The Tao of Improv
Finally, a spiritual exercise which brings joy, one I look forward to every week. And I won't have to stretch or bend anything to explain the reasons that Improv Comedy is its name.
About a year ago I learned of a free Improv class at the local Unitarian Universalist Church. I was curious but it took me a year to actually show up. It turned out to be the most unexpected and exhilarating experience. And also stupefying, because I've had severe stage fright since an early age. I felt as if I had found my outlet, after being stuck for some time in a cryogenic state. It was a huge release of repressed energy – and there had been hardly any panic or inhibition once I stood up. I remember Richard Rose telling people to simply let go of their cowardice, and then they'd realize what a really little thing it was to lose. Overall, my experience with Improv has been marked by an unfamiliar willingness to submit myself to uncharacteristic and outlandish behavior. I have to give a lot of credit to the considerate, non-judgmental group and its leader. The message there is: We are all in this together.
Exploding Fish Improv Varsity Match against Bangor Comedy 2013 (Wikimedia Commons).
Much has been written about Improv in relation to psychology and spirituality. The one commonality germane to both is mindfulness. Here are some of the main tenets of Improv:
These things are very effective in getting a person out of their head, and through commitment/engagement, not distraction. You really do have to be Present in Improv. You can't be thinking about anything else, including what you had planned to say or plan to say. Listening in general has become a dying art. How often do I Respond to what is actually said, and not to the muddle of my thinking about my experience and off-loading my two bits of wisdom? How sweet it would be to kill the Buddha of perfection and Start Anywhere one is at. Isn't each new day or hour or minute like a fresh slate if one dares to concede the real possibility? And once you realize you control nothing, what other sane option is there but to Embrace Uncertainty, to will whatever happens? Kindness and Generosity don't have to be false sentiments or secret agendas. When you're out on the trapeze swing with a partner and no safety net, you learn to help them, knowing how you need help too. And make them shine.
April 15-17, 2016 (Claymont)
Registration for the November 18-20 gathering will be available soon.
Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire (details).
Local Group News
Update from the weekly email self-inquiry groups:
Both the women's and the men's email groups are active, and we welcome serious participants. Contact or .
Update from the Gainesville, FL self-inquiry group:
We continue to meet at the main Alachua County library on alternate Mondays and Sundays. Attendance has been rather sparse lately, maybe due to summer doldrums – but we welcome the depressed, melancholy, gloomy, downhearted, dejected, despondent, and despairing: a good starting point for self-inquiry and the conquest of illusion. ~ Email or for more information.
Update from the Galway, Ireland self-inquiry group:
Tess along with guest teacher Bob Fergeson will be holding a self-inquiry retreat in Co. Sligo on October 28th through 31st. Check Tess's website "Events" tab for more information.
Update from the Lynchburg, VA self-inquiry group:
We're organizing a Sunday, Nov. 13 - Friday, Nov. 18 retreat, at the Eagle Eyrie Conference Center here, leading up to the TAT meeting on Nov. 18-20. There are currently 22 participants committed to coming, including leaders Anima Pundeer, Art Ticknor, and Paul Constant. E-mail or for information on meetings.
Update from the Pittsburgh, PA self-inquiry group:
We're now holding public meetings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at the Pittsburgh Friends Meeting House in Oakland. For further information, contact or .
Update from the Raleigh, NC Triangle Inquiry Group:
The Triangle Inquiry Group (TIG) is holding a retreat on October 1st and 2nd in conjunction with the Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality. Confirmed presenters for the retreat include Anita Avent, Art Ticknor, Bob Cergol, Doug White, Jenny Clarke, Paul Constant, and Paul Hedderman. See The Nature of Identity/Beyond Self for details and registration. Email or for information on local meetings.
Update from the Tallahassee, FL self-inquiry group:
We continue to meet every other Tuesday at the downtown public library. If you are interested contact , or find the group on Meetup.com.
A password-protected section of the website is available for TAT members. The area contains information on product discounts for members as well as a substantial amount of helpful and historical information, including audio recordings, Newsletter archives, Retrospect archives, policies, conference proceedings, business meeting notes, photographs, and suggestions for ways to help.
The audio recordings of presentations at the April 2016 TAT Gathering by Bob Cergol, Paul Constant, Bart Marshall, Shawn Nevins, and Saima Yousuf are now available in the members-only web area.
us if you have questions. (Look into TAT membership.)
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Your Contributions to TAT News
TAT founder Richard Rose believed that working with others accelerates our retreat from untruth. He also felt that such efforts were most effective when applied with discernment, meaning working with others on the rungs of the ladder closest to our own. The TAT News section is for TAT members to communicate about work they've been doing with or for other members and friends. Please your "ladder work" news.
Silver Torch Cactus, in the Berggarten,
Hanover, Germany (Wikimedia Commons).
More Haiku Humor (or Irritation?)
"Moon in a barrel: you never know just when the bottom will fall out."
We're hoping to present more humor created by TAT members and friends here. Please your written or graphic creations. Exact sources are necessary for other submissions, since we need to make sure they're either in the public domain or that we have permission to use them.
As the week went by I continued to try to create my vision. I never got there, and if the place existed like it did in my mind, I would have. I had and did everything I pictured myself needing for the perfect "me" week. It's like I wanted the perfect responsibility-free week; yet we get back to that expectation thing, and it's never being enough. Or even when it is enough you know it can't be like that forever, so then anxiety or anger or sadness comes.
Each morning I woke up with a conviction to get back to what I should be doing, and by 10 AM my conviction had usually changed to giving the perfect day another try and getting back on track another day. What is the point of learning and realizing things if you will most likely just repeat the pattern somewhere down the road? Is there a way to drive the other I's out forever?
The other thing is I had no desire to do anything spiritual: it's like it didn't fit into who I was or was trying to be at the time. I also knew I didn't want to be that person forever, no way, just for a couple days while I had the opportunity. I have no idea why I put any faith in this thinking. I was also aware that I probably wouldn't get anything of value out of what I was doing, and I knew that I would be upset with myself at the end.
Most of the week I spent feeling guilty and frustrated. The guilt was interesting because I wasn't doing anything unethical, just being lazy – and that's what I wanted, right?! Just a week to myself to be as lazy and carefree as I wanted.
Guilt is an emotion I feel a lot, and most of the time it's centered around what I am doing. If I'm reading spiritual books, meditating an hour a day, writing in my journal, and observing myself, I feel guilty I'm not doing more; however, I also feel proud of what I'm doing and develop a spiritual ego, which can often lead to a breakdown.
So most of the time I feel like I am never doing enough or what I should be, which eventually erodes the defenses against my vices and I decide I need a break. A day break turns into a week break, and the guilt I feel during that break (not doing the things I should be doing and wasting time) never allows me to relax and feel like I got the break I wanted. Having all this free time off work certainly isn't helping; I need to develop a healthy routine. If someone else told me these things, their actions wouldn't make any sense to me at all, and I would consider them an idiot. My mind encourages me to be lazy by resisting action even though I'm miserable when I'm lazy and feel good when I do things.
Tess Hughes Sept. 18,2016 Awakening Together interview.
Please your thoughts on the above items.
A reader wrote that what would make the Forum more interesting would be:
Hearing from people who are searching and have questions instead of those providing endless advice and "answers." What challenges they are facing. What their doubts and questions are. How they perceive their path is going. What they are doing in their lives. Where they think they will end up. Etc. etc.
Can you help make the Forum more interesting?
Last month the Forum staff asked the question: "What are you looking for in life? Can you feel it?" submitted by Ike H. in her response for the July 2016 TAT Forum. Responses follow:
From Deep J:
I'm looking for something more meaningful than transient momentary pleasures or achievements, as they don't really interest or excite me anymore. I'm looking for the answers to the questions of "what are we doing here/what is the purpose of this (my) life?" And "what happens when we die?"
From Doug D:
Less misery, more happiness.
From Mark S:
I am 68 almost 69. I feel like I'm on a quest not to miss anything, to cover all the bases, to see, hear, read, visit, learn everything I can before check out, so to speak. This is an amazing time for spiritual truths and revelations. I want to take advantage of everything available now. If I had the desire to do or see something in the past, now I would listen and try to complete the desire.
From Mathew R:
Currently I am looking for everything. To open my eyes wide enough to see the microscopic bacteria on the flowers in my bedroom, to always be aware of their presence, and every other impossibly small perspective. I want to see the infinity of emptiness above us, and the solid walls within us. I don't want any one perspective to distract me from the everything. I don't want the frenzy of thought to cloud this, I only want to feel it. To be absorbed into the atmosphere, to become. I am looking for what is right in front of me but which I cannot see but glimpses of. I am looking to look, not to find. Feeling to feel.
From Aselo R:
I tried to feel all I want in life and desires but I absolutely don't feel it. It is funny because the mind went crazy and really likes it, fantasizing and dramatizing everything.
From Siobhan K:
I am looking for something more, something other, a different orientation or way of being. It's undefined – I could use words like "inner peace" or "knowing God as self," but I don't know really what those words actually are pointing to, and any preconceived notions I might have about that are likely to be incorrect. I feel it at times as a deep longing, or restlessness. Sometimes it feels like something just out of the periphery of awareness, or as something that needs to be written, but I can't seem to string together the words – I write around it. It's easier to say what I have tried, and declared "not it": Identification with the familiar self and it's habits, thoughts (especially thoughts!), patterns, beliefs, assumptions, views. Satisfaction in material things, locations, accomplishments, experiences of all stripes (including "spiritual" goodies), or relationships (no matter how wonderful).
From Chuck W:
I am my physical body and I am looking for comfort. I am my emotional body and I am looking for acceptance. I am my mental body and I am looking for certainty. I feel the pleasure and the pain that comes from "looking" and I call it life. AND I am the one who does not look and does not feel. I am Knowing and I am Being and call it Life. As Forest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that."
From Stuart J:
For many years, I sought pleasure, ease, and fun. I believed that human life had no more purpose than that of a virus – I figured we existed simply to propagate our genes. My belief that life was effectively meaningless was freeing in one sense – since there was no purpose, I was free to create one for myself. In another, though, it left me bobbing about unmoored in an ocean of choice.
I described myself a few years ago as an "uncomfortable atheist." There was an arrogance in my atheism – I knew that life meant nothing, that seekers would never find. In the last year I became less and less comfortable with who I had become and how I interacted with the world. The tipping point came this summer when I met a woman who I thought I could spend the rest of my life with, and who, as she told me on our second date, was in love with someone else. Through a series of intense experiences, there came over me an awareness that I might be missing some important truths about life. As my vision widened, I found the line "the more we let go of what we love, the more present our love becomes" in Stephen Mitchell's introduction to the Tao Te Ching. Those words gave me the strength to let go of my attachment to my unrequited love.
In the Tao Te Ching I found a path to follow, one that felt True. I no longer hear from that former lover, but she gave me something much greater than she could have by loving me back – she led me to that path. When I find myself walking on it, I can see the way forward, and I can feel the solid ground beneath my feet.
From Chuck M:
Ok. So I know what the answer is supposed to be – to know the truth, or to wake up. Something like that.
But I actually know that the real thing I'm looking for in life is security. It's why I get up in the morning and do everything I do – to push back all of the situations in the world bearing down on me so I can have a little time to maybe engage in a distraction before I have to do it again.
And yeah, I can feel it. It's called fear.
From Andreas H:
I'm looking for a simpler way of living; an attitude of going about life without the need to know what's going to happen next. To remain completely open to whatever the universe presents – no expectation, no bracing against it. And to know, in my heart, that I ultimately don't have a say about it anyway. Wouldn't that be cool?
From Larry I:
I find the first question to be somewhat ambiguous perhaps purposely so to allow for a multiplicity of answers of which I will choose two. The first is that I am looking for nothing "in life." Secondly, I am looking for complete Understanding, Truth, final Realization from outside of the intellectual realm, and I can feel it though it isn't easy to describe. This secondary question was evocative and clarifying for me. From my preteen childhood years, I felt that there was something more going on beyond the everyday experienced reality. It occurred to me that what I discovered later to be a valuable asset was connected to my childhood experience regarding reality. I have always been keenly aware of when and what I do not understand, and have never been reluctant to vocalize it! More than once this has gotten me into difficulty, but has not deterred me. This sense of not understanding feels like something is missing that must be found – understood. It has manifested in a multiplicity of settings throughout my life.
Like everyone, I have had wishes, desires and goals, but they have all felt different from this "not understanding." For instance, I had a strong wish and goal to be a tenured professor. I owned this, and it certainly felt like it came from me. While trying to answer Ike's questions and write this, I realized that the complete Understanding that I'm looking for does not feel like something that I own and comes from me. It feels more like an implant compelling me from an unknown source. It is reminiscent of my discovery in meditation many, many years ago that some thoughts occurring clearly were not coming from me.
From Brent P:
I'm looking for a resolution to the yearning/longing that I feel. At times it feels correct to call it Truth, at others Love, and at others nothing. It seems that the predominate way I know to look is based on feeling, which is fanned by the message of those that have seen.
What question do you have right now, and how will you know when you have answered it?
Submitted by Dean N. in his response for the July 2016 TAT Forum. Please your responses for next month's Reader Commentary.
Richard Rose described a spiritual path as living one's life aimed at finding the meaning of that life. Did you find anything relevant to your life or search in this month's TAT Forum?
"Switzerland of the Rockies": Uncompahgre Gorge, Ouray, Colorado. Photo by Paul Schmidt.
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Introduction to the Albigen System
The following transcription features rare material from an early lecture of philosopher, poet and author Richard Rose. The talk, based on the speaker's own experience, describes a way of life aimed at understanding that life a self-directed retreat from untruth a common-sense, non-dogmatic approach to spiritual realization.
Part 2 of a 1977 talk given by Richard Rose in Cleveland, OH (continued from the September 2016 TAT Forum):
The first thing I got into then was raja yoga, because I could see that we had to go directly to the mind. And what system do you use? You use something that appeals to you; that's the only thing you can do.
I don't mean that everybody has to go the Zen direction, or that anyone has to go any particular direction. There's no direction that you should endorse for everyone. As an old farmer said to me one time, "There are many paths to the top of the hill, that the cows make, but they all come to the barn."
I've written a book, and in it I explain this, and I don't think you'll find it in too many other books. The system is very simple, in one respect: You cannot approach the Truth, because you don't know where it is.
This is the fallacy of a tremendous lot that's going on today. And this is possibly where Zen leads; up until now I've said that you can reach illumination by a Christian method, a Mohammedan method – any method as long as you're sincere. But most of these postulate something. Zen postulates nothing.
So you might get hung up on the creation or reinforcement of a concept that was handed to you.
But regardless, I'll run you through – with an apology to those who have heard it before – my reasons.
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