Diversity in Non-Duality

artwork by Kathryn Solie

artwork by Kathryn Solie

by Kathryn Solie

About a year ago I saw Karen Johnson give a talk in Boulder. It struck me in an intense way that this was the first time I’d seen a feminine, awake woman give a talk on spirituality. Those three words: feminine, awake, woman, are important to me personally as this is how I relate to the world in this body and I have a desire to have role models that embody these qualities. In the non-dual world we get the message that we are not our bodies, our genders, our sexual orientation, the color of our skin, etc., so why is it that the vast majority of spiritual teachers in the west are white, heterosexual men? Where are the female teachers? Where are the teachers of color? What’s going on here?

Awakening is not based on race, gender, sexual-orientation or anything exterior. It is that spacious awareness that rests underneath all of the identities. And although we are not ultimately our bodies, there is a specific type of suffering that accompanies each specific type of body and I don’t want to ignore that. Real awakening not only brings us to the place of quiet knower but it also moves down into the body, illuminating the stored traumas and psychological pain that we all carry. We can’t use spiritual bypassing to avoid these issues of diversity without hurting ourselves and our communities.

Here’s an example: at age 7 an equal number of boys and girls want to be president of the United States when they grow up. If you ask the same question when they’re 15, there is a massive discrepancy. Why is that? It’s because there’s never been a woman president. There’s not hope, no example of someone I can relate to doing that, so how could I do it and why should I be able to? It’s the same thing here in the non-dual community. I think that as a woman if I had more role models that I could identify with then it would feel a lot easier to step into the role of teacher.

This is a topic that the editors at Conscious Variety want to explore and we want to hear from you: What’s your personal experience with diversity in spiritual groups? Why is this still a blind spot among such brilliant people? How can we change this? I invite you to share in the comment section below and also in the form of written submissions to be published in Conscious Variety.


Note: We received a number of replies, and rebuttals, concerning this article. To read Conscious Variety editor Ben Berry's response to one of the common explanations that many spiritual practitioners give when faced with the lack of diversity in non-dual communities see here.


Kathryn is an executive editor at and one of the founders of Conscious Variety. She has been studying non-duality and kriya yoga since she was eighteen. She graduated from Naropa University in 2012 where she studied visual arts and Buddhism. She's currently living in Boulder, CO.

Artwork on homepage by Kathryn Solie.



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