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

TAT Forum

December 2018


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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

I'm Not This Body?

At the 2018 April TAT meeting, Shawn Nevins walked us through part of Franklin Merrell-Wolff's "Induction" experiment. In this transcription of a talk that Merrell-Wolff gave in 1970, he asks participants to investigate "What am I?" through several stages of self-analysis, beginning with the notion that I'm the body and then tackling feelings, thoughts, and the ego. He indicates that "the idea that I am this body is a delusion, because this body is an object before my consciousness. I speak as though it were my body, I speak as though I possess it. It is therefore external to me. I am not the body."

I'm stuck at this first stage of Merrell-Wolff's self-analysis. I can follow his logic in a general, conceptual way, but I don't really believe I'm not the body. Although sensations and visual images of the body are objects in the view, I associate what notices or observes these with the body, too. One reason for this is that it takes place from a body-centric point of view; the body seems at the center of my perceptual world. Another is that perception or observation goes away in deep sleep, suggesting that it is physically dependent. I seem to hold two views of what I am in relation to the body; one is that I am the body, and the other is that I have or possess a body. For me, trying to think it through hasn't helped to examine the former conviction.

A related question or approach is, what is the body? I backed into this question through meditation practice. About a year ago, I noticed a background hum or vibration when things settled down in meditation. I found this discussed in the Vipassana literature, and I followed the advice to examine it as closely as possible. One morning when I woke up, I noticed the vibration, the sensation of warmth, and the image of an arm, but all of this didn't add up to the usual image of my body. These types of experiences led me to wonder what the body is, distinct from my set image of it. I explored it through a variety of meditation practices, and what I began to notice is a space or emptiness in the body, or more accurately, in my experience of the body. My analogy to this is Douglas Harding's inseeing, but in this case involving the tactile or interoceptive sense rather than vision.

This approach has helped to shake up my sense of what I am. But it's counter to the subtractive or the "view is not the viewer" approach of Merrill-Wolff's self-analysis. I explored what the body is by looking closely at what's in the view, rather than backing away from it. All that I've described of the body, including the sense of emptiness, is in the view. It leaves open the question of what sees any of this.

~ Thanks to Mark S., an active TAT member and participant in a local self-inquiry group.

Has your investigation yielded similar or different results?

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 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 shared their impressions of Subtraction with other readers in the October 2018 Forum. Please your impressions to the TAT Forum and add your review to the Amazon listing if you haven't done so already.

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.

TAT Forum readers shared their impressions of Awake at the Wheel with other readers in this month's Forum (below). Please your impressions to the TAT Forum and add your review to the Amazon listing if you haven't done so already.

2019 TAT Meeting Calendar

* April 5-7, 2019 (Claymont Mansion) *
June 14-16, 2019 (Claymont Great Barn)
August 16-18, 2019 (Claymont Mansion)
November 1-3, 2019 (Claymont Mansion)

Join us for TAT's April 5-7, 2019 spiritual retreat. Details & registration will be available as we get into the new year.

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.
     "We are two friends who were encouraged to continue our spirited and free-wheeling conversation about life with a blog. This bipolar labor of love intends to roam between various forms of expression and perspective, both serious and amused. And traverse between the nitty-gritty of the everyday to the essence of being. As above, so below."

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 a weekend intensive retreat at Horseshoe Lake Park in Ft. McCoy, FL on Friday-Monday, Feb. 8-11. ~ 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 Google Hangouts self-inquiry group:
Thanks to the advent of technology, we have a group that meets electronically on Google Hangouts every Sunday at 6.30pm UK time.
Our goal is to investigate and confront our unexamined beliefs in a group dynamic, within a safe environment. And at the same time we aim to serve as mirrors for the other group members to see themselves more clearly.
We have one person elected to be the moderator of the group, who brings a question to the discussion, and then each participant answers with follow up questions from the others. Questions range from the psychological type, i.e "What kind of people annoy you, and why?" to the more abstract "What is the nature of perception?"
The group has been running for well over a year now, and we have all become good friends. A number of us have met in person at various events. We welcome any new members who are committed to self-inquiry and look forward to meeting you. ~ Email .

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:
Nov 7: David Bohm's thinking on the limits of thought. In the 20th century, David Bohm made major contributions to Quantum Theory, neuro-psychology and philosophy. Also he was a contemporary of both Krishnamurti and Albert Einstein.
Nov 14: [No meeting; on retreat at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville, WV.]
Nov 21: David Bohm and the problem with Thinking: Part 2. This week's meeting will be a continuation of the previous meeting on Nov. 7th.
Nov 28: What is the difference between mystical experiences and enlightenment or awakening? How do mystical experiences transform the seeker? Are they ultimate experiences or signposts along the way? Is there really an end to the spiritual journey? Gloria will host this meeting which involves various mystical traditions.
~ 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.

Update from the Sarasota, FL self-inquiry group:
Meetings are on alternate Wednesdays. ~ Email for more information.

A new self-inquiry group is forming in the Trenton, NJ area:
The first meeting will be at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, December 12th. ~ Email for more details.

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

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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

Opem Sesame - Bizarra

© Dan Piraro BizarroComics.com.

"The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues." ~ Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

"This book was written using 100% recycled words." ~ Terry Pratchett, ~ Wyrd Sisters

"…Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." ~ Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures.

dead stupid

~ Thanks to TAT member Brett S.

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

The Inspired Heart

"The importance we give to this Fool's journey will fade if we do not maintain the relentless attention that it requires.  Most of us begin our soul's journey with at least one foot limping along.  And many of us begin it as young people, with the foolhardy belief that we can do the things that have never been done!  Eventually, if the entirety of our being does not engage with the process and ground it in consistency, we lose our dream that a deeper spirituality even exists.  We need to focus on the spiritual reality of our lives with a fierce hold on our original innocence.  We apply enormous amounts of time, energy, and discipline to the things that do not last in this life.  These activities have little to do with anything that results in real happiness for others or for us." ~ from The Inspired Heart by Jerry Wennstrom


Check out Shawn Nevins's interview of Jerry on spiritualteachers.org podcasts.

Making Music Together Connects Brains

"Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra will be familiar with the phenomenon: the impulse for one's own actions does not seem to come from one's own mind alone, but rather seems to be controlled by the coordinated activity of the group. And indeed, interbrain networks do emerge when making music together – this has now been demonstrated by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. The scientists used electrodes to trace the brain waves of guitarists playing in duets. They also observed substantial differences in the musicians' brain activity, depending upon whether musicians were leading or following their companion." ~ Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Thanks to Paul Constant for this link. Paul says "I've often wondered about the mechanisms behind getting in rapport with others.  Although something far more fundamental connects us, this study demonstrates how brain waves synchronize when people mutually coordinate their actions."


Some thoughts on rapport in previous issues of the TAT Forum:

"Rapport Sittings" by Bob Cergol (April 2014)

"Spiritual Rapport: Group rapport, individual rapport, and transmission" by Paul Constant (December 2011)

"Rapport" by Art Ticknor (March 2005)



"Only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream. And yet fools think they are awake, presuming to know that they are rulers or herdsmen. How dense!" ~ en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Zhuangzi

Q: True or false?

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

From Leesa W:
Steve Earle did a great job of capturing Norio's "voice"—his way of weaving stories to take the reader through various experiences he had. His life was one of trusting his feelings, a gift given early in life by his mother. Following those feelings led him on a very interesting life journey and to eventually question what it was to be human. Spiritual seekers may recognize familiar milestones, but those were never his intentions—it just unfolded that way. There's a texture of simplicity here, if read slowly and savored, that leaves the mind quiet and heart open.

[Leesa traced the following timeline from Awake at the Wheel:
- He was 48 in 2002 when he had the realization that "life is not going to work out." He found it liberating rather than depressing.
- At age 50, in 2004, he started driving a big rig, which was conducive to contemplation—which some might call a meditative practice. He started a "project"—to observe what it is to be human. That same year he had a severe attack of vertigo, surrendered to the unknown and gave up all claim of personal volition.
- At age 51, in 2005, he started to observe the nature of thought and discovered Silence—which he says one could also call Grace, unconditional love, or home. He remained in a state of no thought for 2 weeks, and the Norio person's sense of self all but disappeared.
- 4 days later he realized there was no little man inside the machine—there is no "me," no observed/observer. He called this getting hit by the "cosmic 2x4."]

From Tyler T:
I met Norio in August [at the August TAT weekend] and we have had some great email exchanges. He proved an invaluable find for me. My review/impression:

Norio's story is unique, inspirational, and incredible in many mind-bending respects. But it can go much, much further than that. A seeker often works in the paradigm that the relentless drive for Truth is the Way, and that if they just work hard enough, and long enough, they will eventually come upon Self-Realization and be free from all suffering. I myself spent almost nine years pushing extremely hard within that paradigm. For me, Norio's story came along when the search, although fruitful in many respects, had become awful dry and dusty. It was an invitation to operate in a new paradigm where there is truly nothing wrong and nothing to fix. In that paradigm there is no value in the relentless drive to move from point A to point B. In that paradigm point A is point B. The seeker looks within for the love of self exploration alone. The seeker asks the question(s) that they are truly curious about without expectation of gain. What a concept—following your own innate curiosity! It is a paradigm defined by true sincerity and love. I have my doubts that a seeker who has not pushed themselves to the brink could accept an invitation like the one Norio's life symbolizes—but either way, it is a beautiful thing and a big break to no longer look upon the search and yourself as a problem to fix, surmount, or transcend.

From Colm H:
I had heard a couple of Norio's talks before reading the book, so I had a good idea about his story before reading it. I think the main thing I found really interesting in his story was that he had no points of reference, as he hadn't been looking in the realm of spirituality. All of his path seemed to be a spontaneous evolution from the factors and experiences in his life. Only after the fact did he bump into spiritual teachings, etc. and recognize himself and his journey in them. The book is well written and an excellent read, with plenty of wisdom for seekers in it.

From Paul S:
Having just finished reading Awake at the Wheel, I can sincerely say that Norio's road trip to Reality is exceptionally compelling and novel. And Stephen Earle's faithful rendition of his friend's transformation is written with crisp clarity. Everyone is different in what gets them to take a good look at what's really going on, but what makes Norio's sojourn original is that he came by it without any spiritual background, interest, or practice. It was kicked off with a question one doesn't hear of very often—What does it mean to be human?—which proved to be a solid enough koan to serve all the way through, keeping his focus down to earth, to lived life. Norio's simple approach to experimentation illustrates how less can be more when it comes to self-discovery. He was more the curious innocent, the beginner Zen prefers, who isn't in a state of babel or constriction from "spiritual" jargon and prescriptions.

And for me, there was a personal draw to hearing Norio's perspective. Having worked as a driver in various capacities for much of my life, I share his love of motion and the road, and can appreciate some of the same phenomenal perceptions arising from this mode of travel so conducive to contemplation. But the real value of this book for me is not the end result Norio came to—which shares many of the same conclusions garnered by others who've seen the naked Truth—but the insights gained and distinctions made particular to Norio. Starting with his linchpin insight of "Life Won't Turn Out," which I'd come up against, and interpreted it in the way he did. Not as resignation, but as a sobering up from the notion that life will ever provide completion, from the universal fallacy of If only….

Norio's gift for special "feelings" reminded me of Joseph Sadony [author of Gates of the Mind], who made a scientific study of his great powers of intuition. Norio's were of the nature that left no room for uncertainty, and his implicit faith in them never disappointed. Those feelings became insights, building on each other until the whole picture was eventually taken in. What struck me most about Norio's insights was that they seemed to be one-offs. He extracted each one's full message, and it took, so that he never retraced his steps after each distinct recognition. One of the most intriguing insights and experiment of his was how he came to sever the mental state in the form of memories from the physical sensations of emotion—in his particular case, sorrow. He came to accept sorrow as part of the human condition, but no longer exacerbated by all the painful memories.

Norio came to see the self as the mind talking to itself, with language being the source of man's separation from his original state in Reality. Therein lies the rub of the human predicament. And later down the road, capitalizing on the reflective privacy of long haul driving, he was able to watch his thoughts and then the space between them, as the intervals of silence got longer and longer until something momentous happened. What shines through in this dispatch from life's highway, as Norio calls it, is a sanguine spirit's curiosity and wonder creating projects of transformative value from ordinary life—which took him to a place where he was incapable of feeling discontent. And finally to a "resting in reality," which I believe says it best of all.

From Eric C:
Having met Norio in person at a TAT meeting, I know him to be a warm person who naturally and easily connects with others. I recall him saying at a workshop that the problem that human beings have is that they do not know that they do not know.

When I hear that a person has found a way to go within, an approach which seems to work for them, and which they enjoy doing without a lot of internal resistance—I take notice. Norio found such a way in, which he describes in the book. He got the idea to study what it is to be a human being, approaching that study the way an entomologist would study a butterfly. Norio was not working with a teacher or a teaching. The idea to study himself in this way, simply came to him—as if the mind fortress decided to lower a drawbridge to enter. Norio was able to work on a question that held his attention and interest naturally, and so was able to make good use of all those highway miles. I need to be on the lookout for such a natural koan.

Another scene in the book caught my attention. As father, husband and breadwinner, Norio was under tension in his family life. Out of the confusion of ideas or seeming options—a bolt came to his mind, "that his life was not going to turn out." His mind did not object or wrestle with this revelation; in fact, it had the effect of creating clarity about exactly what he needed to do. His path forward as provider became simple, and clear.

A little over a year ago, my mind surveyed the arc of my life and concluded that my 2 life goals seem to not be working out. Unlike Norio's mind-stilling bolt, my mind concluded that it needed to loosen its grip on the current approach, to experiment in not doing.

From Bob C:
I saw in Norio's story a text-book case-study, albeit unwittingly on the part of Norio himself, of the path to enlightenment that Richard Rose said was a short-cut. The starting point of such a path was zero postulation of what the truth is and what the final answer would look like. The goal was to discover the Truth—that which IS, not what you thought, or wished, it might be, or what you had heard others say or write that it was. Such an endeavor into the unknown would of necessity start with the fundamental questions: Who's looking? By what means is that looking conducted? and Does the one looking even see clearly? That path inevitably distills down to one of defining the self and therefore becomes a path of self-inquiry. Following such a path requires a commitment and a consistency of effort. Rose called this "becoming a reverse vector," and he also mentioned becoming an egoless vector. For me, the story of Norio's path depicts this "inward vector of the attention" that I believe is the surest path to the ultimate discovery of what you are. A vector has velocity, or momentum, and direction. On top of that, Norio's agenda was unselfish—he didn't expect to gain personally from the commitment he made to discover the truth about what was a human being and what did it mean to be human. The combination of this clarity of unselfish looking and the direction of that looking, without preconception, at himself as the closest and most knowable human, with the momentum of such looking, led to an inevitable result. Norio likes to say that result was "getting hit in the head by the cosmic two-by-four"—but aside from the humor of those words, the result was that Norio found the ultimate answer to his question. He discovered that which is the Being, in the human, and which transcends the human—for himself and all human beings.

From Brett S:
Norio comes across as an honest friend. Having listened to his interview and seen him speak in person, he is inspiring in part because he seems to have found something important without knowing what it was before he found it. Norio makes clear that he never considered himself as being on a "spiritual path." For that reason, the story of his discovery is almost like a "control group" that makes the possibility of finding a final answer all the more real. The way he incorporates relevant stories of his early childhood and shares personal feelings of success and failure make him seem a reliable reporter of his experience. For someone who is on a "spiritual path," Norio's journey points at a different way of getting there.

What I got from Norio's presentation was to look without presumption. This is not new or unique to him, but I personally had a new way of understanding that idea. Previously, my idea was something like: "Look without presumption because according to person X if you do that you may find Y." But Norio's path didn't have any of those ideas. So I got the idea of looking just to see what I could see. That to me was new.

From Anon:
Instead of doing a book review on Norio, I instead decided it would be more helpful to others for me to describe what happened while I listened to his podcast. Well, actually, I kept falling asleep listening to the stream of his interview on the Spiritual Teachers website, so couldn't go back to hear what I missed, but thought it had to be something important, otherwise a friend wouldn't have recommended it. So the next evening was different as I was spell-bound in hearing what I thought was new to me. The first thing that grabbed me was his suggestion that throughout my life I have linked certain personal experiences to a feeling of sorrow, except that there would actually be no individual sorrow, but that I would associate my memory of an experience with some universal human sorrow. His point being that since we don't have personal sorrows, it may be possible to detach such memories from that sorrow feeling. Another message was there being no future but instead only thinking based upon past experience and memories being projected forward.

Since it was getting late, I retreated to bed only to be visited by an old returning nemesis that most of my life would appear during sleep and be deeply disturbing, which I call an existential angst, dread or panic mode from which I would awaken with muscles tensed, deep heart palpitations and rapid breathing—which typically I would get out of bed so as to shake free. Not having been visited for nearly a year, this time I watched as if remembering Norio's advice to watch and not be identified with the feeling, as if it just might not be mine. There seemed to be a scanning process at work, half awake, half asleep: was this attack directed by a fear possibly of being abandoned by my parents, flunking out of school, an attack by a bully, or losing everything I owned, getting fired, etc.? But this time there was a clear disconnect with any possibility that I tried to match to this feeling, as if remembering Norio's description of a feeling that might stand alone. As I slowly became aware of being awake, the physical terror was still there and I just watched without thinking, without fear as if just savoring the angst and not identifying with it at all!

I felt a weight had been lifted from atop me. I woke exhilarated, energized and clear. Upon diving into my morning meditation, I enjoyed a marked clarity of mind, thought-less without mental activities, just stillness—and then it struck me that there was actually another weight removed: that of the future. It was a glimpse, a tiny flash that I would never get any older, nor have more grandchildren, or ever retire. I would never move to a different home, or fix the roof or paint the house or repair the car, nor would my wife ever get mad at me again. These were all memories or expectations and beliefs that I always harbored as part of the acceptable and expected future. And just as I caught myself marveling over this all, like a tide, the chatter and monkeys came back to once again continue their distraction and mental occupancy even causing me to momentarily forget my little treasures.

From Michael Whitely:
I met Norio Kushi twice at TAT Spiritual Retreat Weekends and both times came away a bit mystified. At the first meeting Norio told his story of childhood intuition, growing up in an original macrobiotic community, and driving long haul tractor trailers on the road to spiritual awakening. It was a unique and compelling story. At the second meeting Norio led small groups into an inquiry on language, perception and identity that pulled at our beliefs and assumptions and left me intrigued but dissatisfied. He clearly was speaking from a place of conviction, but I was left thinking that perhaps his was some kind of spontaneous awakening. While Norio could see clearly that which he was pointing to, the effect seemed more inspirational than instructional. Leave it to Norio's longtime friend, writer Stephen Earle, to dispel that illusion in Awake at the Wheel: Norio Kushi's Highway Adventures and the Unmasking of the Phantom Self.

Earle takes us by back to Norio's colorful childhood in New York and Boston and recounts several episodes where Norio learned to feel the voice of Intuition and to base his life on that instead of thought. His fascination with bikes, cars and later trucks eventually led him to make a living as a professional trucker. And, while the miles rolled by, Norio began pondering the family, financial and personal problems that were always close at hand. The process began with a simple question that led to a period of intense self inquiry. Norio just called it a "personal project…to observe what it is to be human."

Earle writes that the seemingly spontaneous spiritual breakthroughs that came over the next year or so began with self-observation and inquiry. Norio asked himself why he did the things he did. Why did he react to people the way he reacted? Why did he think the thoughts he thought? He drove. He looked within. And he questioned.

One of the first insights came with the realization that "Life is not going to turn out." As Earle puts it: "Life is not going to turn out because life doesn't occur in the future; it occurs right now." Living without a future then brings Norio to the view that he no longer needs a life story of events happening over time. "The story is over" he says.

From there Norio experienced a distinct shift. A stepping back into a broader view. Earle writes: "The feeling was that of being perched in a theatre balcony watching little Norio act out his drama on the stage below." And he says another shift in observation came to Norio: "He is watching his thoughts as they occur, much as if they are being run across a digital screen placed in front of him. More importantly, what shows up is not just the thoughts—not just their content—but the way in which they occur. They occur in patterns."

Now, as the highway miles zoom by, Norio is looking out and looking within. And here he discovers a major revelation—that between thoughts is silence. Earle writes: "To be heard, thought requires a backdrop of silence. Now he is really intrigued. The moments of silence between thoughts command his full attention…. His awareness is drawn to the silence like a moth to a flame."

From here Earle takes us along as Norio makes more discoveries about the sense of self, about the nature of thought versus insight, and finally, after getting "hit by a cosmic two x four," about the nature of the phantom self.

These days, Norio continues to work on ways to share his discovery, which he describes as "Far from special, it's eminently plain and common, ever already present. Access to present reality requires no effort, no discipline, no price of admission. What's real is all there is."

He expands on that topic in a chapter called "Norio Nonsense" as opposed to the kind of "sense" that we could do without.

From Steve S:
The book has a simple narrative form, which is entertaining and easy to read. I had the advantage of having met Norio before reading the book, so my impressions are colored by his easy laughter and gentle, unassuming manner. There is a genuine warmth which comes from Norio and which is reflected in this book.

The book describes what I would call an "accidental awakening" which was facilitated by natural curiosity, a highly developed sense of intuition and an openness to life. Norio recounts the first major push toward awakening as the realization that he could do nothing to make his life "work out." That is, he would never reach the goal to which he had devoted his life. For him, at that point, the goal was accumulating 15 million dollars. As he described this great and painful insight, I wondered if the object of the goal really mattered. Or was what "did the damage" the fact that a serious life goal had been seen to be clearly unattainable.

Regardless, Norio began to put behind the idea of living for an ideal future and living more in the here and now. What came after was a change in his approach to living and an acceptance of what came to him, rather than him trying to direct his life. Without an end in mind, he began to question: "What it is to be human?" and studied his actions and thoughts from an impersonal perspective. This seemed to lead to being less invested in the ups and downs of his life, and an ability to see that "nothing is personal." Through this process he lost the sense of doer-ship in his life, seeing rather that the Norio character was simply responding to circumstances and acting accordingly. He came to understand that the idea of linear time was a fiction, created by the mind. He states at one point" "the Norio sense of self has all but disappeared." It seems that, while the Norio personality remains, "he" is much less invested in it.

Norio says he hadn't heard the terms "enlightenment" or "awakening" until he started telling his story to other people. I think he believes that any attempt to "attain" enlightenment is a misunderstanding. At the same time, I get the sense that he doesn't quite understand how regular people like me can't "see" what he is pointing to because, from his point of view, it's so simple, mundane and clear. If you ask him about some of these things and question him for details, he'll often just laugh and say: "It really doesn't matter. It's all just part of the big cosmic joke."

The question for the next month is: What are your doubts and questions?

Thanks to Bob Cergol 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).

Other Reader Feedback

From Rob-in Leeds:

I received an email this same morning as the November TAT Forum email which resonates with the reflections from Leesa W. ["Suffering Is Missing" in the November TAT Forum.]

"…The more deeply we experience God's love, the more elusive its consummation seems. There are flares of love, as we momentarily melt into God and God melts into us. Then, like glowing embers, we live in an underlying habitual state of love's glow. And, in love's glow, we come to an extraordinary realization: The absence of the Beloved is the Beloved, giving himself or herself to me as the experience of the Beloved…."

See Rob's complete response.


From William Y., after making his first pilgrimage to TAT for the November spiritual retreat weekend:

There is a friend whom I now have on the West Coast, who I will want to share the details of my first experience at a TAT retreat with, and I randomly pulled on distinguishable strings on inquiry to list a "Top Ten Learning Moments."

1. When the student is ready….

Someone at retreat spoke of a children's story, which hosts a young bird, I think, that was trying to find its mother. I can't recall all of it, but the bird travels around, meeting other beings. The young bird asks each of them: "Are you my mother?"

In some similar fashion, I am that little bird. I have had a taste of something that was not taught to me in school or by my parents, and not by the patterns and habits of my West Coast Canadian culture. This taste has given me pause to think less like a well-informed educated adult, and more like a lost infant, looking for their source.

I am asking: "Are you my teacher?"

Writing that last line, I felt energy of a graceful nature, with gratitude that edged over the banks, and a trickle of a tear rolled down.

At the TAT retreat, I had a great number of opportunities to ask this very question. I see my life as about curiosity and discovery. With or without a person, the questions that life invites me to inquire about are: Who is present for this? and who am I in the face of this?

See William's complete response.

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?


Lily photo by master gardener Anima Pundeer.

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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.


From The Albigen Papers, Chapter 5: "Obstacles to Transcendental Efforts":

Everything cannot be verbalized. And the emphasis upon the "states" above [see "States of Mind" in the 2018 November TAT Forum] is an attempt to show that things happen to us, and have a great influence on our essence, and cannot always be described with words. [Richard Rose also covered states of perception and subliminal states of perception in Chapter 5.] Likewise, there is no book of symptoms that covers all of the blocks that may be generated by these "states," nor is there a word-book of any sort that will list the manner of surmounting each block. Without perfected intuition we are lost.

In examining the systems that have endured in whole or in part down through the ages, we find that nearly all religions recognized that a sort of battle had to be fought to achieve anything that might be identified as a spiritual accomplishment. Now, we might say that we are not necessarily interested in religion in this writing, as much as we are in thinking and in understanding the essence of man … all of which might well come under the heading of psychology or super psychology. And, of course, when we say that we are interested in psychology here, we are not referring to the pseudo-science that is peddled by the political hucksters of social amenities.

When we find ourselves dealing with mental processes, we find ourselves dealing with the same abstract plane that is the battleground of mystics and theologians. And while we may wish to pretend that we are philosophers, and above all weaknesses that might be earmarked as having religious origins—we can only so pretend with facetiousness. We are looking for tools to probe the abstract plane, and we find that the mind is about the only tool we have for that venture. Next, we look for yardsticks to gauge and keep a check on the mind, because we have discovered that the mind is unreliable and elusive. We are in extremely bad shape, in fact, unless we can find some way of monitoring this computer, which is continually suffering from emotional interference.

The complete excerpt on a Summary of Blocks

Homing Ground Update

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

We are still very much in brainstorming mode for bridging the $100,000 gap between our original design and the funds we've raised. 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

TAT gathering


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