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


Solid Ground of Being by Art Ticknor

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TAT Forum
October 2002

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions


This month's contents:

The Books of the Relative by Richard Rose | Transition by Richard Rose | A Meditation on Identity by Bob Cergol | The End is in the Beginning by Gary Harmon | The Nature of the Physical World by Douglas Harding | Fisherman, Hiker, Driver: Who Am I? by Bob Fergeson | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Plateaus by Shawn Nevins | Commitment by W.H. Murray | Humor

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The Books of the Relative
by Richard Rose


My name is legion, but I have but one Lord. I am an army standing against myself, and for the dust of my flourishes, I cannot see my Lord.

Our voice is like thunder, and madly we shout to be heard above our echoes. How then can we hear the voice of the Lord? Loud is the flesh, so that its ears are drowned to the voice of the Lord.

Bataille de la Rochelle - Froissart We have conquered other armies, we have built cities, we have founded cultures, this we have done on our blood and on our flesh. Now our legion is restless and would enter into dissatisfaction with its members. And the army that was mighty sets upon itself, like the hunter against his hounds, like the hounds against the master. So that as time passes the army is less, and they that were legion may be counted on the fingers of the hand.

And this handful of units, dissatisfied with the struggle and having grown dear to one another, swore to seek out the Lord together and to abandon vanity and glory to look into His face. And not having seen Him, they knew not what terrible or holy thing His face might be.

But now that they were less, and their tumult was less, they could hear the voice of the Lord, and it came like a whisper, and each thought that it spoke to him alone and to his ear.

And to one it said, "Eat not meat." And to another ear it said, "Eat only fish and the plants of the earth." And to another it said, "Eat only the plants of the earth."

And each thought he heard correctly, and each swore that his ear was the vessel of the word of the Lord. And each heard the voice say, "Thou and the Lord are one. He who is alive when the remainder are dead—he is one with the Lord."

And this drove them to strange acts. Some ran with a ladder to climb to the height of sound. Others brought forth magical instruments with which to examine the voice of the Lord. Others built boxes, like churches, to house the echoes of His voice, so that they might encompass Him forever. And others tried to beget children, thinking that their children might find the Lord. But in the end, maddened and dismayed, they fought and slew each other, until but one remained.

And this One, lonely in His wisdom and saddened at His path of flesh and blood, and at the loss of his dearly loved brothers, cried out to the Lord. He cried, "O Lord, long have I battled and sacrificed. I have exchanged my sons for a ladder to my Lord. I have destroyed my temples, my vanities, and burned my books, and yet I have found no ladder to lead me to the source of thy voice. O Lord, give unto me a sign for a way, for a path, for a ladder, and for a discernment that I will know, when I see, that which is a True path, that which might be a True way, that which might be a ladder of direction, on whose rungs each step is carefully numbered. I have slain these liars, my brothers, and I have none to teach me save thee. I have slain my spouse when she spoke out against thee; now thee must I love only. Wilt thou love me in return and grant me favors from the bounty of thy love? Wilt thou convey to me the words of magic that change lead to gold, move mountains, and rouse the demons slumbering in the bowels of the earth? Wilt thou now whisper the ineffable word, that will be a door to all wisdom, now that there are but two of us?"

And the voice replied, "I am the beginning and the end. I am the bowman, the arrow and the victim. I am the Way. I am the Path. I am the Ladder. And the numbers are so written that they can only be seen from above, when the feet are upon them. And when thus seen, the feet are part of them. For that which climbs is always upon a ladder.

"I speak and thou hearest Me not. I am the Truth. I am the Love. And as I promised, I and thou are one. So that truly thou must be honest to thyself, and love thyself for My sake. Thou art now the fox and the hare and art still the hare even after the fox has taken thee into his jaws.

"And now thou speakest to Me of a word. And I reply to you that the word and I are one. And you and I are one. And if I spoke a word unto thee, then there would be two people, the hearer and the speaker. But this is now not so. For we are one. Long have I been divided against myself, but now thou hast found me. Let there be no question or answer. Let there be no positive word, for that is creation, and it begets the negative. Let us be one. And this One shall be I who am, unborn and undying. Seek not for a word, for then shall we be three, and these shall cast other reflections until there shall stand armies preparing to war against one another. And their name shall be legion, and my voice shall be like a gnat's looking vainly to be heard.

"I am the voice of silence. I am the joy and the sorrow. I am the beginning and the end. Be still and know that I am the discernment."


Speak to me, O Guru, of that which is True and that which is certain.

sleeping disciples And thus it came about that the Guru spake to his chela. Wherein will you find the Truth? Shall the guru who trades thee Truth for rice extend to thee a commodity worth more than the rice?

Shall the guru who asks you to rely on faith support thy quaking soul at death?

For is not faith an instrument and not an end in itself. The faith of the Mohammedan is fatal to the Christian, and separate creeds call upon us to extend faith to them while they stand apart and even opposite to one another. So that the sacred implementation of faith is used as a weapon rather than a celestial lever.

Though I possessed the Truth, particular and absolute, still I could not give it to thee, for how could I converse except by words, which are relative.

I say that the Truth is in thee, but that with the help of the guru thou mayest find thyself. And to know thyself, thou must first know that which thou art not, lest thou mistake thy alter-ego for the real.

And you wouldst ask me for that which is certain, and I say that all that thou wouldst know in honesty is that thou knowest nothing for certain. And if thou knowest this, thou hast made a worthy beginning. Let thy beginning be from zero. Fill not thy mind with false assumptions, and let the doubt live until it is drowned in evidence.

Look at thyself to see if thou thinkest from fear or desire. Among thy fellows, thou will see great numbers who have followed a vain religion out of fear. Others have changed their religion out of a desire for the seemingly better things the other religion offers. Others will change religion because of benefit to their economy. And thou will look with scorn upon all of these but forget to ask thyself, "What do I really know for certain? What has brought me to the door of this temple—has it been true intuition or masked desire?"

This I would tell thee as a certainty. Man cannot learn by starting with presumption. Man cannot start with the Truth because he knows not where it is or what it is, and since he cannot have anything proven to him when he is not acquainted with it, he must become acquainted before the proving.

Man must make a start. He must seek. Not knowing what the True is, he must in every situation take that which is evidently more true than the other. Thus will he approach the altar. Seek thou for books and people. These are thy guru until thou findest the Guru who knows all. Look not with scorn on the great soul of Buddha, who gives advice to the ages to seek the path and the sangha. In the darkness, even the sage goes hand in hand with a sage to take surer steps and avoid the abysses. And this is brotherhood.

Seek not ye out men who profess to know all, for these men are liars. If they knew all, the world would join to build temples to them. But seek ye humble men who will with thee build, stone upon stone, a wall to keep out the forces of ignorance and adversity and to retain that which thou mightest forget if thou hast no wall to remind thee. Gather ye from the far corners of darkness, and joined in groups work ye and comfort one the other. And let all exult with the progress of one.

Turn thy back to the light lest it blind thee, but advance toward it in this manner. Always thy face shall be toward the darkness of ignorance, for thou need not be wary of the Light.

Make one step in seeking, and make another. And these things shall be made known to thee, and with each step it will be easier to follow the next.

Help another to thy level, and the seeds of brotherhood are planted, and then shalt thou rise.

Thus spake the Guru.

© 1982 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

by Richard Rose

Once I stood before my casement,
Overlooked the world amid the startled night,
Loved the dark, that close and confident ...
That brooding mother night.
I held communion with the dark which is so much
Akin to Death.
Both are so quiet, confident ... impenetrable,
Both are nothing. They are the same,
And the three, Dark, Death and me,
We're married—happy One!

The spouse so pure, the world's guile
With sweet hypnosis, lured. I stepped back
Into the light much as I would step between
The curtain from the dull backstage
Into the glory and blinding glare of footlights.
The blinding glare of light!
Here's what I saw:
I saw a tragic opera. It was a dream,
Carried away upon etheric waves of music ...
Upon the mirror played such rays,
Such tantalizing, adulatory rays—
I was transformed.
Transformed like a Pumpkin Princess ...
As long as I'd live I'd need no one to love me—
Graced by such light ...
I'd love my shadow.

Then came a nimbus ...
New Hypnosis ...
To steal my silent adoration from myself,
To hold the mirror to my eyes and say
You are hideous!—And so I seemed!
Then she held that vile invention
(for man's perdition)
For both of us and pointed—
Together we are both beautiful ...
And so we were!
Mad witch! Fair Sorceress!
Queen of my clay!
Goddess of my soul!
Blind clairvoyant of my destiny,
When she said love could never die,
We were already dead!

How must the virgin feel
When she awakes to find herself bedded down with sin,
Sold to Vanity, strangled by Flattery,
Blinded by Power, tied fast in emotion,
And raped into Reality ...
How she must feel,
How she must hope the night still folds her in
A nightmare-dream.

How she must feel
Much like a miser outsold
And counterswindled from his fantasies.

And still I dream
This terrifying dream ...
Steeped in this unchanging void, I sit,
A fickle, ego-bloated criminal
Against the justice of Reality.

And wiser now, I look into the mirror,
See foremost in the world, reflected,
Strife torn me.
Light blinded me.
And then behind me are the scenes
I cannot change,
Because they are the world
That I have created.
O fickle god that makes thyself Gethsemane!

I try to look ahead but all reflects.
Each time that I would probe into the future
I am reflected back into the past,
Into myself.

So that I see
Purple kaleidoscope hill,
Green hills and violet skies,
Pink fields, silver rivers, ebon woods, golden leaves,
Immutable animals of ivory, clouds of silken gossamer,
Across a great uncertain ocean.

And I look deeper, and see a sable curtain parting
Upon another parting
Upon another.
Velvet deepness unfolding
Darker and deeper.
And find at last that I am safe
From beguiling light,
And find voracious Truth
Deep in the infinity
Of Darkness and Eternity ...
Deep in myself.

© 1982 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

A Meditation on Identity
by Bob Cergol

How many here would define the self as the body? (Then you must identify with "the mind," or you are very honest. We underestimate our belief in the body.)

[This is the second part of a presentation given at the SKS Avila retreat in 2000, continuing from the September 2002 TAT Forum. The remainder of the meditation is intended to be listened to with your eyes closed. If possible, find someone to read it to you. If not, read an item then close your eyes. In either case, allow time for each item to sink in.]

My teacher, Richard Rose said, "The task of the seeker of Eternity is to die while living."

  Have you contemplated your own death? Can you do so today, now?

  What will happen to you when you die? Where will death leave YOU?

  From where does your identity spring?

  Is your identity dependent upon the body? fishing on a willow-banked stream

  What is the relationship of identity with the body?

  Do you define the self as the body?

  Consider—deeply: Are you the body?

  If you are not the body, then are you aware of having a body?

  Who is this "you" who is not a body but has a body?

  If you are not your body then what are you?

  If not, do you think you will have an identity without the body?

  You are aware of identity. But what comprises this identity?

  Are you thoughts? Are you memories? Are you experiences?

  Are you the mind?

  Do you hope or believe that "you-the-mind" will outlast the body?

A long, long time ago, experiences began happening to a body. Memories were recorded. There is a long recorded history to that identity, so known and loved.

The ego is programmed for self-survival. The ego belongs to the body. It is of the body and inherits the self-survival programming of that body. It serves the survival needs of that body. Its automatic pattern of functioning is an echo of the body's pattern of functioning.

The ego has secured itself like an oyster—with layer upon layer of protective insulation—a constructed identity … identity spins identity.

The self-aware ego is a fiction, a lie, a contraption born of the body—made possible by THAT, which animates all forms.

The ego cannot accept this truth because it would be the total contradiction of the ego.

My other teacher, Alfred Pulyan, on knowing the truth said, "There is only one way & that is to quit the egocentric position."

Analysis of this construct is useful but is literally working on the surface. The danger is one of trying to perfect the ego. This sort of activity easily, naturally and automatically becomes outward focused. It is not looking at the looker! It is a device used by ego to maintain ego. Ego-1 creates Ego-2 to "work on." This device reinforces and preserves Ego-1.

You KNOW that the body dies and is dissipated.

Know, too,
that the mind,
which is at all times one with that body,
likewise is dissipated.

Nothing of you will remain.

That which you now take as "you" is not and never was.

If you can see that right here and now, then you will discover the difference between that which is permanent and that which is impermanent. You will discover the difference between that which IS and that which is merely an experience and truly has no substance.

To get to this point you must accept yourself right where you find yourself. You must stop lying to yourself about who you have been, about who you are now and about who you think you will become tomorrow. Then you could stop lying to yourself about what you are. You are not the body and you are not the mind.

These forms are like peep-holes,
through which the Absolute gazes—back into itSelf.
In that process, these forms become animated,
and the thought arises that the form is the self.
In reality that form is nothing more than a vision—
for only the Source itSelf IS.

The End is in the Beginning
by Gary Harmon

In the round of birth and death
By the visible and invisible infinity
The Self of which thou art the Whole
Manifests as the sanctuary of desires

The end is in the beginning
Concealed and hidden
Waiting to be released thru the rhythm
Of the pain and pleasure of living

The reverence of many things in the One
Awareness itself beyond even consciousness
The permanent high-state understanding
With no beginning which knows no end

In the fulfilling of life there is no death
Nor the ache of great loneliness
Laughter and cries of sorrow
Are but life on its way to fulfillment

In the apparent solidity of the manifest
There shall be confusion, strife and conflicts of reason
Darkness and probing of despair and trauma
Arise to provide excitement and pleasure

This is the play of the unmanifested
Amusing itself as it always has
There is nothing causing anything
All is perfection in its normal state

There is occasion for all things to transform
This is the instant of reckoning
When you are called to walk straight forward into the light
Becoming the fulfillment of your destiny

The Nature of the Physical World
by Douglas Harding

Science—or rather, science misunderstood and gone haywire—has come up with a great deal of unscientific nonsense in its time. And the most prevalent, the most silly, the most absurd piece of pseudo-scientific nonsense is the dogma that consciousness is a by-product of matter—a kind of incidental and accidental effluvium or subtle radiation that matter gives off when it gets sufficiently complex, as in human brains. The one thing led to the other, as if brains happened to grow a bump of consciousness in addition to the other bumps! As if the protuberance on the top of the head of images of the Buddha were the bump of that superconsciouness which he called enlightenment! In the beginning was a lot of stuff, and in the course of time it got around to noticing itself! Clever stuff! Wonder of wonders, object gives birth to subject. Are we astounded at such a maculate Conception and Nativity? Not at all. We take it in our stride. The primacy of matter over spirit is simply taken for granted. It is among the least challenged of the myths we live by.

narcissus as symbol of self-awareness That things should produce awareness of things—and by chance, at that—is, when you think of it, quite weird. It's like supposing that the movie-projector is operated by one of the actors on the screen. Equally odd is the notion that the subject can be examined from outside as if it were some kind of object. How can the subject be discovered except from within, by subjectivity itself? In any case there's not a particle of evidence of material things giving rise to consciousness. No one has ever observed it happen, or explained what to look for. In fact, the very idea is nonsensical.

What is a material object, according to science itself? It is a collection of phenomena (from the Greek phainein, to show), a set of regional appearances/pictures/readings which the scientist picks ups and pieces together as he hovers round the "thing" he's surveying from various angles, at various distances, with the help of various instruments. What these regional appearances are appearances of, what nestles at their center, is hidden from him. However close he gets to that thing so-called, he remains too far off to say what it really is, intrinsically, at no distance from itself. The scientist, as such, is an outsider.

But he does have two clues to what's inside:

number 1 His first clue is that the nearer he gets to the thing the less "thingy" and the more empty it becomes. Progressively stripping it of assets, he comes to regions where all that remains of that seemingly solid object is space haunted by twists of energy, so to speak. Beauty and ugliness, utility, life, color, opacity, shape, even precise location—all are left behind by the approaching observer. There's not a quality or function that will stand up to close inspection. It is distance that lends these enchantments. Go up to anything and you lose it.

But just a minute! Who goes up to that thing and loses it? Who registers the dismantling and disappearance of the object and its reduction to virtual emptiness? Why, the scientist himself, of course, as consciousness. He leaves all behind except awareness. You could say he takes it with him wherever he goes, because that is what he is. It's impossible for him to explore the physical world of cells and molecules and atoms and particles and leave it merely physical: his active presence there infects it through and through and at every level with spirit. As for the space that underlies all, how could his awareness of it be separated from that space? Just as there's no way of entering an empty house, so there's no way of contemplating mindless space. No wonder subatomic physics is forced by the facts to bring the observer into the picture. In fact, while the picture fades on ever closer examination, the consciousness that illuminates it shines all the more brightly. Matter dissolves in favor of spirit.

Let me put it in another—and I think better—way. Things can be moved and carried around. Not so consciousness of things. It isn't a torch which the scientist takes along with him to shine on things, or an air freshener he sprays them with, or a laser beam he directs at them. Wherever he goes it's already there, inseparable from the very nature of those things. If for the word consciousness or spirit I read God (and there are many worse names for It) then I can say with the Psalmist:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

In short, spirit or consciousness underlies all, and there is no such thing as the merely physical. A phenomenon or regional appearance by itself, without a central reality of which it is an appearance—what sort of nonsense is that, for heaven's sake?

number 2 There exist two distinct kinds of things (so-called) which are available for the scientist's inspection—the observed thing and the observing thing. That is to say, other bodies, and his own body. We have just seen to what conclusions his examination of other bodies leads. Now let us find out whether they are confirmed by his examination of his own body, the specimen he carries around with him all the while.

Here, nearer than near, is his second clue to what things really are, as distinct from what they look like at a distance. Here is his very own sample lump of matter, always handy, requiring no laboratory or instruments for its most searching examination, constantly reporting on its true and intrinsic nature, transparent through and through to his direct inspection. If (and it's a very big if) he takes seriously this unique and precious sample—if and when he dares to look at what he's looking out of, inspecting it from inside that one thing on which he is the final authority—why then he finds it to be quite empty, and in fact no kind of thing at all. A nothing keenly aware of itself as just that. Such is the view of himself at no distance from himself, provided he is honest and attentive enough. Which is to say, truly scientific.

Notice how nicely these two clues confirm each other. Whether looked at from outside or inside, bodies dissolve, matter vanishes, spirit remains—once we bother to go into the matter. "Spirit is the living body seen from within, and the body is the outer manifestation of the living spirit." Extend this statement by Carl Jung to all bodies from electrons to galaxies, and you have the ultimate physics.

To understand the primacy of spirit is good. To realize it, to see it, wordlessly to experience it, to be it without thinking about it—this is incomparably better. And incomparably easier: in fact, understanding must always be about its object, hovering round and about it and never gaining admittance. That is why the rest of this chapter is a heartfelt invitation to the reader to do one or two little experiments, which will surely lead to this direct perception of what would otherwise remain a mere set of lifeless concepts.

Observe this thing you are now holding. What in reality is this object called "book"? I mean this actual wad of paper with printing. There it is, a solid enough lump of stuff a few inches wide and long and less than an inch thick, weighing rather less than a pound, covered with (I trust) meaningful black marks on a white surface. Now where are these meaningful patterns that you are currently taking in? Are they over there, some 12 inches away, or are they where you are?

Well, let's put the matter to the test. Go right up to the page and see. Apply your eye to this printing, as if you were putting on a contact lens. Yes please, all the way. If you feel a bit ridiculous, remember what's at stake. Namely Reality itself, and your status within it. Go on ...

What did you see? I venture to say that what you found there was not meaningful sentences, not loose words, not a string of letters, not even fuzzy black marks on a white ground, but an illegible blur. And, on contact, nothing at all. You lost everything, but you didn't lose consciousness. It was the book, not you, that passed away. The nothing you found wasn't just nothing at all—whatever that monster could be—it was Nothing but Awareness. "There is a Light by which things are see," says Ramana Maharshi, "and if divested of things the Light alone remains."

So much for where these printed words are coming from. Where are they going to? Who is reading them now, on present evidence? What is taking them in? In your firsthand experience at this moment, is it a solid, rounded, hairy thing with two peepholes in it? Only you—you who are your own closest inspector—are in a position to say. Again, isn't it true that what you go right up to you lose? You certainly go all the way to you. So it's no wonder that you vanish, just as the page did, leaving only awareness. Intrinsically, then, the Reader is the same as the Read, and none other than Spirit which is indivisible. To put it picturesquely, this page of printing is a letter from Spirit to Spirit, a love-letter from You to You. And, of course, what's true of this page is true of the other pages in this book when you come to them, and of the hands that are now holding it, and of the furniture in the room, and of all that's going on outside. They are views of You, messages from You, displayed to You. At root, all you perceive is Yourself, heavily disguised as someone else, for your entertainment and refreshment.

It would be difficult to overstate the practical importance of this discovery, its consequences for everyday living. All alienation, all separation, the many-sided threat of hostile things and persons and situations—these are no more than bad dreams. All is You. How could you fear Yourself? How could you despise, resent, be bored by Yourself? How could you not love Yourself?

All this and more than this. Everything you see and hear and handle is something you want to say to yourself, something well worth saying, something significant—even if it's only about an oncoming bus. There can be no dreadful or garbled or meaningless messages from you to You. News about You, read by You, is good news, however bad it may sound to the hearer who is deaf to its Source and Destiny in himself as Spirit. To him Ramana says: "The imperfection appears to you. God is perfection. His work also is perfection. But you see it as imperfection because of your wrong identification ... Find out if you are physical."

In conclusion, then, the spirit which is one and the same in all beings is the true nature of what we take to be the physical world. Things as such have no substance and no reality and no power at all. You could call them pictures of God held up by God for his own inspection, and in themselves less than paper-thin. All you have to do to live from this realization is to go on seeing who's doing it. And I mean seeing, not understanding.

~ Reprinted by permission, from Look for Yourself by Douglas E. Harding. See The Headless Way web site for more information on Douglas Harding and his teaching.

Fisherman, Hiker, Driver: Who Am I?
by Bob Fergeson

"Our aim is to become one, to have one permanent "I." But in the beginning, work means to become more and more divided. You must realize how far you are from being one, and only when you know all these fractions of yourself can work begin on one or some principal "I"s around which unity can be built. It would be wrong understanding to unify all the things you find in yourself now. The new "I" is something you do not know at present; it grows from something you can trust. At first, in separating false personality from you, try to divide yourself into what you can call reliable and what you find unreliable." ~ P.D. Ouspensky

Somewhere in the past, I had the good fortune to learn to fish. It started out as curiosity and peer pressure, but mostly came from a desire to spend time in the wilderness. Since my better half at the time thought it inappropriate for a grown man to just hang out in the woods, a socially acceptable excuse was needed ... fishing it was. It went from a part-time habit to a full-time obsession in short order, then vanished as quickly as the marriage. What remains is mostly an inability to come upon a body of water and not look at it with the eyes of a fisherman. As soon as I approach the bank, I notice an immediate change. I become the fisherman and slip into the habits of years stalking trout in countless streams and lakes.

For a few years, this habit was identified with: "I" was the fisherman. In recent times, I've been able to simply sit back and watch this fisherman as he goes through his well-worn act. He's no longer me, for the "I" thought is no longer present in him. The fisherman is no longer in opposition to his environment, but is lost in it. He and the fishing are one, but who was "I"?

Alpine pond and Mt. Irvine Hale. Photo: Bob Fergeson Alpine pond and Mt. Irvine Hale.
Photo: Bob Fergeson

On a recent hike, I had the opportunity to see this character in action, this fisher person, and several more besides. I noticed a person who hikes. It was interesting to watch how he made decisions as to route finding, rationalizing the climbing of "just one more peak," how he resisted the inevitable coming of the end of the day; his confidence and skill. Like the fisherman, he was an old friend of sorts, having once been 'me' too.

Later, when the day was drawing to a close, I noticed yet another 'person' in the entourage: the fellow driving the car. This chap was by far the oldest of the group and the most set in his ways. He had been 'me' at times for most my adult life, and behind the wheel during many episodes, some best forgotten, at least by the insurance industry. Now the strange thing about these persons, or little men, is that at some point I had said "I" to each of them. I had even said "I" to them in turns several times over the course of a day, interspersed with a whole zoo of others. Who are these characters, and what is this mysterious "I" which floats with ease from one person to another? And most importantly, why don't most of us notice this?

The truth of the matter is simple. The fisherman is the response to fishing, the hiker to hiking, the driver to driving, or the attempt at driving. They are the insentient response to a particular set of circumstances, just one side of the coin of an event. There is no "I" in them. The only thing that is present in all circumstances, and paradoxically free of them, is our simple awareness. We say "I" to the least and greatest of our response patterns, but never question the apparent absurdity. Instead of remaining fast 'asleep,' as Gurdjieff would say, become the hunter of yourself. Stalk this "I" thought, see where it leads. To be identified with and trapped in the confines of circumstantial response patterns, one after another, without rest, is hell on earth and the cause of our needless suffering. To be free is to reside in that which does not change, yet is aware, and does nothing. Keep watch on this sense of "I," and see where it leads you.

~ From the Mystic Missal

Poems by Shawn Nevins

This fall, amidst the chasing of leaves
and the storing of hopes till spring,
I will wait for the signs of winter.
I will watch these hands complete their destiny—
part of me there and part listening.
Listening for the quiet of a snow-covered day.
Stillness without reflecting the stillness within.


Once again I travel down through the years.
What is this eye that never sleeps?
What is this fact that tears my mind?
Ages of living, working, dying,
like wheat swaying in the breeze.
These lovely, painful cycles of existence,
falling and rising.
In my heart is the solidity of the pivot point
rooted in a foundation of nothingness.
Nothing is more impenetrable—
nothing more solid, than nothing.
I drift between life and love—
between vision and the eye itself.


The roar of your life
deafens you to the voice of God.
You are making waves in an empty pool.
If you survive the plunge,
let the echoes of your folly be your guide.
Become hollow, make no noise of your own,
and do not repeat your foolishness.
I, too, am a fool,
but these words let me remember.


Be who you are,
alone with me,
where words such as you and I matter not.
The lightest touch of the mind
splits nothingness in two.
Such is the trouble with the power of God
in the hands of children.
What is true sounds like this....


Come deeper with me
to the place of watchers of watching.
To the place where all becomes shadow.
Where our lacy mind blows in a gentle breeze
that is the whispering breath of God.
A god who gently laughs as he himself
slips under waters as still as death.

Leave me and you will find me.
Within and behind is the Golden Find.


Will you dare to stand with me
by the water?
To leave your earthy dreams
for a mystery that ever waits?
A voice spoke upon the face of the waters
and all was born in its wake.
Your reflection floats upon that same water.
Under the water and behind your eyes
is a singular place of being.


Do not care for the names of things
or for the particulars.
It is the patterns that call out to you.
For in patterns you find the hand of God—
in names, the hand of man.
All you possess are words.
What you are is a play of light
upon the still hand of eternity.

by Shawn Nevins

There were at least three periods of deep hopelessness and frustration in my search. Periods where I felt at the end of a particular way of seeking and didn't know what to do next. I think these are what Mr. Rose referred to as plateaus. Where the warrior rests under a tree and gathers his strength for the next campaign. Trouble was, I was never sure if I was gathering strength for the next battle or falling asleep under the tree.

Athletes run into plateaus. A man may exercise for months and develop 19-inch biceps. Suddenly, his gains stop. Despite doing more repetitions and adding more weight, his biceps grow no larger. He may conclude that he is at his limit and settle for 19-inch biceps. If he is lucky, he has body-building friends or reads the literature and realizes he has plateaued. He procrastinates, though, because breaking through the plateau means finding a new way to exercise—new stances, new diets, and maybe even a new gym.

Ox Cleuch plateau I find the spiritual plateau little different from the physical plateau. It is a cause for celebration because we have exhausted a prior method of search. We have worn out a tool with our diligent work. It is also a cause for much frustration if there are no new tools in sight. Our old ways no longer work, yet we have not found a new way. We are stuck, treading water.

Everyone will hit plateaus. The danger is in spending too much time there. The trick is to be willing to try anything that might help. When we are frustrated and angry at our lack of progress, we often reject the people who could help. The temptation will be there, as well, to watch TV, or see a movie, go on a date, or do whatever we think is fun. Go ahead, the change might remind you why you got involved in the spiritual life in the first place. Be honest, though, and recognize when you start to waste time—when you start chasing pleasure.

My last year living on the Farm was pretty dark and hopeless. I no longer had Mr. Rose to inspire me, I no longer wanted to watch my mind with my mind, I was at a spiritual dead end. I lost my sense of direction; lost the thread I was following. I kept trying the same old techniques—like man using a screwdriver that doesn't fit the screw. My options were: give up, continue to use the old methods, or find a new way.

Continuing to use the old methods is not really an option. It is a stalling technique that eventually leads to giving up or finding a new way.

Some people maintain that once one begins the spiritual search they can never give up. Maybe so, but I do know that people waste years trying to give up or taking extended "vacations."

What we want is to find a new way. During my last year on the Farm, that led to a reevaluation of previously dismissed ways of seeking. Specifically, I had disdained nature mysticism despite my fondness for the outdoors. In desperation, I returned to the woods and found a new source of inspiration. I was willing to try anything.

Consider the plateau a necessary part of progress. Think of it as hiking a trail. We hike so vigorously that we eventually run out of trail, so we pitch our tent and take a break. It feels like a break since there is no longer an open path to quickly follow. It is not really a break, though, because every day we scout around looking for a new trail. We are resting, but at the same time exploring and watching for a new path. Our pace of seeking has temporarily slowed.

We act in the face of apparent hopelessness. Some days we would rather hide out in our tent. Keep looking. It is as W.H. Murray says of commitment [see below]—all manner of unforeseen opportunities will arise.

W.H. Murray on Commitment

... Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

~ From "The Scottish Himalaya Expedition of 1951."


Always treat children like adults and adults like children, and you'll never go wrong. ~ Musician and author Kinky Friedman's father

If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z, where X is work, Y is play, and Z is keep your mouth shut. ~ Albert Einstein

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere. ~ Dr. Seuss

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