Monthly Archives: March 2014

#5196 – David Zinn on How To Start and Run a Nondualistic Meetup Group

Edited by Jerry Katz

David Zinn is founder and one of the organizers of the Open Awareness Meditation GroupI think you’ll find some of his responses extraordinary. I certainly learned a few things.

How did your group start, why was it started? Who started it? Where and when?

Our group is called the Open Awareness Meditation Group and we meet in Cambridge, MA on Monday nights at 7:30 at the Cambridge Friends Meeting House (a historic place for Quaker meetings) just outside of Harvard Square. It’s a very nice, welcoming, neutral space where we have plenty of meditation cushions and benches in a large, high ceilinged room. However we do pay rent ($50 a night) so as a result we do have to solicit donations to keep it rolling— but the space is well worth it.

The Open Awareness group technically had its origins in the early 90’s as a Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen group that had a guiding lama, organization, retreats, etc. The meditation sessions then were quite formal with opening and closing chants and a specific structure. I connected with this group in 1996 and practiced with them for around four years.

Eventually I became interested in a more open approach to meditation (and life!) and was inspired by the writings of Jean Klein and a number of other teachers to begin my own explorations without the map of a specific tradition.

Ultimately the Buddhist group split off into a couple of other organizations and the Monday nights became available for other possibilities so at that time (2009), with the help of some of the other friends from the previous Buddhist sangha, we began the Open Awareness Meditation Group.

How do new people find out about your group? How do you distribute information, especially meeting times and places, to your members?

I set up a website for the group under the first name as we made the transition: Open Awareness Sangha— http://openawarenesssangha.org/ — but the website didn’t really accomplish much.

Joining Meetup however made a huge difference, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try to start a nonduality group (or really any kind of group for that matter). Through Meetup you get all the tools you need to let people know about your group, promote the meetings, and keep in touch with new members. There is a fee, but all you need to run your group is there. I believe they may still have a low cost introductory membership to check out their service for the first six months.

We average around 20 attendees a week, and almost always have people entirely
new to the group (or to meditation) showing up. I find this very inspiring.

The key to making Meetup work I think is the way you describe the group you are trying to form, putting together a clear description/mission statement. This is a kind of an exercise in clarity which helps put into words the intention and direction of the group. Just taking the time to write this up might be very revealing in understanding what your real motivation is to start and run a group, and this is how people will ultimately become interested enough to stop by.

Do you have anything in writing that describes your group in any way?

Yes. This is from the website and the Meetup site:

—About This Meditation Meetup

We sit in silence for around 45 minutes, followed by discussion for around 30 minutes or so. The silent sitting is interspersed with some meditation instruction, perhaps a brief reading, a little simple inquiry, exploration or movement. Sitting posture is relaxed, either on a meditation cushion or a bench. It’s not a rigid practice— we move whenever we need to!

If you find you are running late, come anyway! The format is very relaxed and open— anyone interested in contemplative practice is welcome!

—About Open Awareness Meditation

At the heart of these meditation sessions is the silent exploration of what we refer to as Open Awareness. We all know what it means to feel closed, limited, vulnerable, or separate. What is it like to allow ourselves to return to our natural condition of openness, presence, non-separateness and ease? This is what we explore in our meetings.

We have been meeting for over a decade, and those who lead the meditations have known each other and been attending sittings together for many years. They have all deeply explored a variety of traditions— for some it has been the Tibetan Buddhist practices of Dzogchen or Mahamudra, for others it has been the Indian traditions of Yoga, or Advaita, or what is currently referred to as Nonduality (some popular examples of this are Francis Lucille, Rupert Spira, Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti).

However all of these traditions ultimately point to the same truth, the truth of our basic awareness or presence which is beyond any tradition, practice or teaching. This is the presence we share and the presence we are, beyond words. This is what we explore in our meetings.

This group is somewhat unique in that there is no specific guiding teacher, lama, or guru. We all meet as equals to question, share, and inspire each other to explore the Open Awareness we most deeply are. The meetings are suitable for newcomers as well as experienced meditators, and all are very welcome.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So as you can see from the write-up, the nonduality aspect is evoked but it’s not used to define the group. This means that we don’t have to limit the discussion to seeing from any particular perspective. Whatever we happen to be feeling (open, closed, separate, non-separate, empty, full, etc.), all perspectives are valid and honored as a statement of one’s present condition.

And for those of us who happen to be experiencing the sort of openness and non-separateness that the meditation is meant to evoke and explore, it might be possible to point the conversation in that direction. The point is for our conversation to be coming from our direct experience as opposed to from any idea or ideal of a nondual perspective.

Do you have a core group, that is, two or more people dedicated to sharing the values of the group?

We have four meditation leaders in all. I consider them to be some of my very best friends, and I adore hanging out with them. There is a sweetness to these friendships which arise out of a background of freedom and open awareness which just gets stronger as the years go on.

In fact in a way it seems that friendship is the key to the whole situation— cultivating and enjoying the friendships that help us stay awake. And on a deeper level, it can be the possibility of seeing the one awareness shining out of the eyes of all who attend.

As I like to say “Friendship is the doorway we step through and lose our selves.”

What is the purpose of the group?

To explore the direct experience of open awareness… both in meditation and in
conversation.

Is there a screening of potential members?
Absolutely not!

Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator? What are the greatest challenges now and in the past? What are your core values?

The four people we refer to as “meditation leaders” have a tremendous depth in terms of their commitment to waking up. Exploring awareness, compassion and non-separateness is the most important thing in their lives, and so they have a lot to share with someone who is just starting to consider these things.

However all four meditation leaders often see things quite differently, and that, along with the great questioning and sharing of the others who attend, creates a very powerful and rich situation. No one has the final word, we all just try to keep it real and speak our hearts.

Though the meditation leaders are for the most part “sharing” as opposed to “teaching”, there is a great transformative power to being put on the spot, to try to find words for and to communicate the unspeakable. How does one tap into the simplicity of presence and open awareness, and how might one point to that very naturally, without reverting to Buddhist, Advaita or nonduality dogma? That is what the meditation leader attempts to explore.

I have come to feel that there are severe limitations to the format commonly referred to as satsang, where all the questions are addressed to one person who is assumed to have all the answers. Granted, there is a huge value to communicating and working with a skillful teacher. I have had many, and I am incredibly grateful to them. But the point is that more than any teacher or teaching we have ever been exposed to, the voice we most long to hear is our own voice. We need to make our own discoveries, and to hear the voice of truth come out of our own mouths, in our own language— and in a sense this is what our group tries to facilitate.

The beauty of it for all concerned, both during the meditation as well as the discussion, is the possibility of hearing yourself say something you didn’t know you knew, but in the moment of saying it you know you know it. That is, to simply hear yourself say what is deeply true. And this speaking and hearing take place in the light of our shared presence, open awareness, beyond the limitations of words.

For me the Open Awareness Meditation Group has just gotten more and more beautiful. It’s a place to put down the burden of being somebody, and to discover what is here. I treasure the experience of being with these people, both old friend and those completely new, and I have found the group to be one of the most helpful, transformative things I have ever encountered.

~ ~ ~

Learn more about the Open Awareness Meditation Group in Cambridge, MA

 

#5187 – Anamika on Starting & Running a Nonduality Meetup

Edited by Jerry Katz

This issue continues the topic of starting and running your own in-person nonduality group. I’ve included two interviews already recently posted in the Highlights, in order to keep the interviews together on one page, and have added a new one, an interview with Anamika. There are a few more interviews to come:

Anamika, along with Didier Weiss, runs the Auroville Nondual Meetup Group located in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India. http://www.meetup.com/Auroville-Nondual-Meetup-Group/

The interview was conducted on March 9, 2014.

0:00 – 8:20 Some light-hearted banter between friends. Speaking from one’s own truth “when the space is there.” Guideline: Allowing the space.

8:20 – 12:13 There really isn’t a list of guidelines, they show themselves once you start the group and as it unfolds. Guideline: there are no guidelines, no set of rules to fit into. Guidelines emerge. Guideline: start with a feeling of honesty.

12:13 – 15:55 Influence of well-known teachers visiting Anamika’s group: Unmani, Paul Smit, Lisa Cairns. Goal of the group is to see what we are already and it’s good to keep the edge, to keep the inquiry alive. Guideline: be aware of whether you are coming across as the authority.

15:55 – 19:05 The case of a group member being conceptual or seeking psychological assistance. Guideline: You don’t have to indulge in the concept or the story but return to self-inquiry. Take the role of initiator. Guideline: It’s good to have several people in your group who can keep the focus on self-inquiry.

19:05 – 24:00 The core group, meaning of. How do you keep a group alive? Guideline: Present different points of view around a particular question. In this segment there is a little irrelevant digression.

24:00 – 25:51 Screening of members is provided by Meetup.com. Guideline: You may have to screen members who apply for membership, as some people may have objectives unrelated to the topic.

25:51 – 46:46 Discussion on the guidelines on dialogue from the Krishnamurti Foundation of America, as well as other topics. Guideline: Consider using a talking stick. Guideline: Don’t rush people out after a meetup, people like to socialize afterward. Guideline: It’s best to meet in a neutral place rather than in a member’s home, since there is less fuss. How Anamika and Didier Weiss started their group.

46:46 – 49:50 Anamika asks Jerry how his group is kept “alive.” Focus on self-inquiry.

49:50 – 56:56 Jerry asks Anamika about the structure of her meetups and about the community of Auroville, as well as her work and activities there. The Newcomers process as part of eventually becoming an Aurovillean.

56:56 – 1:04:08 Addressing differences between members of the core group. Guideline: try doing exercises from different books/teachers. How members benefit from the meetup. Final chatting.

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 March 5, 2014 

Nonduality Talk Radio guests are James Traverse and Maja Apolonia Rode

Listen: nonduality.net/5march2014

What is meant by an independent nonduality meetup group? What are some aspects of its nature? Only qualifications to start a group is your passion and your interest in exploring the true nature of being.

Maja Apolonia Rodé contributes the following to the discussion: “Everybody has the dharma within them, not just the one at the front of the room.” Some principles are necessary for a successful group. Leadership is based in asking good questions and coming from a place of not knowing the answers. You have to have leadership that holds the container without taking over the group. Can the love of the teachings, the love of truth hold the container? How do you deal with dominating personality or getting too much into concepts or self-help? Addressing someone new to inquiry and defining the function of moderating a group. Include tips and tricks that are unobtrusive such as the talking stick.

A group at the beginning can be like learning to play a musical instrument, it takes time to get smooth, practiced, and skilled. Bringing together people along in their process.
Discussion on having a core group. Power of openly sharing. Do you have any special way of leading new people into self-inquiry and being comfortable within a group?
Engaging within a group is like going on a first date. The open, live, vulnerable quality, and exploration. Importance of moments of stillness and silence. Leadership re-addressed.

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Starting and Running a Nonduality Group – Interview with Mark Hovila

http://nonduality.com/2march2014_markhovila.mp3

00:00 – 4:51 Early days on email forums. Start of Mark Hovila’s in-person group. Greg Goode mentioned. Dr. Jean Klein’s thoughts on starting a local discussion group. How Mark started his group. The shortcomings in watching videos in these groups.

4:51 – 7:42 The mall food court as a meeting place. Other non-traditional meeting places for “satsang.”

7:42 – 12:15 The basic idea behind starting his group. Mailing list. His newsletter. Using a quote to help structure a meeting. Why a meeting can always be fresh even though much of the same themes ae discussed.

12:15 – 15:55 Dealing with discussion with things get conceptual. Moderation of his group, or lack of it. Nature of moderation.

15:55 – 21:14 James Traverse and Jean Klein discussed. Influence of other teachers. Does a group hold a presence that’s beyond the individuals? Online groups and in-person groups discussed. Using meetup.com to host his group.

21:14 – 27:35 Optimal size of groups. Structure and moderation of Jerry’s group and where we meet at the George Wright house and taverns. Introducing new people. The basics of meeting reviewed. People who want to try to take over a group or argue.

27:35 – 35:07 What is meant by a “core group.” Thoughts on a mission statement for a group. “What are we doing here?” “To me it’s a reminder to be present…” Social aspect of truth inquiry. How do members of the core group handle disagreements? When is disagreement a strength? Remembering what this kind of group is all about. Mark encouraging people to start their own group: you don’t have to be an expert.

35:07 – 37:40 Simplicity of starting a group like this. They’re not focused on a teacher, tradition, or teaching. Making people feel welcome.

37:40 – 41:37 More thoughts on starting your group. How members could benefit. The dynamic of sharing between group members as far as teaching and learning. Dealing with psychological problems that arise by suggesting a new perspective.

41:37 – 43:10 Trying to explain nonduality to people not familiar with it. “Not seeing yourself separate from the rest of the world. It’s not me vs the rest of the world, it’s all this.”

43:10 – Value of stillness and silence. Auroville nonduality group. Other groups in progress. Jerry’s role in encouraging developing of nonduality groups.

#5182 – How to Start a Nonduality Meetup Group, with James, Maja, and Jerry

Edited by Jerry Katz

What is meant by an independent nonduality meetup group? What are some aspects of its nature?

Listen to the discussion on Nonduality Talk Radio:

maja1photo: Maja

jamesjerryharshaphoto: James, Jerry, Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

On Nonduality Talk Radio this past Wednesday, my guests were James Traverse and Maja Apolonia Rodé. Here’s what we talked about:

Only qualifications to start a group is your passion and your interest in exploring the true nature of being.

Maja Apolonia Rodé contributes the following to the discussion: “Everybody has the dharma within them, not just the one at the front of the room.” Some principles are necessary for a successful group. Leadership is based in asking good questions and coming from a place of not knowing the answers. You have to have leadership that holds the container without taking over the group. Can the love of the teachings, the love of truth hold the container? How do you deal with dominating personality or getting too much into concepts or self-help? Addressing someone new to inquiry and defining the function of moderating a group. Include tips and tricks that are unobtrusive such as the talking stick.

A group at the beginning can be like learning to play a musical instrument, it takes time to get smooth, practiced, and skilled. Bringing together people along in their process.

Discussion on having a core group. Power of openly sharing.

Do you have any special way of leading new people into self-inquiry and being comfortable within a group?

Engaging within a group is like going on a first date. The open, live, vulnerable quality, and exploration.

Importance of moments of stillness and silence. Leadership re-addressed.

Listen to these issues discussed on Nonduality Talk Radio:

Nonduality Talk Radio, March 5, 2014

#5180 – Start Your Own Group – Spiderman – Enlightenment Slavery

Edited by Jerry Katz

Today, Wednesday, March 5, on Nonduality Talk Radio: How to Start and Run an Independent Nonduality Meetup Group Wherever You Are and Whoever You Are.

My guest will be co-founder of our Nonduality Satsang Meetup in Nova Scotia, James Traverse. Nonduality Satsang: http://nonduality.ca

We’ll be taking your calls at 902-494-2487

The show is on from 12:30 to 1:30PM EST. You may listen at http://ckdu.ca

The show will be archived at http://nonduality.net/5march2014.mp3 by 9PM EST.

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Brendan McCarthy writes…

Hi Jerry, here’s the great 60s comic book character Dr Strange explaining non-duality to a befuddled Spider-Man (referencing the occult path – the ‘crossing of the abyss’ is the magickal version of ‘enlightenment’). From FEVER, a Marvel Comics series from a few years ago.

Dr Strange abyss

Dr Strange matches

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This interview

inspired me to write this:

Enlightenment or self-realization has to be seen as rare and scarce in order for it to be economically viable. Enlightenment is worth something when it’s “caught,”, “captured,” “gotten.” Because then it can sold. And in order for enlightenment to retain its value, its scarcity has to be reinforced. You have to constantly be told it’s rare and that one person is enlightened while you’re not. Have you fallen for that spiritual system? Are you falling for it? Consider that enlightenment culture is much like the pharmaceutical industry in which you have to be ill in order for the industry to thrive. Yes, the enlightenment industry requires you to be unenlightened. The “cure” for this culture? Well, of course it’s what enlightenment is all about, knowing who or what you are, that’s all. But notice how you’ve been so conditioned to think that someone else, for example, Mooji, knows who he is and that you can’t possibly know who you are to the same degree that he does. That perceived difference is what enlightenment culture uses in order to survive. But it doesn’t have to. If you are aware that enlightenment culture or nonduality culture is an art of expression, and nothing more, then you can enjoy it and engage within it. But if you buy into the scarcity concept and put your time, money, and energy into getting something, you have fallen for a made-up, false economic system that sees enlightement as a commodity. In that situation you are a slave and the “enlightened ones” are the slave owners.

-Jerry Katz