by Rick Archer
This was my 10th SAND and the best yet. I think that’s because we both (SAND and I) have evolved. In the early years, many of the presenters were in neo-Advaita mode. I always felt uncomfortable with that mindset because I felt that most of those espousing it were conceptualizing nonduality, not living it experientially. If they had been, they would “love thy neighbor as thyself”, and I didn’t see enough evidence of that. I believe spiritual growth is never-ending and holistic. In other words, it should include the continuing unfoldment and refinement of all aspects of our makeup, including our heart. Being told that “you are already enlightened and all you have to do is realize that and you’re done” doesn’t facilitate such development. Of course, not all SAND presenters talked this way, but these days, none do.
Another way in which SAND has evolved is that, as Zaya pointed out, in the early days, 90% of the presenters were white men. These days the lineup is diverse, including a greater balance of genders, races, ages, and sexual orientations. In other words, a better reflection of society itself.
SAND is intense. I doubt that many of its participants ordinarily experience such a whirlwind of intellectual and social stimulation in such a spiritually charged atmosphere. I wouldn’t want to do it for weeks on end. But a long weekend is just right. I met so many wonderful people. Lots of BatGap fans introduced themselves and told me how much the show had impacted their lives. I met some very interesting people whom I’ll want to interview and saw others on stage.
Many of the presenters commented that we are in the midst of a societal transformation that will involve upheaval and chaos that will intensify greatly before it subsides. They and the audience seemed to know this intuitively as much as through the evidence that science and the news media bring us, and to know that the spiritual “epidemic” of which SAND is an expression is an important catalyst for this change, and buffer against the inevitable turbulence. Buckle your seat belts and trust the pilot.
Finally, the ASI sponsored a wonderful 4-hour meeting of about 45 spiritual teachers the afternoon before the conference started. All agreed that the appreciation for integrity that the ASI is trying to enliven in the broader spiritual community is very much needed, and everyone committed in one way or another to help with the effort. The SAND organizers were impressed with the turnout and want to involve the ASI more formally in future conferences.