Eight years ago this month as I made my way to my first IONS Conference, I could have never predicted the life-changing journey that was about to unfold. I boarded Southwest Flight 1111 (surely an indicator) and arrived at the conference location near Palm Springs feeling like an explorer on a solo adventure. I literally knew no one, having only recently become an IONS Member. I remember feeling like a kid in a candy store, as I raced to every plenary session and breakout workshop that I could fit into my schedule. However, it was the profound sense of being part of an interconnected family — “coming home” as many IONS Members say — that is the most palpable feeling I remember to this day.
With each of the subsequent conferences within my continued IONS journey, that feeling of heartfelt interconnection, noetic exploration, and friendship has only deepened — as I suspect it has for many of you. So, needless to say, I’m feeling a sense of loss right now without an IONS conference on my calendar this month. As an explanation, IONS leadership made the clear — but not necessarily easy — decision to forgo this summer’s biennial conference. With the enormous uncertainty associated with the pandemic and the large financial deposit required to secure a conference venue a year in advance, it was clear to all of us that such a risk was not fiscally or strategically wise.
Despite our natural disappointment, our spirits were buoyed by the incredible reaction to our expanded online programs in response to the pandemic. The IONS community increased by thousands of people, illuminating and validating our newfound ability to deliver meaningful, experiential, and connecting opportunities entirely online. The numbers alone tell a powerful story. A recent analysis revealed an uncanny datapoint: over 27,000 individuals have participated in our IONS online programs since the pandemic began. This figure equals the estimated total number of participants in all of IONS past conferences! This synchronicity holds much meaning for us at IONS — not the least of which is validation that virtual convening is not only “nice-to-have” but essential for bringing noetic sciences to an exponentially larger and truly global audience.
While there is no question that many of us will miss gathering together as an IONS community this July, I want to reassure you that we will soon convene again in person. We are currently exploring the concept of hosting two or three regional mini-conferences in 2022. And in 2023, an extraordinary international conference will very likely serve as the grand rallying event of IONS 50th Anniversary celebration!
I am very grateful that the 2013 IONS Conference changed my life by inspiring me to become a Circle Donor and to get more involved. That set into motion a series of events that ultimately led to my appointment as IONS CEO in October 2016. Therefore, you can imagine the mixed emotions I have felt in having to forego this year’s conference. And, you may also understand my passionate commitment to the spirit of convening as we continue to define new ways of “being together” in the years ahead — in-person and virtually!
Please be in touch with your ideas and comments at any time, just as if we were having an enthusiastic, friendly chat in the hallway at the conference.