Nonduality Satsang, November 14, 2009: A Summary

Nonduality Satsang

November 14, 2009 at 1313 Hollis St., Halifax, Nova Scotia

A Summary

The gathering was scheduled from 1-4pm. About 37 were in attendance, with a few people leaving early and a few arriving later, and several staying until around 5:30pm, hanging around and getting to know each other.

Here are the contibutors in the order (pretty much) in which they came forth, and summaries of what they did.

However, these summaries fall far short of recreating the wordless atmosphere of Nonduality Satsang, which transcends and rests prior to — and is not separate from! — any of these amazing arisings.

Jerry Katz

I invited people to just be in the silence, to just be. I sent the reminder that this is exactly all there is to nonduality satsang, this glasslike harbour at sunrise. As the sun continues to rise, ripples play on the water. They are not separate from the harbour or the ocean. In the satsang, as contributors appear to speak, play instruments, do what they do, they are like the ripples. None of it, nothing in the satsang or outside it, no thought is separate from the harbour or the ocean. That nonseparation is nonduality. I invited people to remember the harbour or the ocean as it is and to come from the place of the great ocean, whether they are known as beautiful ripples or not; to “be” in the midst of everything, of whatever is happening. It is all welcome, as Mandee might have said.

Mandee Labelle, one of the co-organizers and the one who was intended to set the tone of the satsang, could not attend and was missed! Mandee requested the reading of Walt Whitman’s When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer, which Jerry read:

When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Dustin LindenSmith, another co-organizer, was in Italy and was also missed!

James Traverse: Constipation in Consciousness

The three key points of my presentation are: 1) Attention is the factor of Awareness that facilitates a qualitative shift in whatever is attended to, 2) if you have formed any idea of who/what you are via the thinking mind then you have a dis-ease that is a Constipation in Consciousness, and 3) you are unthinkable yet you are.

The  process of experientially communicating these three points was facilitated by asking folks to attend to breathing while I was speaking and I had an accomplice in the audience who sounded a chime when I stated ‘whenever you hear this sound… attend to breathing… and explore the question, “Does attention to breathing facilitate a  qualitative shift in breathing?”‘ [it is experientially self-evident that this is the case and my conspirator sounded the chime every 3 minutes or so to direct attention to breathing while I continued speaking]. 

Once this ‘principle of attention’ was established as the factor that facilitates a qualitative shift, I asked folks to direct attention to Constipation, Consciousness and the relationship of Content and Context. At this point I simply asked folks to help me attend to and define these things and with their help we discovered that Constipation is a blockage to the ‘river of life’ yet the river of life does not stop which results in many other disorders; we also discovered that there are distinct degrees or states of Consciousness as: waking consciousness, sleep consciousness, dream consciousness while waking or sleeping, and, deep sleep or a medically induced sleep where the ‘sleeper’ in not conscious yet it is clear that there is no discontinuity to being while deep dreamless sleep is unfolding; Context is the setting and Content is what’s inside [in other words Consciousness is the setting or context and the content is that we were breathing, I was speaking, folks were attending, etc).

I then offered some parallel findings from medical science that says that over 80% of all health disorders are linked to constipation and because the flow of life does not stop when there is a blockage there is a build up of pressure/stress, and, medical scientists have also determined that over 90% of visits to health professionals is linked to elevated levels of stress in a person’s life [these are facts that are provided by highly acclaimed medical schools like Harvard Medical].

I finished my presentation by asking folks to use this ‘principle of attention’ to see that: 1) the stress and constipation factors generally associated with physical dis-ease are not limited to the physical realm, 2) the irrefutable fact that the ‘sleeper’ is not consciously present while deep sleep or medically induced sleep is unfolding does not mean that there is a discontinuity in consciousness in this situation, 3) the ongoing reminders via the ‘chiming’ of my accomplice means that an aspect of the content as what is happening is breathing that is unfolding within the context of and as life/consciousness and that these are together like a wave and the ocean, 4) if you have made any intellectual conclusion of who or what you are, then that idea is the ‘content’ that is the constipation/blockage in consciousness, 5) the remedy for this blockage is to see the blockage [and no longer feed it energy such that it dies of starvation], and 6) attention reveals that you are unthinkable yet you are.

Susan Johnstone

Susan Johnstone shared some favourite highlights from “The Practice of the Presence of God”, a book by Brother Lawrence who was a Christian mystic in the 1600’s in France. He shows clearly that there is, in fact, a deep and ancient tradition of non-duality that runs within Christianity, even today.

Brother Lawrence’s core practice was to simply do everything he would normally do for himself, for the Love of the Divine Presence instead. In practicing that simple thing throughout his life, he achieved a state where he was in constant awareness of the Divine Ground of Being, whether he was in the kitchen, at mass or in his cell.

He also had a wonderful way of not getting caught up in self-pity or judgement over his faults. He would simply say to God “You know me. And I will always be like this unless you correct me.” And then he would simply surrender his fault or weakness to the Divine to correct and resolve to do what he could to improve.

Sean Drohan

Teacher of Yoga and Buddhist meditation, and host of The Path of Yoga TV show. The following description from The Path of Yoga website captures his message:

Sean is a simple forest yogin. Sean is a certified yoga teacher as well. Sean’s approach in teaching Yoga and Meditation can be described as Self-Liberation Yoga (Rangdrol Yoga). Most of us have an awareness of Yoga as postures (asanas), and breath (pranayam). Yoga actually has six other aspects or limbs. Sean aspires to use the physical practice as a universally potent vehicle toward the realization of one’s true nature. As you calm the lake of your mind, you begin to understand the subtler layers of a posture (asana). Clarity can then dawn on your mind’s real nature. Suffering can then be reduced. In time, equanimity and happiness can stabilize. Yoga is a practice. The fluctuations are inseparable from the practice. It is like polishing a gem, give it time and it will shine brilliantly.

An interview with Sean by Mandee Moon may be heard until around mid-February 2010, at the following link:

Sastry Vankamamidi

A Hindu priest and professor of engineering, Sastry shared the principles of Advaita Vedanta of Aadi Shankara, and performed a rendition from “Vivekachoodamani” by Aadi Shankara. Sastry writes:
Aadi Shankara, the founder of Advaita Vedanta has given a nice description of the undescribable SELF. There are 10 verses to indicate the SELF which is beyond word and thought. I will chant two of them and give the meaning. They go like this:

Jaati neeti kula gotra dooragam naama roopa guna dosha varjitam!
Desha kaala vishayaativarti yad Brahma tatwamasi bhaavayaatmani!!

jaati= Species, neeti = profession, kula = caste, gotra = lineage, dooragam = beyond naama = name, roopa = form, guna = quality, dosha = defects, varjitam = without desha = place, kaala = time, vishayaati = properties, varti = beyond, yad = that which brahma tatwam = essence of brahma, asi = is, bhava = contemplate, aatmani = in yourself.

Meaning: The Self is beyond species, profession, caste, lineage. It is without the defects of name form and quality. It is unchanging with time, place and situation. Contemplate thus in your mind as the essence of Brahman.

Yad vibhaati sad anekadaa brahmaat naama roopa guna vikriyaatmani!
Hemavat swayam avikriyam sadaa Brahma tatwamasi bhavayaatmani!!

yad = That which, vibhaati = shines, sad = truely, anekadaa = as many, bhramaat = due to delusion ( Maya), Naama = name, roopa = form, guna = quality, vikriyaatmani = changes in one’s mind, Hemavat = like gold, swayam = itself, avikriyam =  unchanging, sadaa= always, Brahma….. =… in yourself.( see the first hymn).

Meaning: Self is like the essence in all golden ornaments having different names, forms and functions. The differences between the ornaments are seen due to delusion by an ignorant person while the truth is realized as the Gold by a SEER . See the SELF/Brahman, in all beings as the essence of yourself.

Allie Kane


This song was written when I was trying to remember a certain magic that comes in spring time. A certain awakening I was longing for. Wake up. I tell myself… remembering a time of awaken I spent one summer living and working at a camp for the blind and deaf blind. What beauty life is when seen from a different perspective.

I heard the whisper of your reincarnation
but I don’t believe my eyes
I have waited for so long to hear the closure in our relation
but now I believe Ive gone blind
To know you again I would have to be your sister
for love is not based on our pride
I remember when
we felt like little children
we climbed and danced in the wild

But I have gone blind to the waves hitting the shores
deaf to the sounds of the trees
And my fingers no longer feel
the warm waters anymore
to be free
to be free
to bee free

For who am I to intellectualize
comprehend existence as the past
I will fill my pockets with your dirt
until my eyes grow wise
mother earth’s warmth will come to last

SO open your eyes to the waves hitting the shores
ears to the sounds of the trees
and our fingers touch warm waters as they sink to the sea floors
to be
to be
to be.

Phil Cousins
Didgideroo player. Accompanying drumming by Struan Ford and Phil’s son Avalon.

[Nonduality Satsang ] was a very interesting melting pot of souls and the other presenters had some great jewels of wisdom to share.  I’m into that kind of collaboration between different spiritual communities that I think has a unique quality here in Nova Scotia. Buddhists, pagans, mystical Christians, yogis, poets, musicians and shamen all are barking up the same tree – finding the connection points between the traditions and enjoying their differences is a delicious adventure.
Australian aboriginal legends and art are full of descriptions of the Wandjina, who were the creators of the land and who at one time, lived here on earth with them in what we in the West might call a “Golden Age”.  When it came time for the Wandjina to leave the earth, the aboriginal people were very sad, because they knew things would be different and they couldn’t bear to be without their friends.  The Wandjina showed them how to make and play the didgeridoo from eucalyptus wood that had been hollowed out by termites.  They said that using the instrument, the people could communicate with the Wandjina whenever they wanted.

The didgeridoo is an instrument that expresses the essence of non-duality.  The instrument  primarily emits a single tone or note, however through subtle movement of the lips and mouth of the player, a whole host of harmonics and overtones can be produced.  This expresses the rainbow of infinite possibilities that is present when we recognize and immerse ourselves in our true, non-dual nature.

Pierre & Maryse offered an Earth based chant accompanied by the drone flute and the native drum. “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit…” were the words pronounced over and over again; a reminder of our intimate connection with nature.

Kasandra Earl

After a 12 year absents from storytelling. Kasandra Earl had an opportunity to get back in to the storytelling chair at Nonduality Satsang. Her story “Consignment Boots” told the story about a woman named Cathy who was given a pair of consignment boots that fit like a glove. The boots turned out to have a mind of their own and took Cathy on an adventure that helped to reunite four generations of the same family. Kasandra is planning to continue her love of storytelling and is currently writing her first book.

Maureen Nowlan

Using yoga asana and pranayama I write poetry from the unconscious:  a place of non-duality.  This poem was inspired by a dragon fly’s multi-faceted eye:  a gem cut on which reflected light from a multitude of images is captured.  I wondered how the world might look with an eye of that structure and what I might see.  This is what came up:

A Kaleidoscope Eye

Each chamber reveals a segment of the view
Choosing one, the green spear expands
Rolling mounds of lush grass fields continue forever
Strands of grass, mass of green

Coming back, a window of brown enlarged to a branch
Limb, trunk, forest garden
Twigs crossed defining tiny sacred spaces between
Roots and branches intertwine

A yellow madness broadens to reveal stamens
Waving in the breeze of a bird’s flight
Freeing yet more yellow puffs
Wings of gold dusted feathers

The red chamber widens to a shiny wet droplet
Of saliva in a seething gaping jaw
Then sliding into a scarlet cavern to endless
Blood red pulsing glistening

A side view, a shape becomes a peripheral movement
The profile a freckle, an ear, blush of skin
The place of kaleidoscope eye
Black, wide open

A glimpse of shame hanging heavy
Overripe, begging to be caught in full view
The fruit of dredged up, critiqued, crumbled arrogance
Devoured, digested, interred

A recognition: the face of the cliff of untapped potential
Goals set high on mountains of desire cling to the edge
Aspirations sent over the skyridge
Unrealized dreams fossilized

The glimpse stagnant, halted, marginalized
The kaleidoscope shifts as the muses signal
Three dots, three dashes, three dots
As the glance pops open in immediacy

Another chamber: a window of gold dust fragments
Scattered and silhouetted glints of a mosaic tile floor
The ruins of a grand hall
The messenger kneels, pressing his forehead into gold

His voice fuels flames of unrest
Chastising, lamenting lost ideas, rebirthing dead deeds
Reviving young fervor on old runways long dormant
The gold dust fragment now an irritant in the black eye of defeat

~ ~ ~

Want to attend a future Nonduality Satsang in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or wish to be a contributor? Our next gathering will be in April 2010. Write Jerry Katz and you’ll be placed on the mailing list.

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