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

TAT Forum

October 2018

November weekend details & registration

Homing Ground Update

… A spot on earth where people can do retreats and hold
meetings; where the emphasis is on friendship and the search.

In the end, we received three construction bids for the retreat center ranging from $354,000 to $497,000. It pays to shop around…. That said, even the lowest bid is over $100,000 more than our fundraising goal. Our assumptions were wrong, so we are now in the position of rethinking what to construct given the money we have. If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to Shawn.

Driveway entrance from Thomas Green Road.

In the meantime,

Use the PayPal button above to donate now. TAT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization and qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions.

Alternatively, you can mail a check made out to the TAT Foundation (for instructions on mailing a check, please the TAT treasurer).

For additional background, see the Homing Ground page.

In friendship,

Shawn Nevins
on behalf of the TAT Trustees


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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Understanding Grief

Grief is an intense emotional reaction triggered by a loss of something precious or essential to your being. Loss can be physical (death, disability, moving away), social (divorce, breakup, punctured projections), or occupational (loss of job, position, financial). Even fulfillment of a desire can feel empty and dissatisfying and may leave you with the loss of having no more pursuits.

All beginnings have an end. Birth comes with death. Impermanence is a reality of life. Change, if perceived as a loss, leads to grief. Felt at the bottom of your stomach, it also may lead to a nauseous feeling, the mind shutting down, just wanting not to breathe anymore. Grief is disabling.

Going through this experience is an inevitable part of being human. Gautama's father tried his best to protect his son from exposing him to any suffering.

Stages of grief are shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anxiety/anger, sadness/depression/despair, understanding/acceptance, and hope:

This experience can be an immense opportunity to get a better understanding of the nature of Life. All the mundane, inessential concerns of daily living take a back seat. Your state of mind gets shaken up. The mind is serious and wants to know what is the real cause of this suffering—and if there is a permanent cure to it.

Anima's mother as a young woman

~ Thanks to Anima Pundeer, an active TAT member and moderator of a women's self-inquiry email group. Anima wrote these thoughts on grief a few weeks after her mother passed away on May 19. They were scheduled for this issue of the Forum then…and seem especially fitting as a follow-up to last month's memorial to Jeff Crilley.

Please email your comments to the .


TAT Foundation News

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

cover of Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment, by Shawn Nevins TAT Press's release of Shawn Nevins's new book, Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment, is now available in Kindle e-book format as well as paperback.

"I appreciate writers who get to the point right away, then tell me a story to illustrate the point, then remind me again what the point was." – Shawn's opening sentence.

TAT Forum readers share their impressions of Subtraction with other readers in the Reader Commentary below. Please your impression to the TAT Forum and add your review to the Amazon listing.

TAT Press's latest publication…. cover of Awake at the Wheel: Norio Kushi's Highway Adventures and the Unmasking of the Phantom Self, by Stephen Earle

Awake at the Wheel: Norio Kushi's Highway Adventures and the Unmasking of the Phantom Self by Stephen Earle, with a Foreward by Norio Kushi, is now available in paperback and in Kindle e-book format.

Check out Shawn Nevins's interview of Norio on SpiritualTeachers.org podcasts.

We'll be soliciting your reviews of Awake at the Wheel in next month's TAT Forum. In the meantime, please contribute a review to the Amazon listing. It really helps people evaluate potential purchases.

2018 TAT Meeting Calendar

April 6-8, 2018 (Claymont Mansion)
June 15-17, 2018 (Claymont Mansion)
August 17-19, 2018 (Claymont Mansion)
* November 16-18, 2018 (Claymont Mansion) *

Join us for TAT's November 16-18 workshop, Forgetting & Remembering. Details & registration.

The following video recordings of presentations from the April 2017 TAT meeting are available on YouTube:

Richard Rose spent his life searching for the Truth, finding it, and teaching others to find their Way. Although not well known to the public, he touched the lives of thousands of spiritual seekers through his books and lectures and through personal contacts with local study groups that continue to work with his teachings today. Meet Richard Rose is a 34-minute audio recording of an audiovisual presentation by Michael Whitely at the August 2017 TAT meeting that explores the arc of Richard Rose's life as seeker, finder, family man, and teacher.

Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire (details).

Local Group News

Update from the Central Ohio Nonduality group:
We continue to meet on Monday evenings at Panera across from The Ohio State University. ~ For further information, contact or . We're also on Facebook.

"Double Take on Life" blog

Two friends—one a TAT member, one a TAT friend; one living in Canada, one across the border in the US; one male, one female—have partnered to create a blog site, which they hope other TAT members and friends will enjoy and respond to. See Other Reader Commentary below for an excerpt from one of the recent entries.

Update from the email self-inquiry groups:
Both the women's and the men's weekly email groups are active, and we welcome serious participants. ~ Contact or .

Update from the Gainesville, FL self-inquiry group:
We continue to meet at the Alachua County library on alternate Sundays. We're planning an intensive retreat at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville, WV for the Sunday-Friday, November 11-16, preceding the November TAT weekend. ~ Email or for more information.

Update from Galway, Ireland:
Anyone who's interested in self-inquiry activity in Ireland is welcome to contact .

Update from the Greensburg, PA self-inquiry group:
The Greensburg Self-Inquiry Group is still in hiatus. I do plan to start it up again at some point as I see it as a lifeline to my own spiritual path. Things got stale with my group's participants, but I will e-mail them at some point to schedule another SIG meeting. In the meantime, I participate in a local "Socrates Cafe" group at the coffeehouse/art gallery where I have had my meetings. This group is not into esoteric philosophy as such, but they're supposed to be into "Socratic Inquiry," and I figure it's better than not engaging in any discussions with people. At least we sometimes touch upon spiritual matters, and this makes attending their meetings worthwhile. ~ Contact .

Update from the Lynchburg, VA self-inquiry group:
We meet on Thursday evenings and welcome inquiries. Email or for information on the meetings.

Update from the New York City area:
We've recently started a group in NYC and are looking for consistent, serious but lighthearted ;) members. So far, we have started each group meeting with a short meditation followed by a self-inquiry session with questions and responses. We plan to vary the format and also go on local retreats and spiritually-minded events, as time allows. We are meeting in downtown Manhattan (the financial district) in a really great public space that we are fortunate to have. Please contact me with any interest or questions. Tell a friend :) ~ Email .

Update from the Pittsburgh, PA self-inquiry group:
We hold public meetings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, 7-9 PM, at the Pittsburgh Friends Meeting House in Oakland (4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213) and invitation-only meetings on alternate Wednesdays. Last month's topics were:
Sept. 5: Mike hosted exercises that Rupert Spira uses in his live talks and retreats to help us investigate our present moment experience.
Sept. 12: Jose hosted this week's meeting with material from Tony Parsons and provided a short excerpt for everyone to review.
Sept. 19: Gloria will explore different traditions of self-understanding and self-realization taking different forms: Sufism (Rumi's poem "The Guest House"), Mystical Christianity (Cynthia Borgeault), and Vajrayana (tantric) Buddhism (Reggie Ray) as they work with our everyday reality in order to transform it.
Sept. 26: "How do you seek completion and certainty in your external world? How do you seek them in your internal world? Based on Art Ticknor article "Thinking about Thinking" in the Feb. 2009 TAT Forum.
~ For further information, contact or .

Update from the Portland, OR self-inquiry group:
We meet most Sundays and have been meeting at different local libraries around town due to limited room availability at any one library, but this has made it easier for people in those neighborhoods to attend the meetings. ~ Email or for more information.

Update from the Raleigh, NC Triangle Inquiry Group:
The Triangle Inquiry Group (TIG) meets on Wednesday evenings near NCSU. ~ See the website for more information.

Update from the San Francisco Bay area self-inquiry group:
See the Shawn Nevins interview by Iain McNay of Conscious.tv, kicking off the publication of Shawn's book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment. ~ Email for information about upcoming meetings and events.

A new self-inquiry group is forming in Sarasota, FL:
Meetings are on alternate Wednesdays. ~ Email for more information.

Members-Only Area

A password-protected section of the website is available for TAT members. The area contains information on product discounts for members as well as a substantial amount of helpful and historical information, including audio recordings, Newsletter archives, Retrospect archives, policies, conference proceedings, business meeting notes, photographs, and suggestions for ways to help.

TAT's November 2017 Gathering was titled The Treasure Within our Lives Unconnected to Experience. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area (there's also a text file describing the speakers and their sessions, not all of which were successfully recorded due to equipment malfunctioning):

  • "Obstacles" by Anima Pundeer,
  • "Navigating Our Spiritual Waters" by Paul Constant,
  • "By His Logic, Man Can Do Nothing" by Shawn Nevins, and
  • "TAT Weekend Key Take-Home Highlights" with Tess Hughes

TAT's April 2018 Gathering was titled Steps on the Path. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

  • "Rose's Jacob's Ladder: Steps on the Path" by Bob Fergeson,
  • "The Threefold Path" by Paul Constant,
  • "What Keeps Us from Being Awake?" by Paul Rezendes,
  • "Allowing Exploration" by Shawn Nevins, and
  • "What's Trying to Get Your Attention?" by Mark Seabright.

TAT's June 2018 Gathering was titled In Search of Happiness. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

  • "Four Views of Happiness: Three steps beyond the search" by Avery Solomon,
  • "How You Can Be 'Free of Happiness'" by Gary Weber,
  • "A Personal Perspective on Friendship: Ode to 'Mrs. C.'" by Larry Inderbitzin, and
  • "Seeker Stories and Q&A" by Michael W., Penny W., and Michael R.

TAT's August 2018 Workshop was titled Beyond Imagination and included three guest speakers who each led separate workshops. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

  • "Nurturing What We Are" with Jenny Clarke,
  • "The Art of Seeing" with Norio Kushi, and
  • "Seeing Through Imaginary Traps" with Shawn Pethel.

Please us if you have questions. (Look here for info on TAT membership.)

Amazon and eBay

Let your Amazon purchases and eBay sales raise money for TAT!

As an Amazon Associate TAT earns from qualifying purchases made through links on our website.

Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is the latest of TAT's books to be converted to the Kindle ebook format. All of the TAT Press books are now available on Amazon in a digital format.

TAT has registered with the eBay Giving Works program. You can list an item there and select TAT to receive a portion of your sale. Or if you use the link and donate 100% of the proceeds to TAT, you won't pay any seller fees when an item sells and eBay will transfer all the funds to TAT for you. Check out our Giving Works page on eBay. Click on the "For sellers" link on the left side of that page for details.

There's more background information on the new home for TAT project in the TAT Homing Ground page.

Your Contributions to TAT News

TAT founder Richard Rose believed that working with others accelerates our retreat from untruth. He also felt that such efforts were most effective when applied with discernment, meaning working with others on the rungs of the ladder closest to our own. The TAT News section is for TAT members to communicate about work they've been doing with or for other members and friends. Please your "ladder work" news.



"One thing you must be able to do in the midst
of any experience is laugh. And experience
should show you that it isn't real, that it's a
movie. Life doesn't take you seriously, so why
take it seriously." ~ Richard Rose, Carillon

a giraffe's coffee

Thanks to TAT member Brett S.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Cape Town, South Africa, tells the following: "There is a story, fairly well known, about when the missionaries came to Africa. They had the Bible and we, the natives, had the land. They said 'Let us pray,' and we dutifully shut our eyes. When we opened them, why, they now had the land and we had the Bible."

One little four-year-old boy was misbehaving so much in a church in the Southern USA that his father was compelled to pick up his son under one arm and carry him outside. On his way out, the little tyke called out, "Y'all please pray for me!"

Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?" "Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life." The child thought about this for a moment, then said, "So why is the groom wearing black?"

~ Thanks to http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Spiritual_Humor.html.

pilot lounge sign

Pilot lounge sign with braille. Thanks to TAT member Paul C.

We're hoping to present more humor from TAT members and friends here. Please your written or graphic creations. Exact sources are necessary for other submissions, since we need to make sure they're either in the public domain or that we have permission to use them.


Inspiration & Irritation

Irritation moves us; inspiration provides a direction

David Whyte on Friendship

Of friendship—which Emerson considered the supreme fruit of "truth and tenderness," Aristotle the generous act of holding up a mirror to each other, Thoreau a grand stake for which the game of life may be played, and C.S. Lewis "one of those things which give value to survival"—Whyte writes:

FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another's eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.


~ From https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/04/29/david-whyte-consolations-words/.

Q: Does this tally with what friendship means to you?

PS: See David's poem "All the True Vows" in the July 2005 Forum.

Emotion & Neural Handedness

"Since the 1970s, hundreds of studies have suggested that each hemisphere of the brain is home to a specific type of emotion. The neural system for emotions linked to approaching and engaging with the world—like happiness, pride and anger—lives in the left side of the brain, while emotions associated with avoidance—like disgust and fear—are housed in the right."

"That long-standing model is, in fact, reversed in left-handed people, whose emotions like alertness and determination are housed in the right side of their brains, [David] Casasanto [Cornell and U. of Chicago associate professor] suggests in a new study. Even more radical: The location of a person's neural systems for emotion depends on whether they are left-handed, right-handed or somewhere in between, the research shows.

"'The older model suggests that each hemisphere is specialized for one type of emotion, but that's not true,' Casasanto said. 'Approach emotions are smeared over both hemispheres according to the direction and degree of your handedness…. The big theoretical shift is, we're saying emotion in the brain itsn't its own system. Emotion in the cerebral cortex is built upon neural systems for motor action.'

"The study, 'Approach motivation in human cerebral cortex,' appeared June 18 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Science…. The idea for the researchers' theory, called the 'sword and shield' hypothesis, stems from Casasanto's observation that we use our dominant hand for approach-oriented actions, while nondominant hands are used for avoidance movements."

"The work has implications for a current treatment for recalcitrant anxiety and depression, called neural therapy…. But Casasantro's work suggests the treatment could be damaging for left-handed patients."


~ From "Left, Right and Center: Mapping emotion in the brain," in the July / August 2018 issue of Brain in the News, by Susan Kelley, Cornell Chronicle, June 18, 2018.


"Water can never find out what water is…."


~ Jiddu Krishnamurti conversation with Mary Lutyens, in her book J. Krishnamurti: A Life.

Q: What point do you think that Krishnamurti was trying to make? Do you think it's accurate?

Please your thoughts on the above items.


Reader Commentary

Encouraging interactive readership among TAT members and friends

A reader wrote that what would make the Forum more interesting would be:

Hearing from people who are searching – and have questions instead of those providing endless advice and "answers." What challenges they are facing. What their doubts and questions are. How they perceive their path is going. What they are doing in their lives. Where they think they will end up. Etc. etc.

Can you help make the Forum more interesting?

The question we asked readers for this month's Reader Commentary: What are your impressions of Shawn Nevins's new book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment?

If you haven't read it, there's a detailed review of it in a recent interview of Shawn by Iain McNay of Conscious.tv. Responses follow.

From Bonnie Y:
This is an honest and personal account of a young graduate student who was determined to find enlightenment, and therefore quit school and put himself through a decade of physical hardship and emotional struggle in search of the truth. Spiritual seekers, at any stage of their pursuit, of any tradition of cultivation, or from any corner on earth, will recognize something of themselves in the book. This plain fact is in no way plain. Those groping about in a maze always appreciate the signposts left by those before them. This book is a great companion for those on the path, who are most likely confused, exhausted and frustrated, and quite possibly lonely and vulnerable from the chafing of soul in the drudgery of their spiritual journey. This book is also an unwittingly unsparing mirror for the readers – the more you gaze into it, the more you see your own foibles, blunders, and even the occasional burst of radiance from your own Self. I, myself had moments of déjà vu and synchronicity while reading this book. I hope it brings encouragement, comfort, inspiration and hope to other fellow seekers, as it did to me.

From Brett S:
Subtraction is a book that makes grace seem possible. It humanizes the spiritual search by bringing "life" into the picture. It is as much about "enlightenment" as it is about feelings, fears, and just trying to get things "right." But it's Shawn's humility and honesty in describing what he got "wrong" and how he kept going that I found most inspiring. His book encouraged me to discover what I really want in life by helping me both ask and answer the question, "What do I really want in life?" For that reason, Shawn is a good friend to all. I recommend this book as a down-to-earth approach and guide to searching inside of ourselves for what we are.

From Adrian B:
It's been 3 or 4 months since I read Shawn Nevins' book but the impression that stayed with me most, and it's a very similar theme in lots of autobiographical books about enlightenment, is the total and utter no stone left unturned commitment he gave to finding out the truth of who he was/is. And it wasn't that any of the avenues he tried like week long fasting or 30 day solitary retreats gave him any answers at the time he did them but they demonstrated his absolute dedication to finding his own truth which in the end paid off. His description of his moment of waking up seemed almost ordinary and banal and was a classic example of surrendering your desire to find the truth is when it's finally revealed to you.

From Michael R:
I really enjoyed Shawn's book and found it to be inspirational in multiple ways. The storyline of his life, struggles, and seeking was deeply honest and human. It's encouraging to read about someone who found what you're looking for, while also not becoming some larger than life character. The latter serving only to widen the gap between seeker and sought. The last section of the book, Spiritual First Aid, I found to be full of incredibly practical insight. Shawn has a way of bringing what is often otherwise discussed in highly esoteric sounding language, right down to earth in a way they can actually be applied. For those that have not read the book, it comes highly recommended.

From Benjy H:
I often have trouble reading books by awakened people. I'll pick up something by a great spiritual master, and then find myself reading and re-reading the same passage over & over because it doesn't seem to stick or it's written in a way too arcane for my brain to soak up. Other times the author will talk to you as if they've always been enlightened and why can't you see that it's all so simple.

Subtraction was different for me, though. It was the first book I've read on spirituality & seeking that I would call a page-turner. Shawn is an excellent writer and the book reads refreshingly conversational, honest, & personal. A couple times reading at night, I found myself actually staying up later than I wanted because I wanted to know what happened next! Not because the plot is a detective novel, but because Shawn expertly unfolds the daily successes & trials in his search as it happened, and his relatable frustrations with his internal experience along the way. In every chapter, Shawn shares valuable spiritual insights and practical lessons from his not always perfect experience in the actual day-to-day of trying to reverse the vector & seriously devote a life to the search for truth. I don't regret staying up for that.

Subtraction is valuable to someone who is serious about doing "the work," because we can see parts of our own psyche & struggles reflected in Shawn's. Obviously it gives you hope because Shawn is a success story (!), and also because he very honestly and unpretentiously shares his ups & downs, his failures & dead-ends, and the rays of light he glimpsed along the way, all building momentum to his awakening experience. I seem to have a lot of ups & downs & dark days, so it's good to see in someone like me that the effort could pay off.

The "Spiritual First Aid" section alone is worth the purchase, but as you can tell from my review, there are many gems in the book as a whole. I will often return to re-read passages I underlined in different chapters as inspiration before my meditation sessions as well. Even after I read the whole thing, Subtraction was one of only a couple books I brought with me on my first solo retreat, and it was very useful to me then, too.

From Eric C:
I began Subtraction at the end, with the author's helpful "Spiritual First Aid" section. Despite my familiarity with the author's teachings, poetry and other writings – having known the author for 27 years – still I read that section containing practical advice carefully, looking for some fresh clue from the story of his successful life. The author's honesty (rule #1) manifest in the rest of the book is moving; a fierce honesty which propelled him forward, a clear-seeing which prevented him from taking up residence in any life-dream for too long.

I imagine that some readers of Subtraction will benefit from seeing clear examples of spiritual action. Others may intuit the value of working with others on the Path, and may be inspired to join or start groups for that purpose. To all of us the author urges "Find some voice that appeals to you and follow it. If awakening can happen to me, it can happen to anyone." Read this generous book, apply the pointers which speak to you, and see where it takes you!

From Rob T:
A friend picked up Shawn's new book, opened it in the middle, read a few paragraphs, and exclaimed: "This is pure genius!" I opened the book in the front, read the brilliant foward by Bob Cergol, and thought: "With this introduction, the book must be a gem." I wasn't disappointed.

From Leesa W:
What I got from Shawn's book was an overview of how longing, effort, and sincerity can take you to the point where something else can take over. I could feel the phases of his search, the highs and lows, and also an echo of his teacher, Richard Rose. I resonated with Rose's suggestion that Shawn was sensitive and had his heart locked in a box, and I loved the way he worked towards unlocking it. One of my favorite parts of the book was his description of what happened in the aftermath of reading Franklin Merrell-Wolff's, "The Induction". As I read it, the quality of space I occupied and the air I breathed seemed to change – everything slowed down. I suspect the same palpable, visceral change occurred to Iain McNay during his interview with Shawn on Conscious.TV as he read that particular part of the book out loud. It was like a little bit of magic tucked into the book…thanks, Shawn.

From Chuck W:
When I first read Shawn Nevins' book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment I was not particularly inspired. It seemed to me to be one more personal account of someone else's life leading up to an awakening. At a recent TAT meeting I had talked to Shawn about the book and I had also recently visited the farm so learning about Shawn and life on Rose's farm kept me entertained enough to finish the book. As is my practice I highlighted parts of the book that spoke to me, put the book down and moved on. Moving on happened to be taking a 400 mile walk in the woods of New England on the Appalachian Trail. On my walk there were long periods of isolation and solitude interrupted by encounters with characters of all sorts in the shelters and towns where I would stop to resupply. Many times along the way Shawn's story came to mind and yes, I even stoped one day and gave a tree in Vermont a full body hug in hopes of feeling something. Maybe I had been inspired!

Today, seeing the request for comments on the book I decided to look at the highlights I had marked in the book months ago. To my surprise they now resonate in unexpected ways. As a couple of examples:

"I can't locate the source of thought because I am thought. That I was only thought and nothing more carried disturbing implications that danced at the edges of my consciousness."


"In theory, I knew the way to enlightenment. 'Back away from untruth until you reduce your sense of I-ness to the point of extinction. Reduce awareness to a point and it expands infinitely.' I said that easily enough. Though these statements were logically satisfying, the reality of living them, acting upon them, or understanding them experimentally escaped me. My mind created tidy packages of logic, which I crushed with the gut-level realization that 'I know nothing and am full of shit.' That end-of-the-day honesty was one thing I had going for me, but the same thought could carry me into depression if judged as a personal failing."

"I" is just thought which knows nothing and is full of shit… inspiring or depressing? Or is it simply more thought that can be subtracted, denied attention and devotion?

So, read the book and if you don't like it take a hike. That might help.

From Brent P:
I found Subtraction to be inspiring, challenging, and wonderfully told. There is a refreshing simplicity to the account, and the author remains one of us that made it, instead of someone or something that is above us. I am very impressed by the combination of a story of an honest and earnest effort of self-definition, with the additional section on Spiritual First Aid. Because of its depth and accessibility, Subtraction is a book I would highly recommend to both advanced seekers and those just beginning their search. I am grateful for the work and feel that I will re-read Shawn's story for inspiration and fully expect to continually reference his Spiritual First Aid. Thank you Shawn.

From Mike W:
I didn't know Shawn Nevins during his lost years of insecurity and illusion or during the nine years of search that followed, leading to "the propitious moment where life ended, and All took its place."

I first encountered Shawn after the fact, though his writings in the TAT Forum and the book Beyond Mind, Beyond Death. There, he wrote about Persistance and Self-Honesty, about going within and encountering The Black Wall and about what happened when he ran out of steam and was thinking about Giving Up. And, he managed to write about this mysterious seeker stuff with confidence, clarity and humor.

Since then, I've had many opportunities to read Shawn's writings and to talk with him at TAT spiritual retreat weekends, but there always remained the questions: How did he do it? What was his Path? What were the Practices that worked for him and in his lifetime (as his teacher Richard Rose used to say)? I wanted more, and in Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment, Shawn Nevins delivers.

Shawn lets us into his head and his heart as we walk in his shoes from his late teens through his awakening. At each stage, the next step was a choice, a mystery, and only in hindsight were the markers visible pointing the Way. What was that character-building stuff with the Self Knowledge Symposium in Raleigh all about? How do you live Richard Rose's Retreat from UnTruth? What happens when you stop trying to do things? In Subtraction we see Shawn the action figure trying to work it out, and we benefit from his candor and his skills as a storyteller.

I also like that Subtraction is a love story. Where does love fit into following a spiritual path? At one point, Richard Rose suggested that Shawn needed to open his "heart," and open it he did: to baby goats, to life, and to love.

The beauty of a biography is that in a few hours you can wrap your head around the insights gleaned from someone else's lifetime. But, when it's a spiritual biography, like Subtraction, who knows where it might take you.

From MT Australia:
Shawn was tenacious. He never gave up asking, seeking, and knocking. Shawn inspired me with his journey even though my journey is different in what I may need to do and the challenges I face.

From Anon:
It reads like a trail of bread crumbs that you follow by savoring each and every experience by comparing with your own that he reveals in his journey—or rather, more like a trail of baked goods (to reveal a weakness of mine)—oh yes, he did admit he liked to prepare food for others' pleasure, too! After a little leisure browsing, I read this book twice, in a single day each time, as I felt I needed to take it all in at one time, like a mystery story, but one with which I identified and from which arose a lot of forgotten experiences and related feelings. Very much like Tess Hughes's book This Above All, if you are at all interested in this line of seeking, it leads you to unselfishly and honestly comparing your own experiences good and bad with his. I say unselfishly because he reveals his thoughts, feelings and trials in a way that you find you have truly befriended him by the end of his story. And like a friend, he offers an unexpected gift at the end, a first-aid kit for what ails you. Maybe I was persuaded by his style, a simple but poetic flow, but he guided me from a head-strong intellectual journey leading to a heart-guided feeling approach. He elicits at times forgotten feelings and ruminations I had in my past, especially if I tried similar exercises or knew some of the characters from his story as well. The one thing missing was the entertaining side stories many authors use to support their narrative, seemingly unrelated factual forays that at first seem unrelated but always end up reinforcing and giving substance to the author's original point. Shawn didn't need to add interesting tidbits. By honestly revealing both failure and success, dis-ease and confidence, his story carried persuasively a progression along his path, a story indeed told by an honest and revealing friend. But there is another theme here, eliciting a personal question that may arise in the reader. As in so many published life stories, the lesson to take away is if you can find and follow that which you are most passionate about in life, you will succeed. If you too were so enamored with his story as you read this book, you would be led to decide if this journey is where you belong, where your greatest passion lies. And therein lies the rub: Are you too as relentlessly determined as you can be to pursue and feed your Greatest Passion above all else?

From Mark S:
This is one of the best books on the spiritual search that I have read. It is a personal, forthright, and intimate account of the author Shawn Nevins's path. He is completely open about his life and search, detailing both his insights and his challenges. By being so open, he shows both what is essential to the search – e.g., sincerity, focus, and honesty, and what is not required – e.g., superhuman effort or being special in some kind of way. The book provides invaluable insights into the spiritual path, and I found them more understandable and practicable because they were presented by example rather than abstractly. One of the highlights of the book is the advice to seekers at the end. I can't imagine a better overall guide for the spiritual path.

The question for the next month is: What is the biggest problem, difficulty, or concern in your spiritual search?

Thanks to Richard G. for the question. Please your response by the 25th of October and indicate your preferred identification (the default is your first name and the initial letter of your last name). And please consider adding your review to the Amazon listing.

Other Reader Feedback

From Jack B:

I was really touched and moved by the tributes in the September TAT Forum for Jeff, who had taken his own life after his struggle with depression. I feel drawn to return to those words and reread them for the wisdom that they contain.


Excerpt from "Becoming Invisible to Oneself" in the Double Take on Life blog:

"There's one other application (of 'invisibility') which is the most fascinating of all to me. Like Between-ness, it's all internal; very subtle, precarious, and potentially mind blowing. I was made aware of this in a writing by Maurice Nicoll…. It's tantamount to becoming 'invisible' to one's own self. Seeing as our minds entertain many jockeying contenders for center stage, e.g. thoughts and their patterns, dueling emotions, delusions of ego, so that any 'tuning in' to Pure Being is always getting jammed with distortion and feedback. These mental creatures like to play hide and seek games with us. They are the skunks of reaction who repel us from clear sentience. They are the tigers who consume our attention and energy. So if by some interior balancing act we could practice sustaining our 'invisibility' to these tricksters, the window of direct seeing in us very likely would remain open longer and longer, letting through more light in between closings. Until that instant when Nobody passes by the Tiger into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Richard Rose described a spiritual path as living one's life aimed at finding the meaning of that life. Did you find anything relevant to your life or search in this month's TAT Forum?

Birr Castle garden entrance

Garden entrance to Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland. Thanks to Tess Hughes.

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Founder's Wisdom

Richard Rose (1917-2005) established the TAT Foundation
in 1973 to encourage people to work together on what
he considered to be the "grand project" of spiritual work.

Richard Rose letter to Bob Fergeson

If you didn't know Richard Rose or have personal contact with him, you may wonder what it would have been like. He was accessible, as I believe all real teachers are, so you could have visited him at his home and had a personal conversation with him. He was also available by phone and by snail mail. Following is an example of what a USPS mail response from him might have looked like (transcript follows):

Richard would have written this letter on an old typewriter at his kitchen table, where his talks with students or inquirers occurred when he was not at the farm during the summer and other weekends. Heat during the cold weather—such as in February, when he wrote this letter—was supplied by the burners on the gas stove. If you were there, you may have had the impression that he lived a bleak life.

Following is a transcript in case the text in the image is too small for you to read on your device:

Feb 11, 1984            

Dear Robert,

      It is good to hear of your interest…and that is not salutory flattery. I have devoted my entire life, first to the search for Truth, and then, to keep a promise which I made before my experience, I have spent the rest of that life trying to make the search easier and make it a more certain venture.

      And these are difficult tasks. In the fifth chapter of the Albigen Papers, I tried to list the blocks. They are mostly internal. Even as you are inspired now, you will run the risk of distraction from the course…maybe that is putting it mildly. A young person is often inclined to think that the beauty of spiritual work (which may even culminate in Kevala Samadhi or Cosmic Consciousness) will be so strong that he will never waver until the bliss itself grows into Absolute Realization. It was in fact that which happened to me in my twenties….for seven years.

      You should probably read any of my books which you have not acquited or read. But, more importantly, you should set up some sort of daily and weekly schedule, for creating your vector, your becoming. And of course it is good to work with a group….that too aids the focus.

      In regards to which…you mentioned the desire to contact someone in the Denver area. There are four people now in Denver who have been members of years. I will write to Mark Scott and see if he is holding meetings.

      I do not have your previous correspondence in front of me, and must presume that you attended the talk I gave in Denver or got my name from the article in the Rocky Mountain News. If you were at the Denver or Boulder talk you would have seen some of these older members. They have, for intervals, met together, but are not doing so at this time. That type of meeting is good for them, but is not always good for a person like yourself who is looking for guidance.

      It is not good for you to adopt another person's discipline just to get along with them. If you feel it is a discipline that is compatible with your nature then it is wonderful.

      The best thing to do is read what you can…and then make a trip back to the farm (Ashram is the fancy word). Letters are good, but there are drawbacks to them. They are too far apart to hold a conversation and rapport, or singular state of mind. Secondly I am overwhelmed with mail, and sick a lot in the Winter, and may not last too long if I keep up the work pace.

      Anyone who is interested enough to read the books, and follow up with the system that the books recommends, is always welcome. There is much that is not written which would be of help, and a few hours of discussion and questions from you should abridge years of correspondence.

      This does not mean that I do not want you to write in the meantime.

[Signed]       Sincerely       Richard Rose            

Note that Mr. Rose pointed out that the final realization of a spiritual search is beyond the bliss of Kevala Samadhi or Cosmic Consciousness, to a state of absolute being.



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