This gathering is centered around the theme of Dying and Living. Our world is going through challenges, upheaval and confusion. Some see this moment as an evolutionary threshold. Death feels closer. False beliefs, obsolete structures, and ideas of separateness are falling away. This crisis has forced us to perceive life on a planetary scale. Perhaps we have entered a bardo-like collective state in which everything is shown to us more clearly as it is, which brings up tremendous pain and grief that we are called to meet.
"A new world will be born in blood and pain, just as we are."
— Joanna Macy
Mystics of all traditions have pointed to death as one of the ultimate teachers. It is through the contemplation of, and the surrender to death that we come to fully embrace, not only life, but reality itself. On our spiritual journey, we may come to recognize that birth and death are more than two opposite poles; they are the very dance of our shared reality. Unperceivable to us in its absolute totality, reality takes the shapes of all that is experienced: the subject and the object, the thought and the thinker, the perceiver and the perceived, the personal and the impersonal. Death is the unveiling part of this dance: the sacred dissolution that returns all seemingly separate things to the totality. Each form revealing itself as emptiness, each personal expression revealing its impersonal intelligence, each cycle of life and death a blossoming of consciousness. Living a life in this recognition—that Samsara is Nirvana—is the longing at the heart of all mystical paths. Thus reclaiming the blessings of death—death as ally, death as wisdom, death as guru—is part of the work of our time.
"Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love."
— Reiner Maria Rilke
Scientists all agree that there is no definable boundary between life and death; we can't tell exactly just when life begins, or when it ends. Moreover, the now is but an ever-renewing, bubbling, churning cycle of birth and death, decay and regeneration. Before you finish reading this paragraph, millions of cells in your body will have died and been replaced. From galaxies to atoms, everything constantly births, dies, and transforms. We are made of elemental stardust, and to stardust we return.
Modern society conditions us to believe in conquering every limit, down to the ultimate one—death. But for indigenous cultures all over the world, the law of life is the exact opposite. As Stephen Jenkinson says in Lost Nation Road: “it is the limit that gives us the opportunity to practice being human.”
In the West, death is a taboo carefully shrouded within plush mortuaries and well-groomed cemeteries. Our culture is obsessed with youth, with new beginnings, exciting development and expansions, new partners, new jobs, new homes… and has perfected its denial of the dying processes. We no longer know how to be with transitions and endings. We are deeply disconnected and fearful of those liminal spaces, in which the objects we have attached to—including our own bodies—begin to fail and in which old structures and belief systems crumble and no longer support us. Yet those transitions, in which the old has not fully died and the new has not yet emerged, are the very womb out of which every cycle of life arises.
The contemporary spirituality we are exploring at SAND embraces the absolute and the relative, celebrates beginnings and endings, acknowledges that we are here to love and to lose. There is no light without shadow, no life without death, no love without grief.
Some of what we will explore:
Join our journey as we share knowledge, wisdom and experience, explore how to embrace loss, trust the wisdom of disintegration and welcome the unknown that awaits us at the next corner, in life as in death.
More speakers will be added in time
Pir Netanel Miles-Yépez
Lama Rod Owens
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Sonali Sangeeta Balajee
Rabbi Dr. Tirzah Firestone
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger
Zhenevere Sophia Dao
Kaira Jewel Lingo
Julie Jilani Esterly
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Originally studying mathematics and theoretical physics, Peter became increasingly interested in the nature of consciousness, and in the late sixties traveled to India, to study meditation and Eastern philosophy. On his return he established a meditation center in Cambridge, England, and went on to pioneer the introduction of personal growth programs to corporations. He is the author of a dozen books, including The Global Brain, Waking Up In Time, and From Science to God, and Seeds of Awakening. At SAND conferences he has led morning meditation sessions that people have found very helpful.For more information on Peter visit: https://peterrussell.com
Bayo Akomolafe (Ph.D.), rooted with the Yoruba people in a more-than-human world, is the father to Alethea and Kyah, the grateful life-partner to Ije, son and brother. A widely celebrated international speaker, posthumanist thinker, poet, teacher, public intellectual, essayist, and author of two books, These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home (North Atlantic Books) and We Will Tell our Own Story: The Lions of Africa Speak, Bayo Akomolafe is the Founder of The Emergence Network and host of the online postactivist course, ‘We Will Dance with Mountains’. He currently lectures at Pacifica Graduate Institute, California and University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. He sits on the Board of many organizations including Science and Non-Duality (US) and Ancient Futures (Australia). In July 2022, Dr. Akomolafe was appointed the inaugural Global Senior Fellow of University of California’s (Berkeley) Othering and Belonging Institute. He has also been appointed Senior Fellow for The New Institute in Hamburg, Germany. He is the recipient of the New Thought Leadership Award 2021 and the Excellence in Ethnocultural Psychotherapy Award by the African Mental Health Summit 2022. www.bayoakomolafe.net
Joanna Macy PhD, teacher and author, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, Macy has created a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change that brings a new way of seeing the world as our larger body. Her many books include World as Lover, World as Self; Widening Circles, A Memoir; Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy; and Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects. Macy received a BA from Wellesley College in 1950 and a PhD in Religion from Syracuse University in 1978. She continues to write and teach in Berkeley, California, with two new books in press, including A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Times (ed. Stephanie Kaza).
Rick Hanson, PhD is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books have been published in 28 languages and include Neurodharma, Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture - with 900,000 copies in English alone. His free weekly newsletter has 150,000 subscribers and all of his online programs are available for free to anyone with financial need. He’s lectured at NASA, Google, Oxford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. An expert on positive neuroplasticity, his work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and other major media. He began meditating in 1974 and is the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He loves wilderness and taking a break from emails.
Alua Arthur is a death doula, attorney, and the founder of Going with Grace, an end of life planning organization that exists to support people as they answer the question 'What must I do to be at peace with myself so that I may live presently and die peacefully?' From private end of life consultations to online coursework to train death doulas, she is tirelessly committed to bringing awareness to death and dying which she believes can inspire the way people live. A jewelry addict, Alua is also a life lover, bicycle fanatic, and developing nation enthusiast. She is inspired by LIFE, the little joys we can find even in dark times, the freedom of authenticity, and the power in the word YES.
Victoria Santos, MA, designs and facilitates group processes in communities, organizations, businesses, universities, and schools. Her work is rooted in her passion for human potential. As a facilitator, Victoria is willing to speak her truth and ask real questions of people who want to step beyond comfort zones to examine ways that today’s perceptions can help or hinder tomorrow’s strategic actions. She brings a strong analysis of race in America, and suggests meaningful steps towards equity goals.
Victoria likes to explore the ways that intersectional and structural oppressions express themselves in systems, cultures and individuals. She helps organizational leaders recognize systemic barriers to racial and social equity, identify and embrace actions that foster personal and professional growth and transform organizational culture.
Victoria brings over thirty years of experience in leadership education and community organizing and development. She has trained in the fields of psychology, conflict resolution, meditation, equity, gender studies, rituals, and embodied practices. Victoria is a Spanish-fluent Afro-Latina immigrant living in the Pacific Northwest.
Jeffrey Long, M.D. is a radiation oncology physician practicing in Louisiana. Dr. Long has investigated over 3500 near-death experiences (NDEs), which is by far the largest number of NDEs ever scientifically studied. The results of his previous research were published in the New York Times bestselling book Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences. Millions of people have seen Dr. Long discuss his research on shows including the NBC Today Show, The Dr. Oz Show, National Geographic television, History Channel, The O’Reilly Factor, and on television broadcasts around the world.
Pir Netanel Miles-Yépez, D.D., is the head of the Inayati-Maimuni lineage of Sufism, fusing the Hasidic teachings and practices of the Ba’al Shem Tov with the universalist Sufi teachings and practices of Hazrat Inayat Khan. An artist, philosopher, and scholar of comparative religion, Netanel studied at Michigan State University and Naropa University before pursuing traditional studies with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and various other teachers, including Father Thomas Keating. Deeply involved in ecumenical dialogue, Netanel is considered a leading thinker in the InterSpiritual and New Monasticism movements. He is the translator of My Love Stands Behind a Wall: A Translation of the Song of Songs and Other Poems, and co-author of God Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: The ‘Contraction’ of God in Different Jewish Paradigms. Netanel is currently co-director of Charis Foundation for New Monasticism & InterSpirituality, and teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
Brenda Salgado is an author, speaker, medicine woman, and the founder of Nepantla Consulting. She is currently in the process of establishing the Nepantla Land Trust and the Nepantla Center for Healing and Renewal. She holds degrees in Biology (BA), Developmental Psychology (BA), and Animal Behavior (MS). Brenda has over 20 years of experience in leadership development, nonprofit management, spiritual teaching, movement building, women’s health, and environmental and social justice. She has received training from indigenous elders in Toltec energy healing, traditional medicine, limpia ceremony, and indigenous prophecy and teachings for the times we are in. In the past, she served as the Director of the East Bay Meditation Center, Associate Director at Wisdom & Money, and as a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center. She has also served on the boards of Movement Strategy Center, Unity San Leandro, and Lion’s Roar Foundation. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of Charis Foundation for New Monasticism & InterSpirituality. In November 2016 she released her first book, Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time.
Swami Sarvapriyananda was appointed as Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York in January 6, 2017.
Prior, he had served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for 13 months, beginning in 2015.
Swami joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1994 and received Sannyas in 2004. Before being posted to the VSSC’s Hollywood Temple, Swami served as an acharya (teacher) of the monastic probationers training center at Belur Math. He has served the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in various capacities including being the Vice Principal of the Deoghar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, Principal of the Shikshana Mandira Teacher Education College at Belur Math, and the first Registrar of the Vivekananda University at Belur Math.
Lama Rod Owens is a Buddhist minister, author, activist, yoga instructor and authorized Lama, or Buddhist teacher, in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered one of the leaders of his generation of Buddhist teachers. He holds a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation. Owens is the co-founder of Bhumisparsha, a Buddhist tantric practice and study community. Has been published in Buddhadharma, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle and The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and offers talks, retreats and workshops in more than seven countries.
Richard Schwartz began his career as a family therapist and an academic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There he discovered that family therapy alone did not achieve full symptom relief and in asking patients why, he learned that they were plagued by what they called “parts.” These patients became his teachers as they described how their parts formed networks of inner relationship that resembled the families he had been working with. He also found that as they focused on and, thereby, separated from their parts, they would shift into a state characterized by qualities like curiosity, calm, confidence and compassion. He called that inner essence the Self and was amazed to find it even in severely diagnosed and traumatized patients. From these explorations the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model was born in the early 1980s.
IFS is now evidence-based and has become a widely-used form of psychotherapy, particularly with trauma. It provides a non-pathologizing, optimistic, and empowering perspective and a practical and effective set of techniques for working with individuals, couples, families, and more recently, corporations and and classrooms.
In 2013 Schwartz left the Chicago area and now lives in Brookline, MA where is on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Chris Fields wants to understand how systems exchange information, and how information exchange creates the boundaries that separate and distinguish systems from each other. He uses tools from quantum information theory, evolutionary and developmental biology, and cognitive neuroscience. Chris has become convinced that all information exchange, at all scales, can be described with a single set of simple principles. The trick is to figure out which ones. Biographical details and recent publications are available from http://chrisfieldsresearch.com.
From an early age Rupert Spira was deeply interested in the nature of reality. At the age of seventeen he learnt to meditate, and began studying and practicing the teachings of the classical Advaita Vedanta tradition under the guidance of Dr. Francis Roles and Shantananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of the north of India, which he continued for the next for twenty years. During this time he immersed himself in the teachings of P.D.Ouspensky, J. Krishnamurti, Rumi, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Robert Adams, until he met his teacher, Francis Lucille, in 1997. Francis introduced Rupert to the Direct Path teachings of Atmanada Krishnamenon; Jean Klein and the tantric tradition of Kashmir Shaivism; and, more importantly, directly indicated to him the true nature of experience. Rupert is author of several books: The Transparency of Things; Presence; The Light of Pure Knowing; The Ashes of Love; Transparent Body, Luminous World; The Nature of Consciousness; and Being Aware of Being Aware.
Frank Ostaseski is an internationally respected Buddhist teacher and visionary cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, and founder of the Metta Institute. He has lectured at Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, leading corporations like Google and Apple Inc., and teaches at major spiritual centers around the globe. Frank is the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Humanities Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.He has accompanied over 1000 people through the dying process and trained thousands of healthcare clinicians and family caregivers around the world. His groundbreaking work has been featured on the Bill Moyers PBS series On Our Own Terms, highlighted on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and honored by H.H. the Dalai Lama. He is the author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.
Mirabai Starr is an award-winning author of creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. Her youngest daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident in 2001 at the age of fourteen. On that same day, Mirabai’s first book, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul, was released. She considers this experience, and the connection between profound loss and longing for God, the ground of her own spiritual life. Her latest book, WILD MERCY: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, was named one of the “Best Books of 2019” by Spirituality & Practice. Mirabai is on the 2020 Watkins List of the “100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People of the World.” She lives with her extended family in the mountains of northern New Mexico.
Tiokasin Ghosthorse is a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota and has a long history with Indigenous activism and advocacy. Tiokasin is the Founder, Host and Executive Producer of “First Voices Radio” (formerly “First Voices Indigenous Radio”) for the last 28 years in New York City and Seattle/Olympia, Washington. In 2016, he received a Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize from the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. Other recent recognitions include: Native Arts and Cultures Foundation National Fellowship in Music (2016), National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Nominee (2017), Indigenous Music Award Nominee for Best Instrumental Album (2019) and National Native American Hall of Fame Nominee (2018, 2019). He also was recently nominated for “Nominee for the 2020 Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities”. He was also awarded New York City’s Peacemaker of the Year in 2013. Tiokasin is a “perfectly flawed human being.”
Charles Eisenstein is an author and speaker focusing on the transition in the narrative/mythological underpinnings of civilization, as these affect ecology, economy, science, politics, technology, medicine, and spirituality. He is the author of several books, including Sacred Economics, The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, and Climate—A New Story. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and children. www.charleseisenstein.net
Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, founder and spiritual director of Ligmincha International, is one of only a few masters of the Bön Dzogchen tradition presently living in the West. An accomplished scholar in the Bön Buddhist textual traditions of philosophy, exegesis, and debate, Tenzin Rinpoche completed a rigorous 11-year course of traditional studies at the Bönpo Monastic Center (Menri Monastery) in India, where he received his Geshe, degree. In 1992 Tenzin Rinpoche founded Ligmincha International in order to preserve and introduce to the West the religious teachings and arts of the ancient Tibetan Bön Buddhist tradition.
Fluent in English, Rinpoche is known for his clear, lively, and insightful teaching style and his ability to make Tibetan practices easily accessible to the Western student. He is a highly respected and beloved teacher to students throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. In addition to Ligmincha International’s affiliates in the United States, Rinpoche has established centers in Central and South America, Europe and India.
Rinpoche is the author of 10 books, including Wonders of the Natural Mind, in which he presents the view and practice of the Bön Dzogchen teachings, and The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.
Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 70 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University Columbia Business School, adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization. For more than a decade, he has participated as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine, an annual event sponsored by Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. www.choprafoundation.org
Ellen’s deepest intuition was confirmed when she met her teacher, Francis Lucille. In his presence, she recognized the eternal, limitless and universal nature of our shared reality. Over many years, her understanding deepened to touch all levels of experience. The process of aligning and stabilizing all aspects of her life to this understanding has continued to unfold since then.
As a child Ellen loved to move and dance. She knew without words the joy and limitless transparency that the body dissolved into when it was free and alive.
As an adolescent and young adult, she acutely felt and enacted suffering through her body.
Thus, the experience that we call the body has always been central to all of Ellen’s experiences, both in the ignoring and in the recognition of our true nature.
Today, Ellen offers meetings and retreats in The Awakening Body, sharing a direct exploration of reality sourced in the tradition of Kashmiri Shaivism and self-inquiry.
In addition, she has a private practice as a Psychotherapist, and facilitator of Authentic Movement. Her background of Dance-Movement Therapy and Transpersonal Psychology is shaped by the non-dual understanding.
Ellen lives in Oxford with her husband Rupert Spira, also a teacher in the tradition of non-duality.
Sonali Sangeeta Balajee is an independent creative consultant and founder of Our Bodhi Project, which focuses on the intersection of Belonging, Organizing, Decolonizing, Health and Interconnectedness. Bodhi stems from her research as a Senior Fellow with the Othering and Belonging Institute with UC Berkeley. Prior to her work with the institute, Sonali spent 13 years in U.S.-based government as a senior policy advisor on equity and empowerment, and as manager of a health equity program and of a City-wide community-visioning project. Sonali has spent over 10 years of community organizing in the areas of youth organizing, arts, HIV/AIDS issues, and environmental justice. She served as a healing practitioner with the W.K.Kellogg Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing Initiative, and serves on the boards of Worldtrust and Bioneers. Sonali has 20 years’ experience in performance art and arts-and-justice collaborations, and also integrates into her work her deep study of yoga, world indigenous health practices, and holistic health.
Rabbi Dr. Tirzah Firestone is a Jungian psychotherapist, author, and a spiritual leader in the international Jewish Renewal movement. She was ordained by Reb Zalman in 1992 and is known widely for her work in intergenerational trauma healing, Jewish feminism, and the modern applications of Jewish mystical wisdom. Rabbi Firestone teaches nationally on ancestral healing and the common boundary between ancient wisdom traditions and modern psychology.
Rabbi Firestone's publications include With Roots in Heaven: One Woman's Passionate Journey into the Heart of Her Faith (Plume,1999), The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women’s Wisdom (Harper San Francisco, 2003), Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma (Monkfish Press, 2019). Drawing from neuroscience, depth psychology, and ancient Jewish sources, her latest work, Wounds into Wisdom, offers a roadmap for people of all backgrounds who wish to break free from limiting historical narratives, seize their power, and transform the future. Rabbi Firestone lives with her husband David in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. www.tirzahfirestone.com
Michael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology. He combines hypnotic storytelling, street-savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations of ancient myths with a deep knowledge of cross-cultural rituals. He has an unusual ability to distill and synthesize these disciplines, tapping into ancestral sources of wisdom and connecting them to the stories we are living today.
He is the author of The Genius Myth, Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of The Soul, Why the World Doesn't End, The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul; editor, with James Hillman and Robert Bly, of Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart; and editor of Crossroads: A Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage. Meade is the founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a nonprofit network of artist, activists, and community builders that encourages greater understanding between diverse peoples.
Joan Tollifson writes and talks about the simplicity of what is and being liberated on the spot. She has roots in Buddhism and Advaita but belongs to no particular tradition. She is the author of Death: The End of Self-Improvement; Nothing to Grasp; Painting the Sidewalk with Water: Talks and Dialogs about Nonduality; Awake in the Heartland: The Ecstasy of What Is; and Bare-Bones Meditation: Waking Up from the Story of My Life. Joan currently lives in southern Oregon.
Ever since childhood, Truth was Unmani's only longing. She followed that longing all over the world. Unmani had several teachers, but the most significant was the German Zen master Dolano, in India.
In 2013 Unmani met the love of her life, the wonderful musician and courageous lover of life Robert Hanuman. They had a son called Sky. Becoming a mother deepened Unmani’s lived experience of the Truth in a very ordinary and grounded way. Then in January 2018, while in India, Robert Hanuman died from a sudden heart attack. Since then, Unmani has been sharing about grief and love, and how this heartbreak is also an endless heart-opening.
Unmani has been holding Meetings in Truth for 14 years. She meets each person in their personal experience, while at the same time holding them in the Absolute Truth of who they really are. This combination, and paradox, of the personal and impersonal brings depth, openness and healing to people’s lives. They wake up to who they really are, and discover how this is integrated into their daily lives.
Unmani is the author of I am Life itself and Die to Love and her 3rd book The Courage to Come Alive is soon to be published.
Sarah Amsler is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her work focuses on learning at the affective, cognitive, embodied and relational limits of modernity's possibles and with the ‘otherwise’; ontological politics in projects for systemic social change; pedagogies of possibility and desire; and problems of decoloniality in educational practice.
Michael Hebb is a Partner at RoundGlass and the Founder of EOL and Deathoverdinner.org. He is the author of Let’s Talk About Death (Over Dinner) and before COVID could be found traveling the world speaking at TEDMED, the Obama Foundation Summit, SXSW, and the World Economic Forum. His writings have appeared in various publications including USA Today, GQ, Food and Wine.
Jerrigrace Lyons is a pioneer in the home funeral movement and international death educator. She informs and has guided hundreds of families who wish to participate in the natural death care of a loved one, having funeral and grief rituals in alignment with their own personal and spiritual values.
Jerrigrace feels this work is a calling by spirit. She guides and has been guided by her own angels and learns from each family she has assisted. She does this work both to help others in need and for her own personal growth.
Jerrigrace founded the educational non-profit organization Final Passages in 1995 to inform the public about preparing for end-of-life that includes conscious dying, end-of-life doula care, natural death care rights and practicalities, green burials, recompose and the benefits of bringing funerals back into the home and family care. Jerrigrace is a death midwife, home funeral guide, minister, educator, and Reiki Master, living in Sebastopol, CA. She has been featured in the acclaimed PBS documentary A Family Undertaking, The Wall Street Journal, NY and LA Times and many major newspapers and magazines.
Maya Luna is a poet and teacher of Feminine Gnosis. She belongs to a lineage of untamed feral women who transmit the primordial core of the Tantric wisdom streams.
Her work is focused on the lost Feminine ways of knowing. Her spoken word poetry album Holy Darkness: a Tantric Opus is available at mayaluna.bandcamp.com
Omega: Feral Secrets of the Deep Feminine is her first book of poetry. She is the creator of the Deep Feminine Mystery School.
Dr. Kami Fletcher is an Associate Professor of American & African American History at Albright College where she is also Co-Coordinator of Women’s and Gender Studies. She teaches courses that explores the African experience in America and unpacks social and cultural U.S. history all at the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Her research centers on African American burial grounds, late 19th/early 20th century Black female and male undertakers, and contemporary Black grief and mourning. She is the co-editor of Till Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed which examines the internal and/or external drives among ethnic, religious, and racial groups to separate their dead. Currently, Dr. Fletcher is working on a manuscript that historicizes Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore, the first Black owned and operated cemetery in Maryland. For more on Dr. Fletcher please follow her on Twitter @kamifletcher36
Paul Stamets, speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrepreneur, is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi: habitat, medicinal use, and production. He lectures extensively to deepen the understanding and respect for the organisms that literally exist under every footstep taken on this path of life.
Paul is the author of six books (including Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms, and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), he has discovered and named numerous new species of psilocybin mushrooms. Paul has been awarded more than 40 patents with several patent applications in queue for unexpected activity of psilocybin analogues stacked with other substances.
He has received numerous awards, including: Invention Ambassador (2014-2015) for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Mycologist Award (2014) from the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), and the Gordon & Tina Wasson Award (2015) from the Mycological Society of America (MSA).
His work has entered into the mainstream of popular culture. In the new Star Trek: Discovery series on CBS, the Science Officer is portrayed by an Astromycologist.... a Lt. Paul Stamets. Paul's work with mycelium is a central theme of this series.
Parvathy is a Baul practitioner, performer and most recognized woman Baul performer in the world. She is also an instrumentalist, storyteller and painter. She has performed in over forty countries. In February 2019, she was conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, a national recognition for her immense contribution to the ancient Baul tradition.
The Baul tradition dates back to the early 8th C. AD and has grown weaving together threads from Sahajiya Buddhism, Turkish Sufism and Bengali Hinduism.
Parvathy is a tireless advocate for both preservation and renewal of the tradition, frequently using her international reputation to highlight other, lesser-known master performers, and is making systematic training in traditional Baul arts available to women on a scale that has never occurred previously.
She is now creating a dedicated learning center for the Baul tradition in Bengal. This learning center, Sanatan Siddhashram is named after her Guru, Sri Sanatan Das Baul. Here periodically ayurvedic medical services are provided to neighboring villagers. Village children are also trained in Yoga and music. Since the Covid-19 breakout she has tirelessly enabled support for over 45 families of Bauls and Fakirs in Bengal and Bangladesh.
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a Dënesųłiné mother from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Executive Director and co-founder of Indigenous Climate Action (ICA), an Indigenous-led climate justice organization in so-called Canada. Deranger is a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, and sits on various boards including Bioneers, It Takes Roots Leadership Council, Climate Justice Resiliency Fund Council of Advisors, the UK Tar Sands Network and WWF Canada; and a founding member of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.
Deranger’s work focuses on Indigenous rights and building intersectional dialogue between Indigenous rights, climate justice and other social justice movements. She is recognized for her role in the international Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign and developing the Tar Sands Healing Walk. This includes developing one of the first Indigenous rights-based divest movements; lobbying government officials in Canada, the US, the UK and the EU; supporting and leading mass mobilizations against the fossil fuel industry & climate change; and bringing international recognition to issues in her territory with celebrities and politicians alike.
Deranger has written for the Guardian, Yellowhead Institute, The National Observer, Red Pepper Magazine; has been featured in documentary films; and is regularly interviewed for national and international media outlets.
Ladybird Morgan, RN, MSW, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Humane Prison Hospice Project (whose goal is to make prisoner-provided hospice services available in California’s 33 prisons), has been working in end-of-life care and on the frontlines of sexual violence as a registered nurse, clinical social worker, and educator for 20+ years. She has worked with many organizations including The Zen Hospice Project and Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Ladybird has guided medical practitioners, families and private caregivers, as well as directors of programs and institutions around the world on how to be present to experiences that may be hard to hear or bear witness to. Her current focus is facilitating peer support and hospice volunteer training for prisoners.
Across four continents, as a transformational speaker, performer, teacher and author, David has inspired nearly a quarter million people to see behind the veil of the mind’s illusions and seriousness. The late Norman Cousins called David “an accomplished court jester to humanity.” At age 14 David sensed the boundless presence behind all life—and at 17 he studied how to fashion universes out of emptiness on the theater stage through the ancient art form of pantomime under the tutelage of Kabbalah master Samuel Avital. Seeing our body and being as an expression of the infinite is the foundation of all his workshops, coaching, and performing. David is a regular contributor to non-dual magazines and has authored his recent book, The Ocean of Now. You can see his inspiring and humorous videos on his youtube channel.
Zhenevere Sophia Dao is the founder of the philosophy of Post-Daoism and the MogaDao practice tradition. A teacher and innovator of “mythosomatic” practices for nearly 30 years, she is a poet and writer on a wide variety of spiritual, philosophical, and cultural subjects. She was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and has published fiction with Penguin Books. She lives in a small cabin deep in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, and in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she teaches immersions in MogaDao’s Ethea, or themes of care and practice, at the MogaDao Institute. She is also the founding director, scriptwriter, and choreographer of the SACRA Theater Company, and the founding director of the trans-activist organization, The Transgender Necessity.
Elisabet Sahtouris, PhD is an internationally known evolution biologist and futurist, author and worldwide speaker teaching Living Economies, current human evolution, and How to Navigate our Perfect Storm of Crises. After a post-doctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History, she taught at MIT and the University of Massachusetts and contributed to the NOVA-Horizon TV series. She is a fellow of the World Business Academy with an honorary Chair in Living Economies, and Advisor to Ethical Markets and other organizations. Dr. Sahtouris is a co-founder of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network and has convened international symposia on Foundations of Global Sciences in Hokkaido, Japan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is currently a Professor of Business at Chaminade University in Honolulu. Her books include EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution, A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us, Biology Revisioned (w. Willis Harman) and Gaia’s Dance. www.sahtouris.com
Angela Hennessy is an Oakland-based artist and Associate Professor at California College of the Arts where she teaches courses on visual and cultural narratives of death and contemporary art. Through writing, studio work, and performance, her practice questions assumptions about Death and the Dead themselves. She uses a spectrum of color and other phenomena of light to expose mythologies of identity.
In 2015, she survived a gunshot wound while interrupting a violent assault on the street in front of her house. Her manifesto, The School of the Dead, was written in the following months of recovery. Alternating between poem, prayer, and call to action, The School of the Dead is in development as an educational program for aesthetic and social practices that mediate the boundary between the living and the dead.
As a hospice volunteer, she has worked with families on home funerals, death vigils, and grief rituals. She is certified in the Grief Recovery Method and trained with Final Passages and the International End of Life Doula Association. She serves on the advisory boards of Recompose and Death Salon. She lectures and teaches workshops nationally. Last year, she won the San Francisco Artadia Award.
Will Siu, MD, DPhil, completed medical and graduate school at UCLA and the University of Oxford, respectively, before training as a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. He remained on the faculty at Harvard for two years prior to moving to New York City to further pursue his interest in psychedelic medicine as a practitioner and public advocate through speaking, writing, and social media. Dr. Siu has been trained by MAPS to provide MDMA-assisted therapy and maintains a private practice in Los Angeles where he provides individual psychotherapy and ketamine-facilitated psychotherapy.
He approaches his work with the goal of lasting, patient-centered healing—using his skills and experience to help his clients find healing within themselves. As part of that process, Dr. Siu manages psychiatric medication—including medication discontinuation for those who are ready—and provides integrative psychotherapy. For interested patients, this involves somatic, meditative and spiritual healing and, in some cases, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy by intramuscular injection. He also offers integration services for those who have experienced ayahuasca, LSD, psilocybin, or MDMA.
Kaira Jewel Lingo is a Dharma teacher and lived as an ordained nun for 15 years in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, and is now based in New York. She provides individual spiritual mentoring and leads retreats internationally, offering mindfulness programs for educators, parents and youth in schools, in addition to activists, people of color, artists and families. She mentors with the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program, was lead teacher for Mindful Schools’ year long training for educators, teaches teens and adults with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, and is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha. She edited Thich Nhat Hanh’s Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children and has been published in numerous other books and magazines. She explores the interweaving of art, play, ecology and embodied mindfulness practice and is an InterPlay leader. Read her recent article, In Times of Crisis Call Upon the Strength of Peace, published in Lion’s Roar magazine.
Angel Grant guides meditations that address death and dying, along with other potentially difficult life experiences — like addiction and trauma — while focusing on freedom. She is Co-founder of Death Over Dinner, Head of Content for EOL at RoundGlass and Mama to Sebastian. She has been teaching meditation, yoga and sharing talks on waking up to present moment awareness since 2004. Angel served as Co-founder of Yoga in Common in coastal SC and, since 2010, has led teacher trainings combining non-dual teachings with work in emotional and somatic intelligence. She leads death meditation facilitator trainings, workshops, retreats, and works 1-on-1 with issues from the past that disrupt the present.
Angel worked alongside Dr. Gabor Maté in trauma-healing retreats. She engaged extensively with at-risk youth, creating a yoga program in a socio-economically challenged school and teaching meditation while living in a national forest.
In 2011, she founded The Yoga Bus and traveled the country with her two dogs living in an RV. The focus: trauma healing in populations with little access to support. She furthered this work in South Africa in 2012 via TRIAD Trust, an organization centered on HIV education and prevention, in a region believed to have a 40% infection rate.
Dream Mullick writes, teaches, produces and dreams from a small cottage on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur—in dedication to birthing a more resilient world.
Born in India into a Hindu culture that reveres impermanence, yet indoctrinated into a death phobic western culture from a young age, her initiation with death as a master teacher only became clearer much later in life. Crystalized by the back-to-back deaths of her father and husband, it was through these journeys with grief and loss and grace that her love of death as a catalyst for more fully embracing life, was born.
Her current work focuses on death/impermanence (death coaching/death meditations), ecological grief (grief council/meditations), and the curation of programs intersecting death, grief, trauma, climate disruption and entheogens. Currently producing, with Interconnected Media, a doc about Dr. Rick Doblin (Prescription X) and his life’s journey with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) to legalize psychedelics as medicines.
Past chapters include being the founder of a designer jewelry company, the Director of Development/Partnerships of GOOD/UN Foundation’s environmental campaigns (#EarthToParis/#EarthToMarrakech) and the catalyst for reintroduction of psychedelic programming (Psychedelic Integration) at Esalen.
Oren Slozberg is the executive director of Commonweal, a Northern California-based organization dedicated to health & healing, environment & justice, and education & the arts. He is the co-director of the Healing Circles program, the Resilience Program and Commonweal’s Center for Creative Community. Commonweal’s core values of healing, justice and resilience are essential guideposts for our work as we face the polycrisis of COVID, climate change and injustice.
The Healing Circles program helps people step out of ordinary time into the safe and accepting environment of peer-led circles to explore questions including caretaking, medical choices, healing, end of life, and finding meaning. Healing Circles grew out of Commonweal’s Cancer Help Program (CCHP), which addresses unmet needs of people with cancer, including finding balanced information on mainstream and complementary therapies; and exploring emotional and spiritual dimensions of cancer.
As director of the Center for Creative Community at Commonweal, Slozberg explores the intersection of dialogue, cognition, creativity, and community. Through work in a wide cross-section of communities, the program seeks to deepen our exploration of complex issues in our world.
Dawn Gross, MD, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO of Dyalogues, Inc, is an end of life care thought leader. As a Hospice & Palliative medicine physician her passion is to discover what matters most to you, right now. She completed her undergraduate education at USC, her medical, graduate and internal medicine training at Tufts and her fellowship in hematology and bone marrow transplant at Stanford with post-doctoral training at UCSF.
She transitioned to the field of hospice after her father died in 2006 and has become an internationally invited speaker, educator and consultant. Working with the UCSF Palliative Care team since 2010, Dr. Gross recently became the medical director of ANX Hospice.
She is the creator and host of the first-of-its-kind, live, call-in radio program, Dying to Talk. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, JAMA, Science and Annals of Internal Medicine with her first book of non-fiction forth-coming. Gratefully married for over a quarter of a century, she has yet to be awarded her master’s in parenting from her three children.
Julie Jilani Esterly is focused on co-creating systemic planetary change through speaking, teaching and activism. She has had the fortune of remarkable teachers, among them Ram Dass, Charlotte Selver, Moshé Feldenkrais, Wali Ali Meyer and Buckminster Fuller. Her goal is to transmit the understanding she has developed in support of an equitable and sustainable world.
Julie serves as a senior teacher and minister in the universal Sufi Ruhaniat International lineage, a path of heart and positivity. She is interested in practical mysticism that helps people use their gifts in service to the real and is writing a book on mysticism and social action.
She is keenly aware of how trauma and grief can diminish our light and energy, having experienced multiple auto accidents and medical procedures. Intimacy with suffering allows her to have empathy and the desire to create a safe, compassionate atmosphere when speaking and teaching.
Her interest in resacralizing death and concerns about the environmental, economic and human rights issues surrounding the end-of-life, led her to co-found the Natural Deathcare Initiative in 2017.
Julie speaks at events and offers personal spiritual counseling sessions, classes, and workshops. She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2019.
Ben Bushill is a mystic, poet and circle leader devoted to the remembrance of the simple miracle of existence. His poetry is a call to see and feel what we are being given in every unfolding moment. To realise our perfection through the honouring of our flawed humanity and the deep honesty of the earth. The seed of life is within us all, our dance here is mundane, strange and wonderful. Ben doesn’t bring answers but instead asks us to push our hearts and our lives up against the place where our finite hearts meet the great wave of life that is within and which contains us. At that merciful and merciless meeting point we catch a glimpse of the love that we are. Circles to draw close to each other and the mystery we carry. Poetry and spoken word to carry the vibration of wonder and remembrance of our own miraculous hearts.
Sea Stars is the musical collaboration of Kurt Baumann and Katie Gray.
Through the power of intention and a heartfelt tapestry of vibrancy and sound, the music offers deep entry into the subtle and sacred chambers of emotion, feeling and intimacy.
By building and nurturing their connection over the past decade, the two artists co-create a light-filled pathway of sonic resonance that welcomes the listener into spaciousness and self reflection.
Collectively, their music and voices have been featured on 8 major television shows, Jimmy Kimmel, Sirius XM and most recently, a live performance on the NBC Today show.
Sea Stars are honored and humbled to be welcomed into the SAND community and look forward to learning, growing and expanding with all of you!
Paul Puccinelli is the Director of Operations at Dyalogues, Inc. Paul has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of California, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing from San Francisco State University. In addition, Paul holds a certificate from UCSF Medical Center in palliative care for interprofessional practicing clinicians and a certificate from Columbia University to provide complicated grief therapy.
So much in our world has changed since Dyalogues inception, but at Dyalogues our mission has not changed, we are still about getting people talking, listening, and turning toward what’s difficult. The starting point is the same too, it starts with a conversation, not just any conversation, but a courageous conversation with a willingness to focus on understanding what matters most to the person you are with. The Dyalogues platform uses four key foundational elements: education, training, access to experienced professionals and supportive resources.
In addition, Paul facilitates healing circles and supports the healing circle public program at Healing Circles Global. Healing Circles is a safe place to bear witness to it all. And now, we can join circles from anywhere, healing ourselves and our planet. Conversations bring people closer together and so do healing circles.
Chief Oluwo Obafemi Fayemi Epega is a world-renowned Babalawo and the founder of O.I.D.S.I. (Obafemi Institute for the Divine & Universal Study of Ifa). He was initiated as a priest of Obatala in 2004, and received his Tefa in 2005. He strongly believes that the restoration and preservation of African divine sciences and traditions can restore psychological balance and personal empowerment to all people. A lecturer, teacher and healer and the author of Who is Sambo?, Baba Femi has facilitated Ifa workshops all over the world. He has been invited to share his knowledge and insight on countless radio shows, major universities and colleges. In addition to overseeing more than 400 ceremonies and rituals, Baba Femi has either directly facilitated, or served as the principal liaison for the initiations of more than 50 Ifa and Olorisha priests.
With the blessings of Olodumare, his ancestors, and Ifa, this life has allowed him to fully embrace and experience that which his heart has chosen. He is proud to be an African American man, native Houstonian, descendant of slaves, priest of Ifa, teacher, author, mentor, son, a friend to many, a loving husband, and most importantly, an honorable father.
Ogy (Ognyan) Enev graduated psychology from the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and later took classes in film and theater. He worked as a freelancer for the Bulgarian National television, assistant director and wrote and directed several documentary film projects. Then he changed his line of work and co-founded one the first tea salons in Sofia—alternative spot for tea, slow food and art.
Film: The Saints of Pondicherry
Threshold Choir was started in 2000 by Kate Munger to sing to those on the threshold. It has grown to over 200 choirs internationally. After my father died I found the threshold choir and have been singing to the dying for the last 14 years. As the director of the Sonoma County Threshold Singers, one of the chapters of Threshold Choir International, I have been honored to be at several hundred bedsides with my fellow singers. We bring three-part harmony and presence to the dying and their families. Our intention is to as a mother or a grandmother at the bedside of those on the thresholds of life, and in the process to be kindness made audible.
Dr. Katie Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies a range of questions in cosmology, the study of the universe from beginning to end. She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Physics at North Carolina State University, where she is also a member of the Leadership in Public Science Cluster. Throughout her career she has studied dark matter, the early universe, galaxy formation, black holes, cosmic strings, and the ultimate fate of the cosmos. Alongside her academic research, she is an active science communicator and has been published in a number of popular publications such as Scientific American, Slate, Sky & Telescope, Time.com, and Cosmos Magazine, where she is a columnist. You can find her on Twitter as @AstroKatie.
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