How to Start and Run an Independent Nonduality Meetup Group
edited by Jerry Katz
Last update: September 24, 2014

Purpose, nature, and meaning of an independent nonduality group

This web page is about starting and running an in-person nonduality group that is not founded in any tradition, guru, teacher, or teaching. The nature of such a group is to recognize and welcome that members will have their own teachers, traditions, guides, and favorite sources. Another aspect of the group's nature is that people are responsible for their own realization, their own authority. While leaders, organizers, and moderators emerge in the group, no one serves as the final authority or as the official sage.

The bottom line activity of these groups is people talking about nonduality without anyone in the group being "the sage in the front of the room." Though videos of famous teachers and sages might be shown -- or perhaps a well-known teacher might visit your group in person -- the reminder could be that they are not fundamentally different than anyone else in the room.

Updates will be posted to the Nonduality Highlights blog at nonduality.org and to the Nonduality Highlights Facebook group. You are welcome to follow or join either or both of those.

S
ources of information

Meetup.com

Meetup.com is at http://meetup.com. Though you could publicize and manage your group without meetup.com, the organizational and networking tools of Meetup make it invaluable. My second choice would be a Facebook group. Mark Hovila uses only Facebook for his Seattle Nonduality Dialogues group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/43992913797/.

Visit meetup.com and explore its offerings. There is a fee that you pay every six months which varies by country. In Canada it's $72 every six months. In India it's $12 every six months. Those are probably the fee extremes. Explore meetup.com and especially note how you can personalize your group. Perhaps the most important section is where you state what your group is about. Before you read the descriptions of other groups, you might want to write your own. Keywords are very important too, as prospective members will find your group through a keyword search. Think of some keywords and look at keywords used by other groups.

Audio and video interviews

Below: Paul Smit interviews Didier Weiss, co-organizer of the Auroville Nondual Meetup Group:






Below: Paul Smit interviews Anamika and Lisa Cairns. Anamika speaks about the Auroville Nondual Meetup Group, of which she is a co-organizer:







Below: Jerry Katz interviews Anamika, co-organizer of the Auroville Nondual Meetup Group:



Anamika intervew tracks and time cues:


The interview was conducted on March 9, 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Below: Jerry Katz interviews Mark Hovila, founder of the Seattle Nonduality Dialogues group, (see also here) with a listing of tracks


Mark Hovila interview tracks and time cues:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Below: Jerry Katz and Maja Apolonia Rodé, with a listing of time cues and track descriptions:



Time cues and tracks with Guidelines for running a nonduality group:

0:00 – 5:53 Introduction to Maja: www.premaspace.com. General topics introduced. Maja describes why she is interested in this project: supporting dharma-flowering in the world. The idea of the teacher at the front of the room perpetuates the idea that the knowing is outside ourselves and that others don’t have the ability to express it. In a small group each person can practice speaking truth and listening to each other beyond the words spoken. That’s the living dharma that speaking and deep listening, and that is cultivated by Adyashanti and some other teachers.

5:53 – 13:00 Maja speaks of doing her own dharma and supporting others. The nature of guidelines for nonduality groups as holding a container, that support mutual opening and appreciation. Review of the themes in the first five minutes of this interview. The guidelines are for allowing freedom not restricting or neutralizing freedom. Comparison to a mandala. Guideline: sit in a circle or around a table rather than as in a classroom.

13:00 – 23:21 Guideline: Begin the group out of a real desire, a sincerity, earnestness. Guideline: come to each other with sincere curiosity rather than knowledge. Guideline: Use meetup.com to manage the practical aspect of organizing your meetup and attracting guests. Or create a Facebook group, which is free. Guideline: form a core group; suggestions from Maja. Guideline: meet with regularity, for example every two weeks. Core group compared to regular members.

23:21 – 27:41 Element of community is missing in our culture. These groups as associated with community. David Hodges discussed:http://outermostvillagegreen.com/. Guideline: consider that your group is perceived as community. The feeling of community can be a reason for attending these groups. Maja expresses this: “Buddha, my heart; Dharma, the language of my heart; sangha, where the language of my heart is spoken”: We have a need for all three and all three come into play in the circle, the group.

27:41 – 40:33 Thoughts on all the independent nonduality connecting in some way so they feel they’re part of a bigger community, a true community brought together by “the glue of love.” Various nonduality groups mentioned. Cities around the world that are hot spots of nondual interests. Adyashanti’s groups mentioned and listed on adyashanti.org. Jerry’s website mentioned:http://nonduality.com/meetup.htm

40:33 – 48:18 How do you introduce nonduality to people who are new to the teaching? Use of videos of teachers. Fort Lauderdale nonduality group mentioned. Maja describes value of using videos and accessing established teachers. Guideline: find a short video of a nonduality and watch it with your group as a theme provider. Jean Klein’s suggestions to start discussion groups. Guideline: Adyashanti’s suggestion to speak from your own experience. Adya gives more guidelines in his book The Way of Liberation, which are posted below.

48:18 – 52:41 Speaking from your own experience, elaborated upon. “I’m curious about your experience and I have the knowing of my experience and I can express that with authority,” Maja says. Guideline: Everyone’s responsible for their own awakening and for how they’re holding the space for other people. Hold each with respect. Guideline: Respect each other. People might apply their authority of awakening to authority in other fields such as relationship or another’s spiritual path, therefore respect for the other as Buddha is an essential guideline.

52:41 – 1:00:20 Welcoming people, nature and importance of. Maja’s experience with Adyashanti’s organization and attendance and involvement at retreats. Nature of welcoming at an Adyashanti retreat and how it is expressed within all the varieties of interaction at the retreat. The nature of interviewing with and without notes.

1:00:20 – 1:07:38 Purpose of this project on forming nonduality groups. When a discussion gets off track. “What is track?” Maja asks. What is the circle or group about? Guideline: Be clear about the circle’s or group’s intent.

1:07:38 – 1:14:33 Guideline: David Zinn’s statement on the importance of describing your group: : “The key to making Meetup work I think is the way you describe the group you are trying to form, putting together a clear description/mission statement. This is a kind of an exercise in clarity which helps put into words the intention and direction of the group. Just taking the time to write this up might be very revealing in understanding what your real motivation is to start and run a group, and this is how people will ultimately become interested enough to stop by.” Maja mentions group of her friend in Boulder and how she started it by expressing herself in a letter of invitation to people she knew. Guideline: Each attendee could write a statement of group’s purpose and of their purpose.Guideline: at each meeting two or three people can talk about why they are there and something about their history. Guideline: Be aware that leadership and socialization qualities are helpful in starting and running a group.

1:14:33 – 1:21:10 As a leader you’re preparing a space and welcoming people into it and that sets the tone. Maja describes the cultivation of the container of silence for Adyashanti’s retreats. Guideline: Welcoming attendees is very important and can be expressed in many ways and at every point of interaction. Maja tells a story of how to throw a great party and how it applies to running a group. Guideline: make every guest feel welcome.

1:21:10 – 1:30:31 Center for Nondual Awareness mentioned. Maja talks about the importance of asking good questions that inspire authentic communication. For example, “What’s been on your mind or in your heart recently and why is it important to you?” Other great questions cited. Guideline: Ask great questions that inspire authentic communication. Guideline: You can start each meeting with a favorite quote contributed by an attendee.

1:30:31 – 1:39:58 Maja asks Jerry what is talked about in his group. Importance of sitting in silence. Guideline: sit in silence at the beginning and end and at various points during a meeting. The interview turns toward that silence. Using a talking stick, even to invite silence, presence. Guideline: Use a talking stick. You could pass it around at the end of the meeting so everyone has a chance to speak as they do at the Auroville meetup group.

From The Way of Liberation, by Adyashanti, which may be downloaded here:http://www.adyashanti.org/library/The_Way_of_Liberation_Ebook.pdf:

The following are guidelines for The Way of Liberation study groups to embody. They are meant to reflect an attitude of mutual openness, compassion, and support.

1. Study groups should be safe and compassionate environments in which to explore, share, and put into practice The Way of Liberation teachings.
2. All study groups should be free of charge, unless the group is renting a space to meet in.
3. No one should act as a teacher or try to dominate a group.
4. When someone is sharing their experience, do not judge what they are sharing. If asked for, give feedback by speaking only from your own experience. Do not try to be the teacher.
5. Everyone who comes to a meeting for the first time should be given a copy of these guidelines. If a study group does not follow these guidelines, I suggest you either stop attending it or form your own study group.




James Traverse, Maja Apolonia
Rodé, and Jerry Katz on Nonduality Talk Radio. James and Jerry are founders and co-organizers of the Nonduality Satsang Meetup group in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Maja is part of an initiative to encourage the formation of independent nonduality groups in northern California. An interview with Maja is forthcoming.




Topics:
What is meant by an independent nonduality meetup group? What are some aspects of its nature?
Only qualifications to start a group is your passion and your interest in exploring the true nature of being.
Maja Apolonia Rodé contributes the following to the discussion: "Everybody has the dharma within them, not just the one at the front of the room."
Some principles are necessary for a successful group. Leadership is based in asking good questions and coming from a place of not knowing the answers. You have to have leadership that holds the container without taking over the group.
Can the love of the teachings, the love of truth hold the container?
How do you deal with dominating personality or getting too much into concepts or self-help?
Addressing someone new to inquiry and defining the function of moderating a group.
Include tips and tricks that are unobtrusive such as the talking stick.
A group at the beginning can be like learning to play a musical instrument, it takes time to get smooth, practiced, and skilled.
Bringing together people along in their process.
Discussion on having a core group.
Power of openly sharing.
Do you have any special way of leading new people into self-inquiry and being comfortable within a group?
Engaging within a group is like going on a first date. The open, live, vulnerable quality, and exploration.
Importance of moments of stillness and silence.
Leadership re-addressed
.



Written interviews

Mark Hovila of the
Seattle Nonduality Dialogues group

How did your group start, why was it started? Who started it? Where and when? 
 
I started it in April 2004. Basically, I just wanted to have somebody to talk 
about these ideas with. There is a mall about a mile from my home (Lake Forest 
Park, WA, just north of Seattle) that has some areas with tables where people 
can sit down and talk for as long as they want. I got some email addresses from 
a Krishnamurti discussion group which had become inactive, added some names of 
people that I knew, and sent an email out inviting people to meet me on a 
weekday evening. There were 4 of us the first night and we have been meeting 
ever since. For a while we met every other week and now we are meeting every 
week. 
 
Do you have anything in writing that describes your group in any way? 
 
http://home.comcast.net/~hovila/site/ 
 
What is the structure of your meeting, or what are some of the structural 
elements? At a minimum, every group begins and ends. That's the minimal 
structure. Other structural elements might include moments of silence, 
meditation, taking a break for tea and snacks, responding to a theme of the day, 
a presentation by a member, a reading of someone's writing. 
 
It is completely unstructured. We meet and start talking about whatever people 
want to talk about, though everybody understands that our common interest is 
nonduality. Sometimes the discussion strays from topics related to nonduality, 
but eventually somebody will bring it back around. There is no moderator. 

How long do your meetings last? 
 
Usually about 2 hours. Some people leave early or arrive late, which is OK. 
People have stayed longer on occasion. We start at 7 and the mall closes at 10. > 

Do you have a core group, that is, two or more people dedicated to sharing the values of the group? There are about 4 of us who come most weeks. We may see others every other week, once a month, or even less often. We never know who is going to show up. We probably average about 6 people. What is the purpose of the group? That's a question that often comes up in the group. :) For me it is just an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and to share my own experiences. And to receive inspiration. At times this can seem like a lonely path. Many people remark that there is hardly anyone else they can talk about these ideas in depth with. How do new people find out about your group? I have posted our contact info on a few websites. Others find out about it via word of mouth. How do you distribute information, especially meeting times and places, to your members? Every once in a while someone calls or writes me and I add them to the email announcement list, which I send out every Tuesday before the Wednesday meeting. To keep the announcement from being the same old boring thing, I lead it off with a spiritual quote from somebody like Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Jean Klein, a poet or whoever. Once I used a quote from Willie Nelson's book The Tao of Willie. A few times I just wrote something myself. There are about 50 people on the list. Some of them have been getting the email announcement for years but have never come to a meeting. Is there a screening of potential members? No. Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator? No. If someone asks a question or raises a topic and then somebody else starts veering off in another direction, usually somebody will say we need to get back to the topic that we were discussing. Doesn't always happen, though. :) Is there a typical meeting? Could you describe it? One of our regulars sometimes prints out that week's meeting announcement and we start talking about the quotation that was sent with it. Or somebody will just ask a question or bring up a topic and we take off from there. There really is no typical meeting, but many of the same themes keep coming up. Do you make time for silence or meditation? No. Sometimes there will be short periods of silence, but they are not planned. Since we meet in a public place, with members of the public occasionally strolling by, it really is not the ideal setting for group meditation. But maybe we ought to try it. I'll suggest it next time. I did suggest it once but was voted down. What are your core values? I can only speak for myself on this. Kindness and consideration towards others. Love. Listening. Earnestness when it comes to seeing the truth and speaking from truth. Any house rules? In the weekly email I include a list of guidelines. I am copying and pasting last week's email announcement below.
Any mission statement? Not really. I think I will read your questions at our next meeting. Maybe I will learn a few things. Maybe there is a mission statement and someone forgot to tell me. How freely or strictly do you use the terms "leaders", "facilitators", "teachers"? In reference to people in our group? There are no leaders or facilitators. I see us all as teachers and students. What's the most important aspect of your meetings? Where does the essential meaning rest? For me the meetings are a reminder to be present, to take a stand as consciousness/awareness, to inquire into who you are, to look at yourself, to remember yourself always and everywhere. They are not about learning strategies to become "enlightened," if enlightenment is conceived of as a future attainment achieved through effort. I think the meetings are the most meaningful when they remind us to fully engage with reality as it is happening right now rather than settling for a secondhand existence via stories, hopes and fears. How do moderate discussion when it gets off topic, when it gets too conceptual, or deals with the hypothetical? How do you keep focus? What is the focus? When that happens, as it frequently does, somebody needs to step up and point that out. If nobody does, then we get to listen to a bunch of rambling hypothetical concepts. We might be able to cut down on the frequency of it if we had a moderator, but so far nobody seems to want to go that route. But rambling isn't always bad. Sometimes it can be great comic relief. Or it can lead us into areas that might initially seem to be way off topic and conceptual, but which can turn into something pretty powerful and amazing. What are the greatest challenges now and in the past? Listening to each other. Being honest. Being open. Speaking from our own experience rather than parroting the words of others.
How has your group changed over the years? As nonduality has become better known, and known through more and more voices, have you seen any changes in the quality or dynamics of your discussion and interaction? Something has changed, but I'm not sure I know how to say what it is exactly. There is more of a feeling of hereness, of presence, of dedication to the truth. Maybe I'll have some of the other folks write to you. They may be able to answer this question better than I can right now. For people who are thinking about starting a group, I just want to say that you don't need to be "enlightened" or an "expert" or even a "semi-expert" in nonduality to start one. You could be a complete neophyte, in fact. You don't need to plan what is going to happen in the meetings (although if planning and organizing are your thing, fine). All you need to do is get together with at least one other person and talk. Here is the email announcement I sent to the group last week. Do you experience the deepest level of others, the other and yourself, even in everyday life? On which level are you primarily engaged? On the surface, on a deeper level of meaning which you recognize, or has everything broken so open that you are internally aware of the inexpressible? Then there are no separations. Self and That, I and Thou no longer form a duality. Therefore nothing can be said positively about it. Daily life may continue, but it has such transparency that the non-dual openness remains prominent as the greatest reality. You are this openness and it is not different from the ordinary things of life. Non-Duality: The Groundless Openness by Douwe Tiemersma ******************************************************************************** There will be another meeting of the nonduality dialogue group this WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lake Forest Park Town Center, 17171 Bothell Way NE in Lake Forest Park. We will meet on the lower level of the mall, at a table near the library or near the Rite Aid. We don't have a set structure and we don't have a leader. People bring up whatever they want to talk about. Here are "Some Suggestions on the Nature of Dialogue" from the Krishnamurti Foundation of America which one of the attendees passed out at one of our meetings. * Dialogue starts from a willingness to be tentative about what you know. * The focus of dialogue is on what is rather than on ideas and opinions. * You can participate by verbally or silently sharing perceptions. * Dialogue is letting the issue unfold in affection and mutual respect. * When a reaction arises, neither suppress it nor defend it, but suspend it in the mind and in the group, keeping it constantly available for observation and questioning. * Dialogue is being together and seeing together in an unfolding relationship. Feel free to call anytime with any questions you may have. Mark
[phone number available to subscribers]

Anamika from the
Auroville Nondual Meetup Group

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

The Meetup group idea was brought to our attention by you, mr Jerry Katz ;-). I remember you talking about it, mentioning it in the highlights a few times and you were the one who actually personally encouraged us to start one ourselves. Maybe a year after first knowing about the idea of Meetup, the time felt suddenly ripe, the idea came clear to start one, and so Didier and I initated the Auroville Nondual Meetup group. It started on 3 July 2013. So not even one year ago.

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

Below is what we have on our homepage of our Meetup group site. It is a compilation of what we found on other sites or Meetup groups. All the things we felt were important to put out and with which we resonate.

Nonduality is about the philosophical, spiritual, scientific but mainly experiential understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness. It is also a tool for ongoing exploration of our real nature beyond experience.

We are passionate about the journey, the investigation of the nature of awareness, the essence of Life from which all arises and subsides.

The purpose of the group is to bring together all those drawn towards self-discovery and to make it easy to be in contact with others on the same journey.

Please join us even if you are a casual visitor in our area. It would give a chance for like-minded people to connect with you at your next visit.

Welcome on board!

What is the structure of your meeting, or what are some of the structural elements? At a minimum, every group begins and ends. That's the minimal structure. Other structural elements might include moments of silence, meditation, taking a break for tea and snacks, responding to a theme of the day, a presentation by a member, a reading of someone's writing.

Usually we start with welcoming new members if they are there, otherwise we greet each other and talk a bit and at one point it feels like the right time to start.

We structure our meetings around a topic. Often coming up as a question during a meetup from one of the participants, or if Didier and I feel that it is something current and important to clarify certain points we bring up a topic ourselves, and often it is just spontaneous. Around this topic we have a presentation on the topic from one of us, often an exercise, at times conducted by one of the members of the core group, and often small youtube clips of ND teachers or scenes of a movie all related to the topic. Like this there is an input from different sources and angles on the same topic to provide a multidimensional viewpoint of the same.

Silence is part of our group. It is spontaneously happening, and there is the possiblility to take the talking stick from the centre and in stead of talking just keep the stick in silence and like this change the dynamic of the meeting.

The talking stick is part of our structure as in the final round each one gets a chance to give his feedback, or suggestions or comments.

How long do your meetings last?

Meeting for one hour. Break of 15 minutes or half an hour. Another hour of meeting. We started with a 3 hour meeting but it feels to long.

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

Apart from the two organizers we have a core group of 8 people who are committed to come every time and who share the same values, so we are totally 10 who come regular, and around this there are another 10 who come intermittetly.

What is the purpose of the group?

It started for Didier and me for our own sanity, to be able to share this gift, this truth. For the Joy of sharing, to be able to come to this nonjudgmental place where one can be as one is, and which facilitates melting to happen, the separations to become more transparent.

How do new people find out about your group?

Through the Meetup group website and through Word of Mouth.

How do you distribute information, especially meeting times and places, to your members?

Meetup group tools.

Is there a screening of potential members?

Yes, there is a lot of phony bullshit going on in the application for Meetup groups we found out through experience. Many are looking for conact, relationship, sex, contact with western society and culture etc, and not at all related to spirituality let alone Nonduality. See in the other attachment one of the profiles of someone applying to become part of the group.

The only requirement we ask is an authentic curiosity and interest in the topic of Nonduality that is all.

Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator?

Yes there are two moderators, whose sole function is to keep the focus on the topic

What are your core values?

The core values are to provide the space to be able to see the dream as a dream. To clarify misconceptions and to keep the focus on Nonduality.

Any house rules?

After being accepted as a member there are no other house rules

How freely or strictly do you use the terms "leaders", "facilitators", "teachers"?

We use the terms leaders, facilitators and teachers as little as possible, to avoid in any way the idea of hierarchy or distance, or difference.

What's the most important aspect of your meetings? Where does the essential meaning rest?


The essential meaning of the meeting is the recognition of who we truly are. Through and the topic which clarifies through the videos presentations and exercise any misconception and through the being together where the atmosphere of nonseparation is instilling the fact that it is already present. To come back again and again to the realization that it is already present and not something to get at a later stage.

How do moderate discussion when it gets off topic, when it gets too conceptual, or deals with the hypothetical? How do you keep focus? What is the focus?

We keep the focus by the way we are giving the answer to the questions. Not to indulge and drift away with the stories of the question. This naturally will keep the focus on the topic

What are the greatest challenges now and in the past?

The greatest challenges I would say is that the Meetup group becomes a habit and a hobby for the ones attending. The need is there to keep the fire, to bring in all the time unexpected elements, not to build up a routine. Keep the surprise and the mystery alive

Talk about the quality of meeting places.

After trying out different spaces we have come to the conclusion that some places are more conducive for the Meetup group than others. A neutral place has proven more focused than in some ones house. And that enough quietness and protection from disturbing elements like too much noise or too many people or activities moving around close by is facilitating the focus and the building up of trust, confidence, and openness to happen.

How much do members benefit?

We see in some members of the group more clarity, lightness and transparency. Through clarifying misconceptions and ideas which were standing in the way there is more space. In many we can see more ease and lightness. Almost all the core members live in Auroville and we meet them regularly in other places and in other activities and it is great to see these big smiles and open hearts.

Anything else?

As an observation Jerry from [Didier and me], it seems that a Nondual meetup group cannot really sustain itself if not one or even better two coremembers or organizers are not present to bring back the focus again and again on the topic.

We do think that without this essential clarity as a base the meetup would not be able to sustain itself and probably peter out in other directions, and of course we could be wrong and of course even the petering out might and is just perfect. Just as an added blah blah… ?

And great, Jerry, you bring this tool to the fore, which gives the possibility for some other meetings to happen, different from the traditional teacher student mode, where automatically the distance is apparent between the one who got it and the poor suckers who did not.

David Zinn from the Open Awareness Meditation Group

How did your group start, why was it started? Who started it? Where and when? 
 
Our group is called the Open Awareness Meditation Group and we meet in 
Cambridge, MA on Monday nights at 7:30 at the Cambridge Friends Meeting House (a 
historic place for Quaker meetings) just outside of Harvard Square. It’s a very 
nice, welcoming, neutral space where we have plenty of meditation cushions and 
benches in a large, high ceilinged room. However we do pay rent ($50 a night) so 
as a result we do have to solicit donations to keep it rolling— but the space is 
well worth it. 
 
The Open Awareness group technically had its origins in the early 90’s as a 
Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen group that had a guiding lama, organization, retreats, 
etc. The meditation sessions then were quite formal with opening and closing 
chants and a specific structure. I connected with this group in 1996 and 
practiced with them for around four years. 
 
Eventually I became interested in a more open approach to meditation (and life!) 
and was inspired by the writings of Jean Klein and a number of other teachers to 
begin my own explorations without the map of a specific tradition. 
 
Ultimately the Buddhist group split off into a couple of other organizations and 
the Monday nights became available for other possibilities so at that time 
(2009), with the help of some of the other friends from the previous Buddhist 
sangha, we began the Open Awareness Meditation Group.  
 
How do new people find out about your group? How do you distribute information, 
especially meeting times and places, to your members? 
 
I set up a website for the group under the first name as we made the transition: 
Open Awareness Sangha—  http://openawarenesssangha.org/  — but the website 
didn’t really accomplish much. 
 
Joining Meetup however made a huge difference, and I highly recommend it to 
anyone who wants to try to start a nonduality group (or really any kind of group 
for that matter). Through Meetup you get all the tools you need to let people 
know about your group, promote the meetings, and keep in touch with new members. 
There is a fee, but all you need to run your group is there. I believe they may 
still have a low cost introductory membership to check out their service for the 
first six months. 
 
We average around 20 attendees a week, and almost always have people entirely 
new to the group (or to meditation) showing up. I find this very inspiring. 
 
The key to making Meetup work I think is the way you describe the group you are 
trying to form, putting together a clear description/mission statement. This is 
a kind of an exercise in clarity which helps put into words the intention and 
direction of the group. Just taking the time to write this up might be very 
revealing in understanding what your real motivation is to start and run a 
group, and this is how people will ultimately become interested enough to stop 
by. 
 
Do you have anything in writing that describes your group in any way? 
 
Yes. This is from the website and the Meetup site:  
 
—About This Meditation Meetup 
 
We sit in silence for around 45 minutes, followed by discussion for around 30 
minutes or so. The silent sitting is interspersed with some meditation 
instruction, perhaps a brief reading, a little simple inquiry, exploration or 
movement. Sitting posture is relaxed, either on a meditation cushion or a bench. 
It's not a rigid practice— we move whenever we need to! 
 
If you find you are running late, come anyway! The format is very relaxed and 
open— anyone interested in contemplative practice is welcome! 
 
—About Open Awareness Meditation 
 
At the heart of these meditation sessions is the silent exploration of what we 
refer to as Open Awareness. We all know what it means to feel closed, limited, 
vulnerable, or separate. What is it like to allow ourselves to return to our 
natural condition of openness, presence, non-separateness and ease? This is what 
we explore in our meetings. 
 
We have been meeting for over a decade, and those who lead the meditations have 
known each other and been attending sittings together for many years. They have 
all deeply explored a variety of traditions— for some it has been the Tibetan 
Buddhist practices of Dzogchen or Mahamudra, for others it has been the Indian 
traditions of Yoga, or Advaita, or what is currently referred to as Nonduality 
(some popular examples of this are Francis Lucille, Rupert Spira, Eckhart Tolle 
and Adyashanti).  
 
However all of these traditions ultimately point to the same truth, the truth of 
our basic awareness or presence which is beyond any tradition, practice or 
teaching. This is the presence we share and the presence we are, beyond words. 
This is what we explore in our meetings. 
 
This group is somewhat unique in that there is no specific guiding teacher, 
lama, or guru. We all meet as equals to question, share, and inspire each other 
to explore the Open Awareness we most deeply are. The meetings are suitable for 
newcomers as well as experienced meditators, and all are very welcome. 
  
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  
 
So as you can see from the write-up, the nonduality aspect is evoked but it’s 
not used to define the group. This means that we don’t have to limit the 
discussion to seeing from any particular perspective. Whatever we happen to be 
feeling (open, closed, separate, non-separate, empty, full, etc.), all 
perspectives are valid and honored as a statement of one’s present condition. 
 
And for those of us who happen to be experiencing the sort of openness and 
non-separateness that the meditation is meant to evoke and explore, it might be 
possible to point the conversation in that direction. The point is for our 
conversation to be coming from our direct experience as opposed to from any idea 
or ideal of a nondual perspective. 
 
Do you have a core group, that is, two or more people dedicated to sharing the 
values of the group? 
 
We have four meditation leaders in all. I consider them to be some of my very 
best friends, and I adore hanging out with them. There is a sweetness to these 
friendships which arise out of a background of freedom and open awareness which 
just gets stronger as the years go on. 
 
In fact in a way it seems that friendship is the key to the whole situation— 
cultivating and enjoying the friendships that help us stay awake. And on a 
deeper level, it can be the possibility of seeing the one awareness shining out 
of the eyes of all who attend. 
 
As I like to say “Friendship is the doorway we step through and lose our 
selves.” 
 
What is the purpose of the group? 
 
To explore the direct experience of open awareness… both in meditation and in 
conversation.  
 
Is there a screening of potential members? 
Absolutely not! Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator? What are the greatest challenges now and in the past? What are your core values? The four people we refer to as “meditation leaders” have a tremendous depth in terms of their commitment to waking up. Exploring awareness, compassion and non-separateness is the most important thing in their lives, and so they have a lot to share with someone who is just starting to consider these things. However all four meditation leaders often see things quite differently, and that, along with the great questioning and sharing of the others who attend, creates a very powerful and rich situation. No one has the final word, we all just try to keep it real and speak our hearts. Though the meditation leaders are for the most part “sharing” as opposed to “teaching”, there is a great transformative power to being put on the spot, to try to find words for and to communicate the unspeakable. How does one tap into the simplicity of presence and open awareness, and how might one point to that very naturally, without reverting to Buddhist, Advaita or nonduality dogma? That is what the meditation leader attempts to explore. I have come to feel that there are severe limitations to the format commonly referred to as satsang, where all the questions are addressed to one person who is assumed to have all the answers. Granted, there is a huge value to communicating and working with a skillful teacher. I have had many, and I am incredibly grateful to them. But the point is that more than any teacher or teaching we have ever been exposed to, the voice we most long to hear is our own voice. We need to make our own discoveries, and to hear the voice of truth come out of our own mouths, in our own language— and in a sense this is what our group tries to facilitate. The beauty of it for all concerned, both during the meditation as well as the discussion, is the possibility of hearing yourself say something you didn’t know you knew, but in the moment of saying it you know you know it. That is, to simply hear yourself say what is deeply true. And this speaking and hearing take place in the light of our shared presence, open awareness, beyond the limitations of words. For me the Open Awareness Meditation Group has just gotten more and more beautiful. It’s a place to put down the burden of being somebody, and to discover what is here. I treasure the experience of being with these people, both old friend and those completely new, and I have found the group to be one of the most helpful, transformative things I have ever encountered.

Correspondence between Kim Lai and Jerry Katz on starting a nonduality meetup group.

During this correspondence Kim founded the Nonduality Sydney meetup group.

Hi Jerry,

Hope you are well.

I have seen your recent posts about creating a non-duality Meetup group wherever we are. Actually you even published
something that said something along the lines of "if you are organising non-duality meetings and are showing videos of
famous teachers, you can probably do better than that". This really touched me in some way.

I have been in Sydney, Australia for 3 years now, and last time I checked Meetup there was still no group about non-duality.
A few teachers are coming now and then (Gangaji, Unmani...), and of course there's Bob Adamson in Melbourne (so 1 hour
away by plane), but apart from that there is not much happening here.

So it is probably time for someone to start something here, and I'm up for it.

But I see a possible pitfall and I would like to have your advice and hear about your experience on it.

I have been to many satsangs, and so most of the time the attendants ask questions to the speaker. When there is less people,
this gives opportunity for some talking or sharing between everyone, but in my experience the speaker is the one who talks the
most. In this format this makes perfect sense, as the good speakers have a talent to deconstruct questions or address them in
a way that will point the questioner back to presence. So that's all good.

Now the idea with the Meetup groups you presented does not seem to have a main speaker (or at least not all the time), but rather
to function in a more democratic way. So I am wondering how a meeting without a speaker who is willing (and moreover able) to
address all questions can work. The danger I see is having a bunch of people who are having a conversation that might be
interesting, but that will not help them resolve (and sometimes even dissolve) their question in an experiential way.

So I would like to know how this works in your experience. I like the idea of different people doing a presentation as the introduction,
but then how do we avoid simply discussing and remaining at a very conceptual level?

This is my main question, but I have a few more about how to get started with the group and make it survive long enough to reach
a point where it meets its audience and starts to work organically. If you have more time for more questions I would love to ask them.

I also want to take this opportunity to let you know that I really enjoy the interviews, the radio show and the highlights. For people
like me who are doing this inquiry mostly on their own, it is a privilege to have access to such interesting material. I love how you
do this seriously but don't take yourself too seriously.

Thanks for your time and advice.

All the best,

Kim

Hi Kim,

Thank you for your interest in this work. I'm glad to respond to your questions. Feel free to ask more.
In my opinion it's important to have a core group of at least two people. Anyone who shares your passion and vision could become
part of your core group.You don't have to look for those people. They will come to you and they'll somehow let you know they want to
be part of what you're doing.

At least one person in the group has to be able to keep the focus on awareness itself, or however you wish to describe the nondual
perspective. And that person, or those people, have to be able to keep discussion from turning into a psychological self-help session
by reminding people that the focus of attention is, "Who is having these apparent psychological problems?"

The point about a main speaker brings up the topic of leadership. There are people who are natural leaders. They too will show up
in your group. It's hard to talk about the mechanics of how that happens but it depends on how welcoming your group is; more on that below.

Kim asked, "I am wondering how a meeting without a speaker who
is willing (and moreover able) to address all questions can work. The
danger I see is having a bunch of people who are having a conversation that
might be interesting, but that will not help them resolve (and sometimes
even dissolve) their question in an experiential way."

You have to state in writing the purpose of your group and that purpose will consider the group's limitations. It will also focus on why the group has been created. You need to be clear about those points. You want to make the group sound welcoming to everyone. At the same time you need to create boundaries. In that regard, something you can ask yourself is whether your group is about helping people. If people hear the word "help" they could bring all their psychological problems to a meeting.

In my group I don't see us as helping anyone. All we are doing is holding a space in which questions and conflicts may dissolve or seen to be essentially nothing. It's not up to anyone in our group to convince anyone of that truth or to help anyone see anything. I don't feel anyone has to be "saved." The whole idea or ideal of helping can be released. What has to valued in my view, is not helping but rather speaking truthfully, or confessing your own knowing and not-knowing truthfully. That's all you have to do. Be honest, in other words.

While we think that speaking and saying something wisely nondual is the most important thing, it's not. What's primary is being-ness itsef, holding an open atmosphere, having moments of stillness that might last a few minutes without any instruction in how to be still. Value the silence and speak truthfully, that's all. Good people will be attracted to those values and qualities and your group will grow and attract others.

Kim wrote, "So I would like to know how this works in your experience. I like the idea
of different people doing a presentation as the introduction, but then how
do we avoid simply discussing and remaining at a very conceptual level?"

Be aware of moments when discussion is at the conceptual level and announce that it is happening. Everyone then has an opportunity to share your observation. Some time can be spent seeing how people are invested in concepts. The direction of the meeting can then go toward what is true. Maybe it would be appropriate to sit still for a couple of minutes. You have to be aware of what's happening in the group.

Kim wrote, "This is my main question, but I have a few more about how to get started
with the group and make it survive long enough to reach a point where it
meets its audience and starts to work organically. If you have more time
for more questions I would love to ask them."

It can start growing organically almost at once. It depends on how you present your group and how welcoming you are to newcomers. I like using http://meetup.com There is a hosting fee which varies by country. In Canada I pay $72 every six months. You might want to check out the descriptions and keywords of these groups:

http://www.meetup.com/NondualitySatsang/

http://www.meetup.com/Auroville-Nondual-Meetup-Group/
http://www.meetup.com/Spiritual-book-club-meets-monthly-in-Halifax-Nova-Scotia/
http://www.meetup.com/Waking-Up-To-The-Dream-Nondualism-Meetup/
http://www.meetup.com/Open-Awareness-Meditation-Group/
http://home.comcast.net/~hovila/site/?/home/

Also I'm sure the organizers of the above groups would be glad to share their thoughts. And, yes, feel free to ask me more questions. They help me better understand what I'm doing!

-Jerry

The following letter was sent by Jerry Katz to David Zinn and cc'd to Kim Lai. It is in response to David's answers to the questionnaire on starting a group.

Hi David and crew,

Thanks so much for this. There are several gems and they shine through along with your obvious commitment to this sangha. It helps me see my own group in a brighter light. I'll take another look at our description, for one thing. I agree with what you said about friendship but I'd never thought about it before. I also like your strong recommendation of meetup. I'll include your responses as part of a web page on starting these kinds of groups.

Since I started this initiative to encourage others to start groups, five of them have begun. A gentleman named Kim just started a meetup in Sydney, Australia and he has 23 people signed up for his first meetup. It has apparently been very helpful for him to hear about the experiences of other group leaders I've interviewed. Your responses add further to the value of this information. In fact, since Kim has his first meetup in a few days, I'm going to send him a copy of this email. His meetup site is http://www.meetup.com/Non-duality-Sydney/

All the best,
Jerry

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for sharing this too.

The one thing David said that struck me is this:

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

I really resonate with that, I have had experiences of exactly that when I discuss non-duality: being able to say something that I didn't know I knew, hearing myself saying something that comes from deep within, that flows out without "me" thinking too much about it.

It's funny, because one of my main concerns before creating the group was "how am I going to address the questions", as we discussed. I'm not so much concerned by that now that I have heard and read so many experiences from people who have been doing the same thing, thanks to you. This feedback from others and the definition of the group's purpose really helped, it gave shape to my ideas of how the meetings should work.

Also going back to David's point, it seems that the capacity to talk about "this" just emerges from itself in the truth of the meeting.

I have found a beautiful place to have the first meeting instead of the mall. It's a big room in an Eastern medicine Health centre. It has chairs, benches, cushions, it is quiet and comfortable. It also has a kitchen for the tea break.

The meeting is in 10 days and I'm getting ready for it. I want to be prepared to discuss all important points (the organisation and the purpose of the group), and at the same time I hope it will be spontaneous.

So far I can say that everything went pretty smoothly and easily, in terms of organisation. It looks like some people are interested, and that it will be possible to have enough of them for a monthly meeting. These are exciting times.

All the best,
Kim


Hi Jerry,

I just went through the list of questions you included in the highlights,
and it seems pretty thorough. The one thing that struck me is the place
where these guys meet, in a mall. I was wondering why they chose that
place, and generally the question of where to have the meetings and
its implications (cost, how easy it is to access for attendants) is one
that I find challenging for now in my own project. Of course this is a side
question, and I think you have the main ones I could come up with in your
list. It's fine to use my name and location.

All the best,
Kim

Thanks. Yes, where to meet is an important question. I'll ask Mark [Hovila] about the
mall. We've met in noisy places often and actually some the best meetings come
in that atmosphere, I think because extra attention is required to tune-out the
noise. My group has had its best meetings in taverns. However we far prefer a
quiet and pleasant setting such as someone's home. I believe that the point is
that where a group meets is not as important as the intention and focus of the
members, but certainly a group should strive to find an optimal meeting place.
Yet don't be afraid to experiment and try meeting at a restaurant or tavern on a
night when there isn't too much business.

Jerry


Hi Kim,

Happy to serve as a sponsor. Membership has taken off! That is an amazing
turnout for a first meeting. The comments are interesting. It feels like there's
a lot of good energy and anticipation around the first meetup.

Through meetup you can limit the number of people attending and others would
then go on a waiting list. Our experience is that for every 20 people that rsvp,
maybe 15 show up. However, the experience in the Auroville group is that more
than the number of rsvp's show up.

Seems like you definitely need to meet in a place other the mall. Also looks
like you're gonna have to use your skills as a teacher and bring some
organization to the meetup. Some organizational components we use, and which I'm
sure are obvious to you, include:

- warmly welcoming everyone, talking about the purpose of the group, the nature
of leadership in such a group, possible meeting formats. How you hold the space
and come across will cue everyone else how to share the space and come across.

- sitting still for a few minutes. Some may ask if this quiet sitting is
meditation or if there is any technique to use.

- defining nonduality while communicating something of the impossibility of
defining it

- going around the room, each person giving their name and saying why they are
there. This could take a big chunk of the meeting if people take more than a
minute to respond.

- have some tea and cookies for the break. Whether you want to bring sugar,
sweetener, milk, plastic spoons, napkins, is up to you. But it's nice to have
something.

- sitting for a few minutes of stillness/silence prior to a break, when coming
back from a break, and before departing for the evening.

I'm excited for you and I'm sure you'll connect with at least one or two others
who share your values and vision and who would be part of a core group.

I'll be keeping an eye on your meetup. I'm also going to write Didier and
Anamika in Auroville and let them know how your group is developing, as I know
they will be interested.

All the best,
Jerry




Dick Stewart

Eaton Satsang

Eaton, New Hampshire

www.eatonsatsang.com



Jerry,
I've been following your thread about nondual meetup groups and thought I might make a small contribution based on my experience since 2007, so I answered some of the questions you proposed a while back and am including them in this email. If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to write or 'phone. We once met briefly at SAND.
Sincerely,
Dick Stewart

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

I had attended numerous satsangs and retreats led by Pamela Wilson and in 2007 she encouraged me to begin weekly gatherings that would support, rather than conflict with, a local zen group that meets on Sundays. Although I was resistant to this undertaking I simply couldn't refuse the direct and persistent request of a teacher I had come to deeply love and respect. Thus began our weekly Wednesday evening satsangs in a small town in rural New Hampshire.

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

We have a website www.eatonsatsang.com that contains some practical information together with references to the nature of our group.

What is the structure of your meeting, or what are some of the structural elements? 

Some people gather early for tea and social conversation then at 7:00 PM we sit comfortably for meditation, sometimes silent, sometimes recorded, for 20 to 30 minutes. Following meditation a theme is usually introduced through a reading, or short audio or video clip, or orally, leading to conversation that may or may not follow theme. There is no strict format and everyone is invited to participate. One rule is that we try to honor everyone's needs by ending promptly at 8:30. Once a month we gather early and have a light supper together. We call this Soup & Satsang.

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

Both my wife Kathy and I have substantial experience in participating in various spiritual groups dating back to the 1970s, and we're usually both in attendance. Additionally there are several regular or semi-regular participants of varying backgrounds who also share our values. 

What is the purpose of the group?

Great question, and any answer will be far from complete. Initially it seemed that the purpose was simply to offer to the community a regular opportunity for anyone wanting more diversity and continuity as they investigated their spiritual journey. From my perspective it became a tremendously obvious that it was personally valuable to be responsible for facilitating such a group and thus significantly deepened my own practice. Over time the group has provided some people with a sense of spiritual community they had previously felt lacking.

How do new people find out about your group?

Mostly word of mouth and we also receive a regular listing in the events section of a local newspaper.

How do you distribute information, especially meeting times and places, to your members?

Our website contains such information and I usually send an email notice each week to our mailing list.

Is there a screening of potential members?

No, everyone is welcome here.

Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator?

By virtue of being a facilitator, since the meetings are held in my home, I tend to be an organizer but don't consider myself a moderator or teacher.

Do you make time for silence or meditation?

We always begin with meditation and during discussion periods there may be occasional long periods of unplanned silence.

Any house rules?

Nothing formal, we just expect mutual respect for all.

Any mission statement?

No, that would be pretending we know enough to define a mission. 

What’s the most important aspect of your meetings? Where does the essential meaning rest?

Perhaps the elements of presence and awareness would best suggest the themes that consistently seem to bring into the gatherings the potential for genuine experiential moments that individuals recognize as having value.

How do moderate discussion when it gets off topic, when it gets too conceptual, or deals with the hypothetical? How do you keep focus? What is the focus?

This is where as facilitator I've occasionally found it helpful to suggest a pause with the intention of coming back into presence.

What are the greatest challenges now and in the past?

The first challenge I had to overcome was that I took the responsibility for organizing the group personally, in a very conventional way, with ego involvement combined with a sense of inadequacy. It required a great deal of self inquiry to overcome these habitual tendencies.

We live and meet in a very small town of 400 people and the population of the only nearby larger community is 12,000, so it's not a large population from which to draw. Also, winter travel conditions can occasionally discourage people from attending. There have been evenings when no one dared travel so Kathy and I were alone in satsang.

How has your group changed over the years? As nonduality has become better known, and known through more and more voices, have you seen any changes in the quality or dynamics of your discussion and interaction?

Our group has slowly grown from 3 or 4 people to now when we normally have 6 to 8 in winter and 8 to 12 in summer months. There is definitely greater intellectual awareness of the ideas of nonduality but bringing that into the realm of experiential knowing continues to challenge and confuse some folks. It's a pleasure to see that increasingly, other people in attendance are bringing their own individual understandings to the group so that there's now a greater diversity of informed perspectives.

Richard Stewart

www.eatonsatsang.com


Grupo de Investigacion Psicologica/Espiritual - Costa Rica (contact Gonzalo Fernandez on Facebook)

The group started as a result of the interview with Jerry. If you remember we talked about how I was engaged in contacting non-dual teachers and bring them here to Costa Rica, also how I was finishing with that mission, since I had found that after people listening here the same concept, I had enough of that. At the last part of the interview, we started taling about the group you are in and how it works and I thought and commented to you, that it might work here, that people might have reached a certain maturity and could be able to investigate from our own daily living, what it means to live from a non-dual perspective and experience that in our lives.

So from that, talking with a couple of friends, we decided to invite to our first meeting. We found a good place that is near where most of the interested people live, it is free, so we do not even have to think of paying anything or ask for donations. So you can say that I started the group after the interview.

The group could be described as an old group in the sense that most of us are already on the lates 50s or more. Almost all of us have been exposed to different spiritual practices in the past and more to the non-dual approach lately, we have been in many satsangs with different teachers and also have been in retreats with those non-dual teachers. There are others who come to the group who are invited to join by one of the members, and they do not necessarily know about non-dualism but are interested in spiritual matters.
We can describe our group as a meeting of old friends who want to share the meaning of the presence we are, and live that during our convesations, never loosing the understanding that the subject does not matter so much, as the presence that sees what is happening in the now. And this group is open to new people who feel the same interest.

The structure of the group is very loose, we start with a period of silence and then any member can start saying something to the rest of the group, when there is someone new we invite that person to introduce himself and then one of us explains what is the purpose of these meetings.

We never know what is to come up in every meeting and are open to anything arriving, always remembering that we as presence is aware of what is going on, all the time. We do not have a leader and at any meeting  any one can play that role. The meeting last about two hours and after the meeting everyone goes to their places.

We do have a core group of about 6 or 7 persons.

We continually invite people who seem apt to do this investigation, we do it by word of mouth.

We meet every 15 days and we all in the group already know that, and when we invite people we tell them about it and even so I myself two days before remind the group and others who could be included in the group about the next meeting, with the address of the place and hour of the meeting.

Because we would like to see other people coming to the meetings everyone of us is screening for potential members.

So far there has not been a moderator, it happens that everyone of us spontaneously and at certain moment can take the lead but this is jut for the moment.

A typical meeting starts with a silence period and then any one can start the meeting with some theme, question or a small lecture and then all are invited to participate, this happens when there is not a new person to the meeting, if there is someone new then he introduces himself, herself after we have explained the purpose of the group, and then we proceed as I mentioned before. The meeting comes to an end by itself, it lasts about two hours.

The essential meaning of the group is to share, share what? what we in our essence are, that is the presence and we want to put that attention of presence in whatever arises in the group.

There are times when the talk becomes more conceptual or more on the personal or psychological level, at those times any one who is clear about what is happening, meaning going astray from the purpose of the group, can point to the others about what is happening and come back to presence. In general the members or at least the core group, have enough maturity to help others to get on track again. And even when that happens, that somehow the conversation becomes more about conceptual or psychological matters, the group stays focus on the presence that is aware of whatever is happening, and that helps to always come back to it.(presence)

This group is new since it just began at the end of last year, so far our main challenges are with new people who come to the meetings, sometimes they come with the wrong idea of the purpose of the group, so it is very important to explain to them before they come, what is this group really aiming at. As the group develops of course there could appear new challenges that we will have to deal with.

I feel that even with different personal characteristics of the members of the group, that has not been an obstacle for the continuing and growing of the group, in general, there are people who by their personalities are more affirming than others and sometimes it may look as if some one would like to do things in a different way, but whatever thing is agreed on comes from common consense of the memembers or core group, to better the quality of the meetings. As I said before, the ones in the core group know each there for a long time and share the basic same interest.



List of Nonduality Meetup Groups

Nonduality Satsang - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (James Traverse, Jerry Katz, and friends)
Auroville Nondual Meetup Group - Auroville, India (Didier Weiss and Anamika)
Open Awareness Meditation Group - Cambridge, MA, USA (David Zinn and friends)
Seattle Nonduality Dialogues group, (see also here) - Seattle, WA, USA (Mark Hovila and friends)
Nonduality Sydney - Sydney, Australia (Kim Lai)
Spiritual Book Club - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (Lynn Fraser)
Grupo de Investigacion Psicologica/Espiritual - Costa Rica (contact Gonzalo Fernandez on Facebook)
Waking Up to the Dream Nondualism Meetup - Woodbridge, VA, USA (Cheryl Abram)
Fort Lauderdale Adherents of Nonduality - Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA (Michael Walker)
Orange County Non-Duality Meetup Group - Fullerton, CA, USA (Steve, John B., and others)
Nonduality Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA, USA (Jim)
Centerless Center - Woodstock, VT, USA (Will & Dana Wright, Annabelle & R.C. Williams)

To add your group or to ask questions, write Jerry Katz: jerry at nonduality.com



Guidelines for running a nonduality group

Mark Hovila includes the following in each issue of his newsletter:

Here are "Some Suggestions on the Nature of Dialogue" from the Krishnamurti Foundation of America which one of the attendees passed out at one of our meetings. * Dialogue starts from a willingness to be tentative about what you know. * The focus of dialogue is on what is rather than on ideas and opinions. * You can participate by verbally or silently sharing perceptions. * Dialogue is letting the issue unfold in affection and mutual respect. * When a reaction arises, neither suppress it nor defend it, but suspend it in the mind and in the group, keeping it constantly available for observation and questioning. * Dialogue is being together and seeing together in an unfolding relationship.

Maja has suggested guidelines from The Way of Liberation, by Adyashanti, which may be downloaded here: http://www.adyashanti.org/library/The_Way_of_Liberation_Ebook.pdf:
The following are guidelines for The Way of Liberation study groups to embody. They are meant to reflect an attitude of mutual openness, compassion, and support.

1. Study groups should be safe and compassionate environments in which to explore, share, and put into practice The Way of Liberation teachings.
2. All study groups should be free of charge, unless the group is renting a space to meet in.
3. No one should act as a teacher or try to dominate a group.
4. When someone is sharing their experience, do not judge what they are sharing. If asked for, give feedback by speaking only from your own experience. Do not try to be the teacher.
5. Everyone who comes to a meeting for the first time should be given a copy of these guidelines. If a study group does not follow these guidelines, I suggest you either stop attending it or form your own study group.

Guidelines from Maja:

Sit in a circle or around a table rather than as in a classroom.
Begin the group out of a real desire, a sincerity, earnestness.
Come to each other with sincere curiosity rather than knowledge.
Use meetup.com to manage the practical aspect of organizing your meetup and attracting guests. Or create a Facebook group, which is free.
Form a core group
Meet with regularity, for example every two weeks.
Consider that your group is perceived as community. The feeling of community can be a reason for attending these groups.
Everyone’s responsible for their own awakening and for how they’re holding the space for other people.
Respect each other as Buddha.
Each attendee could write a statement of group’s purpose and of their purpose.
At each meeting two or three people can talk about why they are there and something about their history.
Be aware that leadership and socialization qualities are helpful in starting and running a group.
Welcoming attendees is very important and can be expressed in many ways and at every point of interaction. Make every guest feel welcome.
Ask great questions that inspire authentic communication.
You can start each meeting with a favorite quote contributed by an attendee.
Sit in silence at the beginning and end and at various points during a meeting.
Use a talking stick.


Guidelines gleaned from David Zinn:

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

Let people feel welcome to attend even if they're running late.

Communicate that all are welcome whether beginners or veterans to these teachings.

friendship is the key to the whole situation— cultivating and enjoying the friendships that help us stay awake. And on a deeper level, it can be the possibility of seeing the one awareness shining out of the eyes of all who attend. As I like to say “Friendship is the doorway we step through and lose our selves.”

No one has the final word, we all just try to keep it real and speak our hearts.

There is a great transformative power to being put on the spot, to try to find words for and to communicate the unspeakable. We need to make our own discoveries, and to hear the voice of truth come out of our own mouths, in our own language— and in a sense this is what our group tries to facilitate.



Guidelines gleaned from Anamika and Didier:

Use a talking stick, and pass it around to everyone at the end of the meeting.

Usually we start with welcoming new members if they are there, otherwise we greet each other and talk a bit and at one point it feels like the right time to start.

We structure our meetings around a topic. Often coming up as a question during a meetup from one of the participants, or if Didier and I feel that it is something current and important to clarify certain points we bring up a topic ourselves, and often it is just spontaneous. Around this topic we have a presentation on the topic from one of us, often an exercise, at times conducted by one of the members of the core group, and often small youtube clips of ND teachers or scenes of a movie all related to the topic. Like this there is an input from different sources and angles on the same topic to provide a multidimensional viewpoint of the same.



Guidelines gleaned from Dick Stewart:

Some people gather early for tea and social conversation then at 7:00 PM we sit comfortably for meditation, sometimes silent, sometimes recorded, for 20 to 30 minutes. Following meditation a theme is usually introduced through a reading, or short audio or video clip, or orally, leading to conversation that may or may not follow theme. There is no strict format and everyone is invited to participate. One rule is that we try to honor everyone's needs by ending promptly at 8:30. Once a month we gather early and have a light supper together. We call this Soup & Satsang.

Regarding the keeping of focus: suggest a pause with the intention of coming back into presence.



Guidelines gleaned from Gonzalo Fernandez:

We can describe our group as a meeting of old friends who want to share the meaning of the presence we are, and live that during our convesations, never loosing the understanding that the subject does not matter so much, as the presence that sees what is happening in the now. And this group is open to new people who feel the same interest.

We start with a period of silence and then any member can start saying something to the rest of the group, when there is someone new we invite that person to introduce himself and then one of us explains what is the purpose of these meetings.

So far there has not been a moderator, it happens that everyone of us spontaneously and at certain moment can take the lead but this is jut for the moment.

The essential meaning of the group is to share, share what? what we in our essence are, that is the presence and we want to put that attention of presence in whatever arises in the group.

sometimes they come with the wrong idea of the purpose of the group, so it is very important to explain to them before they come, what is this group really aiming at.



Guidelines from Jerry Katz:

At least one person in the group has to be able to keep the focus on awareness itself, or however you wish to describe the nondual perspective.

Something you can ask yourself is whether your group is about helping people. If people hear the word "help" they could bring all their psychological problems to a meeting.

What has to valued, in my view, is not helping but rather speaking truthfully, or confessing your own knowing and not-knowing truthfully.

What's primary is being-ness itsef, holding an open atmosphere, having moments of stillness that might last a few minutes without any instruction in how to be still.

Be aware of moments when discussion is at the conceptual level and announce that it is happening. Everyone then has an opportunity to share your observation. Some time can be spent seeing how people are invested in concepts. The direction of the meeting can then go toward what is true. Maybe it would be appropriate to sit still for a couple of minutes. You have to be aware of what's happening in the group.

Where a group meets is not as important as the intention and focus of the members, but certainly a group should strive to find an optimal meeting place. Yet don't be afraid to experiment and try meeting at a restaurant or tavern on a night when there isn't too much business.

Some organizational components we use:

- warmly welcoming everyone, talking about the purpose of the group, the nature of leadership in such a group, possible meeting formats. How you hold the space and come across will cue everyone else how to share the space and come across.

- sitting still for a few minutes. Some may ask if this quiet sitting is meditation or if there is any technique to use.

- defining nonduality while communicating something of the impossibility of defining it

- going around the room, each person giving their name and saying why they are there. This could take a big chunk of the meeting if people take more than a minute to respond.

- have some tea and cookies for the break. Whether you want to bring sugar, sweetener, milk, plastic spoons, napkins, is up to you. But it's nice to have something.

- sitting for a few minutes of stillness/silence prior to a break, when coming back from a break, and before departing for the evening.






The Questionnaire

Please respond to questions relevant to you and your group.

How did your group start, why was it started? Who started it? Where and when? Include relevant links.

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

What is the structure of your meeting, or what are some of the structural elements? At a minimum, every group begins and ends. That's the minimal structure. Other structural elements might include moments of silence, meditation, taking a break for tea and snacks, responding to a theme of the day, a presentation by a member, a reading of someone's writing.

How long do your meetings last?

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

What is the purpose of the group?

How do new people find out about your group?

How do you distribute information, especially meeting times and places, to your members?

Is there a screening of potential members?

Is there a moderator? What are the duties of the moderator?

Is there a typical meeting? Could you describe it?

Do you make time for silence or meditation?

What are your core values?

Any house rules?

Any mission statement?

How freely or strictly do you use the terms "leaders", "facilitators", "teachers"?

What's the most important aspect of your meetings? Where does the essential meaning rest?

How do moderate discussion when it gets off topic, when it gets too conceptual, or deals with the hypothetical? How do you keep focus? What is the focus?

What are the greatest challenges now and in the past?

How has your group changed over the years? As nonduality has become better known, and known through more and more voices, have you seen any changes in the quality or dynamics of your discussion and interaction?

How do members of the core group resolve differences?

Talk about the quality of meeting places.

How do your members benefit?

Send the completed questionnaire to Jerry Katz: jerry at nonduality.com. Thank you.