Uzi and I spent the last weekend in Tucson at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) annual conference. What an extremely interesting group of people. I first heard of them a few months ago when I went to a symposium in Malibu about honeybees--possible research for my next book--that was sponsored in part by IONS. I guess I got on their mailing list that day, because in late April I received a catalogue for their June conference, "Toward a Global Shift: Seeding the Field of Collective Change." It looked like a potentially useful conference to attend in preparation for the book release, and also just an interesting phenomenon to check out. And we figured, Tucson isn't that far, and our babysitter just got back from Spain and can watch the kids for two nights--it's been years since we've gone away together for a weekend--so why not?
Wow. This was a pretty amazing conference. More than 1,000 people in a ballroom every day listening to everyone from corporate CEOs to Indian gurus to African community organizers talking about how everyone can help transform the planet into a more sustainable, compassionate, abundant place for everyone. The Institute's mission is to nurture the conversation between science and spiritual values, vis a vis funding scientific studies, supporting green initiatives, and creating curriculums of non-violence for schools. They're interested in the role consciousness plays in everyday life and if you believe in the power of intention, as I do, it's fairly incredible to sit in a ballroom with a thousand other people who do, too.
We heard a speech by Edgar Mitchell, the former Apollo astronaut and one of only about a dozen Americans who've been to the moon. On his trip back to earth he looked out of the shuttle window and saw the earth from a vantage point few get to see, and had a profoundly spiritual moment, realizing we're all on this little planet together in the vastness of space. In his own words, "The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes." As a scientist and engineer, he didn't have a framework to fully integrate the awareness that reality might be more subtle and mysterious than he'd bargained for, but he went looking for others with the same belief, and in 1973 they founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences. (The name comes from the Greek word "nous," which loosely means "intuitive ways of knowing.")
Mitchell has a book I just ordered called The Way of the Explorer. The Institute is at www.ions.org for anyone who wants to check it out.