Nonduality Satsang, May 2, 2009, at 1313 Hollis St., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Organizers and Contacts: James Traverse, Dustin LindenSmith, Jerry Katz
Venue providers: Susan Hunter and John Siemans
Volunteers: Elizabeth van Dreunen (in charge of many details), Susan Zurawski (video taping), Janet Monckton (poster distribution)
Speakers, Artists: James Traverse, Dustin LindenSmith, Jody Myers, Maryse Thuot and Pierre Jutras, Joanna Bull.
MC: Jerry Katz
Summary of talks and events:
With about 40 people attending, Jerry Katz opened by welcoming all in attendance and thanking the venue providers and volunteers.
Jerry then described the structure of the gathering, which was as follows:
– Introduction to the gathering, by Jerry Katz.
– James Traverse speaks and engages “human knot” experiential activity.
– Dustin LindenSmith speaks and performs on the tenor sax.
– Chanting by three different people/groups in the following order: Jody Myers, Maryce Thuot and Pierre Jutras, Joanna Bull.
– Concluding words by Jerry Katz.
– Socialization and “snacksang.”
Introduction by Jerry Katz
I considered three questions: How does this group compare to other spiritual offerings in the area? What is satsang? What is nonduality?
I said that this group, this nonduality satsang, is not founded in any single tradition. Although we are not Buddhists, we are Buddhist friendly, and Christian friendly, Yoga friendly and friendly towards all wisdom traditions.
It was stated that nonduality satsang presents nonduality wherever it is found, whether in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Noetics Institute, Art of Living, the New Earth Institute, Deepak Chopra, science, surfing, psychology, or many other fields and traditions. We are an open group whose purpose is to bring nonduality to all people.
Satsang was described as the company of truth. In the West that means that people come into the company of others to consider their true nature or natural self. Typically there is a teacher who leads Western satsang, but many may serve that function and those people are not regarded as revered gurus to be placed on a pedestal. Besides considering your true nature, satsang means valuing that consideration and pursuing it through whatever methods and practices make sense to you.
Nonduality was said to mean non-separation, although most people understand nonduality to mean oneness and interconnectedness. The “truth” part of “company of truth” is known as nondual. Although many defnitions of nonduality could be given, nonduality is experiential; it has to be known, not merely defined. The purpose of this nonduality satsang is to provide several ways of experiencing nonduality.
My presentation was about functioning.
I began with the story of a homeowner who was having problems with his furnace during a very cold winter; the furnace was working somewhat yet he couldn’t get it to work properly – he called a furnace repair person who fixed the problem in 5 minutes and said that the cost for his services was $1000 – the homeowner asked for an itemized bill that the repairman presented… it read ‘adjusted screw on furnace – $1… knowing which screw to adjust $999’… the point of the story is that knowledge of functioning as ‘what works’ has its place…
– I followed this story with two other illustrations of functioning; one is the classic story of a person who is terrified of snakes who steps on a rope while crossing a tall grassy meadow in dim light – the person mistakes the rope for a snake and has a panic attack/heart attack… the point of this story is the question ‘what is functioning in this case?’ (I presented this as the question ‘How do you know what you know?’ )… obviously what is functioning in this case is thinking and the person’s actions, the functioning, is not based on the truth that what was encountered was a rope – rather what was function was thinking based on past memories, knowledge and experience – thus the story is an example of re-action rather than action (as example of action would be a child who knows nothing about snakes encountering the rope under the same circumstances – what functions in this case is ‘not knowing’ or the innocent Awareness of the child).
– the next illustration I offered was an optical illusion where I showed folks two objects that I held side-by-side and asked folks if they were the same… (the illusion is that one appears to be bigger than the other)… then I exchanged the places of the objects so that the one that was in my right hand was now in my left and vice versa; this switch also reversed the apparent relationship of the objects as the one that had appeared to be smaller before now seemed to be bigger… I pointed out that this was obviously an optical illusion which means that there was an illusion in the functioning; then I demonstrated that the two objects are actually the same size by placing one overtop the other – this made the illusion very clear and the answer to ‘How do you know what you know?’ in this latter case is Awareness as taking a closer look at the objects and comparing them by overlapping them (this illustration also demonstrated that one cannot trust the functioning of one’s brain and sense doors and mental conclusions based on deluded perceptions – it reveals that the only thing that can be trusted is innocent Awareness).
These illustrations were followed by two questions, first ‘Can your physical eye see itself?’ I allowed a time for the audience to ponder this and given the earlier question of ‘How do you know what you know?’ it was clear that this may not be a great question to explore… the second question ‘Can Awareness be aware of itself?’ evoked a comment from one audience member who spoke about subject-object relationship… my response was to clarify that if ‘I’ (a doer) am attempting to be aware and asking the question from this perspective, then yes there is the subject-object relationship, yet what I asked was ‘Can Awareness be aware of itself?’… and the experiential answer is that yes it can as it is self-evident… in this way Awareness is it’s own knowing – this is a tremendous understanding because this is what is called ‘enlightenment’…
My presentation finished with having folks explore an activity called a ‘human knot’ where folks join hands in a knotted way and then the task is to explore cooperation and interconnectivity as they untie the knot (only some folks were able to untie the knot yet everyone enjoyed the exploration and were able to experience the interconnectivity, cooperation and ‘not knowing’ involved).
In summary, my presentation was that there is a functioning that works (and other ways that do not) – the illustrations and demonstrations that I presented made it self-evident that ‘Standing as Awareness’ or ‘Remaining as Awareness’ is a way of functioning that sees things as they are (rather than seeing things through the lens of thought, memory, experience or any illusion-delusion) and that Awareness itself is such that ‘seeing is doing’ (there is no doer – there is only awareness and its simultaneous action).
Mostly what I said was how jazz was a music entrenched in the present moment by virtue of its focus on improvisation, on creating the music as you go, in the given moment. Whatever music is played by jazz musicians isn’t mapped out ahead of time, it’s always created in the moment, on the spur of the moment.
Re Coltrane, I gave his date of death as 1967 and explained how he was on a very intense spiritual quest with his music in the latter years of his life, playing completely free, avant-garde, non-traditional music which ached with self-exploration and newness. Nothing like it had been played before, and he was explicitly trying to attain self-realization by reaching for the farthest possible limits of the saxophone and of the traditional jazz music forms.
The selection I played was from one of his latest recordings before undertaking this quest in a way that was noticeable on his albums: this tune was called Lonnie’s Lament, and it was recorded in 1961, I believe. I followed that piece with a short saxophone interpretation of the gayatri mantra as I remember it sung by the local yoga teacher, Duncan Baine.
Chanting was led by the following people in the order of their presentation: Jody Myers, Maryse Thuot and Pierre Jutras, Joanna Bull. Not much can be put into words other than to say that the hour of chanting was intimate and moving and communicated nonduality.
Following the chanting, Jerry Katz came forth and it was clear that there was nothing else to say. We rested in silence as the answer to any questions anyone might have. It seemed appropriate to express gratitude. A few words were spoken about how gratitude is a great practice, gratitude for everything, gratitude for forgetting to give gratitude, for everything, not just for one’s perceived blessings in life.
Several people in the audience were introduced and they spoke of their involvement in the spirituality/arts community. If you attended, and would like your contact information included, let us know. People who came forth were
Joanna Bull: email@example.com Friday evening chanting.
Terry Choyce: spiritualseekers.ca
Mandee Labelle: yogaheart.ca Yogaheart Radio airs on Wednesdays between 1:30 and 3:30 pm on CKDU 88.1 fm
Maryse Thuot and Pierre Jutras – Yogic Transformation www.yogictranceformation.net
Elizabeth van Dreunen: InnerAlchemyStudio.com
As well, the organizers mentioned their offerings:
James Traverse: beingyoga.com
Dustin LindenSmith: Plays with the group 2×2, and its next performance is Sat May 23rd at the Cole Harbour Library at 2 PM. Following that, we’ll be at the Jazz Festival, date and location TBA. lindensmith.com/music and jazzeast.com
We then spent an hour enjoying snacks, juice, and each other’s company.
Our Next Event
We are planning another Nonduality Satsang on July 25, 2009, however it still has to be confirmed. Let us know if you’ll be in Halifax!