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The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, 
poems and humor.

June 2011

This Month's Contents: A Photo by Bob Fergeson | ...But it Feels Like Me!: Discerning the Fabric of Personhood by Alex Danilowicz | A Poem by Deborah Westmoreland | Quotes | Humor | Answers | And... the Question of the Month


Editor's Note
by Shawn Nevins

spiritual magazine

There is no web of deception — only a single strand.


Tree Trunks in Snow

~ For more photos by Bob Fergeson, visit NostalgiaWest.


...But it Feels Like Me!: Discerning the Fabric of Personhood
by Alex Danilowicz

Presented at the November 2010 TAT meeting

Intro

This is a talk about magic. Magic that happens all the time. A magic show that is happening right now in this very moment. That, based on the available evidence, only happens now. This is the magic show of Personhood; of self.

Somewhere along the line we read or heard someone say to us, this self you think is you, is not you, it is an elaborate production--it is a trick. Or maybe, if we were lucky, we got a peek behind the scenes via an experience of trauma, or maybe even some sort of spiritual or satori experience. Whatever the case, however it happened, we got attuned to the notion that person we took ourselves to be was not as solid, continuous, and consistent as we once thought. Indeed, we noticed that we were, to one degree or another, being tricked.

As seekers we have taken up interest in seeing who we really are. Ostensibly, we have taken up interest in figuring out how the magic show works, or seeing what the essence of the magic show really is.

Explication

I once heard, maybe on a retreat, maybe in a seminar, that the spiritual path is really nothing more than making the subjective, objective. In other words, the path is a process of recognizing what was once taken to be "self" simply as objects arising. What was once "I-ness" is now seen as "it-ness." Without doubt Jacob's Ladder is Rose's articulation of this same movement. Indeed the reverse vector, via negativa, and neti neti, are expressions of this principle.

The path is an explication: a making the implicit, explicit.

This talk is about some elements of that magic show that have been noticed on this end. It is an attempt to discern and articulate elements in consciousness that make "me," Alex the person, feel so indubitably, so convincingly, like "me;" a long-lasting, independent, separate entity.

Back story

A month ago I was up here on the farm doing an isolation. I really got a lot out of it, and have to say it was one of the best things I've ever done.

The spark for this talk emerged on that retreat. It emerged slowly, but persistently, over the days that I was here. Essentially, as the periods of meditation, contemplation, and wu wei wore on, I gradually, and more frequently, began to catch thought and feeling in the act of spinning the usual stories, problems, and protractions of Alex. Over time I noticed that the "apparent distance" between the observer and objects in consciousness was much more pronounced than in normal everyday "Alex in the world" mode. I saw, as all the enlightened dudes in the canon say, just how mechanical thought, emotion were.

But the thing that kinda perplexed me the most, besides the mechanicalness, was how all the flotsam and jetsam in consciousness felt, even though I would catch it and observe it in the act, still felt like self. It was as if Alex/Personhood was within and as the objects in awareness. Somehow the objects in awareness, and I'm referring mostly to thought and emotional content here, were masquerading, elegantly spinning and whirring, coming together to produce Selfhood-Personhood.

This is from a writing immediately following the retreat:

Essentially I saw, quite clearly, the mechanical nature of mind. Thoughts and feelings would churn, they would cycle, in such a way that was periodic; I could time the "thought/feeling loop" as I began to call it. It was that mechanical. The emotionally loaded thought of being a jilted lover was just as mechanical as a song that kept playing in mind.

The thing about the thoughts and feelings is that they all, before they were "caught" or witnessed, possessed the sense of Alex; they completely usurped the attention and were taken to be me. They all, even as they spin and are seen still feel like "me."

AND

The thing about the thought cycle is each iteration of thoughts feels like it has self-nature; like it is "me." They are all very convincing, very legitimate perspectives. spiritual magazine

Thoughts and feelings that normally possessed me completely were given more relief in the view... they became Objects in awareness. They would still usurp attention and spin, but I would notice them, and pull back. What were normally convictions laden with power and meaning; uber important, real deal, bona fide, "you better worry about this" scripts were seen to arise, churn, and fall in consciousness in the same manner that a song that was "stuck in the head" would. Completely mechanical. BUT, still completely, seemingly of self....

So, I had a glimpse. I saw, quite clearly, and somewhat disorientingly, if not disturbingly, that I was being tricked into believing the magic show was real; that the movement in mind, reinforced and coupled with emotion, and body sensation, was conglomerating to produce the illusion of a continuous and solid entity: me.

The questions I was left with were: How was I being tricked? What was going on here? How was this trickery happening? What are the elements of the objects in consciousness that are combining to form the witches brew of Personhood. Is it possible to become more precise about discerning these elements? Can one learn to recognize the flavor of these elements as an aid in pulling attention out of them?

B. Setting Context

So the idea of a magic show is interesting. Indeed the idea goes back to the beginnings of perennial philosophy, most notably in the form of Plato's allegory of the Cave, which Bart [Marshall] so elegantly spoke about here in April and again at SIG last month. Indeed, Plato's Cave was a version of the magic show. A "truer" metaphor than a simple magic show. Truer because the prisoners in the cave, do not know they are in the cave — they don't realize the show is a show. They assume the shadows on the screen are real, and have no knowledge of the outside light and production taking place overhead that is producing the shadows.

It is as if we've been invited to a magic show that was so keen in its precision that it made us forget we were at the show. It hypnotized us into believing it to be who we were. Perhaps, like Plato's prisoners, we've been sitting there our whole lives (indeed, we have). The only thing we have to begin to see the nature of the magic show, as not quite reality, but a production unfolding in front of us, is the ELEMENTS OF THE SHOW ITSELF. It is as if the magic show is hanging in space, in emptiness, and there is no outside knowledge that it is a magic show coming from any objective authority. In order to deconstruct the magic show, to see it as a production and not reality, we only have the elements of the magic show itself.

In this way, the elements of the magic show that simultaneously hold it together as a real cohesive phenomenon, are the very elements that betray the very fact that it is a magic show; a production! There is nothing else. Granted it is the very "seeing" of them as objects that is the mysterious element.

Paul Hedderman describes the maintenance of the magic show verbally, using the term "selfing." And it is apropos here. He explains the illusion of continuity, cohesion, and solidity is maintained:

By believing the thoughts by believing the false evidence, by your interest and attention up that ass of self; that's how it maintains its condition. Yes? Because it doesn't have an authentic condition. It has to be reinforced by an activity, called selfing. There is no appearance of self without selfing. Yes?

Selfing is what causes the feeling of being a noun. But it's a verb. There is no noun called self. But the verb of selfing produces the sense of being a noun. And that has to be happening quite a lot because the sense of being in the noun is not real. You never become a noun. There's just a sense of being a noun. It can never create a noun. It can make the sense of being a noun. And that... It's sort of like it has to whip it up. It's like something... like a mix. It's gotta keep mixing it, mixing it, mixing it and the movement of it gives an appearance that there's something solid.

And from Bob Cergol:

The sense of self-as-identity is the focus in awareness on experience brought about by the body experience — and it overlays the focus on the ever present, silent stillness in which this sense of self occurs. Your entire sense of self is merely an experience! The body/mind is an experience machine.

The whole point here is that we are conditioned to personalize elements in consciousness to construct self. Objects in consciousness are impersonal phenomenon that we habitually personalize.

So the aim here is to explicate, to make the implicit explicit, the appearances on "the screen" — the elements of the act that have us convinced that we are indeed who we think and feel ourselves to be: "Alex, or Tune, or Amy" etc.

Note: The wondrous element to all this is not that the magic show could trick us, but that we were ever able to become aware of it at all. What is this seeing that takes place? The truly mind blowing thing is that the production of self can be Witnessed at all...

Note: An anthropology/philosophy professor that Luke and I had in college always used the metaphor of "building your ship at sea." I think here, it's more like deconstructing your ship at sea. (To get swallowed whole, to sink infinitely into the Ocean of Being.)

Disclaimers

In one of the Rose books I read of the danger of getting caught up in an analysis of the mechanics of mind; of getting lost in endless map making and conceptualization about how the mind is working, rather than making the key gestures and more critical observations, through self honesty, to move the pawn down the chess board, so to speak. Indeed, questions like "how am I being tricked" or "why am I being tricked" are effectively useless. It is seen on this end that the important part of observing the mind and the body, is simply to see, as Art [Ticknor] says, that those elements are precisely not what you are looking for, and "turn the head away."

This talk is more in the "for what it's worth" department. It is analytical in nature. It is not designed to beckon the Longing to rise within the heart. It is one seekers' slice of one aspect of the path — noticing what you are not.

Two aspects of the "Path"

For the purposes of this presentation I break the path down into two main motions, or practical domains. The first being observation of objects and patterns that show up and as David Scoma says "...the magnetic pull of attention toward the eogic in one's life and actions." This is, as articulated before, the movement away from untruth by observing and, where analysis is necessary for deconstruction, analyzing what's going on with you at any given point, particularly when "selfing" elements flash across the screen. It is neti neti. Via negativa. This ranges from simply observing what you are not in meditation to more involved types of practice such as looking and feeling directly the energies that arise in awareness, such as Rose's meditation on the affliction to the sense of self. Confrontation would be another great example of a practice within this first category. spiritual magazine

Essentially, this first practical domain is the catching-of, and discerning the magic trick in the act of lulling you into belief that you are an individuated, separate, long lasting entity. This talk, being what it is, is concerned primarily with this first domain or practice, as the title suggests "Discerning the Fabric of Personhood."

The second movement, or domain of the Path, is more of what Rose would call "going directly within" or feeling into the Longing itself; touching base with a sense of Home; the Silence beyond and behind the living, breathing universe. The second practical domain is a movement into stillness — into listening and intense introspection. Focusing in on and opening oneself to, as Scoma says, "'What sees — in essence the observe-less observer being given the opportunity to view itself and break the cycle of delusion once and for all." This is the more subtle, and in my opinion, more essence-tial aspect of the path. This is the path of immersion in Unknowing, whereas the first aspect is the verbal form, or process of un-knowing.

I just felt I had to articulate these two movements as part of the "disclaimer" section of this presentation because I, by no means, am attempting to reduce the totality of the Path, if ever such a thing truly exists, into looking into the objects in awareness alone, and rearranging the furniture so to speak, or trying to figure them out or to understand them. It is enough to see an object as an object, as "not me" and turn the head away, and probe your depths, feeling your way into what you really desire.

That said, there are times, more often than not, when becoming clearer on what is an object or pattern in your experience is of great benefit to the seeker. This is why we do practices like journaling, looking at afflictions to the sense of self, and confrontation. Being very precise about objects in awareness, whether on the cushion or in the boardroom can serve to dislodge the fixation of attention on Personhood, in real time.

Two Aspects of "Selfing"

In trying to be as precise as possible (which is not very precise for me) about elements and patterns that comprise the magic show of selfing, I break down selfing into two aspects:

Characteristics
Convictions

By characteristics, I mean the raw qualities of phenomena — the way these objects in awareness tend to present themselves. For example: sensations and thoughts arise at certain rates, generally very quickly as to create an effect of continuity. So, frequency, the speed of the arising of sensation, thought, feeling, emotion, etc. would be an example of what I call a characteristic.

By convictions, a term familiar to TAT, I mean certain beliefs about personhood, path, and goal that keep the magic show whirring along, appearing as the real thing. Conviction, in this way could be thought of as any thought that perpetuates, confirms, and buttresses identification with thought (or other objects in awareness).

Without question, there are myriad convictions that you could come up with to explain the movement of mind and identification mechanisms. In so doing, you could waste a lot of time and energy — avoiding what you really need to Look at or feel into to bring you closer to Grace. The convictions I look at here have mostly to do with seeking itself. Also, they were the convictions that happened to be ensnaring my attention on isolation and while I was thinking about this presentation over the past several weeks.

C. Characteristics of Consciousness that keep the magic trick intact

So now, finally, I can get to the Characteristics themselves. Please feel free to augment the list. (In fact, why don't I write them down on the board, and if any come to mind, at the end of the list, we can get to them.)

The following characteristics are observable phenomenon of objects in awareness that seem to lend them credence to be personalized:

Frequency

When consecutive still images move within a frame at a fast rate, an illusion of continuity, or one fluid scene is created: a movie. Similarly, the speed at which sensations, thoughts, and emotions move in awareness lends the impression of continuity or solidity. Simply because elements in consciousness follow one another in such quick succession, and apparently seamlessly, it is natural that we assume that seamless flow of sense impressions belongs to somebody, and indeed, constitutes someone in particular.

From a journal entry on isolation:

...Really paying attention to what it feels like when the ownership or the doership sense arises. It arises so fast and I feel like that immediately. It is only when I catch it seconds (or milliseconds or whatever) later that it is seen. It is as if all thought is immediately "selfing" itself. It is self sense.

Paul Hedderman on frequency and "selfing"

You ever see something moving real fast? It seems like it's a solid thing. But all it is is verbing. There's no solidity to it, it's an optical illusion. It looks like there's something solid. That's what selfing is. Selfing is whipping, whipping the mental streams and then it produces a mental state, and the primary mental state is a self.

David Scoma on frequency:

...everything is happening so fast; the senses are picking up stimuli so fast, the brain is seeming as if it's translating it through the body so quickly, that there is a lot of room for this slight of hand to take place... in the engagement of this belief system, because it is going at such a rate that until one develops the power of perception to the point where you can pick up the individual movements, the individual senses... sensory phenomena as they are coming up, as they are being detected...

And the more one becomes accustomed to detecting these sensory phenomena, and detecting the speed at which it's all these individual frames sort of adding up together to make this movie, rather than one fluid coherent production that there is an actor taking place...

Intensity/Amplitude

Intensity is pretty simple and mostly characterizes the feeling/emotional element. It's no secret, unless you're a sociopath (which some of us may be!) that intense feelings demand to be personalized — they immediately, like a bonfire doused in gasoline, ignite the spin of selfing. It's basic — IT FEELS like me.

Varying intensities of emotion, thought and sensation create the contours of Personhood. Strong feelings demand, almost scream out loud, that there must be a person ie. ME, there to experience them. They demand meaning. They demand attribution, and attribution demands a story....

The arc of our lives is given texture by the presence of emotions and feelings of varying intensities.

The bottom line is: It's simple. Drama is the juice of life. It's fascinating. It holds our attention, compels us — it is the very substance of story. Without variance in intensity story loses its pull and purpose. Jed Mckenna asserts that it is the core of emotional energy itself, not necessarily the things we emotionally attach to, that binds us to the idea of being "us."

All attachments to the dreamstate are made of energy. That energy is called emotion. All emotions, positive and negative are attachments. Humans are emotion-based creatures and all emotions derive their energy from one core emotion; fear. Fear cannot be confronted or slain because it is fear of nothing, of no-self. The desire to slay fear is itself a fear-based emotion. Fear can only be surrendered to; the thing feared, entered.

You can spend your life hacking away at the million-headed hydra of attachment and never make any progress, or you can follow emotional energy back to its source, its lair, and see Leviathan, enemy of light, for what it really is:

Your Heart.

That's what Arjuna saw. That's why Arjuna fell.

Periodicity

Another characteristic of consciousness that engenders the feeling of "me-ness" is the fact that content in awareness, namely thoughts and feelings, repeats itself at certain intervals. When I was in isolation it became very easy to discern what I began to call "thought/feeling loops." For example, I would have a feeling of emotional pain which would then be immediately followed by a thought about a recent breakup, which would then be [pain] and thoughts about "being in the moment" would occur, which would in turn be noticed as more thought, which would then be followed by a re-direction of attention to "headlessness" or on the sense of witnessing itself. Then, the initial feeling of pain would occur again, followed by the same set of thoughts and reactions to thoughts. And then again. I said of this in my journal:

Essentially I saw, quite clearly, the mechanical nature of mind. Thoughts and feelings would churn, they would cycle, in such a way that was periodic; I could time the "thought/feeling loop" as I began to call it. It was that mechanical. The emotionally loaded thought of being a jilted lover was just as mechanical as a song that kept playing in mind.

And,

I could almost time the cycles I feel if I'd be able to pay attention long enough.

The re-occurrence of certain thoughts and feelings, while it betrays the mechanicalness of the contents of awareness, simultaneously makes it seem like there is someone solid there. The sense is this: Because these thoughts and feelings happen again and again, there must be a solid person here who is regularly experiencing these things. The fact that these thoughts and feelings occur so periodically means something about "me." Primarily that I am here in the first place!

Automatic Translation

The fact that there is a process occurring that is weighing the content of consciousness and filtering the content of consciousness in some patterned way is perhaps THE most convincing element that produces the sensation of a self. The function in consciousness that weighs and scans other elements in consciousness, and that is seemingly anterior to those elements, produces the sense of self — the self that is wise to the goings on in his/her head or heart.

In the TAT canon this mechanism may be what Rose refers to as the Umpire or Somatic Awareness in Jacob's Ladder. Seemingly, something is automatically filtering other bits of sensation, perception, thought, and feelings that appear in awareness and weighing them according to what "works" for the self it desires to create. The automatic nature of this function helps to forge a sense of "somebody" being there. David Scoma calls this the "Translating Agent."

This ‘agency,’ as such, is what takes information in — sensory, stream of conscious thought, emotions, reactions. It then uses those very different, almost totally (if left of their own accord) rather innocuous bits of debris to form a barrier, a fortress, consisting primarily of a narrative from point A to point B. This barrier keeps the “actual” world from being experienced directly, as a part of the universe and not chunked off from it as an individual slab trying (not very smoothly or easily) to move around, function, “make” every single decision by itself. spiritual magazine

Voice

This characteristic is pretty simple: Thought sounds like it's "you" speaking. I often experience thought accompanied with a slight excitation of the area around the vocal chords, even though no sound is being produced. Thought is happening, in this case in English, and apparently, with "my" voice; at least the voice that I've always thought was mine. If thought occurred in another "voice," someone else's voice, would I be as quick to assume that thoughts are mine, or that there is even a "me" here to experience them? Chances are: probably not. In this case it's not so much that it feels like me, but that it sounds like me!

Spontaneous emergence/Stream of Consciousness

Thought and feeling seem to emerge of their on accord. They effortlessly arise out of the ether and apparently return in the same manner. Though this is clearly evidence that the machine is running on autopilot, this quality of spontaneous emergence can serve to justify the existence of a self. Precisely because content emerges organically — out of thin air, lends weight to the idea of a self. It's primarily the organic component here that is lending the credence to spontaneous emergence as proof of "me." Because it is natural. Because it flows naturally. It feels like me, because I am a self, a natural, organic thing, "not a machine." "I am spontaneous."

Hypnotic

No secret here that thoughts, feelings, sensations hypnotize us — they occupy us. A good illustration of the hypnotic nature of objects in awareness, namely thought, is Mike Conners' Cycle of Effortless meditation. In the Cycle there is first effortless awareness of "the mantra." After a time thought, daydreaming, reverie, or what-have-you takes over. The attention becomes absorbed in thought and this could last 5 seconds, 5 minutes, and perhaps much much longer; years, maybe lifetimes. The main point here is that this absorption in thought rolls on with full participation, effortlessly, completely, and In Mike's Cycle the hypnosis is broken by a spontaneous moment of recognition "Aha, I'm lost in thought." The focus of attention is then transferred back to the mantra or breath or whatever else the object of meditation is.

There is always the point of re-absorption in thought. That reabsorption is the movement of hypnosis. Thoughts that are thought and feelings that are felt have an amazing capacity to completely and totally seize attention — to the point where there is no perspective, no objectivity, on them. There is seemingly nothing one can do about this, except to notice when they are caught in thought. And even that noticing can't be claimed — it is really only by the hand of Grace.

David Scoma on the hypnotic element of thought:

The movie is totally engulfing, to the point where we continually forget; we continually lose any sort of objectivity, and are instead constantly and consistently surrounded by the drama... almost being "pulled under by the tides" if you will.

You have to see just how prevalent the hypnosis is before you can work to deprogram the hypnosis.

And that hypnosis is near complete.

Addictive

I've noticed that there is something titillating about engaging in thoughts or feelings; stoking the fire if you will. There is some itch that is being scratched, or some appetite I am feeding when I consciously engage in identification and story telling about thoughts and feelings. No matter how negative the thoughts or feelings are, there is still something gratifying, in a very subtle way, about keeping the game up. I assert that this gratification is addictive, in the very same manner feeling the warmth and inhibition of a shot of whisky is.

This addictive quality is perhaps more of a catalyst than it is a characteristic in and of itself for identifying with objects in awareness such as thought or feeling. Nevertheless, it certainly doesn't make disidentification any easier, unless of course we begin to recognize this need for gratification via identification as precisely "not us."

Collective or Cultural Linkage/Validation

This is simply the notion that thoughts/feelings are apparently nested within and co-informed by a cultural context. We are believing in a shared story that has got nearly everyone else in society hypnotized as well. The sense is something like this: "Because "my" thoughts are the inherited, conditioned, and self applied beliefs that I've picked up from consensual reality, they map that reality, and thus I am real."

Like all the other characteristics of consciousness that keep the magic show intact, cultural linkage, when witnessed dispassionately betrays the mechanicalness and "not-me-ness" of those elements. Precisely because many of those voices in our heads are not really "ours" at all, but the voice of family, society, and culture-at-large we can see that they are not "us."

Inertia of past identification

The seeming weight of years and years of belief in Personhood given by disparate elements of consciousness has created a "groove" or a seeming habit of identification. If all I've ever taken myself to be are disparate elements of thought, feeling, sensation, and perception why would identification with them stop now? Identification with these elements runs deep, or seems to run deep anyway. The inertia of the past identification engenders further identification with those same elements.

Perhaps Bob Cergol is hitting at the same point, in the following quote:

The first perceptual experience simultaneously gives rise to the subject "having" the experience. Experience builds on experience and identity builds on identity.

David Scoma hints at the idea of inertia here:

It's like you're surrounded by sticky tape all the time. The human is extremely addictive to watch and to pay attention to. Those grooves are so well worn.. .you fall right back into place.

Memory

Perhaps the classic characteristic of consciousness that lends the appearance of a solid identity is memory. We've got all these poignant, profound, profane, and pointless memories. Nostalgic wisps of life-before-now lull us into believing ourselves to be the actor in their story — they entice us with juicy morsels of Personhood, convincing us we are that special one. But as Bart Marshall always says, "Memory proves nothing. Your memories all only occur now, in this instant. They all come with a tag that says 'I was there.'"

If memory is a classic illustration of the stickiness of thoughts, feelings, and emotional content, then the classic example of memory-at-work is the dialogue between Rachel the "replicant" (android) and Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner:

Deckard: Remember when you were six? You and your brother snuck into an empty building through a basement window. You were going to play doctor. He showed you his, but when it got to be your turn you chickened and ran; you remember that? You ever tell anybody that? Your mother, Tyrell, anybody? Remember the spider that lived outside your window? Orange body, green legs. Watched her build a web all summer, then one day there's a big egg in it. The egg hatched...
Rachael: The egg hatched...
Deckard: Yeah...
Rachael: ...and a hundred baby spiders came out... and they ate her.
Deckard: Implants. Those aren't your memories, they're somebody else's. They're Tyrell's niece's.

Coherence and Sensibility; Instant Believability

Thought loops seem to make sense... sometimes... the chain of association is sensible, perhaps not logical, but sensible. Thus there is some credit given to an intelligence behind the thought. That agent, the possessor of the intelligence, of course, must be us.

Thought loops and reflection map the "outside world" and the outside world is real and predictable, thus our thoughts of it are sensible in their own right.

From a journal entry on isolation:

The thing about the thought cycle is each iteration of thoughts feels like it has self-nature; like it is "me." They are all very convincing, very legitimate perspectives.

Sense of Observer — Witness — The "I Am" sense

The "I Am" sense seems to infuse the objects in awareness: thought, feeling, sensation... . "I Am" or Amness is sensed but somehow misattributed to belonging to objects in awareness. [From Bob] Cergol:

This sense of self surrounds all perception and experience. You are you. You feel "I am." This sense of self is behind all thought.

And as Art Ticknor simply explains it in his The Ego:

The ego is a belief planted in us by what created us—a belief that we're something (some thing).

The ego is the individuality-sense itself. It is the "I am" that identifies with certain forms, feelings and constructs.

Intuition tells me that the "I Am" sense is where to focus. Nisargadatta and others also say the same. I sense that the earnest seeker could disregard all the other characteristics I've laid out above and focus solely on the "I Am" or individuality sense, unqualified, itself.

D. Convictions common in seeking (at least on this end) that keep the trick in place

Now, I'd like to explore some slight of hand in the form of convictions or postures or relationships to the content of consciousness that hold the magic trick in place on the level of mentation/thought itself. This list could be endless, because thought can endlessly justify itself. Of course, the caveat here, is all of these items can be observed, and cast into the bucket of "thought itself" and thus be cast aside along with every other thought. It's just that these particular convictions tend to be pretty virulent and really, in my experience anyway, enhance the flotsam in consciousness with a very personal flavor.

Doership

This simply describes the tendency to justify action through selfhood, or vice versa. Doership, in my experience, kinda goes like this: "I did that." "I can't just disassociate from the fact I did it." "I have to take responsibility for it."

There is a weight to action. There is an almost irrefutable need to OWN actions taken. If we did not own these actions, then that puts us on very, very shaky ground. If I'm not the doer of my actions, which is what is suggested when the opportunity to simply drop the need to justify or seek respite from a particular deed, then I'm on very thin ice.

That there is somewhere else to go. Something else to do spiritual magazine

This is basically the conviction that THIS, right now, is NOT IT and is further substantiated by all the ways we justify to ourselves that what is, is indeed not IT. Common voices are: "This can't possibly be all there is." " There is something else to be done before Realization." "There is more information to acquire." That I can "take back" what is happening here and apply it to my life "out there."

The paradox of the compulsion to immediately cast aside the stamp of reality that only this moment has is, with Seeking, we feel that we are wasting time if we're not preparing for Realization (of that Reality), in some other time and some other place, somehow. The prospect of something called Realization feels so important that we can't justify letting go even for an instant, and being with what is; entertaining the idea that indeed, this is it.

That thoughts are significant

The belief that thoughts carry significance fuels the continued belief in the entity who is the apparent thinker of those thoughts. An example of how the belief that thoughts are significant is seen when I reflect on certain "spiritual thoughts." The conviction with some of these thoughts is that, if I stop thinking these spiritual thoughts then I'll fall off the path; that this is a worthy problem to solve and if I cease thinking about this worthy problem than I am hopeless to ever find a solution.

Thoughts appear to be as David Scoma says, "noteworthy, infallible, and trustworthy." As long as we are convinced these things are true about thought, then reliable dismantlement of the magic show will prove very difficult. We value our judgements and our discrimination. Perhaps the deepest beliefs and discernments about seeking itself are the very thought elements that hold this show together.

Life has to mean something (about me)

Some passages from my journal on isolation illustrate this point better than I could do here, so I decided to just roll with them:

Even now I am telling the story of the guy. Always, always, there's the voice "what does this mean about me?" Even now I feel I must "make sense" of all this.... Everything I scan, most of the time, is answering the question, "Okay, but what does this mean about me?"

I guess that's one of my main questions — "how do I make sense of my life?" How to I make the Alex character make sense, feel grounded, feel resolved? That is what all the frustrations as of late have really been about isn't it?

But don't you see... look at that as a voice churning now... spinning the Alex story now. The conviction that it must be resolved in some stable manner is also illusion, even though it may feel right. You are bound by your desire to become. That is now. It matters not what circumstances are or will be, that is now.

Need for an experience

This one is pretty simple: There is a need for an experience to happen. In its most extreme form this is an Enlightenment experience (ironically all the Realized ones tell us Realization is not an experience), and in lesser forms usually shows up in something like the example below:

This morning I had an unusually deep meditation followed of course by a banal meditation. Seemingly banal. Should be noted here that I am noticing the tendency to seek an experience in meditation. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want something to happen.

That I must find a superior resting point or insight

A related conviction to "need for an experience" is the need for a superior position or superior insight. This, of course, is a massive bit of scaffolding for the seeker identity. I was surprised to see how compulsively the mind was continually scanning for understanding, particularly superior understanding.

From the journal:

I'm looking for that superior resting point. The thoughts of "now I'm in the listening attention" or "now I'm in Silence" of course are just more thoughts. I guess I think that a superior resting point is going to somehow be within the thought structure, as a perspective, as well. When I was stretching tonight I realized that this may not be the case, and why it's so damn frustrating... . I am reaching for another resting point in self-hood, or another thought structure to rest on that is superior to all these.

... "Now I notice that I'm looking for a superior thought structure" becomes the superior thought structure. But I know better. It won't end that easy.

The idea that wafts in from memory of enlightened dudes' lips is, "There is going to be no THING to rest on..." Or like [Paul] Hedermann says, "It's enough to know the wave as wave — to see the wave as a wave." The space that remains is what remains.

The need for an Other

In my experience there always seems to be an Other, another person or audience somewhere way back that with whom I can show and share all of my experiences. This Other seems to be a transcendent function, countering a pervasive sense of Alone-ness. Really though, this other, most commonly embodied in romantic and familial relationships, is seen to be a core attachment, used to fend off feelings of emptiness, isolation, and alone-ness. Sitting with just how much I am motivated by this Other always is powerful. Looking squarely at this need is sure to strip a few shingles off the roof of Personhood, if not rip of the whole roof.

From the isolation journal:

There is no-one else...

... looking at the need for another... an "other."

there is the feeling that I am doing all this for someone else; notably for her.

She has been inexorably wound up throughout the day.. until i just stopped doing anything... Thoughts of her didn't appear for a while... I can't "kick" these thoughts, I can only turn the head. I guess is where the indulgence kicks in...when I feel that I am acting all this out for her.

If only there was another who could receive it all.

Fear of emptiness

I'm starting to see... that there may be nothing to "take back" to the Alex thing from this at all. The terror is that this is all there is. There is only this aloneness. There is no audience... The very notion that I can "take something away" from this isolation and "apply it" to real life may very well be the issue.

Walked, or slid rather, straight down McCreary's ridge to the creek below. There was an abandoned house by the waterside nestled in over growth. It was quaint. Perhaps an old farm house. The creek curved round. I was haunted as usual with thoughts of D. Haunted also with the "haunted house" metaphor from [Steven] Norquist. Thinking, feeling, maybe this really is true. There is no-one home. There is only this alone-ness. Are you okay with that? Such a lush and beautiful scene down there... the placid creek, the ridge covered in fall-turning trees — oranges, reds, and yellows straight up like a canyon — yet the sensed emptiness down there...it was, stark is not the right word, but not comforting.

The alone-ness doesn't feel good. It goes down bitter. I subtly hope there is Grace on the other side — but why? Why not just let it be?


under the bamboo
by Deborah Westmoreland

broken light
tight tall stems
pipelines
to nowhere
and everywhere
green.


Quotes....

Q: I was trying to be and not think, but I found it very difficult. I found my mind wandering quite a bit.

Linda: I wouldn’t advise trying not to think. When you realize that you are thinking, step back a bit from it and try not to go with the thoughts. But you can’t just stop thinking. It doesn’t work – and it’s a very aggressive thing to do. It’s better to work with the thoughts, and not see the thoughts as something that shouldn’t be there. Ultimately they do go, but the way they go is not through fighting with them, battling them. It’s a matter of seeing them as thoughts, no matter what they are, and coming back to the body when you can. Sometimes you won’t be able to – they’ll just be so strong that they’ll take you over. But rather than watching the thoughts, watch your reaction to them.

~from What do you Want? Conversations about Enlightenment with Linda Clair.


Humor....

Seriousness is stupidity sent to college.
- P.J. O'Rourke


Answers

May's Question of the Month, "What useful advice can you give to me, a seeker and ponderer who is weighing the idea of going after this "Search for Truth" that TAT seems to be focused on? Please only tell me what you've found useful in your own life. I'm tired of reading hollow 'advice' in books and online," drew the following responses:

1. In a way, the question/comments are posed in a somewhat contradictory way. They express wishy-washy pondering and weighing, but ask for firm/weighty input. Plus there's the irony that they don't want more of the usual stuff on the internet, but potential responses will appear in the potential dry/sterile environment of the internet.

Deciding to pursue the Truth and figuring out how, are at least as challenging as what faces a young, naive, sheltered kid in high school figuring out what career to pursue, what college if any to go to, what company to work for if any, where to live, and so on. Common sense suggests an active exploration of options based on the experience and impressions of others that have gone before. Do the research, talk to people, find out what's available, make the visits, do the interviews, take the trips, do the searching as if your life depends on it....

Common non-sense suggests just staying at home and reading about the possibilities, comparing and contrasting on paper, and making a decision in isolation based on theoretical knowledge, superficial misimpressions and home-town biases and myopic views.

Be prepared to leave the place that you happen to find yourself now thanks to earlier circumstances and priorities, hoping that your current environment and circle of friends are coincidentally supportive or even tolerant of what it takes to succeed with a major shift in your life. An aspiring snow skier with Olympic goals would never stay put if he happened to grow up in Georgia.

Find an organization of honest people who have been at a while and enjoyed some success among its members. Although none may have travelled anything like the path you need to travel, some among them are likely to have explored possibilities that might be helpful to you and be willing to share in the spirit of friendship, instead of profit or pride.

When discouraged, recall that a life based on lies or even half-truths is bound to lead to even greater despair and ultimate failure. On the other hand, any and all progress toward ultimate Truth build a foundation and perspective on life that adds meaning and depth to all else.

(OR, watch some of Shawn's interview in the Forum!)
~A. M.

2. In 12 step programs they have a slogan that is said at the end of each meeting….”Keep coming back”. This would be my one line of advice for any seeker of Truth, that has come across TAT. I went to my first TAT meeting 7 years ago, and have gone to at least 2 week-ends a year since then. Each time I attend a TAT week-end, I come away feeling redirected, refocused and/or reinspired. TAT, in one way or another, has inspired me to start and continue with a daily meditation practice, read recommended books, join an online confrontation group, do solo retreats, do group retreats, do media fasts, try out different methods of self-inquiry, fly across the world to see Douglas Harding, and pray. None of these things at any time was ever pushed – the inspiration happened spontaneously for me from being with others who had found the Truth or were looking for Truth. In TAT I have found a family of seekers like myself. The friendships I have developed with TAT friends feels like the most meaningful friendships in my life – our number one concern for each other is to help each other to find Truth. For me, my ongoing participation with TAT has kept the fire smoldering….sometimes blazing. Magic seems to happen when I “keep coming back.”
~H. S.

3. For what it’s worth a few things came to mind when I saw your question on the TAT forum.

I was in a similar situation a few years ago of wondering whether Truth was something to pursue or not and I ended up doing a simple exercise that helped me put things in perspective: I sat down with a piece of paper and started to write down all the possible things I could dedicate my life to. And when I couldn’t think of anything else to add to the list I started to cross out the options that appealed the least. In the end I was left with two options: family or Truth. And it sure wasn’t an easy decision. I literally got out of the chair, walked around my apartment while tearing my hair because of the tension, but in the end I admitted that what I really wanted was to pursue Truth. So I crossed out family from the list and it was a huge weight taken of my shoulders. An added bonus that I didn’t become aware of until later was how easy decisions about how to live my life became when I had clarity of purpose(that has been questioned many times since, but I always seem to come back to the same answer one way or another).

And if you are wondering whether the TAT approach is right for you or not I’d encourage you to go to a meeting and check it out for yourself. Participate in a meeting, talk to some of the folks there and make up your own mind. I flew in from Denmark (Europe) to check it out and I’m glad I did.
~T. S.

4. David, in requesting "tell me something I don't know" you reveal a an ego yet to transform itself from seeker to one who has become humble in the knowledge that God actually exists and is beyond your trying to figure it out. In terms of the request, how about this: you have a soul separate from your psyche, mind, emotions, zen, buddha, yoga, etc. God is separate from you and you are his creation. I am sure this last has you and most tat readers coughing and laughing, after all you are all gods but you don't know it yet, right? Ha.
~M. D.

5. We are told or take it as true that methods and practices are a means of discovery. What did you do to be where you are now as a seeker? What advice or tips can you give me that led you here? If I apply your answer to my problem will I stand were you presently do? I don't think so. It appears that for every realization there's a seeming path or epiphany that took them there. Sifting through them all would take a lifetime. For me I can only say continue through the paradoxs the frustrations, the seeming set backs, depressions, reversals, the epiphanies, the excitements, the fellowships. Go where it takes you.
~T. H.


And... the Question of the Month

What does Truth feel like?

send your answers to .


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