Zaya & Maurizio Benazzo Transcript

Zaya & Maurizio Benazzo Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done 530 something of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to express that appreciation by making a donation, there’s a PayPal button on every page of My guests today are some dear friends, Zaya and Maurizio Benazzo. I’ve been seeing them for, how many SAND conferences have you done so far?

Maurizio: 12 in the US, right? 12 years in the US, since 2009.

Zaya: Now it’s going to be the 13th.

Maurizio: It’s going to be the 13th.

Rick: Alright, so then I’ve been seeing you for 11 years because I missed the first one. And they are, as they just implied, they are the mother and father of the Science and Non-Duality Conference, the SAND Conference, which I’ve been attending for the last 11 years. We’ll talk about that during the interview. But a little bit about them first. Zaya is a filmmaker from Bulgaria with degrees in engineering, environmental science, and film. For many years she worked as an environmental activist in Holland and Bulgaria, and later produced and directed several award-winning documentaries in Europe and the United States. Maurizio grew up in Italy and in 1984 came to the United States on a 98-year-old sailing boat. He started working as an actor, model, and filmmaker, but his thirst for knowledge was only satisfied in 2001 upon encountering “I Am That,” the seminal work by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj while he was in India shooting the award-winning documentary “Shortcut to Nirvana.” Maurizio and Zaya merged their lifelong passions for science and mysticism when they met in 2007, and their first project together was filming the documentary “Rays of the Absolute” on the life and teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. This project sparked their next level of creation and collaboration which, as we just mentioned, is the Science and Non-Duality Conference, which we’ll be referring to as SAND, a global community inspired by the timeless wisdom traditions informed by modern science and grounded in direct experience. So, welcome.

Zaya: Thank you Rick.

Maurizio: Thank you Rick.

Rick: I’m really happy to have this opportunity to talk to you because the only time I ever see you is at SAND, and everybody is so busy, especially you, since you’re running the conference, that we never really have a chance to talk, except maybe an occasional breakfast or something like that, and even then it’s kind of crazy around there, so much going on. So this will be fun, we’ll really get into all kinds of interesting stuff.

Maurizio:Yeah, we definitely look forward to it.

Zaya: We look forward to the conversation with you, Rick. And the community.

Maurizio: You’ve been in our satellite universe with SAND, you’ve been such a support.

Zaya: And presence.

Maurizio: And presence, so, so strongly in our community that it’s a pleasure to finally connect. Even though we have a few people listening, we can freely have a conversation amongst friends.

Rick: Oh yeah, yeah, I feel like part of the family. So, maybe you could each answer this question separately. How did each of you first get interested in spirituality?

Rick: Yeah, I know you’re a good little Catholic boy.

Maurizio: Exactly, I’m a very good Catholic boy.

Rick: Trying to be a good little Catholic boy.

Maurizio: Trying to be. I failed dramatically, and I remember at the age of 10, finally, I always was interested in the big question, and at the age of 10 I finally was able to stop doing the sign of the cross. And when I realized in the morning Jesus didn’t send the lightning bolt to kill me and I was still alive, I thought I was free. And then after that I bump into everything that came to Italy, from the children of God, to Zen, to anything you can think of. TM, everything that appeared to Italy in the late 60s, early 70s, I bump into it. And then in my late, early 20s, late teens, I got back to Jesus strongly. I tried to become a Catholic monk. They kicked me out after a week because I was not a good Catholic boy. And so I was always in the search of the big question, always, always intrigued and desire, but I could never find any answer that was satisfactory fully. I found that something was not right in all of that, for me personally, I would never. And then Nisargadatta was the first person, human being that was able to give me something that I could put my teeth in it and feel satisfied fully. So of course there was the idea that I’m not having a national, I’m not having a, you know, there was no religion connected to it. There was no dogma somehow other than the pure teaching.

Rick: When you started reading the Nisargadatta, did that inspire you to do some kind of practice? Did he advocate some kind of practice or was it just reading his book deeply and perhaps repeatedly that became a practice for you?

Maurizio: To me, the practice in some bizarre way has always been life. And I don’t want to say to, I don’t remember a specific practice other than contemplation on the world and contemplation on my thought and understanding my action more and more in the light of what was the thought, the ambition of this sensation of oneness, how to be what I was heard that I could be or should be, how to be in that moment somehow.

Rick: And so you found contemplating his thoughts and words to be transformational in some deep way.

Maurizio: Absolutely, absolutely. It was like, well, mind-blowing. It gave me the sense of peace that I didn’t know I couldn’t experience otherwise, the sense of, ah, you know? It’s a sensation that I had before, but sporadically. Maybe sometime, I remember one day, probably crying looking at the beauty of the universe and the birds. I mean, this mystical outburst I had then, but they were never connected to a specific, there was no continuum, there was no logic, they were coming and going. And with Nisargadatta, I was able to see and understand, put my mind at ease in understanding what those experiences could be and why.

Rick: Yeah, it does. How about you, Zaya?

Zaya: Well, I was born in a communist country, so spirituality was not something that was practiced or that one could have easy access to. I was one of those kids that was driving my parents crazy since I was four. I was like obsessed with the question, where do we come from, why we are here? And my parents often will be losing patience. “I have no idea.” And thank God they were not religious, so they kind of left it quite open, the answers, but I was relentless in my questions. And then, so I was trying to get into any spiritual book I could. In Bulgarian, there was almost nothing. So I was reading in Russian. So the first access to spirituality was through books in Russian, and mostly philosophers and Balavadsky, like the esoteric teachings of the East.

Rick: Blavatsky, yeah.

Zaya: Yeah, yeah. And then the book that really kind of woke me in a deep way was Castaneda. The books of Castaneda were translated in Bulgarian, and that’s what actually eventually brought me to the States. I came here to study with Castaneda and with the women. Yes.

Rick: Did you actually meet them and study with them?

Zaya: I did. Yeah. And that was about 10 years, that period in which I was very deeply committed to the path. There was a specific path, there was a specific practices that I was doing most of my days.

Rick: Just out of curiosity, did you conclude that Castaneda made most of that up, or do you feel like it was pretty genuine what he wrote?

Zaya: This question is so hard. To me, it was genuine. It was genuine, yes. But what I saw through, like at the end of the path there, I saw all the shadow, all the unresolved, unmet human messiness that was there as well, deeply covered in the spiritual structure that he created together with the women and the whole organization. There was so much of that.

Rick: That’s a familiar story.

Zaya: So very familiar story that it took years to actually fully unravel what happened. But the thing is that I was still quite young and I came across I Am Death. And the moment I got to the book and I started reading, it was like, you know, peeling the layers of spiritual dogma, understanding that I have accumulated over these 10 years just slowly became obsolete and it made no sense. And I need to mention a human being that really helped me in that process was Stephen Wolinsky. At that phase, when I met Maurizio, I also met Stephen and we did the journey with Stephen to India. And for me, it was like a crash course on Advaita Vedanta, being with Stephen. Like, I had so many questions. Like, we spent hours every day. He was just deconstructing, dismantling anything I have constructed in terms of spiritual understanding.

Rick: Has he ever spoken at SAND?

Zaya: He spoke at the first year.

Maurizio: The first year. He opened the first year.

Maurizio: ; He is not the guy for crowds.

Zaya: He was a big part of us starting SAND.

Rick: Absolutely.

Zaya: The first year.

Rick: I’ve invited him to be on Batgap, but it was sort of like, “Eh, I don’t do that kind of thing.” You know, we prefer to just communicate through words and not have a video presence it seems.

Maurizio: Yeah.

Rick: It’s interesting though, isn’t it, how, I don’t know, you’ve probably run into this a lot, I have, that people who end up like us, you know, just sort of fascinated with all this kind of stuff, often had a fascination from an early age. It’s kind of like we were wired that way from the start.

Zaya: Yeah. I always knew there must be more to life. There must be more than what we’ve been taught in school, than what society is revealing us, what it’s teaching, yeah. And I did have also my own out-of-body experiences and things like this that did inform through my body really what the Masters have been describing.

Rick: Yeah, for me it didn’t really hit me until I was about 17 and I found LSD and Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s book and stuff like that, and then, “Oh yeah, wow, enlightenment, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what I’m supposed to do.” But before that, I was pretty muddled and I didn’t really have, I don’t think I was as clear a seeker as you guys were in the earlier years.

Maurizio: Yeah. To me, I connected in the last few years, I’m starting to connect it to trauma in a way, because the death of my mom when I was seven was such a traumatic event that I had to find an answer somewhere else than what is, because what is was too painful and inexplicable. It made no sense. Dude, up there, I mean, come on, what’s the story here? There has to be something, you probably are not in charge because you cannot do this kind of thing. And then therefore starting to go slowly off the hook, but then there must be an answer, so continue searching. So I’m starting to see a connection there in those, between my major trauma of life and my desire to go deeper and find more answers. I don’t know if it’s a pattern for everybody, I don’t want to say that, but I’ll be curious to explore that.

Rick: I was just listening to some podcast and some, I forget who it was, it might have been one of Tim Freak’s episodes, but some guy was talking about the diseases of despair or deaths of despair where people try to blot it all out. You know, they take alcohol or opioids or they overeat grotesquely and so on because life is painful and they just want to dull it out. But I think one thing I realized kind of early on was that the more you try to dull it out and suppress it, the more you’re going to have to deal with later, so you better get going on the project of purifying and clarifying and moving upward rather than trying to suppress it.

Zaya: Yeah, and for many of us actually on the spiritual path, we have used spirituality to do this, to suppress.

Rick: That too, yeah.

Zaya: And to use spiritual concepts and teachings and philosophies to disconnect from our own being and the body. So actually this is what we have been seeing more and more, but we will get to that in our journey with SAND, that this is where collectively actually we struggled.

Rick: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, but maybe before we get into that, we’ll touch a couple more points. So you guys, tell us the story of how you met. That’s kind of a sweet story.

Maurizio: It depends who you ask. It’s a sweet story in both cases. I didn’t mean that. It’s a sweet story in both cases. It depends on how you ask is how we met, because I have my version that is very far away.

Rick: Yeah, I’ll give you both versions.

Zaya: It’s so beautiful. We agree on most of it after all. But anyway, should I or should you?

Zaya: Yeah, no, go.

Rick: I go?

Zaya: That’s the beauty of it.

Rick: Incidentally, for those listening, this is a little sample of what sand is like. It’s kind of an Abbott and Costello team where Zaya plays the straight man and Maurizio is Costello, you know?

Maurizio: Who’s on first? Yeah, it’s true. It’s our life, really. We are perfect for each other in so many, many, many, many ways. So, you know, EST, the Forum, you know, the Forum.

Rick: Sure, Werner Erhart.

Maurizio: Yeah. So we met at the forum. We were both in the process of separation from our previous partners. And I saw her. I totally liked her. I remember she was sitting in front of me and I was trying to. And then when she was exiting the room, I sneaked my card and I used one of my favorite ones. I basically told her, “Oh, I have a sweater exactly like that,” which was the case, but totally hippie, beautiful, pointy, yummy hoodie. I said, “I really had one like that.” And she looked at me and said, “Uh-huh.”

Rick: That’s nice.

Maurizio: But she took the card. I said, “Okay, whatever.” And then a few days later, she apparently looked at the card and my company was called Nettinity Films. And I was making a movie with Stephen Wolinsky on Nisargadatta Maharaj. So they’re all online clips and stuff on YouTube. And so we made this movie and said, “Oh, my God, you do a movie about Nisargadatta.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m going to India in a few weeks to make another movie, this Ray of the Absolute.” And she said, “Well, I’m a camera person.” I said, “Well, I need one.” And that was basically our first serious date was going to India to shoot this movie, Rays of the Absolute, which you can find on YouTube for free there.

Rick: Maybe I’ll link to it from your BatGap page so people can see it if they like.

Maurizio: It’s a beautiful movie, if you’re into Nisargadatta. Because we interviewed the translators of Nisargadatta. So the unsung heroes of the story, basically.

Rick: Okay, so then Zaya, what’s your perspective on this story?

Zaya: No, it’s pretty close. I don’t have, I really liked Maurizio right away. And I felt like, oh, he’s such a cool guy. Like, why would he love me? You know, why would he like the low self-esteem kind of response? And then, but then when I really, and I felt like I don’t know if there’s enough depth there for me.

Maurizio: She’s still wandering, by the way.

Zaya: I still wonder. This is the beauty, the dance. And but when you when we really connected and we talked about Nisargadatta, it was really, we met right there, where we were both at the same place in our spiritual path, which created, I think, immediately a very strong bond. And we both have creative, passionate hearts that we just met in that creative energy. The rest actually didn’t matter.

Rick: Yeah, well you had a destiny to fulfill.

Zaya: Yeah.

Rick: In more ways than one. So, all right, so let’s kind of inch along towards the birth of the Science and Nonduality Conference. How did that idea come up?

Maurizio: Shall I go with another story? Because I’m the master of stories, you go with the depth afterwards.

Zaya: Let’s do the stories. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Maurizio: So basically, coming back from India, literally coming back from India, we had a dinner with a friend at the Stephen Wolinsky workshop. One evening, it was my birthday, we had a dinner with this with Fred, our friend, Fred, Uncle Fred. And he said, “Well, why don’t you guys make a conference about science and spirituality?” Because one of the translator of Nisargadatta in the movie said that one day Nisargadatta would say, “What I’m teaching is not spirituality. What I teach is science. One day scientists will come and understand all this.” And that sentence struck us, you know, because we both had an extreme desire to understand also science. We were both hanging around a lot of science gatherings and books and situations.

Rick: Let’s take a minute to define and contrast science and spirituality, and then you can continue your story. How do you understand Nisargadatta’s statement that what he was teaching is science?

Maurizio: I can just put one little, he says, “Fluid come together and sense of self appears.”

Zaya: The sense of I appears.

Maurizio: The sense of I. So in-

Rick: What comes together?

Zaya: He was referring like sense of-

Rick: Fluids.

Zaya: Fluids.

Rick: Like milk and orange juice and fluids.

Zaya: He didn’t have a sophisticated language. He was a biddy maker. So he was using very simple-

Rick: Terminology.

Zaya: Peasant’s language. Yeah. So he says, “And the sense of I appears.” Basically what neuroscience is about.

Rick: The brain, the fluids in the brain.

Rick: Ah, in the brain, I see.

Maurizio: They move around and they give you the sense. So we are a mechanical somehow, in an interesting way, we are a mechanical-

Zaya: He was describing, let’s say, black holes and things like this without even having the concepts. But he would point to scientific concepts in his teaching that were just emerging spontaneously.

Rick: Yeah.

Zaya: And he-

Rick: And funnily enough, we heard that he was sending his disciple, if you wish, the people who came to him to study, he will send half of them, send them on a spiritual path and half of them that you become a quantum physicist, you become a neuroscientist. He was sending people to-

Zaya: Or a bhakta. So he would, if someone comes and the person is very, usually Westerners, they’re very rigorous, they’re very much in their heads, he would give them the jnani, the knowledge path. So he would explain, he would talk to them for hours. And then many of his Indian disciples, actually, they were bhakta. They didn’t care about understanding it intellectually. So he would just give them a mantra and say, “You practice the mantra and whatever it needs to be revealed, it will be revealed to you.” And we met many of these people that to this day, they just do their mantra and they don’t need to understand. There’s no need for inquiry or understanding or questioning. You just do the mantra. And the same, we met a woman that she went on and became a quantum physicist and a professor. So her path was through academia to understand who she was and what’s the nature of reality. So he was really meeting people where they were at.

Maurizio: So from this, what Zaya is saying, you can understand the birth of science and duality, right? There are so many doors. Choose the doors that, if you’re a hammer, you want to nail it. If you’re a screwdriver, you want to screw. I mean, whatever kind of tool your brain requires to take you to the next level, to the next layer, take it. Science and duality, that’s why it has all this variety of angles and options for that.

Zaya: Yeah, Nisargardatta used to say, “There is a key to unlock your door.” Whatever that key is, use it.

Maurizio: Use it. Find it and use it.

Zaya: And that was the idea with SAND. Let’s put some keys that we have used in our own spiritual journey and has worked and see if more people resonate with those keys. And that’s how we started by putting the variety of teachers and scientists. At the beginning, it was mostly spiritual teachers and scientists together. And then later, we added psychedelics, the psychology, more keys. As life got more complex, collectively, we needed more keys to meet life.

Rick: Yeah, it’s such a rich point, really, one that I think about a lot and I’m very interested in. In fact, at the 2015 SAND talk, I gave my whole talk about how science and spirituality are both cooperative, collaborative tools for understanding reality and how both contribute to the other, each contributes to the other, and neither alone can present the full, knowledge as fully as it needs to be presented or understood.

Zaya: Yeah, because knowledge is limited by itself, by its nature.

Rick: Yeah, and the other point is that the human nervous system is a great scientific instrument if we know how to use it properly, and it’s actually much more sophisticated in many ways than the most sophisticated, more than the Hubble Space Telescope or the Large Hadron Collider. It has capabilities that those instruments don’t have if we know how to unlock those capabilities.

Maurizio: And still, there’s nothing compared to the amount of, the absolute knowledge is way, way above. I mean, the absolute truth is way, way above any possible, we cannot get there. I mean, you know.

Rick: Through understanding.

Maurizio: Through understanding.

Rick: Through understanding.

Maurizio: Through understanding.

Rick: Yeah, but that actually brings up a point I meant to ask you, which is that, you know, Ramana and Nisargadatta and all kinds of great sages like that did say that we can get there by being that, you know, by recognizing, through that sort of recognizing itself through the instrumentality of our mind-body system. So in a sense, you can get to absolute truth, but not as something you can stand apart from and say, “Oh, there it is, absolute truth,” only by sort of waking up to the fact that you are that ultimately.

Maurizio: Okay, so the heart can only know the absolute truth of the heart, you will never know the absolute truth of the lungs. We can never understand the absolute truth of a galaxy or the bee. We can only be there as we are here. Therefore, we can understand our place in the absolute, but not pretend that we understand the absolute. We understand our point of view of the absolute, and we accept it, and we are that. And by that, we are the absolute. But we still are, you know, there’s still this, if it makes any sense.

Rick: Does it make any sense? Do you want to add to that, Zaya? Are you good with that?

Zaya: You know what I want to reflect is that I used to be very fascinated by conversations like this, and now I’m noticing I’m losing interest. Like, something in me just goes like “whoosh,” because it’s way simpler and immediate than that, like the access point.

Rick: Yeah, we’re trying to put words onto something that it really has to be an experience, and words never do justice to any experience, like the taste of an apple, you know, you can’t really do justice to it.

Zaya: Even experience is limited in time and space, and we’re talking something beyond experience even.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Zaya: Which…

Rick: Or beyond experience that the senses can bring us.

Zaya: Exactly, exactly. Or awareness, or senses, or perception, or… yeah. I used to be obsessed with understanding, and questioning, and knowing, and now I’m starting to lose interest in that. I’m just watching it, I don’t know what is it, but it’s like part of the journey, I know this is just one more…

Rick: Yeah, I think you can trust it.

Zaya: I fully trust it, yeah.

Rick: I guess just to wrap up this point, what I would say is that there, you know, and I think I’ve heard many scientists at SAND and elsewhere say this, that you can sort of get, if you sort of take anything in creation, you can kind of analyze it down scientifically or whatever, to the point where you arrive at its ground state or its ultimate reality, and you find that the ultimate reality of all the diversity is one unity, or one non-dual field. And I think one can verify that experientially. We have the equipment through which to verify that.

Zaya: Of course.

Rick: Yeah.

Zaya: And to me, what spirituality is, or practice, or anything is really how that gets revealed, lived in moment to moment. It’s like where in each moment that kind of unity, how it’s expressed through this organism.

Rick: Absolutely.

Zaya: That’s what I’m fascinated with.

Rick: And that seems to be the evolution of SAND itself, as well as probably our own evolution, the three of us, is that, you know, I wouldn’t say a shift, but sort of an evolution or maturation of the emphasis on that sort of abstract, unmanifest field to how it plays out in relative life, how it’s embodied or expressed or lived in day-to-day living. Because there have been all kinds of people who claim to have experienced that, but then when you look at their personal lives it doesn’t seem to be playing out as one might hope.

Zaya: And even that, like deconstructing even this statement that like holding it. We all have that, right? We all have aspects of us that have not been fully blessed by the realization of oneness.

Rick: Yeah, and probably always will have.

Zaya: And always will have, exactly. And how are we with that, and how we relate to that, and how are we intimate with that? That’s to me an endless, fascinating practice, like again, moment to moment. How do I relate to those parts in myself, and then how I am when I see that in another human being, and yeah.

Rick: Yeah. You want to add anything here, Maurizio?

Maurizio: It’s the same old dance to me, the realization, the sensation, the feeling of being one, of the interconnectedness of the universe and me part of it, and yet me part of it, and me being it as an apparently, or let’s not even discuss this apparently, as a separate object. Because if I have a headache, you don’t necessarily. And yet we are interconnected, we are all part of the same. And I go back to the metaphor of the body, my organism is made of heart, lungs, skin, nails. And all these parts are separate parts. A heart cell, when reproduced, creates another heart cell. If the heart cells start to work in the lungs, I’m in trouble. So there is an absolute that is comprised of diversity, doesn’t negate unity.

Rick: Very good point, important point.

Maurizio: There’s the combination of the two, the balance of the two. The dance we dance is the dance of this feeling and understanding of oneness, and also this feeling and understanding of separateness, and find a balance between the two. To me that’s where the sweet spot.

Rick: Yep. And so often people try to absolutize one or the other particular perspective, like the blind man arguing about the elephant, whereas really, what really works is to, I mean, think of it this way, speaking of Nisargadatta, one of his sayings was that the ability to appreciate polarity and, no, what was it, paradox and ambiguity is a sign of spiritual maturity. And if you think of creation itself with all of its polarities and diversities and apparent incompatible realities, yet somehow they are all contained comfortably within the totality of creation. So if God can do it, and if we aspire to that sort of realization, then perhaps we should get in the habit of doing it.

Zaya: And the paradox tends to be more in the mind again, like there’s not many paradoxes for the heart, if you really go into the heart.

Rick: Good point. The heart unites. Yeah. Interesting.

Zaya: And I just want to say something you mentioned about using absolute understanding or descriptions for relative situation. That was actually a beautiful, I would say, collective realization that came at the last and at our social justice panel. That actually, I felt it kind of illuminated the room when Condon Mason actually said, let’s pause for a moment and see how we often, how we do that. Like we use those beautiful abstract concepts to a very relative situation.

Maurizio: It doesn’t work.

Zaya: It just doesn’t work. We need to meet the situation right there in its relativeness without bringing in absolute concepts. And then we can see what’s the truth of the moment if we are right there with what’s been revealed.

Rick: I must be in tune with you guys because that was the theme of my talk at this year’s end.

Zaya: Really? Yeah. The absolute and the relative.

Rick: Just how the human tendency to gravitate to a certain polar perspective and to sort of cling onto that to the exclusion of its opposite and how, you know, I’m sort of saying it might be advisable to, rather than sort of grip onto one or the other, to expand our capacity to incorporate both, to incorporate all the diversities and polarities and ambiguities and all that stuff within one awareness, to be comfortable with that.

Zaya: With knowing and unknowing.

Rick: Exactly, those are two polarities right there. Certainty and uncertainty.

Zaya: Yeah, yeah. And also to watch that often when we go to this absolute point of views and realizations, it comes with a certain sense of —

Maurizio: Self-righteousness.

Zaya: Almost righteousness at times. It can come that way. Like, this is how it is. Reality is this.

Rick: ; Yeah.

Maurizio: And it comes with this kind of sense of like —

Rick: A little bit of fundamentalism.

Maurizio: And there you have the separation immediately. You create the separation. When you’re believe of the truth, you create the separation all of a sudden because I know you don’t.

Rick: Yeah. Yeah. So perhaps that’s a symptom of some remnants of ego there, sort of filtering the knowledge. You know, I know this and you don’t.

Zaya: Yeah, and we always say that when we open SAND, it’s like you would not find the absolute truth here because we don’t believe in the absolute truth. In absolute truth that this little mind and body-mind can comprehend, we don’t believe that it’s possible, basically. And I know for some teachers, spiritual teachers, this is really very upsetting. But I still, we still, I feel like this is where we stand.

Maurizio: Absolutely.

Rick: Yeah.

Maurizio: We are not coming together to find the absolute.

Rick: You made that movie, you made a movie called “Rays of the Absolute,” right? That’s right. So we’re just rays. We’re not the, I mean, we can say we are the absolute ultimately, but as individuals, we’re just rays. And it’s not that the individual comprehends it. How can the whole ocean be squeezed into a drop? It’s that it comprehends itself and we’re an instrument to facilitate that and have it become a living reality, a living, breathing reality. But it’s not like, you know, the individual comprehends it. And many teachers say that.

Maurizio: And many don’t.

Rick: And many don’t.

Maurizio: Whatever.

Rick: Variety is the spice of life. This will, let’s see here. Yeah, there’s a question coming in about Nisargadatta. Alright, we’ll ask it, we’ll get back on track. This will be a bit of a segue for a second here. Jay from Victoria, British Columbia asks, “Nisargadatta’s guru said Nisargadatta was not given any siddhis, powers. In your movie about Nisargadatta, the translators said that he, Nisargadatta, would give people some kind of spiritual experiences, but later he stopped doing that. The translators said that these experiences were nothing special. Is there a difference between siddhis and these spiritual experiences that Nisargadatta gave people?”

Zaya: I don’t know.

Maurizio: I don’t know. Okay. Sorry, Jay.

Zaya: This is what we learned from them, from Mohan and Jayashree, that at the beginning when Nisargadatta started teaching, he was giving siddhis to some of his closest disciples. And then very quickly he realized that actually he was doing a disservice to them.

Maurizio: Because they were too attached, they become too attached to the experiences.

Zaya: To the experiences, they got distracted.

Maurizio: They wanted more.

Zaya: So he stopped doing that and he’s never done it afterwards. That’s what we’ve heard.

Rick: Interesting. Adyashanti said something to me one time about how at a certain stage earlier on he found he had a knack for just sort of waking people up just like that, but then he later realized that he perhaps was doing so prematurely, you know, like maybe cracking an egg open before the chick is ready to peck its own way out, and so he stopped doing that.

Zaya: Yeah. Yeah. Nisargadatta was relentless about anything that you might cling onto or think you understand or you know has to be immediately dismantled. So even the experiences they were having, those disciples were needed to be deconstructed because they were not serving. Yeah.

Maurizio: Yeah. And it’s so easy to get attached to a siddhi, to an amazing experience of like, oh my God, it’s so easy. And in an immature state as we all are, it’s so tempting. It’s like the devil tempting Jesus in the desert, you know. There is always the temptation to stop on the path and stay at a certain level, you know.

Rick: Yeah.

Maurizio: Unless you get over it, you remain probably a superhero, but like the Joker, you know.

Rick: I haven’t seen that movie. So, but it’s interesting because Nisargadatta, I never actually read “I Am That” cover to cover. I sort of dipped around in it and obviously talked to people who were with him like Timothy Conway and others, but I get the impression that he spoke with a certain degree of authority. He was quite the master. So, how do you juxtapose or how do you reconcile his own… Was he assertive? Was his authority, did it have a sort of absolute flavor to it, or was it always tempered by, at the same time, you know, uncertainty or humility of some sort that made it less absolute?

Zaya: Very good question. You know, I don’t read “I Am That” anymore. I can’t go back to that

Rick: Cannot go back?

Zaya: No, to these teachings. I feel like

Rick: They serve their purpose.

Zaya: Exactly.

Rick: Yeah. ; And maybe partially it’s because what you’re saying here. Yes, he was the man of his time and that’s how teachers were teaching at this time. He was very certain, he was very, but I never doubted that he was coming from a place that was pure, fierce, selfless. He was penetrated, if I can say, by truth. Like, I don’t question that. I’m sure there was a shadow there as well, you know, as any human being. He had his own, but he, you know, he was in a culture that emotions do not exist, feelings, any psychology was not part of this time and culture, so none of that was part of the teachings or the inquiry.

Rick: Yeah, it’s like, I think SAND is a reflection of this and I think that BatGap also is, and I think our way of thinking is, but it’s that, you know, everybody is an instrument of the divine, we could say, and all these different teachers and everything, they serve a certain function. And maybe even teachers that end up, you know, disillusioning people because of their behavior or something, maybe that function is legitimate in the big picture of things. But no one teacher serves all functions for everybody.

Maurizio: Absolutely.

Zaya: Exactly.

Maurizio: And a different stage, a different time. I mean, when Zaya said, I’m not really, I’m not really, I am that since many years, but I’m not saying, oh, now I’m better, I’m above, or you haven’t even started. So there is no linear path of understanding. The finger that points to the moon that is attracted to you and it points to them, that’s the finger you should follow. And sometimes you will look at a finger and sometimes you will finally look at a moon. We are doing the best we can. I mean, we all do, as you said, we are all on this path of growth. There is no-

Zaya: And we all hold the longing, I think it’s quite unconscious that there is one person there that knows it all, can deliver it, can give us the truth. This is kind of the unmet father figure that many of us project on a spiritual teachers. And I really respect teachers who would say, I don’t know, this is not something I have expertise in. Or they would say to the student, I think you need to go and get help about this aspect that I cannot help you. That’s very humbling when I see that. When I see a teacher saying, I don’t know, it just melts my heart. I was like, okay, I can trust that.

Maurizio: And yet sometimes people as the need also to, as Rick was saying, to bump into teacher.

Zaya: Right.

Maurizio: Situation is an extreme case, could be a trigger to speed up the process for people to get over it. Could, could, could, could, could. Everything is perfect as it is at the end of the day.

Rick: Yeah, good point. And I sort of have, I always have this feeling that the universe has this evolutionary agenda. And that all is well and wisely put. And I mean, I was born to parents who had fought in World War II. And my father had alcohol, he was an alcoholic. And my mother ended up trying to commit suicide and ending up in mental hospital. So it was not a real smooth ride when I was a kid. But I chose that life, I feel, from my perspective. I feel like, okay, it was karmically appropriate for me to be born under those circumstances and to go through all that. And hey, I once said to my mother, actually, when she had gotten a lot better and was, you know, she was doing pretty well meditating and stuff. And I said, “You know, Mom, don’t ever worry about the way you raised me, because I’m really happy with the way things are turning out. So you must have done the right thing.”

Zaya: That’s beautiful.

Maurizio: Beautiful.

Rick: Yeah.

Zaya: Yeah. Freedom.

Rick: Yeah. You know, points like the one I just made, a point like that could turn into a two-hour philosophical conversation. So we just have to sort of roll past those things. And if people listening say, “I don’t agree with that,” then don’t worry about it. There’s a discussion group on Facebook where you can hash this out if you’d like.

Maurizio: And also, we don’t agree as well. It’s just a matter of time.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Maurizio: I would not have agreed with me two years ago. I would not agree with me two years from now, most likely.

Rick: Good point.

Zaya: That’s the limitation of this form of communication, right? We kind of lock each other in positions or statements that are, they’re morphing, they evolve, they change.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Zaya: It’s good to hold any conversation lightly. This is what is revealed in this moment, but in the next moment, it will have a different flavor. And that’s the way of SAND, in which there is no absolute truth. We are interested in the question, we’re interested in the question, we’re interested in the conversation. And we are interested in having a quote-unquote good time. And I don’t mean a good time, like getting all drunk and stupid.

Maurizio: A good time meaning having fulfilling conversation with non-dogmatic people that they have their point of view, they’re not afraid of sharing it, they’re not afraid to listen, and they’re not afraid to, you know, this is the essence of SAND for us, how we see it. A bunch of mature, intelligent people, enough maturity and enough intelligent people that are able to gather together, aside from their diversity, exploring the big question that, you know, and then, you know, have a dance, you know?

Rick: Yeah, I think that’s the essence of both science and spirituality at their best. But not at their best, you have sort of materialists who won’t listen to Dean Radin, or, you know, because what he’s saying couldn’t possibly be true, so they’re not even going to look at it. And, you know, you have religious people who won’t, you know, look at through a, well, Galileo, the church in Galileo’s day wouldn’t look through the telescope because it couldn’t possibly be true. So, you know, people get into these sort of neural mindsets. But you don’t see that in SAND.

Maurizio: I don’t know, we’ll see it, but we all have a narrow mindset. But at least we are aware that we have a narrow mindset. That’s the bottom line. I’m not saying, oh, no, we are so open, I understand that bullshit. I have no clue. I have my narrow mindset, but I listen to your narrow mindset, aware of my narrow mindset, and appreciate your narrow mindset until it pisses me off too much. And then I’ll tell you it pisses me off and I move. But not, you know, or I’ll say whatever, but let’s keep it lightly. That’s what I’m saying. Let’s keep it lightly, like in an old village in Italy when I grew up. I mean, there is the fascist and the communist, they fight all day and in the evening they are in the bar playing card and having a drink. At the end of the day, we’re gonna, we were born, we’re gonna die. You get sick, I get sick. I’m gonna help you, you’re gonna help me. And yes, somebody likes chicken, somebody likes salmon, you know. At the end of the day, we are here in the same boat and try to make sense of this absolute mystery.

Rick: One thought that comes to mind at this phase of our conversation is that despite all this talk of openness and flexibility and not locking into particular perspectives, at the same time, you know, there’s a danger I think sometimes of extreme relativism where, you know, there is no sort of universal truth or laws of nature or anything else, it’s all a fabrication of however we happen to be perceiving it. I think that’s very anthropocentric if that’s the right word. You know, gravity has been functioning presumably the same way for 13.8 billion years. It didn’t change the way it functioned when Sir Isaac Newton came along, and the same could be said of all kinds of laws of nature. So, nature itself, you know, has a certain reality to it which human beings only grasp a tiny portion of, but nature is not so subservient to humans in terms of what it is or how it functions. It’s the other way around. We’re subservient and trying to sort of rise to the level of understanding that would really injustice to what actually is. Does that make sense?

Zaya: Yes, yeah, yeah. And again, the last piece of what SAND is about, we invite people to stay close to our own direct personal experience, which is really all we have. And again, unfortunately, in spirituality but also in our society, that notion towards disembodiment has been so in the Western culture, I would say so prevalent, and it’s getting more and more. It’s really sad to see the young generation. I mean, they spend seven to eight hours disconnected from their bodies in front of the computers and screens, and we all do that. And humanity, we’ve done it in every phase of life. In every stage, we have done it in different ways. But this particular time, I think, is really alarmingly we are alarmingly disconnected from our bodies. And what is underneath that is all the things we don’t want to meet, all the things we don’t want to feel. It’s usually below the distraction. Anyway, where I’m leading with this is I just want to mention a project we’ve been working with, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Gabor Mate, with his work. So in the past two years, we have been working on the documentary about trauma and addiction. And this is one of the things that in the collective field, we came five years ago, I would say, at SAND to realize that there’s no way we can really progress on the spiritual path unless we meet our trauma, shadow, unconscious, whatever you want to call it. This is really where maturation happens in meeting, in creating intimacy. I’m not talking even about healing trauma or resolving, because that’s a whole different conversation. But a big part of our spiritual work is meeting trauma that we have carried in our bodies, I would say, for generations. And now we have the luxury, the privilege to actually become aware, to feel it, to meet it, and we have the tools to do that.

Rick: Yeah, I interviewed Julie Brown-Yao last October when we were out there. Do you feel, give us an example or two of spirituality as a means of spiritual bypassing which tries to ignore or suppress trauma, and how a more pure spirituality would look which doesn’t do that?

Zaya: Well, I would say for us, how we saw it is how it played in our personal relationship. The first five years of our marriage was perfect because we were residing in the absolute. It was all perfect. We were not the doers. There was nothing personal.

Maurizio: Our house caught fire when we just bought this house. It caught fire. Remember, we’re sitting in the garden looking at it. It’s all an illusion.

Zaya: Perfect.

Maurizio: But really, I mean it from the heart. I’m not saying in a bizarre way. We really, we were not that touched, if you wish, even though we were touched, but we’re observing it from a higher angle.

Zaya: Yeah, no. So we were not touching some deep feelings within us that gradually life, the intelligence of life provides opportunities to wake up. So as we started touching some of those deeper grounds within us, the relationship became super uncomfortable. We had to meet, individually and as a couple, so much shadow, so much unconscious material that I would say a big chunk of our spiritual journey has been in the past several years in really meeting these places that we were very comfortable with our spiritual concepts of I’m not the doer, I’m not choosing this, it’s just happening, and yeah, okay, it’s not maybe what I want, but this is what’s given here, it’s so perfect.

Maurizio: It’s all perfect.

Rick: There’s a truth in that, and there’s perhaps a level of experience or stage of experience in which that is one’s actual living experience, but if that makes one detached from or disinterested in or passive toward so-called real-world realities, then I think there is a spiritual bypassing taking place. I mean, for instance, in Gita, Arjuna says, “I want to fight this battle,” and you know, it doesn’t matter what happens” and so on, and Krishna eventually says, “Well, you have to fight the battle, and actually, you’re not the doer, but you have to engage in action with full force and full intention, and you can’t sort of hide out in a sense of non-doership, be established in that, yes, but perform action dynamically.”

Zaya: Exactly, yeah. Well, I was an activist in my 20s, and I know that my activist work was fueled by my trauma. It was not fueled by my spiritual realization, so that’s why I stepped out, and then I went through a period of a little bit of what you are describing is like, yeah, well, it is what it is. Why fight? Why try to change anything? And now I think also with SAND, we are coming full circle where it’s like, yes, we’re not in charge, and there is the action that each moment calls for, and am I available for that action? Not because I know what needs to happen, but because I am available for life to move through me in a way that the situation is calling in that moment, which I might not even have a conceptual understanding or grasp of what is really calling here.

Rick: But you make yourself available, and you end up probably doing what needs to be done. Afterwards, you think, how do I know to do that?

Zaya: Yeah, yeah, and how I am available is through really being intimately connected to what is revealed in my body.

Maurizio: in my heart.

Rick: So you mentioned that for the past five years or something, you’ve been dealing with or processing a lot of trauma which had been repressed or buried or ignored, and it’s been a little bit harder work than it was during the first five years where you’re just hanging out in this detached place. So how have you been doing that? Have you been engaged in therapy? Have you been just sitting down eye to eye and hashing things out for hours? And then how do you deal with this trauma? What’s your process?

Zaya: All of it, I would say. We’ve been doing therapy.

Maurizio: Some great fights. Some serious great fights.

Zaya: Unraveling, allowing quite a bit of the suppressed emotions to come up, some somatic experiencing.

Maurizio: Everything you can think of. Again, it’s unnecessary to say how because everybody has their own path.

Rick: True, but people might hear you say that and they might think, “I should probably do that. What should I do?”

Maurizio: Well, listen to your heart first.

Zaya: Yeah, no, for us, I would say therapy has helped.

Maurizio: But then again, it has to be the right therapy on the other hand because if you dwell for months talking about how your mom didn’t like you.

Zaya: Yeah, and finding the right balance because once you go on this path, you can become so lost in processing and making it all psychological. So that’s the danger there as well. So striking the right balance that yes, there is some inquiry, some understanding, some unraveling and yet come back to the simplicity of the moment that everything we need is right here and it’s available fully. There’s no obstacle to the moment. So remembering to come back to the simplicity of the moment. So there’s been a little bit of a dance, getting lost a little bit in processing and then coming back. No, it’s simple. We don’t need to understand all the trauma that happened for seven generations before. It’s kind of nice. My mind loves to go and dwell and my body feels some of that energetically and then coming back here.

Rick: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. Were you going to say something, Mauirzio?

Maurizio: No, no, I cannot agree more. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a dance. Again, what we said before is a dance between knowing that you are the absolute, you know, the present moment is absolutely perfect. Everything is perfect as it is and everything is perfect because it’s absolutely imperfect. The perfection comes from this beautiful Japanese, there’s this beautiful story of the actual American Indian that they make the most amazingly beautiful pottery. It takes years to build the absolute pottery that is perfect. The moment it’s done, the teacher, “Scratch it, scratch it.” And they say, “Whoa, why are you?” And she said, “What are you doing? Why are you coming? Why are you brought?” I said, “Because this has to be in this world. Perfection is not for this world. Come on.”

Rick: Well, it’s an interesting point you make about, you know, finding the balance between slogging through all the trauma that one could possibly manage to excavate, you know, and at the same time, the balance between that which would be a real quagmire, endless one, or, you know, just completely staying out of all that and ignoring it. It’s probably an ongoing art to find that balance. It’s like riding a bicycle or something, you can’t ignore bounding or you’re going to crash, but it does become perhaps a little bit more second nature after a while.

Zaya: Yeah, and again, my body would tell me when I have gone too far into processing. It’s like the sensation of something is stuck, or like, “Oh, I need to step out of this and come back to the aliveness in my body.” So, yeah, developing that kind of somatic intelligence that we all have, but it’s been kind of forgotten because of the ways we live and the ways we’ve been taught to inquire spiritually also.

Rick: Do you feel that the … oh, go ahead, I’m sorry. Finish.

Zaya: No, what I was trying to say is like, again, especially the Advaita Vedanta tradition is very much about inquiry without the body. Like, the body is not necessarily included. The tantric, the Kashmir tradition is different. Again, at SANS, that’s one thing we try to balance, you know, bring practices and modalities that do bring and develop more the intelligence of the body, of the heart. And maybe it’s here, I would like to mention something, one more, if we reflect of what’s happening in the collective, what I see in the field that kind of dropping from the head to more of the heart, the felt sense, the presence in the heart has been happening. And with that, I think we are opening also to include more spiritual perspectives, at least in our community, more that are connected to the Earth. So we are beginning to bring a little bit more indigenous wisdom, which has not been the case for SAND before. But I feel collectively we are getting ready for that because we’re reaching the limitation of understanding, exploring here. And the indigenous traditions, they have had for centuries their deep connection to the earth that we have lost. And I feel at this time, there is something that we all can learn from, reconnected to the mother, the matrix of life. There is something that is coming. And I can’t really formulate it, but it has to do with relationships. And that’s what actually the indigenous people say, that the crisis we are facing at the moment, we call it climate crisis, but they call it crisis in relationships, in relation, meaning relationship to ourselves, to each other, to the planet, to the cosmos. So that’s a conversation that’s an exploration that has been emerging, I would say, in the sense.

Maurizio: Because one danger to me, and I don’t know if I’m jumping too far, and follow me if you can. I’m thinking, my fear is that to go from the mind to the heart is not a direct path that can bring anywhere. It can go bizarro. To me, from the mind, we have to go to the ground, to the Earth, and from there going to the heart. So it’s something like a torus, and the heart is the center in which the two connect. It means from the heart that you can connect the mind and the Earth. If you go from the mind to the heart, you’re still missing a foundation. I know personally, I’m always in my mind, a vital, perfect for me, because oh my God, yeah, my mind is satisfied, and I can stay there in the absolute bliss, but I’m floating six inches from the ground, right? I don’t have that, I never had that groundedness, that heart, you know? And to me, I need that to be able to balance the high and the low, and when I found the balance, then the heart can take over as the center of it, and the action can become more measured and more precise. I can feel more, if you make sense.

Zaya: Yeah, makes sense. And I think also collectively, that’s the movement we have been watching. We are moving up, like we are, life is speeding up. Everything is faster and faster. We feel less, so we’re really, yeah, we’re limiting our experience to realms that are right here, that are a bit disembodied, abstract, and yeah.

Maurizio: Mind-based, distracted.

Zaya: Mind-based, with the technologies we spend our, yeah, anyway, we went through that, but that’s something. So we see, it’s in bringing a little bit more of the earth wisdom traditions as well, that is very much needed at this time. Like Bayo said, this beautiful sentence, “The times are urgent. We need to slow down.” His ancestors, yeah.

Rick: Yeah, I’m going to have Bayo on in a month or so. Oh, he’s incredible. You said something very interesting a minute ago, Zaya, which was that it made me feel like something I already knew, but it reminded me that I’ve always felt that you have your finger, you both do, you have your fingers on the pulse of culture to a good extent, by virtue of who you are and by virtue of what you do. And when you first said that about moving from the mind to the heart, I wasn’t sure whether you meant � you said the collective � I wasn’t sure whether you meant the entire world or the contemporary spiritual community or the SAND community or what. But maybe you could talk a little bit about your subjective experience of your intuitive sense of how things are moving in the world, and what sort of � were you talking about the whole world or were you just talking about spiritual people?

Zaya: Yeah, I can’t talk about the whole world. I would say our small community, spiritual community, ourselves. But there is something about Western civilization that I don’t have the expertise to really make big claims, but I do see it, like seeing how life is evolving here in the Silicon Valley, how the young generation relates. So based on these observations, I do see that tendency of disembodiment everywhere. That’s what I mean, the collective. It’s not the whole world, because we were just in Mexico, and I wouldn’t say that people there are disembodied. They’re more on their phones, but they’re still more in relationship to their community, to families, to nature. Yesterday I went for a walk in San Francisco. I never go in the city, and there was this beautiful park. It was absolutely empty. There were benches and trees. There was no human being. In this beautiful spring, summer, sunny day. In a beautiful day. And I was like, where are the humans? And then it was like, yeah, in the rat race, there’s no time for pausing, to enjoy, to smell the flowers. On the other hand, in Mexico, two weeks ago, if you go in the middle of the day in the park, it’s full of life, children and mothers. It’s like it’s alive. So there’s that, that we have lost that kind of aliveness in our Western world.

Rick: Well, something you said a little while ago reminded me that nature has its own way of resetting the balance and correcting things when they’ve gotten off track. And it would be interesting to see, it’s interesting to see now, and it will continue to be interesting to see how things proceed. You know, if we can look back, people living in a particular time, in a particular culture, never really can imagine what it’s going to be like a hundred years later. They always sort of think, “Well, this is normal, this is the way it is, this is probably the way it will always be.” But imagine you, you know, living in the 1860s and thinking that, and then suddenly transporting to now, and how shocked you would be at how much things have changed. People say the pace of change is accelerating, and we’re kind of riding that wave as we go along. So it would be interesting to see over the course of the rest of our lives how things evolve. But I definitely think that spirituality is going to be a big, big part of it. It’s really a missing ingredient for what ails the world.

Zaya: Yeah, I think that’s our hope, to stay sane, because even the leaders in the Silicon Valley, they’re saying, “We can’t even imagine what’s going to be the future for our kids. It will be so different from what we are living today.” I think you’re right, spirituality is the only hope for us to…

Maurizio: But then let’s define the spirituality, because if we, let’s define that word. A spirituality that is able to give us enough strength, ability, knowledge, humbleness, love, connection to solve the problem that we have. A spirituality that doesn’t make us even more separate and perfect, disembodied. A spirituality that takes us back to the body, takes us back to our family, takes us back to our community, to the people, the less fortunate people, the abused, the oppressed, and everything. A spirituality that helps us fix this mess that we have been creating. Because it’s inevitable. I mean, I don’t know, some people claim that, I don’t know, the economy is doing super well, but as a society, I don’t know. We have in our town of 50,000 people, we have 300 people homeless that are chased left and right, and nobody wants to find them a place to rest. I mean, how can we do that? And these people, we met in this movie we are doing, there was this guy who has a job paid $35 per hour, full-time job, he cannot hold the home. He doesn’t have enough money to pay for the rent, because in San Jose, California, the rents are so high, with a salary of $35 an hour, which is more than we do, more than we make, he cannot hold the house. He lives in his car from six years. How can we let something like this happen in our society? We are the most, what we say, the most, “Oh, the economy is doing well.” I don’t care how the economy, the economy is doing well, like the Buddha, unless the last person is enlightened. My enlightenment means nothing. I mean, there is such a sense of inequality in the world. There is such a sense of oppression and abuse that is unnecessary. The medical system, and I don’t want to talk about politics, I’m talking about spirituality, I’m talking about love, I’m talking simple understanding of the human nature. We are all on the same boat here. There is only one boat, and we are messing that boat too, this little round rock, we are messing that too. To me, that’s spirituality, to me, to me, that’s spirituality. This famous love that we all preach, this famous love, you know? And then like Charles Eisner said, then we are able to step over a homeless person while we go to a yoga class, to om for an hour and a half. Come on, you know, it’s just, without that, I feel more and more pony. I feel my spirituality is just simply an answer to my trauma, because the spirituality helps me not to feel my pain. Spirituality is the same as watching Netflix, you know, to stay in front of, stay on Facebook all day. And I don’t want that spirituality. I want something that makes me whole, human, responsive, and gives me the strength to be of service.

Rick: Exactly. My definition of spirituality could be summed up in two words holistic development,’ and that is that we have all these faculties and aspects of our makeup, you know, mind, heart, senses, all the different things, and you know, spirituality is sort of this full blossoming of all of them, not some of them to the exclusion of others or, you know, to ignoring others. And you know, it’s possible to make a lot of progress in one or another of these, what is it, Ken Wilber calls them ‘lines of development,’ but you get more and more lopsided if you don’t bring them all along and allow them all to blossom simultaneously.

Zaya: And it’s not always pretty.

Maurizio: It’s not pretty.

Zaya: It’s not always gracious.

Rick: What isn’t?

Zaya: Spirituality can be messy, can be confusing.

Rick: You mean the process of…?

Zaya: The process, yeah. And how we relate to that messiness, to that spirituality. Can we still find love when we are lost or when we are caught in a rage?

Rick:That’s the real test. That’s the real test. Yeah. Okay. Well, I think it does, you mentioned politics, I think it does relate to politics. And I hear the voices of a couple of politicians in my mind as you were saying that stuff about, you know, how well a certain percentage is doing compared to the vast majority and so on. Like, you know, Elizabeth Warren, “Yeah, it’s working great for billionaires and billionaires,” and so on.

Maurizio: And I don’t want to enter, again, just to be clear, I don’t want to say it’s not politically oriented. We have our ideas. What we are saying, I mean, honestly, okay, let’s face it. The most traumatized people in the world, we make sure they become our presidents and governors. I mean, because if you look, yeah, seriously, I mean, these people are really messed up. You’ll see in our movie when God–

Zaya: We talk about Trump trauma, but even Hillary Clinton–

Maurizio: Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Obama, and all of that. Because it’s true, those people, I mean, it’s true. I mean, people, if you want that much power, sorry, you have to have had a serious trauma. You are in need to be in control. Something must have gone probably seriously.

Rick: I guess so. But could we imagine a society in which, you know, we have a sort of enlightened leader, so to speak, who isn’t it for the sake of, you know, getting a hit on power, but actually is doing it as a great service, you know, a mega service, kind of almost personal sacrifice rather than a personal aggrandizement.

Zaya: Yeah, which is what a true leader is about. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, yeah, these are the leaders.

Maurizio: Representing the people. I mean, I’m serving you. I’m at service. It’s a public service, is it called, right?

Rick: I suppose that’s what they call it, yeah. So perhaps we’ll delve into that, you know.

Maurizio: And again, I’m not going to, it’s not a political statement here. It’s a statement about humanity and the pain we are going through. And yeah, I don’t want to make it sound political in one direction or the other.

Rick: You know, but everything is interrelated. And, you know, the kind of spirituality we have just defined touches all aspects of life.

Zaya: Exactly.

Rick: Politics, health, economics, science, everything.

Zaya: Diversity.

Rick: Yeah.

Maurizio: Diversity.

Zaya: Diversity is a big conversation right now for us as well. As you know, most of our spiritual communities are predominantly white. And that’s something that we are also at SAND we’re seeing, and we’re meeting it finally.

Rick: Yeah, you’re doing a really good job. I mean, all kinds of people.

Zaya: Yeah, we’re doing a small steps towards diversifying and how, because it’s not just bringing people of color, but also how are we together when we bring more diverse point of views that might not, might contradict some of our white spiritual privilege perspectives on life. So how are we going to be with that? This is a little bit some of the questions we are right now asking as an organization. When we bring diverse community, how can we create a container that is conductive to deeper conversations and healings and not creating more separation and otherness when we enter these kinds of conversations, especially you aware in the States, the conversation around diversity and equity and white privilege, white fragility, they’re huge. And it’s like, we cannot just spiritually bypass them and say, “Oh, we’re all one. What do you mean, there’s color? Or what do you mean you have a black body?” Right?

Maurizio: Under the skin, we are all one.

Zaya: This is one of those very delicate, I think, grounds that we’re walking on together right now. And this is our inquiry. How do we allow for this inquiry to happen while we’re still based and grounded in deep understanding and embodiment of our interconnectedness and yet allow us to see all the places in which that might not be the case still, even in our spiritual community.

Rick: Yeah, well, I mean, I have interviewed a lot of people who go to SAND, and I have interviewed just about everybody who contributed to your book, which we’ll talk about in a minute. And you know, both BatGap and SAND have a certain theme, a certain orientation, we have had a certain understanding of spirituality. And what you’re saying is you’re trying to make it more diverse and inclusive, but not sort of throw people in there because they happen to be black or gay or Native American or something, but somehow blend them in in a way that’s relevant to what you’ve already built and allow what you’ve built to expand in a coherent way to incorporate them, right?

Zaya: Exactly.

Maurizio: There is a lot we have to learn from these voices. They sing a different tone. And if you make a choir, you need all the notes. And those notes are missing because we are tone deaf to our own music.

Zaya: And one thing about SAND is that whatever we would do, we will not do it because it’s politically correct. Like that doesn’t work for us. We have to kind of, it has to come from our own being or realization. So yeah, and, for example, including Bayo last year at SAND, I think he created a beautiful ripple in the field just because he brought such a different perspective of spirituality.

Rick: But it didn’t seem out of place at all. It really did fit in. In fact, we were trying to set up an interview with him, right? And we were suggesting a certain time of day and he said, “No, that’s the time of day when I put the kids to bed. That’s sacred time. You can’t do it then.” You know, so that was in itself like, “Oh, that’s nice that he’s saying that.” Why is it that you suppose that, I mean, first of all, the spirituality that got you guys going and me too came from brown people over in India mostly. And then the contemporary spirituality that has been sort of the main fuel of SAND and BATGAP, as you said a minute ago, has been mostly white Westerners involved. Of course, there’s a language, I think they have to speak English more or less to participate, but why do you feel like the Native American and indigenous and African American and so on communities haven’t just sort of naturally been a part of it to a proportional degree? Any theories on that?

Maurizio: Well, the first thing that comes to mind to me as an ignorant human being is disposable income. We have a huge amount of disposable intellectual income in our brain that we can ponder those questions that you cannot ponder if you live in a reservation or if you have to work three jobs to send your kids to school, or if you are afraid that the policeman stops, he’s going to shoot you. And it’s really bland. This is the first because the luxury to have in this conversation, it is a luxury.

Zaya: It’s a privilege.

Maurizio: It’s a privilege. That alone, being able to read I Am That in the seven or whatever, it wasn’t written, be able, as you said, at 17 to meet the teaching of Ron Doss and Timothy Leary, I’m sorry. It’s something you and I could do.

Rick: While driving a car, nonetheless.

Maurizio: While driving a car, nonetheless. Exactly. So think about the people around you. 95% were white, most likely.

Rick: More than that. I think there may be two black kids in my high school, maybe. It was over 1,500 kids in the school or something.

Maurizio: So that alone, it gives you your answer. And then these people like you became the teachers. And all of a sudden, that’s one simple first thing that comes to mind very blandly. I’m sure there’s people way more intelligent.

Zaya: And also for SAND, I mean, look where we are holding the event.

Rick: Sure.

Zaya: It’s a very nice hotel, privileged place. So that already pre-selects people. Again, this year, SAND does not turn anyone away for lack of funds.

Maurizio: We can’t say this out loud.

Rick: We just did.

Maurizio: I know. But we have a scholarship.

Zaya: We have never turned anyone away.

Maurizio: Everybody come in with a scholarship.

Zaya: But now we are even thinking more, how can we include more diversity? What are the ways in which we can?

Rick: Well, that thing you did with the young kids in the last couple of years was great. Someone offered some sponsorship for a bunch of kids who were in their late teens, early twenties to come and they had their own little subgroup at SAND. That was a nice outreach. Maybe somebody could do that for the Black community or the Native American community or something like that.

Maurizio: Yeah, but be careful how you do it. Because we have to be ready also as a community to receive that. Because if you do it as a gesture, “Oh, let’s try to be 30% African-American, 27%,” it’s not going to work. It has to come from a growth of the community and the understanding and the need has to come from a why. Why we are doing this and not because, “Oh, well, because it’s politically correct.” Those two characters on the side, we don’t give a shit about politically correct. It has to be politically correct to our heart and to our strong belief. Then there is nothing that we are open to every SAND to be the last one. And we often say, “This is the last SAND. This is the last SAND.” Because we are not attached to the result. We are attached to the expression of it. We are attached to the evolution, as you said, to the impulse towards evolution. That’s what inspires us and keeps us going.

Rick: Yeah. It’s not like a great money-making opportunity for you guys.

Maurizio: I can tell you that. You can say that out loud. It’s ridiculous.

Zaya: We’re actually putting the finances on our website, our P&L. We’re a non-profit, so anyway, that’s already public. But we are making the extra step to put it on the website, so it’s really right there.

Rick: We only survive because of donation at the end of the day.

Rick: Yeah. But the point we’re making here, I think, is a good one. We can move on in a minute. But the idea that spirituality, as we understand it, if our understanding of it is universal enough, should be exclusive to a certain subset of society doesn’t seem right, and it should somehow be made available to everyone, just as a way … I mean, I think society is going to have to undergo a great equalization in a way, because even with automation and things that are happening now, a lot of jobs that people depend upon are going to cease to exist, and it just won’t make sense for 1% of the population to have whatever it is 84% of the wealth or something. There’s going to have to be some kind of distribution. And which, ideally, if it were done intelligently and compassionately, could free up a lot of time for a lot of people to actually pursue spiritual and creative and artistic things. You know, they wouldn’t have to work so many hours and just be exhausted, but they could meditate or they could paint or, you know, whatever their dharma dictated. So, I mean, I just said this is going to have to happen. It’s not necessarily going to happen, but ideally it should happen.

Zaya: What we are interested in is kind of bringing a shining light to the ways in which, as a spiritual community, we might be unconscious or blind to the ways in which we might perpetuate otherness, and we might not be fully receptive to the diversity we are inviting. I mean, there might be some of my spiritual beliefs actually creating obstacles to the diversity to be present, and that’s what I would like to bring as an inquiry in the field for all of us.

Maurizio: And I want to add something, because I perceive that you are talking about spirituality as something we have. No, spiritual, I mean, there is not, it’s not that people have to come to our spirituality. You know, let’s make clear, spirituality in every culture of human being, every, I’m sure Bruno our Chocolate Lab dog has his own form of spirituality. I’m saying spirituality is embedded in life, every culture, they have their own, and it’s not that, as you said, no, then they will come to us and we will find the spirituality. They will understand. No, we have to go to them as well. I mean, there is no one spirituality. There is an expression of spirit through this embodied body in the interconnectedness of the universe, if you wish, you know. So it’s not that people come to us so they can understand, and we are open to them so they can understand what we do. No, we are open to hear what they do and go to them. If it makes any sense, there was something you said about five minutes ago that made me like, gave me this thought and impulse which I don’t know.

Rick: Yeah, sounds good. I’m glad you brought it up. Yeah, I mean, it’s, I suppose, I don’t know what the word is, but it’s easy to sort of think of one’s own understanding of things as, you see it through your own lens, you know? And you think, oh, those people are so different. They must not have it as, it’s insidious. There can be a subtle sort of arrogance of they don’t get it as well as I get it because they don’t express it the way I do or something. You really have to guard against that.

Maurizio: Yeah, and until they speak my language, they will not get it. So come and come to me and speak my language, then I know you’re spiritual. No, I mean.

Maurizio: It reminds me of J.P. Sears. You’ve got to bring J.P. Sears back.

Zaya: We’re bringing him.

Maurizio: Oh, he’s back.

Rick: Oh, good, good.

Zaya: Yeah, there is a sense of linearity that we keep reaffirming. And again, some of the indigenous spiritual paths, they don’t have that linearity. And that’s, I think, also as we are facing more and more of the climate crisis, we see that our approach to that that is based on cause and effect, reducing CO2 emissions, is coming to a, we’re seeing the limitations that that’s not a solution. That’s not the level at which we can resolve what we are facing. And we need a kind of multi-dimensional approach to life that we have lost touch with.

Rick: Yeah, I often say that all the problems in the world, including climate change, are just a symptom of the collective consciousness of all the people who make up the world. And if you try to change the problems without changing the collective consciousness, then you’re kind of like, you’ve got it backwards. You have to sort of, there has to be a shift in consciousness for these things to really resolve.

Zaya: And what we even point to is, again, coming to diversity and is the otherness that we have created, that we see the otherness everywhere. And that’s what creates the crisis of relationships, of-

Maurizio: Because the white supremacy, the white culture, it’s very United States based. We should talk about the other and the oppressed, the abused, any person in a less fortunate situation.

Zaya: Or being, or being.

Maurizio: Yeah, any being, any being. We should go for the beingness and the otherness.

Rick: Yeah, just this morning I was fantasizing, some guy posted some silly thing about how I should be run for president or something. I thought, you know, I mean, Irene just said, “Oh dear God.” But I was thinking, okay, if I were president, what would I do? I would ask my advisors, okay, where is all the suffering in the world? And we have this trillion dollar military budget, how about if we take all that money and channel it into saving the kids in Syria who are freezing to death, or the people in this country who are starving and so on. I mean, the United States would be so beloved if we actually, you know, not some kind of manifest destiny thing where we think we’re superior and we’re going to impose anything on them, but relieve the suffering that is everywhere. That would be such a, sort of, the world is my family kind of way of functioning.

Maurizio: I don’t know.

Rick: You don’t know?

Maurizio: I don’t know.

Zaya: I don’t know.

Maurizio: I mean, it’s one way.

Zaya: It’s one way. And again, it’s more looking to resolve the symptom, which is, there is place for that, absolutely. Much better to start there than give it to the military. And yet, going to the root.

Maurizio: I don’t know if you would solve it. It will be another, let me hand you a little blanket.

Rick: Yeah, well, that brings in the point of multidimensionality. You can’t just deal with something on one level. It’s like watering the leaves of a tree instead of watering the root.

Zaya: Another example is the movie we are doing. We went to a homeless shelter in San Jose where they have 120 rooms for people who have lived for most of their life in the streets for 20, 30 years on the street. Finally, they have a room, a shelter where they can live. They have a home for the first time in their life. And what happens when they have that? They actually fall apart because for the first time they can actually feel. So this is where the work begins.

Maurizio: Until then, it’s survival. It’s survival tension. Where do I get the food? Am I safe? How do I stay protected for 30 years of your life? Now, a 45 years old woman was homeless from the age of 15, and you got a wall and a door that you can lock. Now you’re scared.

Zaya: Now you meet yourself. Now she’s meeting her pain.

Maurizio: Now you’re trauma, your pain, your fear, they come now because, oh, I’m safe here. Now that I’m safe, what do I do?

Zaya: That’s where we’re getting closer to the root, right? So when we start to feel all the places in which we are strangers to ourselves or we have outcasted aspects of our being that are too painful to be with.

Rick: That’s why solitary confinement is such torture.

Maurizio: Or such blessing.

Rick: Yeah.

Zaya: It depends which practice.

Zaya: Depends. Vipassana is beautiful.

Maurizio: The monks go in solitary confinement.

Rick: Voluntarily, yeah.

Maurizio: They’re ready to go.

Zaya: Even Vipassana is delightful because you get to bypass so much, right?

Rick: Do you want to talk about your book at all? Feel like doing that?

Zaya: We can just say that the book was an evolution of 10th. It’s a compilation of teachings and research and essays that kind of culminated in one book and again shows many different perspectives on where we are collectively in this moment in time when it comes to what it means to be a human being.

Maurizio: On the Mystery of Being is the title, On the Mystery of Being, published by New Harbinger. Available at a bookstore near you.

Rick: There are main themes of the book, you know, voices of contemporary spirituality, the rebirth of metaphysics, science embraces consciousness, you know, the wonder of nature, the body is teacher, the heart of intimacy, exploring the shadows, doorways to heaven. Are there any particular themes in the book that you feel like spending a few minutes talking about that particularly interest or inspire you or you think it would inspire the audience?

Zaya: Again, I see those as keys to open different doors. And which key depends on where we are on our journey. For someone it could be that a psychedelic experience in this moment can unlock the door for them to move to the next level or to see things that or experience aspect of themselves that they haven’t had access before.

Maurizio: Or other can be physics, the analysis, the analysis of quantum physics or neuroscience or now the body work of the brain work of the absolute of the more you look into a microscope, you find more and more nothingness. There is more empty space in this table than in the universe, you know, for other people is the more the Yanni approach. I mean, each one of these chapters is a buffet, is a buffet of knowledge and potential triggering in a positive way, point to, trigger new level of conversation and discussion with your own self or with others.

Zaya: So it provides pointers. If you choose one specific exploration, it gives you some pointers to use to explore, let’s say, relationship intimacy. That’s a beautiful doorway to knowing ourselves and we’ve organized in addition to SAND several events that focus only on we call it in radiant intimacy that bring aspects of sexuality and relationships, intimacy, using those as a doorways to understand ourselves.

Maurizio: Still in the framework in the understanding of our interconnectedness, because that’s another thing, you know, how do you deal with sexuality, sexuality, eroticism in the understanding of oneness?

Zaya: How many spiritual teachers dare to bring the topic of sex in, right? It’s a taboo and why this is a big part of who we are as human beings, so why not go and explore? There’s a lot of deep learning that can happen there.

Rick: Yeah, usually they don’t talk about it, they just do it behind the scenes.

Zaya: That’s right.

Rick: Inappropriately.

Zaya: Yeah, well, the suppression has led to that, right? The shadow.

Rick: I haven’t gotten to read too much of your book yet, I’ve read a few chapters here and there and a bunch of your introductory statements to different chapters, but one thing maybe we could touch upon for a minute is Robert Lanza’s essay on rethinking the dumb random universe model of existence. Robert spoke at SAND a couple of years ago and I think that’s important because the scientific paradigm, the materialist paradigm which tends to dominate science and thus dominate technology and our society is that the universe is sort of dumb and random and accidental and that, as Alex Tsakiris likes to say, that we’re sort of biological robots in a meaningless universe. And I think that that in itself is to some extent the root of the despair that causes people to commit suicide or take opioids or whatever. The whole society is built on that edifice of the universe is this dumb material thing, random. And guys like…

Zaya: And I’m separate.

Rick: And I’m separate. And that’s why I’m excited, people like Mark Gober for instance who try to flip it upside down and say, “No way, consciousness is the foundation and everything arises from that,” which I think is basically a fundamental theme of SAND. And I think that just as the understanding of astronomy changed so much when we realized that the Sun was the center of the solar system and not the Earth, everything made so much more sense, I think that if this paradigm shifts to understanding consciousness as fundamental and everything else is emergent from it, I think the ramifications for every aspect of society are going to be huge, gigantic. Nod, nod, nod, any thoughts?

Zaya: Most likely, and how do we live this moment to moment? Because the real change will come really when the rubber meets the road, right? Because we can conceptualize, we all understand we are one consciousness. It’s all arising in consciousness and behave as a separate individual, right? So I think…

Maurizio: It’s still part of the equation, it’s not the full equation.

Zaya: Again, we’re going back to the absolute and the relative. Yes, and…

Maurizio: It’s always and. Come on, there is no yes.

Zaya: Even if we, let’s say, we all realize we are one consciousness, we all understand, I’m not sure if life will change.

Rick: It’s not just a matter of understanding, no. I mean, if we understood that and if we acted accordingly, then educational systems would be geared around enabling people to have that as a living reality, an experiential reality rather than just an understanding. And then people thus educated would go out and affect the world in a very different way than people do now. So it would ripple out, I think.

Zaya: Or the other way is to ripple from within out, right? So more and more people are having this realization within ourselves, living life in this way, it becomes like the virus, right?

Rick: Yeah, that’s what will change the paradigm.

Zaya: Right.

Zaya: That even if science still believes in some way that consciousness emerges in the brain, if the reality is that we live from that place, we relate, we create, then life…

Rick: Things will change.

Zaya: Yeah.

Rick: Well, you know, it’s like… M Because at the end of the day…

Rick: Go ahead.

Maurizio: I say the only thing we can really change is ourself.

Rick: Yeah.

Maurizio: Even though I’m the absolute, I ain’t gonna change the absolute. I can only change myself.

Rick: It doesn’t tend to change, yeah.

Maurizio: I tried for 13 years to change Zaya, so she agrees with me, but it doesn’t work. So I can only change myself. And by changing myself, I will create the change in the two of us and…

Zaya: Not even change, I would say.

Maurizio: Change is not even the right word.

Zaya: Not even changing ourselves.

Maurizio: Getting an awareness and…

Zaya: Become intimate.

Maurizio: Become intimate with all of it.

Rick: I like that.

Maurizio: Recognizing my shadow, recognize me all my pain, my trauma, my shadow, and my beauty, and my all of it. And be aware of it, that will allow me to be more real, more honest, more intuitively attuned, more like…

Zaya: Yeah, sometimes I see, you know, how we say, “Oh, if we reduce the CO2 emissions, can we fix the climate crisis?” This is a little bit the same. If all the institutions realize we’re all consciousness, then this is the same mind, the linear mind of cause and effect, and that’s how we’re going to fix it.

Rick: Yeah, but what you’re saying is that if they’re going to realize it, it’s going to be through a sort of a fundamental grassroots change, that many, many individuals are realizing it within themselves, and then that will sort of percolate out.

Zaya: Yeah.

Rick: And also, there’s what Max Planck said, which is that science progresses through a series of funerals. So, you know, it’s just like…

Maurizio: Life progresses through a series of funerals. Same for the spiritual community as well.

Rick: So, what are your…you know, you’ve done sand for 10 or 11 years, 12 or something, I don’t know, and it has undergone an evolution during this period, and as you said earlier, you know, any year could be the last year, you don’t have any long-range goals, but for all you know, you could be doing it 10 years from now still. So, do you have any sense or feeling of how it might look 10 years from now, if you are still doing it? Do you have a sense of the direction in which it is evolving? Or is it really impossible to say?

Zaya: ; No, I don’t know.

Maurizio: It’s funny, some people come to us and they try to say, “Well, we should have…I can help you.” And you’re like, “Okay, okay, give us a three to five year business plan.” And we look at them.

Zaya: We come, we put stickers everywhere, we brainstorm.

Maurizio: We spend three days brainstorming.

Zaya: And then we walk in and we look at it and we’re like, “No, let’s take all this down, we have no idea.”

Maurizio: No idea.

Zaya: That’s the only way.

Rick: Well, let’s shorten the sight a little bit. I mean, what would you like to see happen next year that hasn’t happened yet?

Maurizio: And more inclusivity.

Zaya: More diversity.

Maurizio: More diversity, more inclusivity.

Zaya: And what we’re trying to break away a little bit from that speaker audience dynamic and become more of an exchange, create more spaces of exchange.

Maurizio: More circles.

Zaya: Of participation, of inquiry. So that’s really what we want to see this year, less bit less of the TED-like moods and more, “Okay, let’s take a moment here to be with what’s been delivered, just to contemplate, to let it in, or to have a conversation around it.” So we’re exploring different formats, I would say, this year.

Maurizio: And if I can talk really from the top of our head as the conversation happened, maybe SAND is not, maybe SAND needs to be smaller. A thousand people, it’s insane. Because in a thousand people, we cannot get that intimacy. Maybe there will be three SANDS over the year in three different parts of the planet or of the counter or whatever, in the same place. I don’t know. We know more than 250 people like we do in Italy. Maybe, maybe not.

Zaya: Maybe less is actually better.

Maurizio: Less is better because it’s not that, you know, there is no…

Zaya: Like our event in Italy, it’s 250 people and they stay together for six days and it really builds intimacy and we go deeper in the conversations and the experiences. It’s a possibility.

Maurizio: Because at the end of the day, we are a community. We just, for some reason, we have been, somehow we got the responsibility in this community to channel something through us and that is happening, which is called SAND. But we really are a game of response with you and with everybody else in the community. And you said, when we were talking about having the pulse, we don’t have any pulse. It’s simply that the pulse pulsates through us and somehow it comes… We are not getting in the way as much as we can. We try not to get in the way of what needs to happen. And it feels like SAND is changing, definitely. SAND is changing.

Rick: Yeah.

Maurizio: Where is it going? I have no idea.

Rick: Well, I felt like it’s changed quite a bit over the years and I’ve enjoyed the direction in which it’s going. And there are certain things which were there even when I first went that I still enjoy. But there was definitely more of a, I don’t know, there was more of an, there was more participation by teachers who were saying the world is an illusion than there is now, which is good.

Zaya: And my dream is to see teachers being even more human than, you know, less projecting that kind of a perfect human being, perfect realized being image and being more real and more humble and more intimate with their own shadow because we all have it. And actually that’s freeing for the students, for those who listen when a human being is there and say, no, I haven’t figured it all out. I still have places that I’m growing and learning and maybe I have things that I don’t even see. Then I think we are…

Maurizio: That’s the dream.

Zaya: We are creating a field of trust and deeper listening, not just projecting. That’s my dream to see more and more of that.

Rick: I seem to feel, I seem to see that teachers who do that are, people are more and more attracted to them and they like them. And often those teachers are teaching in smaller venues, whereas people who are still trying to project some kind of ideal illusion about who they are, some of them are quite popular, but they often get into trouble because you can only keep that up for so long.

Maurizio: Yeah.

Zaya: It’s an image.

Maurizio: I mean, you can hide your shadow as much as you can. I mean, and why? I don’t understand

Zaya: why.

Maurizio: I don’t know either. It comes out.

Zaya: It doesn’t take away from your brilliance, right? From our brilliance. We hold both the contradiction and the clarity, the light and the darkness. That’s life. You can’t take it out. You can’t, yeah. The perfection and imperfection, all of it.

Rick: Shadow is an interesting thing or sort of self-delusion one can get into is an interesting thing. I was reading a conversation the other day between Andrew Cohen and another teacher, and it was before Andrew Cohen went through his big downfall or whatever you want to call it. And the other teacher was saying, “Well, you know, how about your shadow?” And Cohen didn’t even know what he was talking about. And these days, you know, Andrew looks back at that and he’s trying to make amends and he’s going to Mother Teresa’s place and working with the poor and doing all kinds of stuff. And he’s saying, “I can’t believe I was so blind to the way I was behaving.” So isn’t it strange the way one can be so blinded by one’s…

Maurizio: Aren’t we all? We have been all in that place. We still are all in that place.

Zaya: But isn’t it beautiful that just that act of listening, what he’s, it opens my heart. Like I feel, yeah.

Rick: He’s the most contrite I know of teachers who have screwed up in some way and then are trying to make amends. I mean, he physically traveled to meet face to face with as many people as possible who would be willing to meet with him whom he had wronged. And he went to Peru and did ayahuasca and he’s done therapy and he’s driven an Uber in order to support himself and all kinds of things like that. Just, you know, so it’s laudable, you know, and there are many people who will never forgive him and don’t want him to ever show his face again anywhere, but I admire the effort at least. Z Yeah, of course.

Maurizio: I’ll be so, we got an Uber and Andrew, it’ll be so nice to meet him again.

Zaya: Seriously, I, yeah.

Rick: Yeah. I’ve really enjoyed spending a little time with you and this has been obviously just a sampling of what we might have discussed. Another conversation might have covered very different points, but I think it hopefully has given people a glimpse of who you are if they haven’t met you before. And the SAND Conference itself is sort of a reflection of who you are, I think. There’s intellectual clarity and there’s humor and there’s a little bit of self-deprecation and diversity of perspectives, you know, that you’re able to comfortably, you know, adapt to regardless of how diverse they are. And so I think it’s, you know, it’s a beautiful project and, you know, I think it has inspired a lot of people and I do hope you do keep doing it for a long time to come, as long as you feel like it.

Zaya: Yeah.

Maurizio: Thank you.

Zaya: Thank you, Rick. And you’ve been an integral part of that community in this process and we learn by getting feedback and you have been one of the avid voices of the community that is like, “Oh, look at this!” And I really, really love and appreciate that because sometimes we all can get lost in our own world and not see things.

Rick: Yeah. There was a Robert Burns, there’s some poem, you know, “Would some God the gift he give us to see ourselves as others see us?”

Zaya: Yeah. We’re mirrors of each other and may we become more honest to fully see ourselves and allow others to mirror us back in the places we don’t see ourselves.

Rick: Nice. Okay, well, thank you very much. So I’ve been speaking with, oh, in terms of upcoming events and all, so we’ve been alluding to SAND and there’s two of them, the two main ones, there’s the one in Italy. When is that one?

Maurizio: July 13 to the 20th in an incredibly awesome castle in Umbria, two hours north of Rome and two hours south of Florence in the center of Italy, six days, 13 to the 20. And right after that, we have another retreat with Gabor Maté and Betsy Polatin about trauma from the 20 to the 24 in the same place. So you can stay. And in Italy, bring the kids, bring the family. It’s a total family-oriented event. It’s beautiful. It’s really like the old, the utopian community that you have dreamed of if you’re in this conversation, because you will have toddlers and teenagers and people running around the piazza.

Zaya: And they’ll have conversations. We have a lot more time to hang out and talk.

Rick: You can even stay in a tent there, I believe.

Maurizio: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Food is incredible. All you can eat is party at night, music, dance, art. It’s really, and yes, and then we have the Italian event in October, the US event, which is like the jam, the-

Rick: The mothership.

Maurizio: The mothership, yeah.

Rick: And that’s in late October in San Jose, California. And all of this is detailed on your website, which is, right?

Maurizio: Correct.

Rick: Yeah, or if you just search for Science and Nonduality Conference in Google, you’ll see it, and I’ll link to it from your page on Batgap. And also, there are various, it seems like every month or so you have a webinar of some kind with somebody that people can do from wherever they are.

Zaya: Yeah.

Maurizio: Webinars.

Zaya: And we also invite people to proposals talks or experiences at SAND. So we have something called abstract systems. So anyone who feels inspired to contribute, we welcome proposals.

Maurizio: Yes. And the movie will come out very soon, The Wisdom of Trauma. We are in the final editing. This movie that will be, it’s an amazing movie, feature-length documentary.

Rick: Where will people be able to see that?

Maurizio: Well, it depends which kind of leg the baby is gonna grow. Probably we’ll do the festival route first or go straight to Netflix or go to Amazon. It’s impossible to know at this time. It’s impossible to know. I will definitely see it. If not, it’s gonna be on YouTube free for everybody.

Rick: Good.

Maurizio: Just like all our movie at the end, we’ll put them there.

Rick: I don’t know if it’s relevant to ask how you finance something like that, but I guess maybe you have the Fetzer Institute or whatever people have been.

Maurizio: No, not the Fetzer. Fetzer is helping us in other ways, very small ways.

Zaya: A private donor.

Maurizio: We have a private donor that gave us funds to make this movie. And being filmmaker all our life, we are able to make movies way, way below budget. We are the same strength we use for SAND to be able to stay alive at SAND. We stay alive by making amazing movie at below a fraction of the cost.

Rick: Yeah. You have a free camera lady.

Maurizio: Yes. I’m still engaging her. She’s also an editor and a producer, she’s incredible and gorgeous. So what else can I ask for?

Rick: You got it. All right, thanks. So to those who have been listening or watching, obviously I’ve been speaking with Zaya and Maurizio, Bonazzo, you know who they are pretty well by this time. This is part of an ongoing series of interviews. And as I said in the beginning, there have been over 500 of them and there’ll be many more. So go to, check out the menus, sign up for the email notification if you want to. There’s audio podcasts you can sign up if you want to and so on. And there’s also an upcoming interviews page where you will see who we’ve got scheduled in the coming weeks. I think next week is Claire Dubois who has an organization called Tree Sisters, which is going to be talking about something a little bit outside my usual comfort zone. This is going to be a little different. I’m going to somehow fit it into the Batgap universe, but we’ll manage. So thanks guys.

Zaya: Thank you, Rick. Thank you for your work.

Maurizio: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. See you in October.

Rick: See you in October.

Maurizio: Unless you come in Italy in July.

Rick: I don’t think so. But yeah, see you in October. Unless we’re all dead by then.

Maurizio: Then we’ll see you somewhere else.

Rick: We’ll see you somewhere else. We’ll be there. All right.

Maurizio: Thank you very much. Ciao.

Rick: Thank you.

Zaya: Ciao.

Rick: Bye.