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

June 2010

This Month's Contents: Asking Ourselves out of Depression by Art Ticknor | Peace: A Poem by Sanjay | The Answer: An Image | An Excerpt from Correspondence with Paul Constant | Video: Atreyu — Falling Down | Humor

Editor's Note
by Shawn Nevins

spiritual magazine Carthago delenda est! — Carthage must be destroyed!

When I was a high school freshman, some friends and I thought that was pretty funny. It's a line from Cato the Elder, a Roman Censor known for ending his speeches, regardless of topic, with this exhortation to destroy Carthage. Now I find myself nearly thirty years later writing for the Forum (Forum: "a place of assembly in ancient Rome") — a magazine with suspiciously consistent exhortations every month: look inside, be honest, question "why?"

Last month's article on "Depression and the Spiritual Search" drew quite a reader response, so this month we present another view on that topic from Art Ticknor. Feel free to submit any insights you have on depression. Also this month, proof that babies are enlightened, a poem from a new contributor, insightful correspondence with Paul Constant, achieving perspective with the metalcore band Atreyu, and a chuckle with Goethe.

Look inside!

Asking Ourselves out of Depression
by Art Ticknor

Many people are motivated to look for answers to the big questions of life when they hit a patch of depression, and many who enter a path of finding answers hit spells of gloom and feeling inadequate.

depression and the spiritual search From my own experience with depression, and viewing it in retrospective, I've come to the following conclusions about it:

How do we go about climbing out of the pit of depression? I languished in it for nearly seven years, and it was a tremendously valuable time for getting to know the mechanics of the mind, so it may be more productive than we give it credit for. But I suspect I could have gotten the life-lesson in a shorter period.

Depression is the reaction that sets in after our I-amness has received a deflating blow. It lasts as long as it takes us to get over the feeling of inadequacy that follows having our emotional socks knocked off (1). We've been knocked down, and it remains to be seen how long it will take us to stand back up and risk the next knock. The internal caucus votes, the pride vs. fear tally is taken, and we see whether the belief of personal inadequacy still holds or has been overridden.

Life is an attack on pride — on misplaced self-esteem. Depression is a spa for wounded pride. If our pride has hit bottom, we admit to ourselves that we need help and may find ourselves sincerely asking for help from something bigger than the little person we believe ourselves to be.

But to get back to the question of how we can minimize the time it takes us to learn the lesson that depression is trying to teach us, there's a fascinating story of a man named Mike May in Robert Kurson's Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure and the Man who Dared to See. Mike was born in 1954. At age 3 a chemical explosion destroyed his sight. One eye was replaced with an artificial eye, and the cornea of the other eye was destroyed so that it could no longer prevent cataract development. A leading eye surgeon at the time tried corneal transplants, but Mike's eye rejected them. He didn't let his blindness get him down, however. As an example, he started snow skiing as a young man but not by holding onto the ski pole of a sighted person skiing in front of him as was the technique at the time. Mike wanted to go fast, so he had a sighted friend ski ahead of him and guide him by yelling instructions. He and his buddy snuck into the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo and set a new speed skiing record for the totally blind (65 mph!). President Reagan honored him along with the U.S. Winter Olympic team at the White House.

When he was 45, Mike met a surgeon who examined his remaining eye and told him that he was a good candidate for a highly risky experimental procedure in corneal transplanting. After extensive consideration, Mike had the surgery, and it was successful. His eye and optic nerve functioned extremely well, giving him excellent color and motion detection. Facial recognition, depth perception, and object recognition were poor, however, and didn't improve in subsequent months. Mike became increasingly discouraged. An fMRI scan eventually showed that the areas of his brain associated with the second, more complex, set of functions weren't being activated. The researchers concluded that those neurons were no longer available for learning. Seeing under those circumstances was a horrendously tiring effort, making his life with sight more difficult than it had been before his sight was restored. The researchers reluctantly concluded that there was nothing that could be done for Mike's brain to improve its functioning with respect to those complex functions of seeings.

Mike let their prognosis sink in. But then an amazing thing occurred. He shook off their conclusion and asked himself: "What if I try to see by being blind again?" and began formulating a plan. He effectively told his vision to back off, to play a subordinate role to the other senses.

Over the following weeks he made astounding progress with recognition of what he was seeing when he could investigate the objects with his other senses, which had been highly developed during his decades of blindness. But then he asked himself how he could comprehend things that were out of reach of his other senses. That was a real puzzler to him. Then it dawned on him to ask himself what he was really good at. The answers he came up with didn't really apply ... until he hit on his organizational skills and memory. He began constructing a mental catalog of clues that would help him recognize thousands of common objects without having to think about what they were, and the prodigious memory he had developed over the years began substituting for the nonfunctioning parts of his brain.

By asking himself relevant questions that he didn't know the answers to, Mike effectively challenged the parts of his internal dialogue that were arguing for hopelessness and self-pity.

(1): The phrase ["knock your socks off"] first appeared in the mid-19th century meaning "to beat or vanquish someone thoroughly," at first used literally to mean to win in a knock-down fistfight so savage that the loser might expect not to only lose his shoes in the fracas but his socks as well. The number of brawlers who actually lost their socks was probably pretty small, but a threat "to knock your socks off" was one of a number of such hyperbolic pugilistic phrases popular at the time, including "knock your lights out" and "knock you into next week." ~ From The Word Detective Feb. 18, 2004 issue.

For more details on Mike May, see senderogroup.com/mm/mike.htm.

Click here to .

A poem
by Sanjay


For Ziva

In silent space a thousand words float like language suspended
A man's mind at peace, his thoughts beyond expression
One single regret remains from a thousand splendid suns
Too long did his mind take to grasp freedom

Image from Shiny Life.

The Answer

An Excerpt from Correspondence
with Paul Constant

T.L.: I read your article ''Jacob's Ladder: A Direct Going Within'' and listened to the corresponding audio. I'm still unsure about the actual practice itself on a daily basis. Did your ''spiritual practice'' consist of just watching your thoughts throughout the day? In addition, did you do this in formal meditation sessions?

P.C.: The spiritual search — the search for who you truly are — is much more than watching thought processes. But if I were to narrow it down, I'd say that watching thought is clearly a good start.

As seekers, we must first be honest with ourselves and admit that we know little about our True Self. If we are honest with ourself, we can begin the first step, which is to fuel a desire to become less ignorant. And with that first step, we can expect to encounter a myriad of obstacles and distractions that require immense determination to overcome the apparent resistance to Realization. by Tim Knowles

Where to begin? The only true way to become less ignorant is to watch the mind's activities. The seeker becomes a determined watcher of thoughts and feelings. We are not substituting seemingly better thoughts and feelings. No. By watching the mind with the mind, we are less prone to falling into traps that might send us on tangents for years. It is this potent combination — self-honesty and a determination to observe — that leads us away from "untruth."

For me, beginning in 1985 when I encountered Richard Rose, I went through periods of intensity as well as doldrums. I didn't follow rituals or specific meditation practices, at least not in the traditional sense. In fact, I simply made a commitment to myself that I would take a walk each evening. During those nightly walks, my priority was to watch my mind. Often, during other times of the day, this would lead to moments of introspection while engaged at my place of employment or during other activities. The key was to consistently find ways to go within (to be introspective), and to inspire myself when the mind tired of the search.

I also made a commitment to work with other seekers and help inspire others in their search. By working with others in the online confrontation group, you are taking good steps that will expedite the process of self discovery. Many seekers see the value in working on themselves. Few, however, make strides in working with others. And that shouldn't involve a financial commitment or other form of payment, just a desire to be honest with others in all things.

Richard Rose's system, as outlined through Jacob's Ladder, really does contain a roadmap to Realisation. It opened the door through which I stepped — or perhaps better described as disappearing through — something I can only express to you with words from my Heart.

Let me know how this strikes you...

T.L.: How do you stop yourself from getting lost in the thoughts and feelings and thus prevent observing from turning into a fantasy trip?

P.C.: In spiritual work, the universal laws of success hold true: results achieved are proportional to energy applied. But the reverse vector — the path away from untruth — isn't about building something. We are studying the mind to gain a better understanding of our self. Richard Rose called it "self-definition," a term that confused me in the early days of my own search.

Rose was acutely aware of our situation, a state in which we are faced with continuous polarities. By that, I mean the mind continuously struggles with urges that often oppose one another. For example, as we go about our business during the day, we are presented with an array of fears vs. desires, such as "I'm putting on too much weight" vs. "I enjoy this food and want to eat more" or "I'd like to ask Jane out on a date" vs. "She will reject me." These examples, of course, are simplistic, but nonetheless they illustrate the "viewable" material that a person will observe if attentive. With self-definition comes an understanding of those desires and fears, all of which steer us, perhaps in a direction that is not of our choosing.

To get to the point of your question: a seeker must have a deep longing to know his True Self. Determination to watch thoughts and feelings will lead to a better understanding of who you are. Success breeds success, meaning you'll find yourself watching more often, and become dissatisfied if you've talked yourself into distractions or found that you've allowed your "ironclad" rationale to outwit yourself.

And there's even more hope. You can use the mind's weakness, such as curiosity and desire, to your advantage. If the mind craves distractions, then surround yourself with friends who are seekers, read spiritual books, or latch onto audio and video recordings that prompt introspection. Employ techniques to improve intuition, such as celibacy (Rose's book, Energy Transmutation, Betweeness and Transmission explains the mechanisms). For inspiration, read poetry, Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness, or the personal realizations at searchwithin.org/download.htm. Read Shawn's list of things to do at tatfoundation.org/forum2001-07.htm#6b.

All the while you are engaging in these activities, realize that you are doing these things to accelerate your vector rather than build intellectual or spiritual bravado. Ultimately, a seeker comes to realize that he is neither the desires nor the fears, but that which watches.

~ Visit the TAT Forum archive or www.searchwithin.org for more of Paul's writings.

Video: Atreyu — "Falling Down"

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


You're always looking back
Runnin' from the past
You're always sweating me
About the next big heart attack
You're lookin' over your shoulder
Starin' down the path

I'm fallin' down
Fallin' down
Fallin' down

It's in your head
All the voices mistaken
Shake it off, shake it off
We're all dyin' in the end

It's in your head
All the voices mistaken
Shake it off, shake it off
We're all dyin' in the end

I fear I'll find the evident
So horrible, so horrible
To clear my thoughts
I drill a hole into my skull

Clean up my brains
And sweep them underneath the rug
I need them more
Than I needed any other drug

I'm fallin' down
Fallin' down
Fallin' down

It's in your head
All the voices mistaken
Shake it off, shake it off
We're all dyin' in the end
(Dyin' in the end)


"We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe."

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Reader Commentary

I see you didn't mention exercise's ability to control depression. I found that would correct my extraneous moods by working them off — literally. Much faster to get out of a bad mood than to wait around for it to go away. Martial arts and running did it and I think pretty much any form of regular exercise will, too.

I came across TAT about eight years ago when one evening I "googled" the name Richard Rose. It's the name of my first boyfriend and I wanted to check up on him!

What I came upon changed my life. I immediately recognized that I had come upon something significant because as I read the words on the website I felt as if drops of something were dropping through my head into my heart area. I had found something I was looking for but had no words for it. It was then I became aware that in fact I had been looking for something for a long time, maybe all my life.

For the following year or two I went into the TAT site most days and read bits. I came upon the archives of The Forum and read and read. The more I read the more I knew this was the most important thing I had ever come upon but I was unable to understand a lot of what was being talked about. I checked out all the sites linked to the TAT site. Everything I came upon had that same feeling of truth and confidence I had found that first night. I bought Richard Rose's books and read them. I didn't get most of what he was saying but they are heavily underlined and I did get the feeling of authenticity.

After about two years of this furtive activity I decided to visit West Virginia for the September workshop. An American friend was so concerned about what I might be getting myself into that he decided to come to WV with me.

I do not remember much of what was said at the workshop but I was really impressed by what I labeled "the integrity" of the people I met there. I could feel the integrity and I was conscious that I did not have that integrity. I returned to Ireland with a desire to become integrated, to become a person of integrity as I had now seen was possible.

My understanding of what it meant to be a person of integrity was still pretty naive. I hadn't yet realized that it meant being "no self" or a non-person. That was a new idea for me.

I continued reading and was introduced to the writings of Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi and others. I took my cue from recommendations made by TAT members. This was crucial.

I went back in 2007 for the September meeting and was again impressed by the sense of integrity and simplicity and friendliness.

Since I became a member of TAT I have been inspired and informed by the arrival of The Forum every month. Each time it arrives I feel a little lift of spirit. "Oh goody, I wonder what's in it this month?" It stays in my inbox for the month, where I revisit whatever strikes me that month. When the next one arrives I send it to a special folder titled "Forum".

Thank you all for the Forum and for the effort you put into getting it out continuously. It's a wonderful bit of Ladder work and I appreciate it enormously. Who knows how many people on the planet are quietly reading it without having made contact with TAT? I was such a one for about two years!

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


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