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.

Confessions of a Spiritual Teacher by Amoda Maa

Book heartConfessions of a Spiritual Teacher
By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

Even as a spiritual teacher, life is not always easy. There is an idea that after awakening, life just flows along in some kind of fluffy way—that there is nothing we have to do and nothing we want and nothing to work toward—and so we experience only the bliss of ease and happiness. But this is blatantly not true, at least not from the perspective of the human experience.

Yes, it is true from the perspective of the absolute, of no-self; the self as ego is actually not in charge of life, and there is a death of this belief and a cessation of the attempt to control anything. This is the surrender: the recognition that life manifests you; that life really does just happen, and you are responding to this; that you are not the creator but the servant of this intelligence that moves life—this is the deepest realization, and it is ever-present when awakening has fully matured. And of course, there is a great peace in this, a peace that has nothing to do with what happens or does not happen in the external world.

But I can tell you that for me, fifteen years after awakening, there is still a very human experience going on in which the waves of life keep coming. Of course, I could have “gone to sleep” after awakening, become passive, and stayed in my comfort zone; then everything would have been easy. But I hold a passion to grow in ways that are as yet unknown, I hold a dream that is unfolding within me, and I simply cannot ignore this. I’m willing to take risks by jumping into new adventures and walking through new pastures (even though there is discomfort and fear and insecurity)—just because this is the intelligence of life moving through me and I have to obey it. And so there is grit on the road, I am continuously being tested in my capacity to surf the waves, and there is an incessant demand to sacrifice any tendency to “play it small” in order to fulfill my destiny in the world. To be more accurate, it is not “my destiny,” but the destiny of life’s flow.

I hope that you, too, my friend, have the courage to live selflessly by listening to the deepest call within you—before or after awakening, it does not matter. In any case, none of it really matters because when you die, the whole movie comes to an end. What is there to lose, my friend? Only an illusory idea of comfort and security. What is there to gain? Just the deepest fulfillment of following what is true in you.

Embodied EnlightenmentAmoda Maa Jeevan is the author of Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.

Spirituality and Self-Worth

By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

A surprising number of people, especially in today’s materially oriented world, experience a lack of self-worth.

There’s a common belief, even in spiritual circles, that not having enough money is a sign of unworthiness. This usually translates into “I am unable to receive,” “I don’t love myself,” or “I’m not good enough.” What often follows is an attempt to improve self-worth in order to attract more money in order to feel abundant, and therefore to believe yourself to be worthy. Sometimes this works (at least for a while), but mostly it does not.

The acquisition of psychological and spiritual tools for fixing yourself and getting what you want in order to feel better about yourself is a huge error of attention. By giving allegiance to the story of “me” and “my life,” the ping-pong of feeling worthy and feeling unworthy is prolonged. It’s a perpetuation of the seeking mechanism, and there is no fulfillment in this.

True fulfillment comes only when you awaken out of the dream of separation. When you fulfill your inner purpose of awakening to your true nature as the unboundedness of being, the polarity of worthiness and unworthiness collapses into the totality of now. You do not need to feel abundant, because abundance is here as the fullness of this moment. There is no one to judge you as worthy or unworthy. It was only ever yourself judging yourself. When you awaken out of the dream of separation, this is seen to be ludicrous (and a waste of time)!

When you stop right here and rest deeply in the softness of your belly, in the gentle throb of your heartbeat, in the pregnant pause between each breath, in the alive awakeness of now, you may well discover that this moment is rich beyond measure, and that there is no limit to abundance.

Embodied EnlightenmentAmoda Maa Jeevan is the author of Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.