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

February 2010

This Month's Contents: Words of Wisdom | Becoming Unstuck by Art Ticknor | A Poem by Isaac Hill | The Process of Contracting the Attention by Bob Fergeson | A Poem by Heather Saunders | Humor

Editor's Note
by Shawn Nevins

spiritual magazine

One, there aren't many people who want to ask questions of themselves, but a lot who want to answer or to ask questions to assert their viewpoint. I hope you consider where you are in that line of honesty.

Two, there is something wrong with you that prevents you from seeing what is right with you. I hope you sense the wonder, hope, and love in the second half of that sentence.

Three, drop us a line. We enjoy hearing what you think, and what you'd like to see in our little magazine.

Words of Wisdom

The outer Guru gives the instructions, the inner sends the strength; the alert application is the disciple’s. Without will, intelligence and energy on the part of the disciple, the outer Guru is helpless. The inner Guru bids his chance. Obtuseness and wrong pursuits bring about a crisis and the disciple wakes up to his own plight. Wise is he who does not wait for a shock, which can be quite rude.

~from You are That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Becoming Unstuck
by Art Ticknor

What would it be like to wake up in a hospital bed and find a hand missing? Or an arm, a leg, or more? This is a real situation for some war vets and other casualties. It amazes and inspires me whenever I come across a story of someone with a trauma like that who accepts the loss and moves on with determination to pursue their life goals. acceptance

For many years I carried around half a dozen "pain balloons," as I thought of them. These were experiences where my feelings had been hurt and embarrassing personal attributes that were painful to recall or acknowledge. Then I came across a definition of acceptance by a French psychiatrist and student of Zen, Hubert Benoit, in The Supreme Doctrine:

"To accept, really to accept a situation, is to think and feel with the whole of one's being that, even if one had the faculty of modifying it, one would not do it, and would have no reason to do it."

When I read that, my mind began arguing with it. Accepting something would cast it in Lucite, I felt, preventing any possibility of change. But then I found myself making a list of those painful items and considering the first one. Could I really think and feel with the whole of my being that I wouldn't change it even if I had the power to do so? It was as if my mind went into turbo drive and a great deal of mentation occurred, much of which I could barely witness. But the resulting conclusion was that yes, I could accept it in those terms since my life was too complex for my limited mind to get its arms around. In other words, if I could and did change anything, the intended fix might actually make matters worse.

I then considered the second item on my list, and my mind again went into supercharged mode. (These two instances were the only times I've experienced that phenomenon.) And again, after a great deal of mental activity, the conclusion came out the same. I then felt my consciousness transcending its usual state. The words that came into my mind to explain the new view were these: "I encompass a sphere of knowing too large for my mind to comprehend; and from up here, everything down there is perfect exactly as it was and is." The offshoot of that satori or insight was like a great weight lifting off my shoulders. And although I didn't know it at the time, it effectively ended a state of depression that had gone on for six or seven years.

The depression had been triggered by a loss that convinced me that accomplishing my deepest desire was hopeless. Rather than accepting the loss and moving on toward my goal, I became stuck. I became stuck in the belief that only by retrieving what was lost could I continue on.

In retrospect, life was trying to teach me the lesson of acceptance — and I was a slow learner. Pride based on false premises prevents us from acceptance. True acceptance forces us to bow in humility to the truth.

A poem
by Isaac Hill

Song of the Ego

"All men should strive to know before they die
What they are running from, and to, and why"
— James Thurber

The end looms there like a black pool,
with no moonlight glinting off ripples.
No ripples. No pool. It's not a pool.
It's no thing. The end looms there
like the space behind my eyes, empty. I am the moon, reflecting light. I am
the light ripples glinting in the imaginary
pool, running away from the center
towards the shore. Towards dissipation.
Or the moon. Or the sun. To bring up the sun,
I bring up something that you can't
look at without going blind. To bring up going
blind I bring up no image. Nothing
I can imagine, or, closed eyes. Unaware
of the world. No identity, logical oblivion.
The calm feeling of knowing nothing
matters. The mental image of blindness.
The black feeling. The white feeling of white


               no image

the end.
I am thoughts running from the end to
the end through time. The white space
running into non-memory. Thoughts pulling
the ego-carriage through a dream
that ends at midnight. That ends.

The Process of Contracting the Attention
by Bob Fergeson

We have to have a contraction of our attention from the manifested world, to save our energy and create an aim and direction; simplify our life. But at some point the danger is this contraction could become the search in itself and an end in itself rather than just part of the means. The contraction has to be given up (actually, it’s removed) for a total relaxation, once the contraction has done its work. In other words, once we find that thinking and planning and doing in our practice have come to a dead end, then we have to give it up once we’ve hit the wall beyond which our mind cannot go, and allow the inner relaxation, so that we can receive.

First, we contract or withdraw our energy and attention to make the machine efficient and gain a vector and direction to get surely headed in the right way. Then, at some point there has to be complete inner relaxation, because the contraction of itself can’t give us the answer, the answer has to come from within through the relaxation. We get out of our own way. We must allow ourselves to receive, once we have improved the receiving mechanism: the intuition.

[reprinted from the MysticMissal Blog]

A poem
by Heather Saunders

The magic is in the doing
Not the thinking, reading
Talking or listening about
But in the get down hands dirty
Shirt off doing.


If you don't see the video above, then go directly to YouTube.

Reader Commentary

In response to Steven Norquist, 'What is Enlightenment?', TAT Forum Jan 2010. I agree with most of what Steven wrote, for me also there is only the experience. But reading his words left me sad and a bit concerned that anyone seeking 'Enlightenment' may, as a result, expect that it will be rather dull and lead to apathy.

My experience seems to be different than Steven's. I notice a joy and delight in these experiences here and a looking forward to what will happen next. And I do not have any difficulty doing things, in fact my acts can be quite surprising.

The piece was indeed 'provocative' and provoked me into examining my own experiences - always a useful exercise, I find. Thank you for publishing it.


I read with interest (and also growing disappointment) the article about "What Enlightenment really is" according to Mr. Steven Norquist. May I suggest that although Mr. Norquist has indeed seen something (or perhaps nothing) much deeper than the vast majority of Humanity this does not mean he is qualified to describe what he has seen and/or is seeing as the Full Spectrum of Enlightenment. He rather unconsciously confesses this as early as the end of the second sentence of his article! There he laconically says: "... Enlightenment tends to make one quite lazy"....

Mr. Norquist claims to describe Enlightenment as it truly is yet he is not qualified to do that. Once again, I do not in any way dispute that Mr. Norquist has seen into Reality to a depth few get to. But Buddhism has from its beginnings recognized the type of Realization Mr. Norquist describes. It is a "solitary" Realization traditionally found among some hermits or cave dwellers. One very major limitation of Mr. Norquist's level of Realization is that the sense of contentment is so profound the urge to Compassion is stifled. At a chemical level it is roughly comparable to an opium induced trance. If Mr. Norquist were part of a Buddhist Practice Community he might be given the title of a "Pratekya Buddha".

~G. C.

Did you enjoy the Forum? Then buy the book! Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is available at Amazon.com.


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