Reflections on SAND 2017:

The Emergent Universe by Elizabeth Fitzer

SAND17 collage from Science and Nonduality

SAND17 collage from Science and Nonduality

Reflections on SAND 2017: The Emergent Universe
By Elizabeth Fitzer, editor of the Non-Duality Press blog

If you’re like me and so many others, the stories of the past year have been difficult to process on every level—the mental, physical, and spiritual; the personal and political; the individual and collective. So it was no exaggeration when Non-Duality Press posted that we were “overjoyed” about the arrival of the Science and Nonduality Conference (SAND17 US).

As founder of Non-Duality Press Julian Noyce said last year, “The SAND Gatherings create a friendly and dynamic space for openhearted, and open-ended, exploration.” That certainly proved true for this year’s conference, and it was right on time.

SAND17 US: The Emergent Universe occurred October 18 through 22 at Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose, CA. Here, I reflect on the gathering as an attendee and associate of New Harbinger Publications and its imprint Non-Duality Press.

SAND17: The Emergent Universe

From SAND17: The Emergent Universe

What Is Emerging

That which is emergent is that which is newly forming or rising to the surface, suddenly appearing or just now coming into awareness. As Science and Nonduality puts it in the video “Emergence,” we are each a “unique emergent expression of life.” Yet even in our individuality, our oneness is undeniable: we are all connected. And it is through this interconnectedness—the way we interact and affect one another—that the emergent universe is created anew in each and every moment. As in the book by presenter Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos, You Are the Universe.

SAND gives us an opportunity to reflect on this, paradox and all—to come together in the recognition of our utter inseparability, to celebrate what distinguishes us from each other, and to encourage and support one another in our evolutionary awakening, with all of the tools and technologies available.

Rupert Spira at SAND17

Rupert Spira at SAND17

This year, New Harbinger and Non-Duality Press were beyond happy to see so many of our authors in action again, to that end: Scott Kiloby called on us to “Join the Evolution!” and address our individual shame and trauma—two significant factors that drive addiction. In “Encapsulation to Boundlessness: Emerging from the Dream of Separation,” Joan Tollifson invited us to explore our experience of awareness as “the boundless wholeness of being,” the “dance of emptiness” that is the ever-evolving universe, here and now. Amoda Maa asked, “What Does It Mean to Be Fully Awake and Fully Human?” and touched on the idea of self-divestment. And of course, what would SAND be without Rupert Spira’s elucidations on The Nature of Consciousness?

Maurizio Benazzo & Joan Tollifson

It was also a pleasure to see our new and forthcoming authors at SAND17, including Bonnie Greenwell, whose session on “The Emergent Human: Transformation and Awakening into the World as It Is” explored different transformative phenomena that can occur, and reminded us of the free presence that we are, the “original consciousness” that we share. “This place of perfect equanimity, peace, and spontaneous response to life—it already exists within you,” she said.

But what of “The Inconvenient Truth of Nonduality,” as presented by author and founder of Inner Light Ministries Deborah Johnson? In a world where we’re inevitably connected, yet divided by disparate beliefs and ideologies, what do we do—how do we engage and affect one another, without getting “nasty”? Or, as the session title put it, “What If I Don’t Want to Be One With Them?”

New Harbinger author table at SAND17

New Harbinger’s “Meet Our Authors” table

Healing the Divide

Partisan politics, the gender binary, even the progressive path versus the direct path—the apparent gravity and multitude of the concepts that drive division can seem overwhelming and insurmountable at times. Which is what makes it even more important to find a way to hold it all—to acknowledge every aspect of ourselves, especially our shadows, and bring them into the light.

The Mahavidyas (ten wisdom goddesses) of Kavitha Chinnaiyan’s Shakti Rising: Embracing Shadow and Light on the Goddess Path to Wholeness help us to do just that. This presentation of the divine feminine and their intense, paradoxical imagery—including Kali, a goddess who lives in cemeteries; and Bhuvaneshwari, who represents space, carrying a goad and a noose—called us to awaken to “the reality that encompasses all dualities,” including our “impurities.”

(See also “Embracing the Divine Feminine, Darkness & All” by Kavitha Chinnaiyan)

Sally Kempton & Kavitha Chinnaiyan

Sally Kempton & Kavitha Chinnaiyan

“It’s not an either/or question; it’s a both/and question… I think that safeguards us from becoming fundamentalist,” said Michael A. Rodriguez in the panel discussion “Sudden or Gradual: Two Paths to Realization?”—with David Buckland and Isa Gucciardi, facilitated by Rick Archer (here with Amoda Maa on Buddha at the Gas Pump).

In her session “The Experience of Anger and Awakened Living,” Gail Brenner encouraged us to accept the “invitation of anger,” which can show us where we’re holding on to our sense of separation, with all the “I” thoughts that feed it. By turning toward our anger with attention and curiosity, we can change the way we relate to it and create a “moment of choice,” a place from which we can act with greater wisdom.

Amoda Maa also spoke of opening to the energy of anger, without diving into or acting on the beliefs inside of it, reminding us that “wherever we feel righteous, is exactly the place we’re holding back the love.” In this way, even our anger, when explored wisely, can point us toward freedom.

“Let’s have the courage to rattle everything”—Jac O’Keeffe

To self or not to self—that is the question (among many others!). And at SAND, there’s space for all of it—so why not question everything? In her session “The Future of Non-Duality Lies in Recognition of Its Place in the Greater Scheme of Things (And Non-Things!),” Jac O’Keeffe encouraged us to cultivate honesty, integrity, and spiritual wisdom—to use discernment, hang on to our own authority, and check it with our own experience, using trial and error. “Let’s have the courage to rattle everything,” she said. “Let’s be more creative. Let’s be more influential.”

Sacred Activism: a panel

The panel: Sacred Activism

A Call to Action

One of the most personally significant themes that arose at SAND17 was the idea of activism as a moral imperative. In the panel discussion “Sacred Activism”—with Deborah Johnson, Charles Eisenstein, Caverly Morgan, and Rory McEntee; moderated by Vera de Chalambert—Johnson urged us to “listen with the ears of HOPE [Heart, Open, Possibility, Engagement]” and stay involved; to have a vision of where we want to go and to live that reality, rather than fixating on a particular perceived enemy.

Also moving was Lynn Marie Lumiere’s presentation “Awakened Activism: The Emergence of Nondual Wisdom as an Evolutionary Imperative in a World Out of Balance.” Lumiere outlined the issues we face on a global level, while at the same time emphasizing that there is really only one problem—the belief in separation—and one solution: to wake up to the unity of all life.

“Awakened activism is awakening to our true, empowered, infinite nature, and creating a world that is a reflection of that nature,” Lumiere said. Urging us to look deeply into our own lack of compassion and empathy—our own “me first” tendencies—she provided steps we can take toward being of service and taking responsibility and empowered action, when somehow “all is well, and the heart breaks.”

____, ____, & Jeff Foster

A warm embrace, with David Ellzey & Jeff Foster

Radical Unity

What a gift—to gather with the seers and the seekers; the scientists and philosophers; the authors, speakers, and teachers of the SAND community in exploration of the nature of being and the universe. And what an awesome way to come together and experience the truth at the mystical heart of so many of the world’s traditions, both ancient and new: we are one.

It’s that “deeper sense of belonging,” that “exquisite sense of awe” that Science and Nonduality describes as emerging “when the mind dissolves the concept of separateness and starts seeing life as one interdependent whole”: a “radical unity.”

Thank you, Science and Nonduality, for SAND17—yet another chance to acknowledge and celebrate all that makes us unique while basking in the loving reality of nonseparation.

Tesilya Hanauer, Julian Noyce & Catharine Meyers

Tesilya Hanauer, Julian Noyce & Catharine Meyers

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”—Rumi

Check out the beautiful closing ceremony here.

’Tis the Season for Trauma: How Mindfulness Can Bring Joy and Peace Back to the Fall and Winter Holidays by Scott Kiloby

Abstract and mysterious background of blurred forest with autumn lighting

’Tis the Season for Trauma: How Mindfulness Can Bring Joy and Peace Back to the Fall and Winter Holidays
By Scott Kiloby, author of The Unfindable Inquiry and Natural Rest for Addiction

The fall and winter holidays are meant to be a time of peace, joy, and loving connection with family members and loved ones—or so we are told… Yet many of us don’t experience that peace, joy, and connection. Instead, we find ourselves reliving past memories and emotional disturbances related to trauma that we experienced in our early days growing up in our families of origin.

Those who experience a traumatic event during developmental years sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life. Trauma is an event that was so emotionally overwhelming or hurtful that our systems shut down at the time, not allowing us to process emotions in a healthy way. The event leaves an imprint in our bodies and minds that continues to bring forth triggers when we see the people, places, and things that are connected to traumatic memories. PTSD is a set of symptoms that tend to arise over and over again as a result of this unresolved emotional imprint.

Trauma and PTSD are not reserved only for those of us who were physically or sexually abused as children. Trauma is much broader than that. Feeling unloved, judged, rejected, or abandoned by a parent or loved one during child development can bring about PTSD-like symptoms that continue to resurface every year around the holidays.

One glance at a loved one’s face or even the sound of a voice can act as a catalyst that brings up feelings of anger, sadness, shame, or anxiety that have remained buried inside us for years. This can lead to a feeling of dread toward holiday events and family gatherings. Instead of longing to be in the presence of those who truly love us, we find ourselves ruminating on and rehashing these past thoughts and feelings. For some, the resurfacing of trauma can be quite debilitating, leading to isolation, depression, or an increase in addictive behaviors and other not-so-healthy coping mechanisms.

With mindfulness, we begin to truly face, feel, and resolve these past traumas as they resurface. We learn to allow and dissolve the thoughts, feelings, and sensations tied to our traumatic childhood. We start to live in the present moment, where life is always new and fresh.

When working with people on past trauma at the Kiloby Center for Recovery, our aim is to first help them see the full extent of the emotional disconnection from their loved ones. We invite them to compare within their consciousness how they experience a beloved pet to how they experience a father or a sister. When they visualize their dog “Jake,” for example, they may experience love, warmth, openness, and connection. Thoughts of their pets are not traumatic or painful (unless, of course, they are grieving the loss of a pet). This is because, unlike our relationships with other humans, we do not relate to our pets on the level of ego. We connect with our pets from our natural state of presence and unconditional love. When clients are then asked to visualize their family of origin, something else happens entirely! They may experience fear, sadness, shame, or anger. The corresponding mental images of their loved ones may appear sticky and solid, creating a sense of separation between them. This is the ego, through and through.

How do we learn to experience our loved ones with the same warmth, peace, love, and joy that we experience with our pets? The key is to unhook ourselves from the filter of the past as it relates to our loved ones. Essentially, we dismantle the ego and its negative storytelling. With mindfulness, we begin to truly face, feel, and resolve these past traumas as they resurface. We learn to allow and dissolve the thoughts, feelings, and sensations tied to our traumatic childhood. We start to live in the present moment, where life is always new and fresh. Then, when we see a loved one’s face or hear his or her voice, we connect to the joy, peace, and love we feel for them, instead of re-experiencing the emotional imprint that leaves us feeling disconnected.

Mindfulness takes skill. We can become easily overwhelmed by the resurfacing of traumatic memories and feelings while working with trauma using mindfulness. Many of us need the guiding presence of a mindfulness facilitator or teacher to help us through the process skillfully and thoroughly. But once we learn valuable skills, those skills are with us forever. We can use them whenever the painful filter of the past begins to resurface during holiday events and family gatherings. We become the masters of our own experience, able to experience the joy and peace that the holidays are truly about.

Natural Rest for AddictionIn addition to authoring books on mindfulness and awareness, Scott Kiloby is co-owner of the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage, CA—the first addiction treatment center to focus primarily on mindfulness—and co-owner of the Natural Rest House, a detox and residential center in Palm Springs. He is also founder of a worldwide mindfulness training program called the Living Inquiries. For more info, visit

Scott recently appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose, CA (SAND17 US). To learn more about him and his work, check out his Q&A with Non-Duality Press here.

What Is the Purpose of Silent Retreat? by Amoda Maa

Image of solo meditation practitioner on the beach, sun shining through hand

What Is the Purpose of Silent Retreat?
By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

Many spiritual traditions offer silent retreat as the basis of their teachings. Most often, some kind of meditative practice is central to this—a way to still the mind and be more present. In the privileged Western world, silent retreat is mostly a luxury—something “spiritual” that we do when we have the time to get away from the busyness of our everyday lives in order to de-stress or find a higher state of consciousness. But for me, as a “spiritual teacher,” silent retreat is much more than this—it is a necessity, for each of us as individuals and for humanity as a whole, if we are to play a part in the transformation of the world.

Most people are lost in the matrix of their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances; it’s a prison characterized by stress, struggle, anxiety, confusion, and argument—in other words, it’s a state of inner division in which there’s an identification with the many “voices in the head” (which are often in opposition to each other). Seven billion people in a divided state creates a divided world; we see this in our social, economic, political, environmental, and religious arenas—this is the matrix of the world, and the outcome is war. We cannot end the war within or the war in the world without first freeing ourselves of the prison of identification with “psychological form” (thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances). Discovering a dimension deeper than psychological form is vital for our own survival and for the survival of humanity.

The good news is, this deeper dimension is actually our natural state. Our natural state is the unending openness of being—in other words, consciousness itself. This consciousness exists prior to thinking and feeling, and even prior to self-awareness. It’s what is always here when you stop giving your attention to the movement of mind. It’s what happens when you are immersed in beauty, when you’re still in nature, when you’re running or dancing or making love. And very often, it’s what happens in the intensity of pain, trauma or shock, or a near-death experience. It can, of course, also be revealed in the midst of meditation. For some, the practice of meditation is a very useful tool. But many meditation practices do not use silence as the fundamental teaching—and even if they do, for many people meditation is far from silent!

Silent retreat has the capacity to go deeper than meditation practice. For me, it is not meditation itself that is the vital part, but the very nature of silence itself. It’s not about getting rid of thoughts or even about quieting the mind; it’s about falling into an inner dimension of beingness, like falling into the depth of the ocean—thoughts are the waves on the surface, beingness is the stillness and silence at the bottom. The more we rest in this silence, the more we come to know it as our essential nature. It is this silent core of being that remains unmoving and unbroken throughout the glories and tragedies of “my life.” When we keep coming back to this silence, we become more rooted in it, even in the midst of the vicissitudes of life, and eventually it is recognized as the backdrop to the movie of “me,” and gives rise to the true fulfillment of our innate wholeness. It doesn’t necessarily make our lives “perfectly happy” or “perfectly successful,” but it does free us from the prison of erroneous identification with psychological form (thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances), thus ending the war within and revealing a peace and joy that is not dependent on circumstances.

Silent retreat is the opportunity to notice what keeps your attention at the surface, to be honest with yourself about what prevents you from falling into your innermost depth, and to practice surrender of the mind’s safety-seeking strategies while being held in the loving spaciousness of the “container” of the retreat itself.

The invitation to fall into the silence at the core of your being is a coming home to your natural state. And when we move from this silence into the world, the reverberations are revolutionary!

Join Amoda for her upcoming silent retreat this December:

Coming Home to the Core of Your Being
Resting in Silence
December 3–7, 2017 (Sunday–Thursday: 4 nights)

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
57 Interlaken Road
Stockbridge, MA 01262

Embodied Enlightenment


Amoda Maa Jeevan is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker who recently appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose, CA (SAND17 US).
Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment is based on both her vision for humanity and the conversations on the cutting edge of spiritual inquiry in her meetings with people from all around the world.