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September 2019 / More

Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Navigating Our Spiritual Waters to the Greatest Treasure of All

In yonder days, seafaring treasure hunters gathered resources for the journey: a sturdy ship to navigate perilous waters, supplies for sustenance, fellow explorers who offered various skills, and tools to remain on course and steer clear of rocky shores—tools such as a compass, nautical charts, and maps of the stars.

As explorers in the spiritual world, we undertake a grand journey with the hope of finding the greatest treasure of all—one that fully satisfies our desire to know who we truly are. Like ancient mariners, we face perilous waters, but our rocky shores are of a different nature. Likewise, we must muster the appropriate tools to maintain our direction. So today, I'll talk about the art of navigation, and offer navigation tools to help seekers in their grand journey inward.

In June 2017, Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman published a book titled How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain. My teacher, Richard Rose, often said that science will ultimately vindicate spiritual discoveries. Science will probably never resolve all the mysteries, but to me, this book helps explain what's happening in our brain as we follow a spiritual path, and it illustrates the major changes that permanently occur in the brain during deep insights and Enlightenment. It also helps explain why enormously diverse spiritual paths unleash insights about ourselves and can ultimately lead to Enlightenment.

While I don't like the word "Enlightenment" due to all the marketing hype in spiritual circles, I'll use the word today because it states a goal—a goal that is truly the treasure we are pursuing.

Of course, as soon as I say anything about Enlightenment, it makes the pursuit into something grandiose. In fact, I often use the term "Grand Maul Enlightenment" because until not too long ago, I had some far-fetched idea that I'd be flopping around on the floor when Enlightenment finally struck. These are the crazy ideas and imaginations we can develop as we pump ourselves with too much spiritual knowledge from books, websites, and teachers.

According to the book, we are biologically predisposed to Enlightenment. I maintain that everyone has what he or she needs to do this—no one is lacking or incapable. Enlightenment is available to all. In fact, Enlightenment may be hardwired into our brains. It's like a light bulb waiting for you to turn on the switch and energize it. There's an everyday awareness in all of us that is intrinsic and impossible not to have. When were you ever not aware?

But I don't think it's particularly helpful to sell or impose a specific brand of Enlightenment. Ironically, I find that highly opinionated teachers tend to be the most impactful. Teachers usually gravitate to techniques that worked for them. However, when teachers impose specific techniques or insist on using litmus tests for Enlightenment, they undercut the students' options for exploring what is most effective for them.

There's no doubt about it—Enlightenment is highly personalized. And this is what I like about TAT. We can see a myriad of approaches and even descriptions of Enlightenment among the teachers, which truly depersonalizes it. So attempting to limit yourself to a narrow approach or comparing yourself to others are generally bad ideas.

I'll say a few words about beliefs. Our beliefs in Enlightenment captivate our heart and our imagination. My beliefs fueled my love of Truth. But eventually, this journey often turns out as the greatest bait-and-switch ever. In the end, our beliefs about Enlightenment may keep us anchored in the mind, and the mind is useful and creative but way too limited in relation to our True Nature. That said, seemingly through the creativity of the mind and our spiritual efforts, our identity may become rooted in something that is beyond the mind and much more authentic, something that fully transcends all beliefs. Kabir said: "just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, and stand firm in that which you are."

By most (but not all) accounts, it requires effort to recognize our True Nature. Often, it's a matter of making it important enough in our lives. Life demands our attention. We need to find the ways and means each day to re-direct our attention to our spiritual lives. In that vein, to find the greatest treasure of all, I offer the following navigation tools that were helpful to me. These tools are oriented toward an overall attitude rather than specific tasks or approaches. And my greatest hope is that one or more will inspire you…

Spiritual Navigation Tools (in no particular order)


Curiosity and Desire





Acceptance and Gratitude



In closing, I offer the following poem from Hafez, a 14th-century Islamic poet:

I ruminate on God
And my old self falls away.
Am I a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or a Jew?
I do not know for Truth has set fire to these words. Now they are nothing but ashes.
I ruminate on God
And my old self falls away.
Am I a man, a woman, an angel, or even a pure soul?
I do not know for Love has melted these words away.
Now I am free of all these images
That haunted my busy mind.


~ Thanks to Paul Constant, a former student of Richard Rose and active TAT member. Presented at the November 2017 TAT Gathering, at the Claymont Society Mansion in Charles Town, WV. Paul maintains a cornucopia of resources for the sincere seeker at SearchWithin.org.

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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/.

Local Group News

Update from the Central Ohio Non-Duality Group:
The Columbus group operated under the name OSU Self-Inquiry Group and met for many years in a church next to The Ohio State University. After attendance dropped off, the venue was changed to a local Panera restaurant, and the name changed to Central Ohio Non-Duality Group. The group has exposure to seekers through Meetup, but has only occasional visitors outside a core group of 4 people.
     Due to schedules, we have met infrequently the past semester, and in deference to an effort to try to do other things, like rapport sittings, in private meetings.
     Meeting format is a discussion format on topics of interest to seekers, and often bridges from the concerns, questions and interests of the core members in attendance into the topic which we intend to discuss.
     Unlike the public meetings, we are able to sit in rapport in the private meetings.
     One recent topic included a discussion of Invisible Forces: Physical (gravity, electromagnetic waves, light, laws of nature as exhibited by physical reactions like wind, rain, erosion, stress, strain, chemical reactions, nuclear reactions, etc.), Mental (intelligence in living organisms, thought, memory, belief, emotion, desires/drives) and Spiritual (rapport, creation, life, love, awareness), with the questions/prompts:
- Did man create any of these?
- Does man control any of these?
- Does man possess any of these? If so, how is man defined?
- Which of these do we observe as "outside" the mind and are witnessed by others?
- Which of these do we experience "internally" that cannot be shared by others?
- Which of these is understood by becoming?
     Another was a series of rather over-used questions, but with some additional prompts:
- Are you what you eat? Then are you a chicken, cow, lamb, pig, leafy plant, vegetable or the proteins, molecules or minerals resulting from digestion, or the atoms, electrons, protons and subatomic particles conceived by man as the ever smaller and smaller units of matter?
- Are you what you feel? Then are you as ephemeral as a feeling which changes as quickly as the songs on a radio, first a madman, a hater, then a lover, and in turn a reflective person…?
- Are you a thought? Then are you the insanity of your thoughts, wildly changing your form throughout the day and night, changing the paradigm in which you exist?
- Are you what you believe yourself to be? Then are you the creature of your imagination? Are you an entrepreneur, a father, a grandfather, a seeker, a savior, a storyteller if you believe yourself to be so? Are you defined by your own insistence on self-affirmation? Are you the beautiful baby your parents loved, or a grizzled animal you see in the mirror? Have others affirmed you to be either or neither?
- What proves itself to be real? The physical body? Feelings? Thoughts? Beliefs? Reflections? Is the power of observation found in the mind? Is the mind found in a location in space and time? If time and space are concepts, and what is real is beyond the mind, what finds? What realizes?
     Some of the added prompts were targeted to stir the core members.
     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.

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