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

May 2011

This Month's Contents: Contentment by Shawn Nevins | My Journey So Far by Ike Harijanto | The Denial of Mundane Life by Using the Spiritual Search as a Protective "Cocoon" by Rashed Arafat | Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye | A Poem by David Weimer | Video: The Human Planet | Video: Never Not Here Interview | Quotes | Humor | And... the Question of the Month

Editor's Note
by David Weimer

spiritual magazine Tell me something I don’t know.

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by Shawn Nevins


The November 1, 2010, issue of The Watchtower published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses contains a worthwhile article on the five secrets to contentment. They are:

• Love people, not money and possessions
• Resist the urge to compare yourself with others
• Maintain an appreciative attitude
• Choose your friends wisely
• Satisfy your spiritual need

Contentment It’s a short list, but a lot to consider. As you would imagine, the original article takes a Biblical approach to provide support and recommend action for each secret. I’ll take the approach of these secrets applied to the quest for awakening, as I believe the spiritual need is the ultimate source and solution of our discontent.

1. Love people, not money and possessions: As you choose friends wisely, likewise be a wise friend. Love does not mean attachment and neediness, otherwise it is symptomatic of the same illness as love of money and things. As Richard Rose said, “This love can be expressed as friendship of the most unselfish type.”

2. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others: Such comparison may bloat the ego, sends us spiraling into futility, or detour us down a path not meant for us. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others. It does mean that our path is unique and built from our own needs. It is also built to our abilities – meaning we have the internal resources to succeed, though it may far surpass what we believe we are capable of.

3. Maintain an appreciative attitude: Be thankful when the roll of the dice falls your way. This helps us remember our apparent place as actors on a stage. There is a magical blend of humility, perspective, and honesty that grows in us as we live the paradox of free will and destiny. Rose hinted at this paradox when he said, “Yet the real teacher is not a man, and is known only in that circumstances befall us.”

4. Choose your friends wisely: Find people who share your spiritual interest and value the truth even above friendship. Old friends often support old habits which may not be conducive to a life of spiritual search. Yet good, honest people come clad in many colors and you can often learn a lot from those whose wisdom is as much from living a thoughtful life as from pursuing a spiritual search.

5. Satisfy your spiritual need: Some feel or suspect that permanent satisfaction of their spiritual longing is the only hope for contentment in this life. This secret is the linchpin. It is possible to have all the advantages of life yet feel a deep longing and emptiness inside. Likewise, it is possible to feel complete inside, yet have little or nothing in the material world. The other four secrets are practices that support this one as well as natural responses that flow from it. As you seek to satisfy your spiritual need, the other four secrets become obvious responses to life.

Popular themes for Christian sermons, there are many other lists of “secrets of contentment,” with everything from one to a dozen secrets. Most of the secrets are really tools, designed to achieve a goal; the satisfaction of that goal bringing permanent contentment. Contentment itself is a byproduct of an achievement of perspective. Otherwise, we are always working, doing something, to try to maintain our contentment. The lists with a single secret have a spiritual goal. “Where do you stand with Jesus?” is one phrasing as well as “to give your self over or become connected to a higher power.” The real secret is to identify and satisfy your deepest longing which is always, at root, a spiritual longing.

My Journey So Far
by Ike Harijanto

I flew halfway around the world to pursue an understanding of life, only to be told “God is within.”

I was furious and spent years in depression abroad.

At last I flew halfway around the world to return home, only to find it no longer there.

I am lost and wandering.

~ Email .

The Denial of Mundane Life
by Using the Spiritual Search
as a Protective "Cocoon"
by Rashed Arafat


I think a lot of us (including myself) see the culmination of the spiritual search/enlightenment as being something you “win” — much like a trophy. Pretty much the same as being recognized as a rock star. At some point along the spiritual path, however, you realize that you cannot conceive of the “prize.” It may be more accurate to say that the Prize conceives you.

There are those among us who are on a spiritual path because we’ve been defeated, again and again, in our mundane enterprises. So now we’re trying to take it out on God. Let’s say there’s a person who wants nothing more than to “be his own man” — to have his own (successful) business. Or there is another one who wants to be the best — most widely-recognized? — painter (or ballet dancer/whatever) in the world more than anything else. However, he has found the competition, in the real world, to be far too tough or aggressive. He can’t make any headway in his chosen field, at least not as long as he wants to be the unrivaled “champion.” He realizes that he is just a man with mediocre talents (but can’t quite admit it, or come to accept his lot) and may just have to settle for being “one of the many” painters out there. If disturbed enough by this, he may think that “all of this” (everyday life — his painting career) is not the yardstick by which he should measure his value — once Self-realized, he will truly be free of caring about succeeding in the world, and the Realization will somehow, magically, make him be at peace with the fact that he is never going to be the “best.”

I’m not advocating intense, “dog eat dog” materialism by a long shot, in a roundabout way. In a certain sense, the highest material accomplishment that one can get under his belt in this life is not dissimilar to being “the best juggler in the world.” The size of your playing field may be several continents, or a circus tent — it is still no more than a playing field, with rules that are dependent on space-time, and what the populace happens to prefer at the time. What is “in demand,” essentially.

From my diggings, I’ve come to think that Self-realization is in an entirely different domain than winning the Nobel peace prize, if we are speaking categorically, and very, very strictly.

But it’s also true that we the men in ignorance cannot possibly have a clear-cut idea of what it is that we’re going after, when we’re going after Enlightenment. So naturally we will divert the frustrated ambition in the other areas of our lives into the pursuit of The One. But I seem to notice far too many spiritual seekers who haven’t quite figured out that you do not “win” God, frame Him, and have Him as a mantelpiece. They’re trying to be a “better” seeker than the guy who is actually not running away from the frustrations of everyday life, and therefore can’t attend every retreat, no matter how far-off, or spend months in isolation. That big, bruised, and above all frustrated ego now has found another kindergarten playground to hopefully dominate. Please come out of your damn cave and see how you fare in the life from which you are not cut off in the least, but because of which you have a roof over your head — there is no truly independent existence on this oxygenated planet. But more importantly, how have your dreams been crushed by life? If you had to choose between God and [insert crushed dream] — and if your choice was guranteed to come to fruition — which would you pick? Honestly?

What are you running away from in your day-to-day life?

I realize that I’m possibly making a strong case for the imperative to have a stout, honest character that is not based on how “tough” you are because of your “spiritual” self-denials — and I’m only doing so because based on my experience, I’ve met seekers who are apparently unaware of how their real-life frustrations are being channeled into a spiritual group, blindly. If it’s done with consciousness, then that’s well and good — that’s the best anyone can really do. But if not, then it’s not Few any different than beating (psychologically counts too!) your girlfriend at home because you were treated disrespectfully at your work.

I apologize for the harsh tone in this essay only to those seekers who are not behaving in the way portrayed above. But to the ones who are — please pay attention! Try to see your blind-spots! They are usually just a few, but a powerful few.

~ Email .

Editor's note: N.S., of New York, forwarded us this poem she recently discovered along with the following:

When my husband of 35 years died a few months ago, I was offered all the sad condolences and offers of assistance that one rather expects in such circumstances.
Something else came to my attention however, that totally amazed me. It was witnessing a universal human characteristic that I never before imagined existed.
I am familiar with kind responses and thoughtful replies, but what I received from every person without exception was an instant reaction of goodness that came straight from the heart of presence. There was no calculation or forethought and it didn't feel like pity or sympathy, it was just an instantaneous outpouring of what seemed to be kindness.

Usually when something bad happens to someone there is always at least one person who thinks "well, better her than me" or "there is a lesson in this", "boy, that must suck" or even "shit happens." These things never occurred, not even from competitors and people who didn't like me very much.
I am familiar with defensive reactions and angry reactions but not that much with kind reactions, just kind actions and responses which come after thought and some calculation. Anyway, this revelation led me to [the following] poem that moved me deeply and that I would like to share.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

~ from Words Under the Words, 1994, Far Corner Books
Learn more about the author, Naomi Shihab Nye

Taking on
by David Weimer

The banana spider finds time to consider;
May humbleness be learned from a humble fly?
It spider-sips each precious drop,
drinking humble bodies whole.
May humbleness be learned
through liquefaction?
The spider glows with the memory
of two icicles melting through a fly’s humbled thoughts.
This warm recollection summons it
from its humble questioning,
with a silent spider tune:

A grounded spider is a humble spider,
and little will he do,
so lasso silk in humble breeze
and fasten tightly to
the joints in a corner of the sky
that a spider covers with his eyes
and a senseful touch
on a leeside thread
that sways and sighs with a thrumming web,
and the softest lies
whispered to all flies:

here lie,
in this invisible bed

The spider
lets an empty fly fall
and re-traces his name
in the margins of a broken window.

Video: The Human Planet

If you don't see a video trailer clip above, go directly to youtube.com.

Video: Never Not Here Interview
at the TAT Foundation's April 2011 gathering
"The Heart of the Matter"
with Shawn Nevins

If you don't see a video clip above, go directly to youtube.com

To watch more interviews
& inspiring presentations from the April 2011 TAT meeting
go to Never Not Here


"To me, it's really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope."

~Philippe Petit, from the documentary film Man on Wire. Petit captured the world's attention in 1974 when he successfully walked across a high wire stretched between the New York Twin Towers.

Man on Wire won both the World Cinema Jury and Audience awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
~ Drew Carey

Reader Commentary

I personally agree with a comment in the [April 2011] publication about a certain "tiredness" creeping in.. I too felt this.... My view is that as westerners there is too much emphasis placed on book reading, study courses, seminars workshops and yes even blogs.... We are being overwhelmed with information.. There is now too much "mind" work, not enough of body work and just being.. A fallow field is at times necessary to produce a good crop later.. There is a boredom element that creeps in too... My suggestion.. take a break ,live a little , travel. Do something different.. Take it easy.. It's all part of the process.. and even in this fallow part, insight can be achieved. Even spiritual learning and work is out the self.. So stand back a bit, observe, the samo samo old ego may well just be back,..... only dressed up in spiritual garb this time.

~Michael Henning

And... the Question of the Month

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

send your answers to .

tree stump in dark

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