that she was the daughter of Pat McCabe, who is such an inspirational individual and speaker. Her talk was called Recognizing Our Perfect Design for Thriving Life. In other words, as cracks in foundational beliefs (we all have our own) begin to appear, as imposed knowledge gives way to inner knowing, we are in a perfect position to reconsider aspects of our design for a thriving life. Who are we, she asks? And, how are we all related? She took an indigenous perspective to hit home her message and to allow us ever so gently to dive deep within ourselves where the best answers always lie. For within ourselves, we can tap into our Higher Self, which is indeed connected to the wisdom of our ancestors. All of our ancestors at one time or another were deeply connected to the Earth and the wisdom that lies within the consciousness of Gaia — perhaps when we do feel lost or disconnected, it’s because we’ve abandoned the inner knowledge we already have and our ancestors already passed on. This is a message which not only hits home with us in our work but one we share often as a powerful way to heal and renew our souls.
I missed the pre-conference workshop with Susan Mokelke, JD although would have loved to hear her take on Shamanic Journeying. In her workshop which focused on a Pathway to Another Reality, she asserts that the Shamanic Journey is one of the more visionary methods to explore the hidden universe otherwise known mainly through myth and dream. She used drumming in her workshop to help alter consciousness and awaken one’s soul and dormant spiritual power, not unlike what we do in our own work — so powerful! We love her work.
ne of my favorite speakers Deborah Johnson brought the house down as she gave a captivating talk on the main stage about what it means to be human, what it means to show up, what it means to be spiritual, what it means to embrace the other, what it means to make a difference. She spoke of polarities (as in polar opposites, saying that you care and want to make a change to help humanity but then voting for something that hurts humanity)
And, although I unfortunately missed the sessions with Jill Purce and Luisah Teish, Jill liberated the audience through the ecstasy of chant (we’ve been listening to her work all week) and Luisah spoke of the power of art, storytelling, ritual and folklore. So up our alley, she talked about the personality of the Moon (it does have one for those who doubt it) and her relationship to the Sun and Ocean — SO love this. Attendees were able to perform an African Moon Ritual and produce a ‘work-of-art’ in honor of the Moon.
Here are some shots of the event, which I would refer to as the “in between stuff,” which is as powerful as the content itself. IONS attracts some of the most interesting attendees, so you’ll find yourself in equally fascinating conversations in the hallways, at lunch and in between sessions.
Experiential in Motion
They also had something they call poster sessions. Noetic researchers, scholars, community leaders and enthusiasts presented posters on their projects and passions. The poster sessions provided unique opportunities for attendees to connect with one another and discuss exciting projects where they may have shared interest. A few of them included: Water: Fractal Antenna of Information with Denise Barrett, Why It’s Important to Know Why We’re Here with Annette Cravera Goggio, the ability to couple our position space with K space to allow us to imprint our intention with Allison Gillott, Aquarian Theosophy with Eric L. Lundgaard and the Integration of the Four Pillars of PSI Research with Marilyn Stickle.
Other topics included Subjective Temporal Dynamics, the Pancea Theory, Sound Reiki, Thermodynamics and Metabolism, New Scientific Paradigms Meets new Non-Materalist Paradigms and more. We even saw a fun spoon bending experiment, which isn’t new, but it’s always fun to go through.
Exhibitors & Vendors
Some of the great exhibitors and vendors at this year’s event included John F. Kennedy University, New Harbinger Publications, Unity International, Integral Transformative Practice, The Monroe Institute, Consciousness Hacking, River of Light Massage & Healing Arts, Biofield Tuning, Radiant Health/Network Spinal, The Extraordinary Project, DreamBuilder LIVE, Zero Balancing Touch Foundation, Biofield Healing Institute (fascinating stuff), Human 2.0 (we love what these guys are doing), IONS, LightHaus, Lucia N 03 Light Experience and the Space Less Traveled: Documentary About Edgar Mitchell.
People traveled from around the world, including: Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, Spain, Singapore, Japan, Israel, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Mauritius, Austria, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Greece, Estonia, Czech Republic, Brazil, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, France, Costa Rica, and China. Whoah, what a list, right? They had nearly 850 people attend this year, over 70 conference presenters and 23 exhibitors.
Interested in learning more about IONs and their vision? For centuries, the power of science has propelled us forward. It has unlocked the mysteries of the natural world and driven human innovation. Robust scientific inquiry serves as the basis for progress by providing a sturdy, objective foundation on which to build. At IONS, they are inspired by the power of science to explain phenomena not previously understood, harnessing the best of the rational mind to make advances that further our knowledge and enhance our human experience. And, they’re helping to get both sides together in a public forum, thereby giving credibility to both. The goal? To create a more compassionate and sustainable world, one which empowers and supports all aspects of humanity, not just the privileged, educated and traditional leadership.
“The mission of IONS is to reveal the interconnected nature of reality through scientific exploration and personal discovery, creating a more compassionate, thriving, and sustainable world.”
Here’s a fun video summary we took of the event this year. Enjoy! Would we team up again? You betcha. It was our first, but hopefully not the last. We love that the event bridges the gap between Science and Technology and the world of Spirituality & Mystics. They allow a platform and space where both sides can come together to discuss cutting edge breakthroughs, research, experiences and perspectives.