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

TAT Forum
September 2003

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


This month's contents:

General Aims by Richard Rose | Who Do You Love? by Bob Fergeson | To Practice or Not to Practice by Joel Morwood | The Final Step by Gary Harmon | Poems by Shawn Nevins | The Key by Jim Burns | A Koan for Today by Shawn Nevins | Gauging the Need to Continue the Search by Bob Cergol | Humor

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General Aims
by Richard Rose

We talk of Zen in regards to a Truth System, or a system that will lead to Reality, and we use Zen terminology at times. Sometimes the use of these Zen aphorisms, such as "no-mind," become easy slogans for a rationalization for laziness or spiritual procrastination.

Some say, "What is the use of talking about Truth when many writings on Zen tell you that there is nothing you can do about finding Truth or Reality." These people have the idea that life is futile and that all we should do about it is meditate—with the chance that we may stumble upon the awareness of Reality.

However, regardless of the writings to which they refer, no man writes or teaches if he thinks it is futile to write, without some assurance that it will result in action. We must discount the writers that write for cleverness only or to merely impress readers with their complex mentality.

Zen is not complex. It is made complex by the many different types and levels of ignorance. The simple Truth is written in many different ways to encourage the vision of minds of widely variegated perspective and perspective-potential.

The Truth is not in Zen alone. The Truth is found in the minds of men if they look deeply enough. It is not regional or resident only in some geographic focus. It is not inaccessible to certain races. It is inaccessible to those who are undetermined, only. We find that enlightened men have emerged from almost every religion. The quality of such men was not religiousness by traditional standards. The quality of such men was in nearly all cases an undaunted courage of inquiry.

I chose to work under the banner of Zen because down through the ages it amounted to a system of pure inquiry, putting little accent on ceremony and dogma. I also chose it because of my connection with Zen teachers who manifested a better facility for communication on matters esoteric than did any of my contacts in Western religious circles.

I find that that which matters is Truth, and that which we choose as an instrument for digging out the Truth should be that which is more effective upon the understanding of the aspirant or listener.

With this I am saying that while some enlightened men evolved from esoteric Christian groups, their importance and significance has been lost because of the negative mental picture with which many Christians have colored and endowed the word "Christian." There is also the factor that many sincere minds are charmed more by exotic terminology and foreign teachers. It is the "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome.

Man cannot hear unless he has ears. But, by the same token, man dances to the tune of different drummers because his ears are tuned to different receptions. So it may be advisable for the teacher at times to bend his language to the ears of the students who are eager and sincere. This should never be interpreted as being an excuse for a compromise—a compromise with erroneous or biased thinking.

I would like to give at this time also my attitude toward other systems. It is foolish to denounce other systems merely because they exist and because we see no agreement with their method. It is likewise cowardly to fail to denounce any system that functions under a false pretense and which, in so doing, consumes the valuable young years of a student's life in repayment for that student's trust and faith. Of course we may be tempted to say that people without the proper vision deserve to be duped, but such thinking only spells doom and hopelessness for future generations of which we are the seed, physically and spiritually.

We must discriminate, even as Buddha enjoined. We must point out error and denounce deliberate spiritual chicanery. We cannot lie down with fornicators and remain pure. We cannot get into mutual back-scratching, or lie down with rationalization, unless we wish to become dish rags.

We can only find Truth by retreating from untruth, not by postulating a "Truth" that we achieve by visualization rather than by realization. In Matthew 10:34, Christ gives his aims, pointing out that he is not an agent of peace but the agent of the sword. He is referring to the sword of discrimination. In Zen writings it is called the sword of Prajna.

We cannot lie down with the liar and the huckster and ever become the Truth. We cannot indulge in compromising intercourse either. We cannot flirt politically or engage in log-rolling with materialism, materialistic psychological dogma, or a sociology that is based strictly upon foods and fertilizer. We cannot lie down with expediency.

We must continually avoid being the type of people who whip their children for telling some tiny lie of evasion when, as parents, we encourage some mammoth theological lies for the sake of social harmony. And what is even worse is when we as parents encourage some monstrous psychological lie that subverts the innocence of our children when they are in their helpless years.

Each generation is encouraged into greater and greater dissipation by the teachers of most of our schools and by the textbooks that are issued. And all the while the parents and teachers in this collusion are hypocritically attending churches of Christian name or origin, pretending to search for a God that exhorted mankind to become again as little children. There must be some value to being a child. And most esoteric guidelines point us in the direction of childlike innocence—indicating that such innocence is germane to perfection of intuition and thinking processes.

I am therefore a moralist in what I consider relative to spirituality. I do not believe in preaching morality to those who believe in immorality. It is generally useless to preach about life to a man who is dying and cannot better his situation. I do believe in confronting even the proponents of immorality when they collectively approve and encourage moral decay.

I believe that sexual innocence is a common denominator in every esoteric path of any worth or permanence.

I likewise believe that our becoming the Truth has more chance if we concentrate on theological and philosophical discrepancies rather than everyday conversational lies or lies related to our survival.

© 1975 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Who Do You Love?
by Bob Fergeson

"We can be aware of our Source of Being. The illusions of the mind may hold our love for a time, but to love Love itself, we must turn within. The soul's longing for its true Home is the guide to finding this Love. Follow the lover of the Beloved back upstream to your Source." ~ St. John of the Cross

In the search for our true Source of Being, or what might be called "God," we would do well to use the proper part of ourselves. In other words, what is searching will determine what is found. The above quote gives us a clue as to what not to use. The "customary self," " robot," or "personality" are selves formed by life, as a reaction to that life, and will die when that life ends. If our goal is to find the real, it would further us to use the most real part of ourselves as the searcher. Gurdjieff referred to this problem using the terms of "essence" and "personality." The essence, or "soul," refers to that part of us which is immortal, was there before this life and will be there after. "I do not know her origin. None. Yet in her all things begin" is one way St. John describes this. "Personality" is the reaction program and pattern formed by life and is only capable of seeing that life. For this self, the realm within is just a blank, an emptiness, which it disregards and refuses to cross.

St. John uses the term "soul" for essence, and the word "creature" for the life-created reaction pattern or personality. His poetry and sayings tell us the story of the soul's love for the Beloved, the essence's longing for its divine state, being lost in the world of form. He advises us to leave the parts of us that long for the world in favor of that which longs for God. These are not idle words, written to amaze or entertain, but a clue as to how to carry our search past the limits of the world of form, and what we must become in order to venture into the formless.

Using the mind to seek that which lies beyond it is a trap we all fall into. We have lost contact with our souls and, puffed up with the pride of our personality, we vainly insist on using the learned formulas we have been unconsciously taught by life to attempt to enter the realm beyond thought. Let's look at another method, which will carry us perhaps a bit farther, beyond the path of logic and reason as it vanishes in the Unknown. Think of a scene of beauty or wonder you once saw, that had a profound effect upon you. Most of us have had this experience, one in which we are breathless, and the awe renders us speechless and quiets the mind. This feeling/perception was not just a thought-reaction but had something of the eternal in it—remember? What part of you was this, that could remember the feeling of eternity, something beyond the mundane, and linked you directly to it? How can you find this soul within, hidden in the heart? Look within for it in the course of everyday life, and let it help you find your way back, back within through the formless realm to your Source, your true Being.

This essence within, this soul of longing, is not of much use in getting through the workday, paying the bills, or worrying about your taxes, but when you find you can no longer find total interest in life, and begin to wonder what is really up, it then once again comes to have meaning. Let the personality or customary self deal with the things it was created for, but do not let it become your only guide in matters of the spirit. It will only lead you further into the death-dream of life and its creatures. Find what you truly love, that can love Love Itself, and let that be your guide through the dark night. The soul comes into its own once the mind dies, and then the words of St. John burst with meaning : "All things of the Maker forgotten—but not Him; exploration within, and loving the Lover."

~ See Bob's web sites, The Mystic Missal, NostalgiaWest, and The Listening Attention.

To Practice or Not to Practice
by Joel Morwood

The aim of all mystical paths is to end suffering through a Realization (Enlightenment or Gnosis) of the Truth—namely, that our experience of being a separate entity or self, subject to birth and death is, in reality, a delusion. In reality, there is only Consciousness, Itself, ("God," "Brahman," "Buddha-mind," etc.) in which all apparent 'entities' and 'selves' arise and pass like the seamless waves of a shoreless ocean.

In order to help us attain this Realization, mystics of all traditions have developed, over the centuries, a vast array of disciplines and practices for such things as conducting inquiry, training in meditation, cultivating morality, and kindling devotion. In recent years, however, there have appeared a number of teachers who claim that these disciplines and practices are not only unnecessary but actually obstacles and hindrances to Realization. What they recommend, instead, is a kind of effortless contemplation in which the practitioner is advised to abandon all efforts, cease seeking to attain anything, and just be still.

Moreover, by way of justifying such an approach, these contemporary teachers often invoke the words of some of the world's most venerable Gnostics—particularly those belonging to the Advaita ("Non-dual") school of Hinduism and the Dzogchen ("Great Perfection") school of Tibetan Buddhism. For instance, the great 14th-century Dzogchen master, Longchen-pa, insisted that "sought-after truth is found by not seeking it"1 and gave the following instructions for doing nothing:

In the meditation which is great natural self-perfection, there is no need of modifications and transformations: whatever arises is the Great Perfection.... If you reside in the groundless state through detachment from mind you will accomplish spontaneously and changelessly, the inconceivable sovereignty.2

In similar fashion, the renowned 20th-century Advaita teacher, Ramana Maharshi, used to tell his students:

Make no effort ... your effort is the bondage....All that is required to realize the SELF is to BE STILL. What can be easier than that?3

Nor are such teachings found only within the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In fact, there have been mystics in all the Great Traditions who have taught precisely the same thing. Listen, for example, to the 11th-century Sufi, Abdullah Ansari of Herat, who wrote of Allah:

To find You involves neither time nor means; the one who is dependent on seeking is veiled. To seek You is a remnant of separation and dispersion: You are before everything, (so) what (would it mean) to seek You?4

Likewise, the 13th-century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, declared:

Whoever is seeking God by ways is finding ways and losing God, who in ways is hidden. But whoever seeks for God without ways will find him as he is in himself, and that man will live with the Son, and he is life itself.5

But if what these teachers say is true, then why walk a spiritual path and engage in all sorts of arduous disciplines and practices? Why not dispense with all these "ways" and, instead, simply Realize your True Nature through effortless contemplation?

This is a good question. And the best way to answer it is to give it a try. So why don't you do that, right now. Just sit quietly for a few minutes. Do not meditate on anything in particular. Do not even get into any kind of special posture. Above all, do not seek to attain anything. Simply be still and Realize your True Nature as Consciousness, itself....

If you Realized your True Nature, congratulations! As a matter of historical fact some mystics have, indeed, attained Enlightenment without ever engaging in any formal practices. One of the most famous was Hui-Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Hui-Neng, as the story goes, was an illiterate woodcutter who happened to be in a marketplace when he heard a monk reciting a verse from the Diamond Sutra. Suddenly, his mind opened up, just like that, without any effort! If this did not happen to you, however, do not be discouraged, for it is also an historical fact that such cases of totally spontaneous Realization are extremely rare.

The reason for this is that Realization can only occur when all seeking has ceased—especially the "seeking" or movement of attention. As long as attention is wandering about, seeking for some thing, it cannot Realize Consciousness, itself, because Consciousness, itself, is No-thing. Thus, when mystics like Ramana Maharshi say, stop seeking, and be still, they are not just talking about stilling your body. What they really mean is you have to still your attention so that it is completely undistracted by any thing whatsoever. If you are like most people, however, even though you might have been able to keep your body still for awhile, your attention continued to be distracted by all sorts of things—sights, sounds, sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories, plans, etc. In other words, it was still seeking this thing or that.

What's more, if you tried to force your attention to be still by an act of will, you were still engaged in a subtle form of seeking, because willing and seeking go hand in hand. Whenever we will a thing to happen, it means we are seeking for something, even if that "something" is paradoxically a state of non-seeking. This is why Zen Master, Sengtsan, wrote:

When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity your very effort fills you with activity.6

So while it is easy to say, "stop seeking and be still," such instructions are almost impossible for ordinary people to carry out, for the simple reason that willing and seeking are not normally under our control. They are conditioned activities, built into the very foundations of delusion. To understand why this should be so, we need to take a closer look at delusion, itself—how it arises, and what it actually entails.

The delusion of self begins with a simple error in cognition—the mistaking of an imaginary distinction between 'subject' and 'object' to constitute a real or inherently existing boundary. Prior to the reification of this First Distinction, there is only Consciousness, itself, bathed in Perfect Happiness and enjoying Eternal Bliss as it radiates pure Self-less Love, expressed in a Dance of its own Infinite Forms. Once this First Distinction becomes reified into a boundary, however, everything changes. The Non-dual Nature of Consciousness, itself, is suddenly eclipsed, blanked out, and in the next moment the 'self' is born as a pure formless awareness beholding an objective world of forms, which it now perceives as being not-self. But while this initial cognitive error may be the beginning of delusion, it is by no means the end of it, for it alters the entire field of awareness in radical and devastating ways.

Because the self now seems to be cut off and isolated from the world of forms, the Perfect Happiness of Consciousness, itself, turns into its opposite—namely, the experience of suffering—which manifests as a profound, existential Loneliness. But because the self also "intuits" or "remembers" the Bliss of its Former Paradise, out of this Loneliness arises an equally profound and existential Longing to Return to it. Now the only way the self could accomplish this would be to wrest its attention away from the objective universe and direct it back to the boundary between subject and object long enough to Re-cognize that it does not truly exist. But because this boundary is precisely what now defines the self, the prospect of discovering that it does not exist seems tantamount to self-annihilation. As a result, the pure Selfless Love of Consciousness becomes transformed into an overwhelming Fear of losing self.

Thus, from the moment delusion arises, the self is caught on the horns of an unbearable dilemma. On the one hand, Loneliness and Longing compel it to find some way to escape its suffering and regain its Lost Happiness; while, on the other hand, the Fear of self-annihilation prevents it from taking the one step that could actually bring this about.

With the way back blocked by Fear, the self, then, decides to keep its attention focused in the opposite direction, on the world of forms. Although, in reality, this "decision" has been dictated by an existential Loneliness and Longing, to the self it seems to arise from within, as an act of "self-will." In any case, the self now embarks on what will become a lifelong search for happiness somewhere 'out there' beyond itself. And the way it goes about carrying out this search is to continue creating and reifying more and more boundaries.

In order to locate itself in the world of forms, the formless Self of pure awareness creates and reifies a boundary around a particular body-mind. Having identified with a particular body-mind, the self's search for happiness becomes channeled into an effort to grasp and hold those things the body-mind desires, while avoiding those things to which it is averse. But, since all these things—as well as the body-mind, itself—are impermanent, this strategy inevitably yields only temporary happiness, followed by more suffering. And yet, because the self now takes the body-mind's desires and aversions to be its own, it seems to have no other option but to continue on its 'chosen' course.

If the body-mind the self has become identified with happens to be that of a human being, possessing a capacity for thought and language, it can try to further enhance and protect itself in conjunction with other human beings possessing the same capacities. In addition to physical boundaries, thought and language allow human beings to create and reify socially-constructed boundaries, which further define and solidify the delusion of self. For example, kinship boundaries establish and delimit the self's family, clan, and societal identity; class and caste boundaries define and delimit its relationships to others within that society; economic boundaries define and delimit its relationships to different forms of property; and ideological boundaries define and delimit its membership in various religious, philosophical, and political communities sharing similar views and values.

Yet despite the benefits which come from creating and reifying these social boundaries, the self still cannot escape its suffering or find lasting happiness. In fact, for each advantage the self gains there arises some corollary misery it must endure. Thus, while relationships with family and friends may produce feelings of fellowship, love, and joy, they can just as easily excite jealousy, hatred, and grief. And although social and economic relationships may bring an increase in wealth, power, and position, they also produce poverty, injustice, and oppression. And while identifying with a particular religious or ideological community may give life some semblance of meaning and purpose, such affiliations also lead to conflict, aggression, and war.

Moreover, the deeper the self becomes enmeshed in these social relationships, the more they act back on the self, to shape and condition its own internal dynamics. Experiences of past successes and failures give rise to likes and dislikes which, over time, harden into more or less fixed attachments to objects, people, places and things. These attachments, in turn, mold the self's present and future actions into conditioned patterns of behavior which at once limit its freedom of action while simultaneously intensifying its sense of personal identity.

Finally, the human self's capacity for thought and language allows it to not only create and reify an increasingly complex web of external boundaries, but also to monitor its own progress in trying to navigate through them. This it does by translating its lived-experience into an interior stream of ideas, images, symbols, memories, expectations, judgments, narratives and commentaries, which it then weaves into an intricate and ongoing story—The Story of "I"—in which the self sees itself starring as the central character, forever driven by Longing and Fear to seek an elusive happiness in the world of ephemeral forms.

Thus, although the delusion of self begins with a mistake in cognition, it evolves into an elaborate and multilayered ego-drama which, like some fascinating soap opera, completely captivates the self's attention and so keeps it perpetually ignorant of its True Nature.

This is why cases of spontaneous Realization like Hui-Neng's are so rare. In order for attention to return to its Source in and as Consciousness, itself, it must become totally detached from The Story of "I", along with all the self-centered patterns of conditioning upon which this fiction is based. For most seekers, however, just becoming aware of these patterns, and the various levels at which they operate, requires a lot of hard work—and that means a lot of practice.7

Moreover, this was something recognized by virtually all the great masters of the past. For example, even though Meister Eckhart maintained that God is hidden in ways, at the same time he was adamant about the need to practice such "ways" before they are abandoned:

This is like someone who wants to learn to write. If he is to acquire the art, he must certainly practice it hard and long, however disagreeable and difficult this may be for him and however impossible it may seem. If he will practice it industriously and assiduously, he learns it and masters the art.... Then, when he has the art, he will not need to think about and remember the letters' appearance; he can write effortlessly and easily.8

And even though Abdullah Ansari of Herat called seeking a "veil," he knew seekers could only dispense with their seeking after traversing all the stages of the path, for as he himself wrote:

The last stages cannot be confirmed without authentically securing the early stages, in the same way that a building cannot stand except upon a foundation.9

This was also understood by the traditional teachers of Dzogchen and Advaita. Thus, although Longchen-pa did, indeed, say that "Sought-after truth is found by not seeking it," he also declared:

The unexcelled Buddhahood is impossible to attain until one completes the paths and stages ... because it is necessary that the defilements (of the different levels) be abandoned, and the virtues need to be achieved.... Therefore, one should endeavor in the training of the pure stages and paths.... To practice Dharma with efforts from the heart is essential.10

And even though Ramana Maharshi told his students, "Make no effort...your effort is the bondage," he also insisted:

Sadhanas [practices] are needed so long as one has not realized it. They are for putting an end to obstacles. Finally there comes a stage when a person feels helpless notwithstanding the sadhanas. He is unable to pursue the much-cherished sadhana also. It is then that God's power is realized. The Self reveals itself.11

The purpose of spiritual practices, then, is to step-by-step liberate attention from the delusion of self. In general, they do this by dissolving our identification with all those reified boundaries upon which The Story of "I" rests, and by weaning us from our attachments to the objects of desire and aversion which fuel the story.

In particular, practices of inquiry give us direct insights into the emptiness and impermanence of the things we try to grasp, as well as the emptiness and impermanence of the 'self' doing the grasping. Practices of meditation train us to disengage from that stream of thoughts, images, memories, and plans which constitute The Story of "I" and, instead, to rest our attention in the naked awareness of what actually is. Practices of morality allow us to interrupt actions based on our self-centered conditioning and to replace them with actions based on the Selfless Love and Compassion inherent in our True Nature. Practices of devotion encourage us to relinquish our own will and to open our hearts and minds to that Divine Will, Grace, and Guidance which continually flow out of Consciousness, Itself.

Finally, we reach a point where, as Ramana Maharshi says, our practices are exhausted and we are unable to pursue them. This is quite different from choosing to abandon them prematurely. When you are unable to pursue your practices it is because your own will has been completely surrendered. Then, with no will to direct it, all seeking ceases, the Story of "I" dries up, and effortless contemplation becomes not only possible but unavoidable, for the simple reason that there is nothing else you can do. Once attention has been freed from all distractions, it naturally returns to its Source in and as Consciousness, itself, and there is the opportunity to Realize for yourself: "Oh, of course, THIS IS IT! THIS IS WHO I AM! THIS IS WHAT EVERYTHING IS!"

So what our latter-day Advaita and Dzogchen teachers say is true ... in principle. All that is required to Realize your True Nature is for attention to stop seeking anything and BE STILL. It is also true that if you cling to any practice after its purpose has been served, it can, in fact, become an obstacle. What must be understood, however, is that, as with all teachings, these are stage-specific. And these particular teachings apply only to seekers who have reached the last stage of the path. So, how do you know if you, yourself, have arrived at this stage? Well, here is what Shankara, the founder of the whole Advaita school, had to say about it:

Of the steps to liberation, the first is declared to be complete detachment from all things which are non-eternal. Then comes the practice of tranquility, self-control, and forbearance. And then the entire giving-up of all actions which are done from personal, self desire.... He who has completely overcome attachment is ready for the state of liberation.12

If this is true of you—if you have given up "all actions which are done from personal, self desire," and "completely overcome attachment"—then you are ready for effortless contemplation. If not, then you had better heed the advice of the great Sufi poet, Hafiz, who wrote:

Although Union with the Beloved Is never given as a reward for one's efforts, Strive, O heart, as much as you are able.13

~ Reprinted, with permission, from the CenterVoice Newsletter, Winter-Spring 2002. © 2002, Center for Sacred Sciences. Joel Morwood is the spiritual director at the Center for Sacred Sciences in Eugene, Oregon. For more information about Joel and the Center, please visit the Center's website: www.centerforsacredsciences.org.


1. Longchen-pa, You Are the Eyes of the World, trans. Kennard Lipman and Merrill Peterson (Novato, CA: Lotsawa, 1987), 38.
2. Longchen Rabjam, The Practice of Dzogchen, 2nd ed., trans. Tulku Thondup, ed. Harold Talbott (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1996), 330.
3. Ramana Maharshi, The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi (Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications, 1972), 49, 76.
4. A.G. Farhadi, Abdullah Ansari of Herat (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1996), 130.
5. Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, trans. Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn (New York: Paulist Press, l981), 183-184.
6. Sengtsan, Third Zen Patriarch, Hsin Hsin Ming, trans. Richard B. Clarke (Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press, 1973), no page numbers.
7. In fact, Hui-Neng, himself, attributed his unusually quick attainment to the good karma he had accumulated in previous lives—see A Buddhist Bible, ed. Dwight Goddard (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), 498.
8. Meister Eckhart, 253-254.
9. Farhadi, Abdullah Ansari of Herat, 79.
10. Longchen, The Practice of Dzogchen, 389, 340.
11. Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi, 8th Ed. (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, T. N. Venkataraman, 1989), 607.
12. Shankara's Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, 3rd ed. (Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1978), 42, 45.
13. Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, In the Paradise of the Sufis, 2nd ed. (New York: Khaniqahi-Nimatullahi Publications, 1979), 22.

The Final Step
by Gary Harmon

There is a concrete step in my backyard that I poured in 2000, on the third day of a fast. This step is quite different from the other steps of the stairway that goes from one level of the yard to the next, for it is almost half the height of the others. It got that way from the euphoria, or maybe stupid-ness, that the third day of a fast usually rewards me with. The body is reeling and the mind begins to race—exhilaration to the extreme.

I never had the discipline in my younger years to fast, and I really did not consider it to be of much value in my quest for truth. Now I was between jobs, after working at the same place for fifteen years, and actually found myself in position for the final spiritual pursuit of the truth. Also, the disquietude of a feeble decade and a half came to the forefront. I had to finally know who this sleepwalking zombie is. Who is this fool who tells himself he is happy while simultaneously knowing that things are not right—that something is terribly wrong.

At some point that year the basic unanswered questions, "What am I?", "Where am I?", and "Where am I going when I die?" became my only reason to go on. I strongly felt that time was running out for me, so any and all methods which I had learned over the years were utilized in the quest for truth, even if I should die in the final assault. Luckily, a friend suggested I meet with Douglas Harding if I ever got the opportunity. I got hold of a couple of his books and videos and found them intriguing. Then I was able to not only attend a workshop of his in Oregon but also stay in the same home with him for a few days. While in the home at the dinner table talking with him as nonchalantly as I could muster, I mentioned that I felt that my main obstacle to self-realization was my fear of death. He then told me in his deep, authoritative voice that we will take the fear of death and turn that into the death of fear.

The next day at the workshop, one of his experiments turned my life totally around. He had combined the "putting on immortality" experiment with the "mirror" experiment that joined him and his wife and my wife and me together as a oneness. My mind stopped its incessant thinking. Wow, I realized, this is it; of course how simple. Why could I not accept this most obvious revelation before?

I attempted later that day to ask a question, but I could not. All questions had been answered in an instant, an instant outside of the realm of time and space. I had become! Effortlessly and unmistakably, the conspicuous answer now seems so simple. How could I have forgotten what I AM! I owe Douglas and Catherine a deep debt of gratitude as well as my wonderful friend who suggested that I attend the workshop. My life has never been the same. Nothing will ever be the same again. No fear of death or life here. No-thing here at all, yet all-things.

And now every time I'm walking in my backyard and see the not so perfect step, I'm reminded of all I went through that year and the years that led up to that climactic year, and the wonderful gift that was given to me—self definition. 2000 was an incredible year, for I've also heard others' stories of spiritual revelations that occurred then. Some say it was from the many solar flares, but from where "I" now stand, there is "no this causing a that" in Reality, just a synchronicity that is timeless yet never-ending. There is no actual time, so right now is the best time to go for the truth—not the "now" in this timeless dimension, but the present instant, quicker than a 180-degree turn.

~ See Gary's Spiritual Books Worth Reading web site.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

A child dreaming in the womb;
bursting forth with destiny.
A grandfather walking with the ghosts of his life;
meeting fire with equanimity.

Why should we care for such faded images?

Because to see the love that fills each husk
is to see eternity.
To become that love is to embrace
every life and death.
You, too, are faded.


I could say something,
but this room is empty
and I am half-formed,
as if emerging from a wave,
or a cloud.
Arranging and rearranging words
to get you to look past my eyes
and into yours.


no night sky echoing eternity.
Only this hand writing words—
what greater mystery than this?


No need for a life of my own.
There is more than enough to go around,
under brilliant direction.


Join me
inside your self,
where the river meets the shore
and sky touches land.
A rich, quiet melting of form
into Knowing.


My hopes drift into what Is.
All thought of doing rests.
Rest with me,
stretched out across browning fields.
Every man's labor my own,
every thought absorbed by a spacious view.
All of life paused
in the thick air of silence.


I sit,
not looking for anything,
only translating my capacity.
Some are mirrors;
some are windows.
I am you.

The Key
by Jim Burns

~ Conversation excerpts from the July 2003 TAT meeting.

A Koan for Today
by Shawn Nevins

You say,
"I see my body. I am not my body.
I see my thoughts. I am not my thoughts.
I see my awareness. I am awareness."

This is a pleasant concept; an escape from an aging body or rampaging thoughts.

Today, you must say,
"I see my awareness. I am not awareness."

Where does that leave you?

Gauging the Need to Continue the Search
by Bob Cergol


I look at your chart [Objects of Attention, used in a presentation that Bob made at the July 2003 TAT meeting -Ed.] and I can understand it. I've taken a lot away from the TAT meeting, and even before it my mind's ego has been winding down, and it has left behind a non-attached presence. I don't need anything anymore; I don't want anything any more. I'm just left here doing things while I feel my life-force more directly. Everything I do now is effortless because I am no longer fighting and inserting any kind of desires into a situation.

I was trying to describe the experience to Jeff, and he told me to ask you and Shawn about it. What I feel like right now is that I am a dream. I am not the dreamer, but the mistake I've been making my entire life to this point is to assume that I was the dreamer. There were two competing will/desires that fractured my existence and caused suffering. I am focused on the present moment. I feel like the smaller eye [the observer of external and internal events -Ed.] has quieted, realizing that it is a smaller eye. My Jacob has stopped wrestling with the angel and is now Israel.

I feel like I'm on the second Eye [observing the mind, with its observation of external and internal events] in your diagram. But there is another line on the diagram, between the self [as object of attention] and the unmanifest. Does this line need to be crossed? Is crossing that line worth pursuing? I am here now, and I have no real purpose other than to continue on as I am in the present moment. But I have any number of directions to choose from. I see the line between no-self and unmanifest as the division between the dream and the dreamer. I was the dreamer when my ego wanted to change the world from the way it is, when the ego suffered from the effects of the past. Now I am the dream. I am not the author of my life; I am only here to play the script as it is unfolded to me, and it is unfolded to me as much as I have no desire to change it.

But the language which I am being compelled to use to describe how I feel postulates that there is one more boundary to cross, and your diagram had the boundary between the no-self and the unmanifest. I'm not suffering at this point, and I can't imagine suffering in this state; all I see and feel is other people suffering. Do I need to pursue the dreamer, the unmanifest, the source of this dream? How is the pursuit to cross this boundary different than the pursuit to cross the identification with the Mind/Thought boundary?

Bob's response:

Don't take my little diagram too literally. In the language of the chart, all three eyes [the third eye, not shown as such on the chart, being "no object of attention," or consciousness without an object and without a subject in Franklin Merrell-Wolff's language -Ed.] are functioning so long as you exist (...and in the final analysis you don't exist in the mode that you think you do). The value in the chart is that the ideas may be surprising enough to some and jolt them into a shift in their observations that previously would not have occurred. The rest makes for interesting discourse, but I sure wonder what good it actually does. I was also hoping to shake up those in the group who had been trying to "go within" for twenty or thirty years with apparent unsuccess, into seeing the real activity they had been engaged in all those years.

Your situation sounds to me much like a time I can recall in my own life when I was in my early twenties. You are resting—between two life phases so to speak. Enjoy it while you can (hopefully) and build strength for the transition back into turmoil—hopefully with a vector established in the direction of going within even while the remainder of your life unfolds.

Somewhere Rose wrote, in speaking about mysticism, that its purported euphorias are manufactured by the mind: that when the burden is lifted from the weary beast, the resulting reaction is an experience of joy.

I think you are between two difficulties. The first was defining who you are in the world, at least to the extent that you were no longer in danger of being engulfed by that same world that became a threat to you around the time of adolescence and climaxed with the passage into young adulthood. The second difficulty is determining and/or accepting the course of your life to come. You do not yet know what that course is. (The ultimate course—death—is a distant abstraction.) So your life's work is not yet set. This is a plateau, and the pause might be a gift.

I think your intellect has provided you with an explanation in your own language for your feelings. Those feelings stem from the recognition—finally, from struggling youth—that you don't control the world, rather that you merely have some wiggle room within an unstoppable wave of destiny. There is a relaxing into this and a certain peace that accompanies it. As I remember this situation for myself, I felt totally at one with the world and in a dream just as you say. BUT I KNEW NOTHING OF MYSELF! It was a good place to be, to look at past problems without analysis—just to see as I couldn't see previously. And I didn't come away with any conscious breakthroughs, but still I think something was achieved for setting the stage in later years.

The image of the fish struggling on the line comes to mind. When first hooked there is anger and frustration at finding out external forces were in control and now threatening his freedom, and he puts up a mighty struggle. He then comes to recognize his struggle is not working. He then relaxes in recognition that something unknown has the reins—at least in part—and he swims with the pull of the line and/or allows himself to be pulled. As the line is reeled in ever shorter, a second struggle ensues that is more intense than the first as the threat to his individuality, freedom and control over his own destiny is reaffirmed and perceived as more imminent.

My wife woke up tired yesterday morning and in planning an upcoming family vacation she said that she wanted only to go to a mountain resort and sit around and do nothing. By the end of the day, after a nap, she was planning our vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Florida! Her thoughts were the product of how she was feeling. I told her to "let that be a lesson to you." She laughed and brushed my comment away as she usually does—as an "inaccurate-in-fact," purely "in jest" comment.

I suspect you won't have to wait too long before your equilibrium is upset—probably before you even become fully aware of the change. And if you can retain some element of your current perspective, that will serve you well.

Regarding your questions on the need "to pursue" and the distinctions between the definitions of such pursuits, no one can speak to any such need in another person. That person must feel that need inside. (I do believe all feel this need, but in some it is buried very deep, and they are deeply lost in external experience.) I would not tell you—or my wife—that there is a need to pursue these matters. It is meaningless to do so. It is only meaningful to discuss what comes after the FELT need with those who ask. It is also not productive to speculate on conceptual definitions of the process as it may appear to any particular mind in hindsight. This is a way of looking away from that which should be looked at—oneself—directly. You may think that I am simply dismissing you, but I sincerely believe that the vast bulk of all the mental activity that accompanies this search is highly over-rated. I think Wolff [i.e., Franklin Merrell-Wolff, whose writings, especially Transformations in Consciousness, had had a strong impact on the correspondent -Ed.] had a word for it—ascribing attributes to the object that were of the subject, and vice versa. Regardless, the mind makes noise like the trees make noise when the wind moves them, and non-stop experience is like the wind. And there's a double whammy of experience—the outer and inner I talked about at the meeting.

While I admit I am largely ignorant of Wolff's writings, I think it very likely that his ramblings were the by-product of a world of emotional currents and other non-verbal experiences that motivated him and that were really responsible for his breakthroughs—not the other way around. All the conceptualizing was after the fact and was his particular individualized reaction—the natural, perhaps only, avenue his mental machinery was capable of. Even to the extent that along the way, his EXPERIENCE may have been one of wrestling with ideas that seemed like an intellectual path to him, I think it was simply the way he experienced the journey, and without this other, inner side of which he apparently did not write—for whatever reason—he would never have realized anything worth mentioning. Realization is NOT AN INTELLECTUAL CONCLUSION. Polemics could only be a trigger if a person was already softened up by virtue of the events in their life and their good karma in the inner being's call to come home not getting blocked beyond their insensitivity to hear. As an aside, I think his life-long celibacy goes a long way toward explaining his eccentricities regarding ascended masters, reincarnation, etc. I know from experience that celibacy generates an intense narcissism that feeds the "internal movie" such that all sorts of fantastic twists in the plot are suggested. The realization of which he so authoritatively writes does not do away with the Karma of the personal manifestation in this dimension of one named Franklin Merrell-Wolff, and the dream machinery associated with same. I can only assume that he also understood the difference between the character in the dream and the underlying, non-verbalizable Reality.

~ Printed with the correspondent's permission.


A stress management technique that really works, courtesy of Steve Harnish:

  • Picture yourself near a stream.
  • Birds are softly chirping in the cool mountain air.
  • No one but you knows your secret place.
  • You are in total seclusion from the hectic place called "the world."
  • The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
  • The water is crystal clear.
  • You can easily make out the face of the person you're holding underwater.
  • See! You're smiling already.

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