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

May 2018 / More


Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Meaningful Relationships and Happiness

Looking at the description for the theme of the June TAT meeting, The Search for Happiness, I was thinking – Meh, Happiness Schmappiness. I've always associated this pursuit of such an elusive and mercurial state of mind with mass-appeal hypnosis, like love. I like what Richard Rose said when asked if he was happy being enlightened: "I'm free of happiness." Give me freedom any day, I say. But then I read this on the June registration page: "Research indicates that social relationships are central to our happiness and life satisfaction" – and it got my attention. Not because research indicates it, but because I know all too well the ill effects of not having them, of not having community. This lack of meaningful social relationships has probably been the biggest struggle or koan of my life. In the past few years, there has been an exodus of a number of friends, and I am truly bewildered as to the reason for certain key ones. What's the matter with people? Or worse, what's the matter with me?

A loner and introvert identity has been my fall back explanation, and for a goodly part of life I was content to keep my own company. I felt I had a rich imagination and inner life. But what happens when you begin to see imagination and captivating thought processes as stuff-less, as stale air? When you no longer enjoy your own company? When the years of too little immediate, live, in-person, and enduring human connection accumulate … becoming a hole you never imagined possible? When suddenly you're ready to re-negotiate and do anything so that the entropy of a "me" becomes the resuscitation of "we"?

Another unsettling possibility kept resurfacing during moments when I temporarily forgot my petrified self-image; I realized I had been duping myself. How when I wasn't holding myself back in my favorite-shoes identity, I could easily slip into being non-neurotic, extroverted, and un-self conscious. And it was the most natural and restorative thing in the world to be an equal among others without the judgment and self-comparison. It was like I saw there was a toggle switch which had been there all along, but the "off" switch was looser to flick. Yet either position is still incomplete in its relativeness.

I've been told many times that the problem starts with me. All that is out of order "out there" stems from my own disorder. Now I don't believe that's always the case, but more often than not, I'd say it's a safe bet. At the end of the day, you're really the only thing you can work on. And there's a number of gambits to prevent the threat of relationships to diminish the so-called independence of the self, the ego, which doesn't care a fig for either compromise or, God forbid, unconditional one-sidedness. Take pride. A biggie. Especially the harder-to-see forms. For example, I think I'm being extra considerate of someone because I want to make them comfortable, or keep them from being uncomfortable. But it was pointed out to me that believing I can control how someone feels, reacts, and behaves in turn is still arrogance of pride. And it puts a burden on both me and the other party my "concern" is bestowed upon. The obligation to "be on" dams the desire to reach out, chokes the flow of outgoingness.

Another area of trouble: trust. Since I don't trust myself, could that be why I can't trust others, or "God" even? And isn't the reason I consciously or unconsciously push people away because I want to push the exposure of ego away? Or somehow related to the fact that I have consistently pushed "God" away? Burning bridges before I cross them? I used to say I was most wholly myself in solitude. Ha, of course! When nothing is there to cross my line, how alright I am!

I'll conclude with a newer insight that was brought to my attention by a friend. Maurice Nicoll has some profound things to say about this game. It's about how we keep internal accounts against others. Measuring what one gives in proportion to what one gets, and vice versa. Trading tit for tat. Then self-justification gets mighty creative. Having expectations for others to live up to inevitably will bite me in the ass sooner or later. It seems almost impossible not to, not to cherish opinions about the Gospel according to "I." But when I see there is no winning this game, or lasting satisfaction from temporary "wins," it seems extraordinarily freeing to just be and do for the sake of being and doing, without a care in the world for the Return. This is some gift. And helping others, whether it be mundane or more, without stalling or kidding myself about the selfless hitch, pulls me out of a crawlspace into a commons. A start. And perhaps it loosens some hinges for a door to open to the most meaningful relationship of all. With the Friend of Friends.

~ Thanks to a long-time TAT member, who was a student of Richard Rose in the early years, and who wishes to remain anonymous. If you have comments for the TAT Forum, please email the .

Return to the main page of the May 2018 TAT Forum.


TAT Foundation News

It's all about "ladder work" – helping and being helped

Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire:

"You don't know anything until you know Everything...."

Mister Rose is an intimate look at a West Virginia native many people called a Zen Master because of the depth of his wisdom and the spiritual system he conveyed to his students. Profound and profane, Richard Rose was not the kind of man most people picture when they think of mystics or spiritual teachers. Yet, he was the truest of teachers, one who had "been there," one who had the cataclysmic experience of spiritual enlightenment.

Filmed in the spring of 1991, the extraordinary documentary follows Mr. Rose from a radio interview, to a university lecture and back to his farm, as he talks about his experience, his philosophy and the details of his life.

Whether you find him charming or offensive, fatherly or fearsome, you will not forget him, and never again will you think about yourself, reality, or life after death in quite the same way.

3+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

2012 April TAT Meeting – Remembering Your True Desire

Includes all the speakers from the April 2012 TAT meeting: Art Ticknor, Bob Fergeson, Shawn Nevins and Heather Saunders.

1) Remembering Your True Desire ... and Acting on It, by Art Ticknor
Spiritual action is like diving for the Pearl beyond Price. What do you do when you don't know what to do or how to do it? An informal discussion centered around the question: "What prevents effective spiritual action?"

2) Swimming in the Inner Ocean: Trips to the Beach, by Bob Fergeson
A discussion of the varied ways we can use in order to hear the voice of our inner ocean, the heart of our true desires.

3) A Wider and Wilder Vision, by Shawn Nevins
Notes on assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives that bind and free us.

4) Make Your Whole Life a Prayer, by Heather Saunders
An intriguing look into a feeling-oriented approach to life.

5+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.

Return to the main page of the May 2018 TAT Forum.


Reader Commentary

Encouraging interactive readership among TAT members and friends

The question we asked readers for this month's Reader Commentary: What challenges are you facing? The complete response from M.C. follows:

Well, as the wheel turns so does the story. Nothing has been more challenging lately than answering this question. Hard to imagine that, but it's the case, and here I am Sunday morning after another sleepless night (seems to be a lot of them lately, but I get some reading done) of debating internally what I said a week ago about challenges I faced. I wrote to the Forum editor and asked that he trash my first response and let me have another go at it. Kind of like working on a carpenter job, when the first pass at hanging a door doesn't go well. The only thing to do is stop, regroup, and fire it up again. So here goes, another "best effort" at an honest response to the simple (??) question: What challenges am I facing?

The biggest challenge seems to be whether to get busy living, or get busy dying. Meaning am I gonna lay around and do nothing, gradually puddling down into inertia, or am I gonna take the bull by the horns (or is it the ox?) and ride that sucker for all this character is worth, until he bucks me off and I end up six feet under? After rereading my original response, and reading it to my wife, who said it was "sad," something in me stirred. Maybe like Paul Hedderman says, the Buddha in me heard a message that went over the head of this little fictitious self.

As it turns out, a few mornings after I sent the first response, I was reading a collection of golf stories, and one quote about winning made perfect sense to me—almost like a download of sorts. "They may be joking when they say it or they may be really serious inside, but either way, they challenge themselves (my italics). When you challenge yourself, it's more personal." For whatever reason, that hit me like a hammer, and I realized there was a choice to just drop all the sad story, and simply live life as it presents itself. I didn't have to be the unhappy character who is fraught with social anxiety and fears. Nor did I have to force myself to engage in social events, or even TAT meetings. I could just "BE." Something I knew intellectually, but in the wake of a dark mood (that's lasted twenty years), forgot. I could drop the whole story, like Castenada's Don Juan, who said: "I have no personal history." That's suddenly meaningful, and personal.

So that's my challenge, the biggest one of all: to let the story go, and watch life from the anterior perspective that I always was and always am. Sounds good, and it is good. To relax into life, and "travel lighter" as one of our friends often says. I suppose that doesn't mean there won't be flat tires, poison ivy, and failed efforts, but just that it won't mean that much anymore. Oh Lord, what a release that is! I can't even tell you what it feels like, except that it feels good.

Return to the main page of the May 2018 TAT Forum.

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

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