|Each human is one with the Nondual Reality, as a wave is not separate from the ocean.|
Center for Non-Dualism
History of the
The following is a fair and accurate description of the history of the Center for Nondualism. The need for this comes from the fact that there have recently (2010) been efforts by others to rewrite the history in communicating with participants.
The Center for Nondualism was founded in July 2007 as “a community for people who share the nondual perspective”. During the few months prior to this I started seeking out conversations with others about such a possibility. The need was motivated by the recognition that we live in an area dominated by dualistic monotheism and that there should be a gathering place and time for people who share the minority nondual world view.
Two people joined me to be the co-founding directors, recognizing that whatever you call the people, somebody has to guide an organization. I suggested that we have three directors of equal authority, and that no one person be in charge; there would be no president. This meant that the three of us would have to work together to have consensus agreements. Both of them agreed with this. I also suggested that we have a council of twelve people (including the three directors) to guide the organization. Both of them agreed with this. Our thought was that if the only thing that happened was that twelve people of like mind got together on Sunday mornings for fellowship, it would be worthwhile.
Another suggestion was a point of departure. I felt that the council and participants of the group should have voting authority to select the directors and council members, and to make other decisions in all areas. The three of us were founding directors, and were only starting the process; there should be a means for the organization to continue independent of us as individuals. One of the other founding directors was strongly opposed to this, and emphatically stated that the council and participants should be only “advisory” (his word). He felt that decision making authority should rest only with the directors. For the sake of getting our programs started I reluctantly agreed to this.
Citing personal reasons, both of the other founding directors left as directors, one rather quickly (though giving a reasonable amount of notice) and the other after six months (quitting without prior notice given to either the council or the other directors). Other people volunteered to replace them.
From the very beginning we recognized that our Sunday programs would be an alternative to Sunday morning church; we even came to refer to our programs as “a Sunday alternative” in advertisements, public announcements, and newsletters. We also agreed to a format of Sunday programs that would have maximum involvement of the participants. Since there was no one person in charge, there was no single person to take on a role such as would be the minister or priest in a church or or other similar religious setting. At each gathering there would be seven different tasks to be done by seven different people, including greeter, host, statement of purpose reader, speaker, inspirational reader, meditation guide, and closing affirmation reader. This was to be “a loving fellowship” and it made sense to have the people of that fellowship be able to be freely involved in the programs by volunteering for these various tasks.
It was agreed that our organization and programs would not focus on any particular religion, sect, denomination, or spiritual tradition. All such groups or orientations would be seen as equal, as they all would share the nondual perspective.
During the over three year history of the Center for Nondualism there seemed to be an undercurrent that showed up from time to time of people who did not “share the nondual perspective”. That undercurrent finally exploded into full view when, in October 2010 one of the directors (who had become a director of the Center for Nondualism in Spring 2010) started a new organization called “The Center” (http://www.thecenterfwb.org), eliminating Nondualism, the very heart of the community. I had naively missed her underlying motives when she said she wanted to continue the organization without Felicia McQuaid and I, the other two directors. [It appears now, January 2012, that this group may have now ceased operation, although I am not sure of that.]
Felicia had been a director and doing the scheduling of programs for over two years. She was having ever increasing difficulty getting people to volunteer for the various tasks in the Sunday programs, including as the speaker, which is probably the most important of the volunteer tasks. People either ignored her emails or declined the invitations.
Each time that we had a quarterly council meeting all participants were invited and encouraged to attend, both through verbal invitation during the Sunday programs and through the newsletter announcements of the meetings. The council meetings were never limited to only the council members. During these meetings people were asked if they wanted to do anything differently, including changing the nature of programs, changing the statement of purpose, or ending the Center for Nondualism. The only two responses that came were either silence or statements that people liked everything the way it was and that nothing should be changed. There was never any open suggestion that the programs or our purpose be changed, or that we end the Center for Nondualism. People were happy with the organization and its programs.
Although we had included the questions about the nature of programs and our purpose in the agenda of virtually every council meeting, this was particularly so in the meeting of July 2010. It had become clear to me that there was an undercurrent problem, and that I seemed unable to even get it to come to the surface, let alone resolve it. Shortly before this council meeting I wrote to the other directors and the council that I wished to step down as a director, and that this would be effective December 31, 2010. I explained that I wanted to give them plenty of notice and that I would not just walk out without notice as two previous directors had. I offered to stay on as a council member if that was the wish of the directors and council at the time of my stepping down as a director in December, or I would leave completely if they wished. I also announced this to the council members and participants who attended this council meeting. Later this was also announced during the announcements period of that morning's 11:00am program.
My hope was that with me out of the directorship, whatever the undercurrent was about might come forward and people would decide what they wanted the Center for Nondualism to be if it was to be different than it was. I was sincerely willing to get out of the way if a majority of other participants had other wishes for the Center for Nondualism. I was happy to just be a participant and offered to speak, guide meditations, or do whatever else was asked of me. Interestingly, the dominant response to this was the request that I not leave as one of the directors, and the feeling that if I was not there the Center for Nondualism would not continue.
Participation was on the decline. Donations were not covering rent, and we were relying on the cash reserves from donations at the three annual Center for Nondualism conferences to keep going. People were not volunteering for the tasks in the Sunday programs. By late September 2010 Felicia had finally come to the point of realizing that there was nothing more she could do to entice people to volunteer. She was not able to fill the schedule. She quite responsibly told me and the other director that it was time for her to leave. She and I had several conversations about what to do. Felicia and I had become friends over these past couple years and we have a close, honest working relationship. I appreciated her candor about the current situation.
It was clear that if Felicia was not there to schedule the volunteers for the programs, there was nobody else to do it. I did not have time to take on this role on top of my other activities, and the other director was not available due to her family and job obligations. I also admitted that I did not know what to do to entice people to volunteer. It seemed to both Felicia and I that it was time to accept the probability that the Center for Nondualism was coming to an end, at least in its current form.
The other director was strongly opposed to this. There were naturally arguments between us, as happens at times like this when an organization is having conflicts over programs and purpose. Although she had only been a director long enough to attend one of the council meetings as director (July 2010, for which she showed up late), she felt that people had not been informed of the situation. Apparently she was either not in attendance or forgot the many council meetings during which we spoke about the problem with recruiting volunteers, and asked for opinions about programs and purpose. People had, in fact, been made acutely aware of the situation on an ongoing basis.
The third director said she wanted to continue the Center Nondualism on her own, even if Felicia and I were not there; we agreed to this. We had already scheduled a council meeting for October 10, which might have been our last meeting, but this was preempted over the weekend of October 1-3 by her and another person (who had lived in Fort Walton Beach only since May 2010 and knew almost nothing about the history and orientation of the Center for Nondualism). They had scheduled their own meeting at the same place and time, and had emailed an announcement of this to many of the people on the Center for Nondualism mailing list (I was not on their mailing list and did not receive the announcement.). I did not know about this new meeting plan and the apparent cancellation of the October 10 council meeting until Sunday, October 3, when somebody told me about it by phone while I was in the Buffalo, New York airport waiting to board a flight to return to Florida after having a program there over the weekend.
I attended the October 10 meeting, and although it was originally scheduled to be a Center for Nondualism council meeting, these two people conducted the meeting and announced their new plans for their new organization. Although the new organization name was not yet announced, there were comments made which sounded opposed to Nondualism. Some of the attendees questioned the new negativity towards Nondualism, but their comments were ignored. There was a new agenda in the air, and it seemed that Nondualism was not to be part of it. I found it difficult at that time to see and accept what is now obvious, that the elimination of “Nondualism” from the Center for Nondualism is exactly what they had in mind, so I remained silent in their meeting.
Nondualism must and can account for the appearance of dualism. However, the reverse is not true. Nondual philosophies see that the appearance of a dualistic reality is a part of the nature of things and is not in conflict. The whole point of the spiritual practices such as meditation and contemplation is to see past the appearances and directly experience the nondual Truth. However, Dualism has no way to account for Nondualism, so must reject it as false. The two leaders of the new group have rejected the philosophy of Nondualism, explaining their organization's stance in an announcement of October 21, 2010 where they stated their view that Nondualism implies being “against” dualism. This reveals a complete misunderstanding of Nondualism, the core principle behind the founding of the Center for Nondualism. This was not to be a mere transitional phase for the Center for Nondualism; they had, in effect, wanted to destroy the Center for Nondualism along with its orientation and purpose for existence.
The philosophy of Nondualism can be intimidating to frail personalities that are accustomed to a childhood training that there is a dualistic guy in the sky god who is overseeing everything. To see Nondualism as the true nature of reality leaves one with a tremendous amount of personal responsibility; each person is responsible for his or her own life, without dependence on a projected deity that is believed to protect us and give us salvation if we behave properly according to the rules of some institution. Such early conditioning can be very deep in the unconscious and invisibly control ones actions, speech, and thinking processes. Many people do not have the clarity of mind and strength to awaken to the higher, deeper, subtler reality.
With these changes during October it became clear to me by the end of the month that the Center for Nondualism must continue so as to serve the small percentage of people who share this world view. The purpose for which the Center for Nondualism was originally started remained as true today as it was over three years ago, that we live in an area dominated by dualistic monotheism, and that there should be even a small presence of “a community for people who share the nondual perspective”.
This brings us to today. I have made a personal decision to continue the Center for Nondualism and have decided that my ashram, Abhyasa Ashram, will sponsor it without charging any rent for meeting space. In light of the recent cleansing of those who do not share the nondual perspective, we are in a period of rejuvenation and recommitment to the original purpose of The Center for Nondualism. We will continue to be a community for people of all traditions who do share the nondual perspective, of which my own meditation tradition of the Himalayan masters is only one of many. Our discussions and programs will continue to emphasize the unity amongst all of the many faces of Nondualism, and will not focus on the teachings of my personal tradition or any other single group, tradition, or teacher. I sincerely appreciate Felicia McQuaid for joining with me in this.
On a personal level I am ever mindful that in my line of work in service to others, people sometimes become disgruntled and blame messengers for their own personal emotional problems. The disgruntled then find one another and band together in a union of hatred towards that person. I acknowledge that I find this a little heartbreaking. I know I should be more aloof with people, but I care about and like many people and find it difficult to hold people at a distance in my heart. I cultivate and deeply feel the principle to love and accept all and exclude none, though I am forced to accept that it may be hatred and exclusion, not love and acceptance that comes in return. I know that the attacks against me personally will likely continue behind my back, but this is just the way it is. I sincerely wish well to the people of “The Center”, most all of whom I have known for a long time and have considered to be friends; I only wish that the reverse were also true, but accept that it is not. Hatred can be so very blinding. I remain in service to the handful of people of like mind who long for the realization in direct experience of the nondual Truth.
This situation seems to have all turned out for the best. The people opposed to Nondualism have their own group now to do whatever they wish, and the people who share the perspective of Nondualism continue to have the Center for Nondualism in a more focused form. Unfortunately, due to some cunning maneuvering by the leaders of the new group and mistakes on my part, $4798 in donations to the Center for Nondualism is now in the hands of the new group, along with the sound system purchased by donations to the Center for Nondualism. It is important to note that 100% of the donations were made to the Center for Nondualism, not any other group or organization by some different name. The Center for Nondualism will start over financially, trusting that all will be well. When we first started the Center for Nondualism I personally put up $3000 to get us started. That money was paid back to me through donations within the first year.
Possibly we will find that the interest in the nondual world view is so small in our area that we will not be able to go on, but for now the Center for Nondualism will continue. While it goes without saying that nothing is certain, I am confident that the Center for Nondualism will thrive spiritually and that we will be okay financially. We will allow the Center for Nondualism and its program formats to evolve over time in a natural way as decided upon by the participants, as I wished from the very beginning.
If your world view is one of Nondualism, please visit on Sunday mornings when we have our gatherings.
In loving service,
Center for Nondualism