When I was in the second grade my mother packed me up one afternoon and took me to the public library. There she turned to me and said, I don’t care what you pick out, but choose three books and begin reading. I remember wandering among the shelves, finding some items with pictures and large print, and beginning a lifelong odyssey to learn from written words.
This discipline has served me well in many ways, but as information has exploded through the course of my life, and now is ubiquitous online, I have begun to sense that my own love affair with “learning” or “knowledge” is a double edged sword.
First you can never know enough, especially today when information is exploding. Second, the written word is a poor substitute if it completely replaces the actual connection between people and nature.
So it was a little less than a year ago, after reading Eckhart Tolle, whose work made me acutely aware of the limitations of listening only to what seemed to be the various voices in my head, that I went on Meetup.com, looking for others who may have faced some of the same obstacles in relation to the “real world” that I had encountered; namely an uneasy feeling that something was “off” and that our view of “life as we know it”, both in its day to day survival mode and in the way we conceptualize it scientifically, was wrong.
Not surprisingly I felt somewhat alienated and there weren’t a lot of people with whom I could discuss these issues; and talking about politics, sports, movies and even technology was getting wearying.
With my interest in Eckhart Tolle, I found Michael Jeffreys’ group studying his work on Meetup, and suddenly I was in a Community of people, some of whom were struggling with issues I was facing, and others who were merely interested in the ideas of someone who saw life differently.
What initially attracted me to the group as much as anything was its apparent “structure” – we were purportedly reading and discussing Tolle’s book, A New Earth, one chapter per month.
I had avoided other similar groups that merely watched videos and sat silently. Especially at that time, it was important for me to be able discuss these ideas with others. What I soon discovered in the group setting was that I felt so at home and comfortable. The leader, Michael Jeffreys, was more of a host, who welcomed our comments and I soon found myself laughing about some of the ways I had taken myself and my own ideas so seriously—I was opening up to a new way relating to myself, and to life.
As the year went on and I attended more meetings, I also followed Michael on Facebook, along with some other “coaches” I had encountered, like my friend Freeman Michaels.
Suddenly I was encountering different but powerful expressions of some of the ideas that had captured my attention from other very profound thinkers and speakers. Then I found that many of them would be attending a conference in San Rafael in October—the Science and Nonduality Conference which just concluded.
I had watched videos of several of the speakers on the Internet, and as I had with my original interest in technology, I sought out the SAND conference and got excited about hearing them speak in person over a single weekend.
But for various reasons I could not attend. Instead I went to a local event by one of the speakers, Matt Kahn, who like many of the others, emphasizes the power of attending to one’s actual experience of life over being able to understand it intellectually.
The science of nonduality, as I understand it and as conveyed by teachers like Michael and Matt, actually points to the limitations of our conscious mind as it struggles to control life, and opens the way to an easing of internal tension as one trusts a different level of belief which is accessible through sensation and feeling.
This was one of the inherent contradictions I have found in trying to “study” life and consciousness—and it was brought home to me dramatically when I was a teacher of technology.
At one of the venues where I taught Microsoft Office, instructors would gather each evening in the Instructor Lounge after a long day in the classroom and discuss their latest work and projects; inevitably it became a game of competition and one upsmanship as one tried to top the other in terms of what he or she (mostly he) knew about the latest programs.
While the SAND conference might have had little or none of this dynamic, my current inclination was more to a community experience of these ideas rather than a series of lectures, although these speakers have influenced my own growth dramatically with their presentations.
Here are some of the other SAND participants whom I’ve encountered either directly or online, whose work I find particularly insightful.
Bentinho Massaro – is a 23 year old clear thinker and communicator who has an uncanny ability to take one past the “dueling concepts” in one’s thinking mind to what seems to be their source—and point to a level of peace that I find very calming.
Scott Kiloby – is a teacher and writer whose dialogs online I found very enlightening. Like the others, the basic teaching seems very simple: “Take a moment to rest in presence. Let everything be as it is.”
Jeff Foster – is another speaker whose videos exude a depth and clarity that I love. He has a unique approach to locating or perhaps dislocating the underlying “self” that can cause confusion for many.
Peter Russell – is a well known writer who I find effective in his ability to do what the SAND conference generally promises—bring the insight of science to issue of mind and consciousness.
Rupert Spira is another eloquent speaker, whose insight points the intellect past itself and makes the listener inwardly quietly aware of a nature beyond thought.
These are only five of the participants whose work and sessions and SAND I would recommend from a personal perspective; the others are no less brilliant and if any of the ideas in this blog resonate with you, I suggest you look at the the Science and Nonduality Conference web site for more information and perhaps attend a future event.
For myself, I am involved in my own inquiries and really seek a balance between the continuing “search” for any belief or truth, and the experience of just allowing myself to experience the myriad of ways life is unfolding for me, instead of trying to grasp and understand it from an intellectual or scientific perspective.
To some this may sound like a passive withdrawal, but in actuality, as Matt Kahn pointed out so effectively over the weekend, putting one’s attention on the energies of life, rather than on one’s own “problems” is an active practice, but one that can truly lead to clarity and peace.
And finally, we need other people. The library can only take you so far. Ultimately you need a community too.