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Conference Founders and Organizers

When Zaya and Maurizio met in 2008, it immediately became apparent that they could make a lot of noise together in this illusory world. They discovered that the only book they had both been reading for the past several years was “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

Maurizio was brought up in Italy and went through many different incarnations, always looking for answers under every stone. In 1986, he came to the USA on a 98 year-old sailing boat. He started working as an actor, model, and then filmmaker, but his thirst for knowledge was never satisfied, until he encountered I Am That in 2001 while shooting the documentary “Short Cut to Nirvana” in India.

Zaya hails from Bulgaria and has degrees in Engineering, Environmental Science, and also Film. For many years, she worked as an environmental activist in Holland and Bulgaria. She later produced and directed several award-winning documentaries in Europe and the United States. Her life long passion for science and mysticism finally came together with the emergence of the conference.

Together, Zaya and Maurizio grow their own garden and still read “I Am That”, along with Scientific American. They dream about making their next film together and in the little spare time he has, Maurizio watches his hometown soccer team, Sampdoria, or builds cardboard furniture that Zaya finishes with touches of beauty.

Zaya has a beautiful son that brings joy to the couple and to everyone around them.


LISA BRESCHIimg_Lisa Breschi
Conference Coordinator

Lisa was raised in Northern California at the base of Mt. Shasta in a loud and loving Italian family. After graduating from college, she worked as a bicycle tour guide in Italy discovering many other hidden gems that she had never seen whilst visiting family. After working for a stint at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco, she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in TESOL. Upon graduating from San Francisco State University, she went to El Salvador to assist with the political election observations and to teach English for a spell.After becoming a mother to Daniel (11) and Lorenzo (10), she became interested in early childhood education and completed a Waldorf teacher training program in Santa Rosa where she studied the work of Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy. She currently works with young children in a nature-based program during the school year and directs an international high school student exchange program each summer.In her free time, Lisa coordinates drivers for The Ceres Project in Sebastopol, supports her local farmer, enjoys dancing, cooking and community building. She believes in a world that works for everyone and feels grateful to be making a contribution to the SAND Conference.


img_kyla-hoffbauerKYLA HOFFBAUER
Conference Registration Manager

Kyla was born in Tucson, Arizona. After graduating with a degree in philosophy from the University of Arizona, she traveled, adventured and taught her way through Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Upon her return to the US, she worked and lived in the Sikh community in Espanola, New Mexico doing event registration and coordination. While there, she obtained her certificate to teach Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and established a home away from home. She continues to work on event coordination and registration for various organizations including SAND. She now resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she enjoys doing her art, dancing, gardening, taking her dogs to the river and following her passion for understanding the continually unfolding process of existence, through exploration and discovery in both her external and internal worlds.



Rey has been involved in web designing & development for more than 8 years and has worked for some of the largest companies in Canada. He is now freelancing and enjoys working with diverse clients. He had a chance meeting with Zaya and Maurizio in a natural hot pool in the Big Island of Hawaii and several years later reconnected and the rest is history. He is a student of Zen Buddhism and belongs to a sangha under the guidance of a Korean Zen Master. He appreciates the simple things in life and like a 3 year old with a natural curiosity has a beginner’s mind. An avid motorcycle rider part of his meditation practice is riding his motorcycle where he enjoys the breeze in his face the roar of the motor and all senses are fully heightened.


img_nick-dayNICK DAY
Co-conspirator and Media Producer

Nick Day is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. With SAND co-founder Maurizio Benazzo, Nick brought the biggest event in the history of humanity –India’s Maha Kumbh Mela —to movie audiences worldwide in the critically acclaimed Shortcut to Nirvana. He now focuses his attention on the science of consciousness and how it connects to nondual spirituality and awakening, and is bringing this theme to the big screen as creator of the animated film, Mindville. Nick is also producer of the documentary series, The Consciousness Chronicles. He has spoken at SAND, Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference, Tucson; Deepak Chopra’s Sages & Scientists Symposium, CIIS’s Society for Consciousness Studies, Boom Festival, and with IONS at Burning Man 2014.


img_Ronald-HeijRONALD HEIJ
SAND A/V Maestro

Ronald has his own company since 2000 and worked as a counselor/coach/trainer and as a management consultant in the field of human resources and labor within education, health, welfare and industry. He is trained and educated in these fields, however, the most important degree, he finds, is found in the living of life itself.

More recently he works as a life coach on a one-to-one basis. He runs the NGO where activities such as yoga, tai chi, dance, meditation and all other kinds and forms of human exploration of life and wellbeing are practiced. Also, he uses his skills in video and sound management and engineering with his business, and

Ronald is fascinated by communication, human consciousness and the experience of life. His approach is characterised by creative and flexible thinking, realistic and achievable – with a lively balance at the core.


Tony-Kendew-imgTONY KENDREW
Content Editor

Tony lives down the road from SAND’s headquarters – an amazing hive of activity – perfect for keeping in touch and contributing words and ideas for the vibrant SAND website. He’s been to all but two of the California SAND Conferences, and is excited to be joining everyone at SAND Italy in 2017. Tony did a Creative Writing masters at the University of Wales, and has published two CDs and a book of poetry, Feathers Scattered in the Wind. He is co-editor of the online literary journal, The Lampeter Review, where he contributes a regular non-fiction piece. He started life as a scientist but arrived at SAND via non-duality, so is delighted to have found a forum to marry his training in S And his passion for ND.


European Network Manager

Giulia, 23, is SAND’s latest and youngest addition to the team. She grew up in Turin, Italy, and spent her university years in the colorful Brighton in the South of England. An explorer of cinema, literature and eastern philosophy she gets every chance to travel and learn, led by curiosity, encounters and synchronicities, and immerses herself as deeply as possible into the present moment. Meeting with the SAND community at the same wave length in Titignano made her jump into the team as a production assistant and as the liason for the European network of partners. Her Italian temper and Brightonian spirit made Maurizio and Zaya immediately aware that they had no choice but to adopt her as a family member. Her background is in conference production and marketing, and she runs the non-profit organization Angalia Onlus in the development of a multi-purpose community center in the coastal town of Mtwapa, Kenya.


Malcolm BilottaVera de Chalambert
Writer/ Soul Shaker/ Social Media Muse

Vera is a spiritual story teller and Harvard educated scholar of comparative religion. She works at the meeting place of creativity, psychology and spirituality, and is especially interested in embodiment practices, including conscious movement and dance. Vera has mined for her soul at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing and Jason Shulman’s Institute for Nondual Healing and Awakening. She is deeply influenced by Buddhist and Kabbalistic lineages and is a lover of the world’s great wisdom traditions. She speaks and writes about spiritual culture, mindfulness in the modern world and the Divine Feminine, and contributes her musings to Rebelle Society, the Common Ground Magazine, Buzzworthy and now to the SAND Blog. She has spoken at SAND in Europe and the US. She is writing her first book on the Dark Feminine.


Claudia AnfusoClaudia Anfuso
SAND Italy/US Production Team

Claudia Anfuso is a child of the world. She is an enthusiastic creator and organizer of things manifest and unmanifest. As a Vedic/Tantric astrologer, she delights in the patterns of time and space and how astrology teaches us, through reading the limitation energy we come into this universe with, how to make the most of our destiny for our own realization of happiness, our spiritual realization of our enlightenment, and how we best we can work with others for a compassionate, beautiful, harmonious universe. As a producer of events, she revels in supporting circumstances that bring us closer to the truth of our being, to the silence and stillness of consciousness, and the transformative power of love in the world.


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