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October 2013

This Month's Contents: Images of Essence eBook by TAT Foundation Press | Look Closer by Sheri Rink | Paralyzed Thought by Shawn Nevins | Nothing's a Gift by Wisława Szymborska | Humor | Quotes | Reader Commentary |

Editor's Note
by David Weimer

Spiritual Magazine

Welcome to the Forum.

TAT Foundation Press release:

Images of Essence, a collaboration between poet and filmmaker Shawn Nevins and photographer Bob Fergeson, is now available as an eBook through the iTunes player for your Mac, PC, iPad or iPhone for only $5.99.

As much as we love the print version of the book, rising printing costs have pushed the full-color paperback to $33.99. This new low-cost eBook version will give everyone a chance to experience a book of poetry and color photography that Dr. Ron Masa called "Like Rumi with a Nikon."

Spiritual Magazine

It is a day of fundamentals
             when every branch and bird's voice
asks, Who?                  
        Who am I beyond this form?
                          Who gives me motion, feeling, and voice?

                          Between the question and the answer
is the real answer.   
                                       Because questions and answers are the same talk,
                                while stunned silence is the edge of awakening.

Images of Essence can be purchased from Bob's Blurb store or directly from iTunes.

Look Closer
by Sheri Rink

There are many traps we can fall into during this game of enlightenment seeking. The most dangerous being those we do not recognize. The following outlines a couple of these traps that stay well hidden in front of our eyes as they speak to us with honest and sincere promises of a better life. If you find yourself in any of the following descriptions, and you truly are seeking enlightenment, then I encourage you to tilt your head and look much closer.

First of all please take a moment and ask yourself the following questions: What does enlightenment look like? How does your “guru” or teacher act? What appeals to you about enlightenment? Specifically, what is it your teacher, or idea of enlightenment, offers you? What does it remove that you no longer want?

Undoubtedly, specific answers will vary, but only slightly. If you were able to answer these questions, general concepts such as love, happiness, the end of suffering will land in your acquisition list and things like fear will land in the discard pile. It’s quite necessary to understand that all ideas about enlightenment are pieced together by our finite limited minds and therefore really can only set us in the opposite direction of enlightenment. Enlightenment is beyond mind (even beyond itself if you will), mind cannot comprehend that chasm, and therefore it logically follows that all concepts about what it looks like must set us in the wrong direction.

What the mind CAN do in this scenario is be used to dissect where, why and how your system of categorizing one way of being in life as better than another came into being. Who decided happiness was better than sadness, peace better than war, love better than hate? Use the mind to see the impossibility and futility of trying to establish a system based on fluctuating, relative emotions dependant on culture, religion, experience and personal beliefs. Ask yourself if these experiences are not permanent, are they true? Who witnesses the witness? And then who witnesses THAT witness? And if that just goes on and on, is there really a witness, or is that another level of falseness?

spiritual magazineA better life and enlightenment are so often confused in popular literature it can be extremely difficult to discern from a dualistic perspective, which is all you have to work with. So use your brain. Stop letting it use you telling you what and how everything is supposed to be. Dissect and contend with absolutely everything, especially the feel good stuff. And contend with all those concepts until they are no longer needed or desired.

One way to speak of enlightenment is what is residual after the person who wanted enlightenment is no longer there with his or her desires, fears, ideas, concepts, beliefs and opinions. Enlightenment might look like your guru has found peace and contentment. But if you look closer, perhaps it’s not the acquisition of these concepts you see, perhaps it’s the absence of your guru.

Secondly, I think you we would all agree that this is a very frustrating game. Everyone thinks they know something and all these paradoxes are damn confusing!!! We read books, listen to people we think know something we don’t and implement and practice all that resonates with us. Then sadly, when that particular tool no longer works, we move on to the next thing.

The very natural outcome of something we pursue is that we get good at it. If we practice physiotherapy long enough, eventually we get good at it. If we write enough, eventually our writing improves. If we practice enough enlightenment practices, eventually we get good at enlightenment practices. That’s a lot of practicing! Do not mistake getting good at the practices for being enlightened. Feeling relaxed after meditation is not enlightenment. Being a surrendered selfless endorser of world peace is not enlightenment. Visiting an ashram, learning mystical powers, speaking and understanding the enlightened jargon is NOT enlightenment. Are you getting good at the practice and feeling a little wiser? Do not be duped by your own enlightenment. Look closer.

Lastly, if you find yourself being reverently attracted to the path, look closer. There is so much to love about the path to a better life. There is hope of happiness, love, purpose. There is the seductive sense of meaning and contribution. There is the enticing promise of less suffering and no fear. What is there not to love? So if you feel drawn on your path to plant more trees, save the whales, for god’s sake, contribute to humanity, ask yourself what it is you really want. What do you really want? Honesty is a key tool in moving you along the road to enlightenment. And this road looks very different than the road to a better life. So if you ask yourself this question, “What do I really want?”, and a life of peace, purpose and joy is resonating with you, look closer. Decide if you really are seeking enlightenment. And if you are, then every step of your path should be a continuous subtraction and elimination of you from you until there is no more you. Then I wish you luck.

~ Email

Paralyzed Thought
by Shawn Nevins


Today's spiritual discourse would benefit from a dose of logic and reason from time to time. I'm not suggesting an "Integral" injection of Ken Wilbur-esque pondering, but old-fashioned critical thinking.

Take this experiment, for example: Lay your arm on a table, and now verbally tell it to move. Likely, it remains still, awaiting its true master. Now, mentally picture it moving. Perhaps a twitch results, but nothing more. In spiritual circles, this sort of experiment is an oft-encountered first step in the deconstruction of the belief in self. Cleary, it is declared, such a basic event as moving our arm or getting out of a chair happens of its own volition. We do not control our movements. We don't cause our hair to grow, or our food to digest. We do not control our motions. They just happen and we later claim governance. Such is the first pull in a logical thread which leads to a supposedly inevitable conclusion that we (our self) are an illusion.

Maybe.... I recall when, as a new graduate student, I was directed past the frosted panes of a laboratory door and pointed towards a hulking, decrepit-looking piece of equipment called a gas chromatograph. "It doesn't work," was the grim pronouncement, "See what you can do." Shortly thereafter, soldering iron in hand, there was a minor electrical explosion as I tried to remove an unanticipated live wire. Serendipitously, the prior weeks had seen me busily convincing myself of the "spiritually correct" obviousness of not being a body. My conviction was reset as I was, literally, shocked into seeing that I was definitely a body! In fact, in the afterglow of my newly electrified consciousness, I realized I might be nothing but a body.

In short, it's one thing to lay your arm on a table and marvel how you can't control it, and quite another to burn that arm and realize how intimately connected to it you really are.

Consider the possibility of a person controlling a machine with their mind. Better yet, what if they could control a robotic arm and move that arm by thinking about moving their own arm? As you may know, this is reality and not science fiction. Take a look at this video:

Paralyzed woman uses thoughts to sip coffee from Brown University on Vimeo.

This is conscious control of a motion. The woman imagines moving her arm to pick up the cup, and the robotic arm responds. In our daily life, such motions are simply habitual and, like overlooking the latest memo posted in the break room, we simply look past, are blind to, the thoughts causing such motion. Like moving from thinking of each letter as I type, to simply typing words, to simply typing as I think, the brain is remarkably efficient at finding shortcuts. While we are conscious at moments, much of our day is controlled (thankfully) without the need for conscious thought. Rather than making us less of an individual self, this could be seen as a maximization of our individuality. My valuable consciousness is free to focus on the truly unique experiences in life and offshore (or "inshore") the mundane tasks.

Potentially undermining this view, though, is the work of Benjamin Libet and others, who since the 1980s, have shown in a number of experiments that a reaction potential in the brain corresponding to muscle action precedes the conscious decision to move. In other words, before I am aware of deciding to move my arm, my nerves prepare the arm to move. What consciousness appears to do, at least in these limited laboratory settings, is become aware of already made decisions and claim to be the decision maker. Taken to an extreme hypothesis, these experiments question if there is any conscious control of our actions. Science to date is far from answering such a question.

It would be interesting to devise a Libet-style experiment with a paralyzed subject moving a robotic arm. Would the subject have the same pre-conscious readiness potential before they were conscious of imagining moving the robotic arm? In other words, is even our imagination preceded by an unconscious spark? If it was, what would that really mean to you? On a day-to-day basis? It make us pause, which is good, but our self concept is remarkably resilient to these scientific assaults.

Likewise, it is resilient in the face of philosophical assaults. Take the mystical pronouncement that "The world is an illusion." How many times have you heard that? Yet, at a gut level, has that concept changed who you feel (not think) you are? You may have decided that you are the awareness in which all thoughts, feelings, objects, and motions occur, yet wherein lies the awareness with which you are aware? If it is all-encompassing, then how are you aware of it?

As Douglas Harding was so fond of saying, "Look for yourself." Combine that with Richard Rose's "Back away from untruth," and you have a map whose compass is your developed intuition. By all means, keep abreast of scientific inquiry. I do not criticize honest scientific inquiry, but I do criticize much of what currently passes for spiritual inquiry. The contemporary avalanche of "awakened" teachers, demonstrate a distinct trend toward facile reasoning. Questioning is subsumed by believing. Critical thinking is labeled a barrier to "true seeing," and a giggle or smug smile dismisses honest questioners.

Check out Shawn's spiritual teachers rating website.

Nothing's a Gift

Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.
I'm drowning in debts up to my ears.
I'll have to pay for myself
with my self,
give up my life for my life.

Here's how it's arranged:
The heart can be repossessed,
the liver, too,
and each single finger and toe.

Too late to tear up the terms,
my debts will be repaid,
and I'll be fleeced,
or, more precisely, flayed.

I move about the planet
in a crush of other debtors.
some are saddled with the burden
of paying off their wings.
Others must, willy-nilly,
account for every leaf.

Every tissue in us lies
on the debit side.
Not a tenacle or tendril
is for keeps.

The inventory, infinitely detailed,
implies we'll be left
not just empty-handed
but handless too.

I can't remember
where, when, and why
I let someone open
this account in my name.

We call the protest against this
the soul.
And it's the only item
not included on the list.

~ Wisława Szymborska (2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012)

Poems New and Collected 1957-1997, trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh


"Before you can gain a consistent view of enlightened reality you must have a plain, unprejudiced awareness of what you by nature and temperament are."

~ Jan Cox


I saw this quote by Rumi: "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment," and thought it was really good. Then I tried to figure out how to go about it....

~ Anonymous

Spiritual Magazine

Reader Commentary

Who does know what’s what and why it’s all the way it is? Does someone know? Does someone think they do? If they do think that, how in the world can they know for sure? Even if a god told them, how could they know? God could be lying; we’d never know any better; you could never call god on anything he said. You have to just believe without really knowing, because you’re not a god. Even if you were God, how could you know if you were right about stuff? Who would tell you? Can we ever just come up with something on our own and be satisfied that we’re right?

~ MS


We would love to hear your thoughts. Let us know what you would like to see in the Forum, or better yet, send us something you've written.

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

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