This month's contents:
The Path (part 3) by Richard Rose | Who Am I? by RF Hay | Listening Attention Commentary by Bob Fergeson | The Little Book of Life and Death reviewed by Gary Harmon | Do We Have to Give up S-E-X? from The Zoo Fence | Poems by Shawn Nevins | The Natural Koan by Shawn Nevins | Inspiration of Hopelessness by Bob Cergol | Humor
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(~ Continued from the December 2002 TAT Forum)
This brings us up to the investigation of Zen. I got into Zen after I had my experience. I found that Zen is the purest psychoanalytic system you can encounter. And I still think today that modern psychology is wallowing in wishful thinking in a vain struggle to predict herd compatibility. Whereas Zen goes to the truth of the human being.
And once I had reached the point where I had something to communicate to somebody else, Zen was the method by which I was able to communicate. Because Zen is a direct, mind-to-mind method. The business of transmission from teacher to a student is direct, mind-to-mind transmission. No words. That's the reason you find so little writing, except foolishness, in Zen.
Again, the reason I'm getting into the different authors on Zen—ninety percent of all the writing that has come out from Asia, i.e., Japan and China, on Zen—is also garbage. Because—some of it is history—okay, the history is good, but who is interested in history? I don't care if Christ had two pair of shoes, I want to know what he said. What formulae did he leave behind?
And you pick up books like D.T. Suzuki, and there's very little formula. So there are sutras, so there is poetry, so there are the Songs of David - are they inspiring, or will they tell you something? And I maintain that the real books that lead you into a knowledge of how to function in Zen are practically nonexistent. Zen is a person. Zen is represented by people, not books. People who are able to transmit. And this is where the proof is, not in the fact that they belonged to a certain thing.
For instance, I knew two Zen teachers in my time. (I knew more than two, but I didn't stick around them very long.) One of them was Sokei-an, and the other was [Alfred] Pulyan. And my belief—here's a man, Sokei-an, who had a rubber stamp from Japan, who could not transmit, who had very little to give to anybody, lived his life out as a monk—and Pulyan, a man from New York City [Kent, CT], practically unknown, was a man who could transmit and refused to advertise; the only way you could find him was by accident. Because he didn't believe in blowing a horn.
We're getting a tremendous lot of esoteric literature, and in some respects this is nice. But are you going to be able to wade through all of it? This is the point. We have a group that meets here, and this is one of the complaints I'm always handing to the groups - I go out to these groups and they've all got a library. They've got a hundred books. This is no good. Too many books are no good; action is what counts. And you read a book, and you read a reference in that book to somebody else, and you go running to grab that book and say, "Hey, did you read this?" And they're neglecting the action.
You can read books from now on. And believe me, as fast as you read them, somebody will write them, and they'll be in the bookstore over there. And that means procrastination. To use that as a rationalization to stop working. It isn't that impossible to start working on yourself tomorrow. Right now. that's all that's necessary. And if you start working, your ways and means will be better in your meditation. As you meditate, you'll find ways and means to develop meditation.
Now, I'd like to pause here and possibly see what you people think. I'm going to open it up for questions, and this way I can have more direct communication with you. If there's something you're puzzled about that I said, maybe an elaboration. There's only one thing I ask—that you don't put me on the witness stand. In other words, that you don't start preaching, using the room as a podium for some other belief.
Q: You talked about different formulas, different systems. What is your formula? What is your system?
R: Well, to give it to you—I could try in a few words, but I've written a book, and it's in the book. If you contact some of the people in the group, the book is available. Basically, I'd say that it corresponds pretty much with what I went through, with the hope that it can be abbreviated in someone else's life.
It amounts to conservation of energy. And very certain physical laws—that your results are proportional to energy applied. So that if you want to become a serious student of physics, psychology, anything, you can't just study one hour a day or one hour a week. You'll be twenty years getting through college. And the same with this. If you want to be a serious philosopher or esoteric student, you're going to have to put some time in that.
And there's terminology used in the system, used in the book, which might be confusing if I get into too much of it now. Some of them are engineering terms. I use the word vector. Man must build a vector. He builds a vector, and then he finds that he is the vector. He makes a direction, and then he finds that he is the direction.
And that's the reason—of course, I'm hopping way ahead now, and this may not be intelligible to you, it may seem far-fetched—that Christ made a remark that he was the Truth. We generally don't pay any attention to this. I didn't pay any attention to it. But this is the whole secret there. That means that Christ did not learn the Truth. He was the Truth. But he didn't just overnight be the Truth. He had to become the Truth. So this is the vector. A lifetime it takes, or ten or twenty years, before you become something.
So this system basically says, at first, to start. If you have a system of your own, then do it—if you have a sincere path, and you think it's good. I don't say just do what I tell you. In fact, I say doubt. Everything—doubt. Everything you read, including what I write. Find out for yourself. But if you see anything functional in it, something that's offerable, take it. Take it tentatively, and say, "Well, we'll try that. We'll try this exercise."
Some people in the group, for instance, eat meat. Other people don't eat meat. And they come to me and say, "Should I eat meat?" I don't care if you eat meat. I don't care if you kill people. Because I don't know what's good for your development. Maybe you'll be enlightened on your way to the electric chair.
Everybody's life is different. Everybody finds it through a different means. But do it with sincerity and with great diligence, and I maintain that you'll arrive. And that's the formula. Results are proportional to energy applied.
The old salesmen used to say, "If you throw enough mud at the ceiling, some of it will stick." You go out, and you make so many door calls, you'll make so much business. And that is true in this regard, also. You think like you're failing, that you're not accomplishing anything. But it's only when you look backward over a year's work, or two years' work, or consult some of the other people in the group, and they can start giving you details of the progress that you've made. But to yourself, you can't see it.
But I would like for you, if you're interested—you can come to the weekly meeting. It doesn't cost a cent, there's no charge for any of this, and it will abbreviate a lot of time spent here tonight—if you're interested in it.
~ Continued in the February 2003 TAT Forum
© 1976 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.
Who is this I that I seem to be,
Who can it be, this I in me,
The one in me that always knows,
The one in me, the one in you,
The I in all which cannot fall,
The one in all, the one in each,
© 1983 RF Hay. All Rights Reserved.
This commentary is about what I call the "Listening Attention," a meditation technique, if you will, which I've found to be a gateway to our Inner Self. The poet John Davis once said he felt the highest meditation was "listening with the eyes." This is a good starting definition. Another would be to look with attention, but without interpretation: to listen, the attention turned both inward and outward at the same time, with no thought or expectation. No expectation, judging or defining; no thought, no mind. This combined attention uses both the inner ear and eye and is turned towards the inner heart and the outer world simultaneously. It is passive in that it does not project an image or thought; it is active for the same reason, in that it is a pure attention, an active not-doing. There is no sense of an 'I' involved, for that would mean the springing forth of an image, which the attention would become identified with. It does not entail a motionless, inert body, for it can be found while engaging in activity.
Before talking about how to find this portal to the Inner Self, let's first explore why it would be a worthwhile endeavor. First, I'd like to clarify that this is not a technique for adding another 'spiritual' behavior to our list. We do not need to put another head on top of the one we already have, but need to somehow get back to a truer state we have lost through years of conditioning. In other words, we do not need another form of hypnosis or new way to put ourselves further to sleep, but to find how to become un-hypnotized, more awake. I have to assume if you've come this far that you have reasons for engaging in spiritual work. Enough time spent digging through the patterns and habits of the mind will eventually lead one to the unflattering realization that one is mechanical, a robot. I like to call this creature we find ourselves to be, a SMAARP, a Self-Maintaining Accidental Associative Reaction Pattern. Most of us start this journey to self-discovery convinced we are smart SMAARPs, and it can take quite a few blows to our proverbial fat heads before we realize we are mechanical, that the mind can never solve the problem of self-definition by itself. We need help. The listening attention is a door to going within, to re-connecting with our inner man, to that part of us which Knows. Once we are convinced of our robotic nature, we may come to see the value of connecting once again with the intelligence that created us.
The silent passage to the inner world is always with us, it does not need to be formed, just found, but we may need years of preparation to see it. A great deal of self-analysis, 'work on one-self,' is usually needed in order to get beyond the ego and its belief that the mind and worded thoughts will lead us to the Real. A lifetime of learned behaviors, emotional blocks, fears, self-doubts, and wishful thinking need to be cleared away. We must reach a point where we can slip behind our compensatory thinking patterns long enough to let something real get through. All repressed emotional material and debilitating drains on our energy must be dealt with, too. We will need all our strength to face the unknown, alone and unarmed.
There will be much resistance to the attempt to go within. Our physical needs must be met, giving us the thought that time spent "doing nothing but listening" to be sheer folly. The need for distraction in social endeavors, TV, movies, and other forms of feeding the head, will need to be dealt with. Our family and friends will most likely not share the value we place on finding a connection to the Inner Self, as it does not bring an immediate material reward and is not conducive to maintaining whatever psychological dramas might be in place.
Perhaps the most effective resistance to our inner journey will not come from outside, through society or family, but from our own fear of the unknown. We may find we are both unwilling to let go of our old way of being and not willing to take a chance on something new. For most of us, some form of suffering or trauma is necessary before we will trust our own inner guidance. Fear can block us at every turn, until we take our meaning from within, from the present, and release our mental hold on the projected past or imagined future.
These struggles of self-discovery are also necessary to find the right individual method for the listening attention. I found that moving about, through hiking and cross country skiing, to be the best way for me. I could not sit still long enough to bring about the inner relaxation needed, or else I would simply fall asleep. I know of one man who would drive, spending hours behind the wheel of his car because it would give his outer mind and body just enough to do to allow his inner self the freedom to surface. If sitting in a chair will work, great, it would sure save a lot of time and gas. Knowing what body type and disposition we have is a great help in opening the door.
A good example of how this can happen was during one winter as I was struggling to improve my cross-country skiing technique. I was caught between the technical advice given by instructor friends and the feeling that I knew what to do if I would just listen to the inner voice instead. I finally decided to go with my instincts, and my skiing quickly reached a new level of freedom and skill. Affirmation was quick in coming, for one day as I was thumbing through a skiing magazine, I noticed an article by a coach on what techniques the fastest skiers used. The system he described was exactly the one I had found, and had been discovered by his athletes in much the same way. While this may hardly seem a momentous step in self-discovery, it gave the clue that trusting my own intuition and inner guidance was a good idea, and that rote learning through mimicking others would not bring me any closer to learning to go within. Every one must find his own portal into the listening attention through his own experience and faith.
~ From the Mystic Missal.
Of the many books that I have read by Douglas Harding, this is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. At the age of 79 years, there was a sense of urgency to pen his life's work and share it with us. This book was out of print for a while and now is in its second edition. Douglas is now 92.
In this book of life and death, Douglas investigates the most important problems our life poses—the basic stuff: Where did we come from, where are we going, and most importantly where are we right now? To answer those questions, he asks us to check four things. First, that to discover whether we are perishable, we must first discover what we are. Second, that outsiders are in no position to tell us this; they can only tell us what we look like at a distance. Third, that what we are is obvious as soon as we dare to look. And fourth, that we turn out to be in all respects the opposite of what we had been told. Is there death at all in the Real sense? As Walt Whitman is quoted as saying in Harding's Prologue, "To die is different from what anyone supposes, and luckier."
The title of this book might lead one to believe that this is a dry, difficult read about a subject that is to be avoided up until the time that "death stares us in the face." It is not. Mr. Harding presents the evidence, with his renowned sense of humor, which in the end reveals that "the facts are friendly." A terrific read, I highly recommend this gracious and uplifting treatise on the facts of life and death. I especially liked the last chapter.
~ The Little Book of Life and Death is available from The Headless Way web site.
The following is a conversation we had with a seeker, in response to the question, Does being a spiritual seeker mean I have to give up having sex?
You don't have to give up anything. The spiritual process is about affirmation, not denial, so you get to keep whatever you want. All you give up, or give to God, are the things you don't want.
That sounds too good to be true.
It's true nonetheless. Although it's not quite as simple as it sounds. Being a serious spiritual seeker means taking this process seriously, and that means carefully examining all the stuff you've decided you want to keep, to determine that you really do want it, and that you're not just hanging onto it because you've always had it, or because your friends or your family seem to want it so you figure you should too, or whatever. Most of the stuff in our lives fits into those kinds of categories. And that's not easy to do, for it requires ingredients none of us has enough of; things like patience, commitment, and self-discipline. And you've got to scrutinize everything—not just stuff, but your ideas, beliefs, habits, tendencies, your friends, associates, your job, everything. But as you do that—and, remember, this is not something you do just once, but constantly—whenever you come across something that really is important to you, keep it. Keep what you want, and give the rest to God.
It still doesn't sound that difficult to me.
It's plenty difficult, and if it doesn't seem so now, it will soon enough. And the reason is, even the stuff we decide we want to give up, we can't, because we're addicted to it. We're addicted to everything. We're even addicted to our lives. That's the only reason the spiritual process is so arduous, sometimes even painful. We're addicted to the separative personality and everything it represents. That's why we keep repeating it, over and over again. And just knowing about it is not enough. After all, cigarette packages have been carrying warning labels for years, and folks still smoke. And if you've ever tried to give up smoking, or some other drug, or even to diet, you know what I'm talking about.
That, I can understand. I've just gone through quitting cigarettes, and even though I wanted to do it, it was awful. I still miss them, and I still think about them fondly, even though I know how bad they were for me, and how awful they made me feel.
I had smoked for a long time, so long they had become a real part of my life. Smoking wasn't just something I did, it defined me. I literally was a smoker.
That's exactly it! Now, apply that experience—how you originally felt about cigarettes, the pleasure they gave you, the discomfort they gave you, the decision to give them up, and the struggle to give them up—apply all of that to everything else in your life. You thought you were a smoker; you thought, as you say, that smoking defined you. But now you've discovered that smoking was just something you did, and that, after all, it wasn't your identity. And, if you think about it, you probably started smoking not because it tasted good, or made you feel good, but because someone else's smoking convinced you it was a good idea.
Both of my parents smoked.
There you are. They were your authority figures. And if they were wrong about that example, however unintentionally, what else might they have been wrong about? That's what the spiritual path is about: Identifying, and getting rid of, practices and perspectives which make no sense. And in that way, we keep redefining our identity, or who we think we are, and we give the leftovers to God, until one day we discover there's nothing left, that we've given everything to God—but, again, not because we had to, but because we didn't want the stuff. In return, of course, God gives us Himself. He's delighted to do so, and would gladly have done so long ago, but with all the junk we had accumulated, there wasn't room!
What a great image! God standing patiently outside my front door, waiting for me to make room for Him inside, and all I've got to do is give Him my junk, and keep giving it to Him, until I realize it's all junk! That's really beautiful. But ... to get back to sex ...
By all means, let's get back to sex!
I know. As I listen to myself talking with you about this, it must sound like I'm sex-crazed. But it isn't that way. In fact, I'm hardly sexually active at all. Actually, I'm a very responsible person. Really, I am.
I was kidding. Besides, if you weren't responsible about this, you wouldn't be asking the question.
It's just the idea of saying "Never again" that disturbs me. I wish I could say it, because I feel like I should say it, and maybe even that I can say it. Actually, you know what my problem really is? I'm afraid that as soon as I say it, some wonderful opportunity will arise, and then I'm going to wish that I hadn't.
In Saint Augustine's words, "Lord, grant me chastity and abstinence, but don't do it yet!" Look, in that event, remember that you can always undo it. After all, God created the eraser, too. But whatever you decide, don't force it. Consider it this way: If you give something up to God under duress, like sex, before you're ready, or against your will, how is that going to make you feel? What's your attitude toward God going to be? You're going to be annoyed, right? Even angry. And so, whatever energy you had been directing toward sex won't have been transformed into something "spiritual," as you intended, but instead will remain right where you left it, loitering in your loins.
There's a fetching image.
Only now, instead of manifesting as a normal, healthy urge, it will be churning itself into anger toward God. And before long, it'll be anger compounded by guilt, because inevitably you'll feel guilty about being angry at God, and, on top of that, you'll feel guilty about the sex you'll eventually have anyway because you weren't ready to give it up in the first place. So, when you're all done, you're still having sex, only now it's marred with guilt, and you're angry at God, and you're disappointed in yourself. All for what?
You're right. That's exactly what would happen.
Okay, so let's set that idea aside. However, I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression, because you're absolutely right to have asked this question about sex. Celibacy is important, just as you obviously already suspect, and, in fact, it is ultimately essential and inevitable. Now, that is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong or evil about sex. As God is all there is, this too is God, for there is nothing else it can be. But from the perspective of a seeker, who is trying to see himself or herself in the Natural State, as One with Reality, the problem with sex is that it is an enormous distraction. While compelling esoteric arguments can be and are made against the continued pursuit of sex, as we see it at TZF, the most convincing case is that sex distracts a seeker from his or her search. That said, I repeat that compelled celibacy is not the way. As we've seen, it simply creates resentment. To work properly, celibacy has got to come from within, because the kind of celibacy we're talking about is not the repression of sexual desire. It is the absence of sexual desire. It appears naturally, as a matter of course, and there's no anger in it.
The urge for sex is just gone?
According to a friend of TZF, when Ramakrishna was asked this very same question, he compared it to a length of rope that has been burned. The ashes remain. They are in the shape of the rope, and they are even reminiscent of the rope. But being ashes, they are essentially powerless. Our own personal experience confirms that. Sometimes, the old thought patterns still arise, but when they do, they have virtually no effect, and are easily released. And if we do follow them, they lead nowhere. Like ashes, they are empty. So, again, it is not self-restraint we're talking about here. This is really not that, but simply that you don't live there anymore.
What does that mean, 'You don't live there anymore'?
Just what it sounds like: You've raised your center of attention from it's residence below your belt, where it's been ever since it got stuck there the first day of puberty. Look, all we're talking about here is the exchange of energy. That's what sex is, right? That's what all relationship is. Two people come together, and they communicate in some way—by voice or looks or thoughts, or with gestures, or by some sort of physical contact, like sex. Or a combination of those. Whatever goes on between human beings, it's all about energy, getting it and giving it. Energy back and forth.
Right. I agree.
And these energy exchanges take the form of the neighborhood in which you live, because that's what you know, and that's what you like, otherwise you wouldn't live there. So, just as all life starts in the groin, at the base of the spine, the home of the physical reproductive organs, that too is where each of us starts out. That's where we begin life, literally and figuratively. But then, over time, as we grow and mature, we naturally move up the spine, into and past various other centers—the solar plexus, the heart, and so on—until finally, we transcend the limitations of bodily personality altogether through the crown, at the top of the head. Naturally, at each level, energy manifests, expresses itself, in whatever form is appropriate to that level. And so, when you're at any given level, your interests, your relationships, your experiences, your life itself, will be in a form which reflects that level. It's really pretty simple. And, please don't forget, all of these levels are God, there being nothing else they can be, so none is better than any other. Just different. There is no judgment here, just awareness.
These levels you're talking about, they're the chakras, right?
Yes, chakras. The chakra concept is more complicated than that, I suppose, but this is part of it.
So, in effect what you're saying is, sex is the medium of communication of the base chakra, the old neighborhood?
Yes, exactly. If you live in the genitals, your interests are naturally going to be mostly about the physical—providing for and protecting the body. The exact form they take will be determined by a lot of variables—things like how and where you were brought up—but all the same, it'll be pretty much about survival and reproduction. Your motivation will come from there, and you'll find your rewards there. Your energy exchanges will take place there. Then, in time, you'll move up from there, and everything will change.
Okay, I get that. But now I'm confused. Do we give this stuff up, or do we move out of the neighborhood?
What's the difference? You choose to live in a neighborhood because it offers you the things you want. That is, it's close to where you work and play, and you share the values of the people who live there. As your life situation changes, those things will change, too. Little by little, you find yourself no longer enjoying some of the things you used to do there. Instead of playing on an open lot across the street, now you can afford to join a health club uptown. Instead of unwinding at the corner bar, now you go to the symphony. As the old neighborhood offers you less and less satisfaction, eventually you move to another neighborhood, one which reflects your new interests. So, you give stuff up by moving, or you move because you've given stuff up. It's a little bit of both, I suppose. Don't forget, we're talking in metaphors here, so you've got to allow a little slack. The thing to get here is that the spiritual process does not have to be about giving things up, but about affirming, and actively seeking, what you really, truly want. To the extent that you consistently, devotedly, consciously target your energy and your focus on that, shape your life around that, a lot of the rest will peel off and drop away pretty much on its own.
~ Reprinted with permission from The Zoo Fence.
This place is not my design,
I know this is vague.
The forms that hold the force of life are overflowing.
Does a burial mound hold life,
Between thought and thought
All the world is a mirror
We owe this phrase to Philip Kapleau, who wrote that the Zen Master Bassui had a natural koan, "Who is the master?" This koan arose from the depths of Bassui's longing for an answer to life's mystery. Bassui could not forget his natural koan, as it was a part of him, and the quest for an answer propelled him to a total realization of his true nature. Unfortunately, Kapleau and many others never acknowledged the importance of every seeker discovering their natural koan.
Within each of us is a question that begs an answer. "Why am I miserable?" "What is love?" "How can I find peace?" "Is there life after death?" "What is the purpose of life?" "Am I awake or dreaming?" "Who am I?" "What am I?" "What do I really want?" "Why am I here?" "What is thought?" "Where does thought come from?" "What is Real?" "What lasts?" These are just a few natural koans.
Everyone has a natural koan and it is in this sense that all people have a spiritual path. All people have some question that "bugs" them. Some people attempt to answer it, some give up hope, but most procrastinate.
Sit alone one day and write out the questions that concern you. Look for the one that feels most important and imagine how you might feel if you answered it. You can answer it—this I know. Begin to search. Read everything you can find on the matter, talk to others, practice methods and develop your own. Allow your self (your life) to follow your heart and not the currents of the world around you.
This is how the search becomes yours, and how you learn to really pray. Prayer for an answer rather than a predetermined result. Be open to the truth rather than accepting only what your mind/ego/personality wishes and creates.
Beware someone advising you that your question is not a "real" koan. They may say, "What you really should be asking is...." Listen to what they say, but if it doesn't strike you, then forget it. Stick to the question that has meaning for you. There is a door between you and Truth. You have the question to ask the doorkeeper.
Likewise, don't fall into the trap of pursuing a question because, "I think I should be asking it." Some people are so filled with shoulds they ignore the fire in their heart. You must follow your deep fascination. People have reluctantly told me that, "Asking 'who is the thinker' doesn't really interest me." Good. Drop it. Discarding what doesn't interest you is a way to find what does.
Your natural koan may be discarded, as well. For example, my first koan was "Why am I so miserable?" I first tried physical answers to the question: maybe I need more money, a new place to live, or more fun. As I explored and rejected physical solutions, I moved toward psychological answers: trying to change my reaction patterns, my mental habits, and ways I view the world. Finally, as I was forced to dig deeper into who I was, I looked for solutions involving the very nature of the world, matter, and my self. Thus, "Why am I so miserable?" evolved into "What is the source of the thoughts that lead to misery?" and "Is there anything about me that is permanent?" then, finally, "What is the Truth?"
It was not that I solved each koan, but that each was gradually discarded in light of revelations as to where the ultimate answer lay.
I believe that any question, pursued with the idea of arriving at complete certainty regarding the answer, will lead to a spiritual realization. The problem is in unearthing the determination to follow the question to its end. Your natural koan will lead you ever deeper inside.
The best inspiration may well be to inspire someone that there is no hope for them. Of course that inspiration should come after the desire to know has become a burning one. I think that there is a bit too much in the way of hope building inspirational material today that gives false hope and defuses the tension that might otherwise arise if this subject were not so trivialized. The desire never matures to reach critical mass. The result is that people do not start at the beginning. They postulate, without knowing it, what it's all about and that "Oh—see—so and so says so," and "All I have to do is this exercise, or this meditation"—and god help you if you are deluded enough to think that you can make an effort ... or need to. Perhaps 1 Zoloft, 2 Paxils and 3 mantras twice weekly after tea will open one's third eye. No, drugs are artificial—lets just go with the "technique." I agree that "any way home is a good one." But that way is synonymous with one's life—not a token! It's the life that does it, not the token.
Lately, I'm more interested in painting my dining room or mowing the lawn than in discussing philosophy. I think I could connect better on a spiritual level to someone who wasn't even aware that this subject existed and didn't use the pretentious language of the literature, but who was instead just simply introspective, consciously acknowledged the fact of their suffering and was engaged in doing something about it while simultaneously having grave doubts about everything. It seems that all this philosophy just arms the ego with tools to avoid facing the self and so plugs doubts with a seeming of knowing.
Thanks to Chris Madden for sharing this.
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