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

TAT Forum

November 2020

Relative & Absolute

November virtual spiritual gathering details

Homing Ground Update

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

Hurdle Mills new home for TAT

See the TAT Homing Ground Update section below for how you can help prepare our new home for future TAT meeting. We need more action from Forum readers!


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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

Twentieth Anniversary

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the TAT Forum. The contents of that first, 2000-11, issue were: WKSU Interview with Richard Rose (part 1 of 6), Poems by Shawn Nevins, and Dust Storm in the Desert by Bob Cergol.

This month's Convictions & Concerns section contains more recent thoughts from Bob and a recent poem from Shawn, while the Founder's Wisdom section contains notes made by one of the participants in a 1981 winter retreat with Richard Rose.

"Living in the Now?" Addendum

Bob wrote this last October as a follow-up to a short piece "Living in the Now?" he'd written back in 2002:

Warsaw clock face Unless and until you've had a transcendental experience [realization] that's placed the “you” you thought you were, outside of time, it's pure nonsense to talk about “living in the now” or “being in the now.” All this New-Age talk advising “just be in the now” and “be present” is nonsense! You know who lives in the now?—Insects, cats, dogs—and cows! They are not conscious of the passage of time as relates to individuality, and without that, there is no possibility of transcending time. They are completely stuck in the present—asleep, with no awareness of the past or the future, or the Totality beyond time itself. That possibility seems to be a human distinction.

You can't truly “live in the now” or be fully conscious of the present without also being conscious of both where you came from and where you're going—conscious of what has happened to you, and conscious of what awaits you. Holding those two things in your mind, then you might become conscious of your present—of Presence. Otherwise, what you think you are doing if you think you are “living in the now” is imagination, dreaming. Only a Realization that places you outside of time gives you the perspective to see the past, present and future as one. Being outside of time is the only real “living in the now”—and that state-of-being requires death of the self—not merely pausing your attention on a single thought, by focusing on your breath, performing a body-scan, listening to the sound-currents, chanting a mantra, basking in the ambience of a conjurer of dreamy moods, having your head brushed with a peacock feather, or being told “you are already that which you seek” gibberish. The Realization I speak of is seeing what is left when nothing of you remains. Such seeing can only result from earnest looking—without prejudice or preconception or expectation—at yourself—as you find yourself now—how you manifest in this existence: how you feel, what you desire, what you fear, what you think, how you behave, what you say, what you tell yourself, what you do—and what will become of you… Stare at that—holding doubt sacred—and the Truth will be revealed.


Antique mantle clock photographed 2015 in Warsaw by Thomas Quine, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



ICE RIBS by Phaedra Greenwood

Each word we speak in Truth
is a dying.

But you say you want to live

An exposure of our emptiness,
a revelation of the core,
of no control,
and no one at the helm.

As captain of your ship

Only an endless expanse of water,
only empty witnesses—
part and parcel of creation.
Our essence is beautiful,
is still,
is nothing.

So here is your skeleton crew.


Photo by Phaedra Greenwood and poem by Shawn Nevins, from their recently published Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred. More details, where you can get a signed copy from Shawn, at SpiritualTeachers.org.

quill icon

Would you like to share your impressions or questions with other TAT Forum readers? (Comments and questions may be selected for future Reader Commentary inclusions, identified with first name and first letter of last name or other attribution of your choice.) Please email your impressions/questions to the .


TAT Foundation News

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

Call To Action For TAT Forum Readers

With the intention of increasing awareness of TAT's meetings, books, and Forum among younger serious seekers, the TAT Foundation is now on Instagram (@tatfoundation).

You can help! A volunteer is producing shareable text-quote and video content of Richard Rose and TAT-adjacent teachers. We need your suggestions for short, provocative 1-3 sentence quotes or 1 minute or less video clips of people like Rose, Art Ticknor, Bob Fergeson, Tess Hughes, Bob Cergol, Bart Marshall, Shawn Nevins, Anima Pundeer, Norio Kushi, Paul Rezendes, Paul Constant, & other favorites. (See below for an example).

Please send favorite inspiring/irritating quotes—from books you have by those authors, from the TAT Forum, or any other place—to . If you have favorite parts of longer videos (ex: from a talk at a past TAT meeting), please email a link to the video and a timestamp.

Thank you!

RR quote on Instagram

TAT Foundation Press's latest publication: cover of Sense of Self: The Source of All Existential Suffering?

Sense of Self: The Source of All Existential Suffering? by Art Ticknor is now available in paperback and in Kindle e-book format.

This is Art's third book published by the TAT Press. Others are Solid Ground of Being: A Personal Story of the Impersonal and Beyond Relativity: Transcending the Split Between Knower & Known. All are available to order from Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

Please add your review to the Amazon listing. It makes a difference!

Also, check out Shawn Nevins's recent interview, audio and video, of Art.

2020 TAT Meeting Calendar

April 4-5, 2020
June 13-14, 2020
August 15-16, 2020
* November 7-8, 2020 *

TAT's November gathering will be held online, with presentations and interactive sessions on Saturday and Sunday, November 7th and 8th. See the November spiritual retreat page for details and registration. For additional information, please email .


The following video recordings of presentations from a previous April 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).

door on TAT Community Building 2010

See TAT's Facebook page.
Photo of TAT's open door by Phil Franta.

Local Group News

Update for the Amsterdam, NL Self-Inquiry Group:
The group is not holding meetings currently, but email for information.

Update from the Central New Jersey Group:
At the end of July, the New York City and the Central Jersey Self Inquiry Groups co-sponsored a 3-hour inquiry meeting using the Zoom platform. The inquiry meeting (the third event organized by both groups) attracted 11 participants. The meeting schedule: Welcome; Byron Katie inquiry exercise (led by a NJ member); "I statements" exercise (led by a NY member), and a feedback session, to collect ideas for future retreats. Organizers feel that organizing an event with another group, is a good way to "find your fellows" as Richard Rose once advised.
      We hold regular Zoom meetings on Friday evenings. ~ Email for more details.

Update from the Central Ohio Non-Duality Group:
The Columbus, Ohio self-inquiry group, now known as the Central Ohio Non-Duality Group, has continued to meet virtually on Tuesday evenings at 6:30PM during the Coronavirus pandemic. Please email one of the people's names below if you wish to get a link to the meeting. Meeting format involves discussion of 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. We look forward to the easing of restrictions to the point where we feel comfortable meeting again in person. ~ For further information, contact , , or . We're also on Facebook.

Irish clover Update from the Dublin, Ireland self-inquiry group:
We're now meeting every second Wednesday, rather than Sunday, on Zoom, and we have been working with Tess Hughes's list of confrontation questions for the last couple of months. Participants select a number, to replicate drawing from a hat, and the question is pasted into chat and read out. They then answer the question for 5 minutes followed by questions from the group for 15 minutes. It has been working well to date, so we will continue in this vein for the time being. ~ Contact for more information.

rose A new self-inquiry group is forming in Dulverton, South West England:
Currently meeting weekly in a backyard and will modify as the COVID situation changes. ~ Please contact for more information.

Update from the email self-inquiry groups:
The Women's Online Confrontation (WOC) group consists of weekly reports where participants can include:
     > What is on your mind?
     > Any projects that you want to be held accountable for?
     > Responses to a selected excerpt (in the previous report).
     > Comments/responses/questions for other participants.
     A philosophical/spiritual excerpt with two or three questions is included in each report. Based on what we share, participants ask questions to help get clarity about our thinking. The intention is to help each other see our underlying beliefs about who we are.
     One rule we try to adhere to is not to give advice or solve problems. The number of participants, to make it work efficiently, is between 4 and 7 including the leader.
There are two men's groups currently with 6 participants in each, down from three groups with 19 participants last year. They function like slow-motion self-inquiry confrontation meetings, which has its pros and cons. We alternate by asking each other questions one week then answering them the following week. Participants provide brief updates of highlights from the previous week and optional updates on progress toward objectives that they use the reports for accountability on.
Both the women's and the men's email groups welcome serious participants. ~ Contact or for more information.

Update from the Gainesville, FL self-inquiry group:
Our meetings at the Alachua County library on alternate Sundays are still suspended while the library remains closed. In the meantime, the regular participants are saying hello to each other via email every Sunday, sharing whatever is on our minds. ~ Email or for more information.

We're looking into starting a Zoom or other online meeting group. Please let us know if you're interested.

Update from Galway, Ireland:
Tess Hughes is currently working with seekers one-to-one and holding occasional group self-inquiry retreats. Anyone who's interested in self-inquiry activity in Ireland is welcome to contact .

   TAT Press publishes Tess's easy to read, profound This Above All, the story of her journey of Self-Discovery.

Update from the Greensburg, PA self-inquiry group:
I am meeting every Saturday morning with three of my former Greensburg SIG group participants who are into non-dualist paths, such as Adyashanti and Mooji. There is also another participant, a professional psychologist who is interested in eastern philosphy and who wasn't in my SIG group but makes a great addition to our proceedings. These fellows are sincere seekers. We spend our time discussing our respective paths and comparing notes. Our new venue is a place called the White Rabbit Cafe in Greensburg. I'm hoping that the lull here has ended and that we're ready to be more dynamic again. ~ Contact if interested in local self-inquiry meetings.

red clover Update from the self-inquiry group in Hartland, VT:
Previously using TAT videos from past conferences as a primer for discussion, the group is now meeting online. ~ Contact for more information.

An update from the self-inquiry group in Houston, TX:
The backyard patio meetings are now moved to Zoom meetings, which take place at 4 pm on Saturdays. There are 3 active and inspired participants right now. Topics vary from Mr. Rose's writings to "What is on your mind?" ~ Contact for more information.

"Ignoramuses Anonymous" blog
Ignoramuses Anonymous is for seekers to explore questions together…a fellowship of seekers for whom ignorance of the absolute truth had become a major problem. It started as a blog for Pittsburgh PSI meeting members back in 2009. Welcoming discussion on the path.
To get notices of new posts, you can subscribe by RSS feed or by email.
From the Nov. 17th post:
William Samuel recommends adding glimpses to your journal, and I've been doing that for about half a year when I review the day. If I haven't had a glimpse I write down something I appreciate…or can appreciate. But what is a glimpse?

Update from the Lynchburg, VA self-inquiry group:
We have been meeting on Thursday evenings from 7pm - 8:30pm, online, via zoom. Norio Kushi, Paul Rezendes, and Bob Harwood are consistent guests. We've also had some other interesting characters show up from time to time. Topics come from readings or questions brought up by our members. These are sent out, along with the zoom invitation each week. Recently we posted some "considerations" for joining our group:
** Try to frame your comments as questions to Norio, Paul, or Bob. Draw these questions from you own experience rather than generalities. Maintain attention and discussion on the question rather than philosophical musings.
** Question other participants, in the spirit of group-assisted self inquiry, but without attempting to lead them to any particular conclusion or bring attention to yourself.
**Allow for and attend to the silence and the space that is always present. When you aren't speaking, see that as your role - to hold that space.
**Question, in yourself, the use of personal story-telling and quoting others - though sometimes both are helpful and appropriate.
**Consider the way in which you are listening. Does it have a quality of acquisitiveness or openness?
**Continue to question your own intention for coming to this meeting and let that guide any comments/questions/discussion.
~ Please contact or if you're interested in being on the email list.

Update from the New York City self-inquiry group:
The New York City Self-Inquiry group has continued to meet. We meet every Monday via a free conference call phone number. An advantage to the current format is that it's allowed people to join who live outside of New York City, including people living in Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas. More details, as well as our weekly discussion topics, can be be found on our MeetUp page (link above).

Update for the Online Self-Inquiry Book Club:
This online Self-Inquiry Book Club meets Sunday afternoons. Our book for November will be Sense of Self: The Source of All Existential Suffering? by Art Ticknor. In conjunction with TAT Foundation Press's publication of the book, see Shawn Nevins's recent interview of Art—audio and video versions available. ~ For more information on book club participation, see the meeting website (link above).

Update from the recently listed Online Video Confrontation Group:
The Monday Night Online Confrontation Group is going strong with a core group of participants and room for a few more. We meet at 7 pm EST, using the online video conference platform from "Jitsi.org" which works best with the Chrome browser. The goal of the group is to practice confrontation/group self-inquiry. ~ If you're interested, email or .

Update from the Pittsburgh, PA self-inquiry group:
Group confrontation online every Wednesday, 8:00 pm via Zoom, plus one monthly online intro to self-inquiry with discussion topic for newcomers. Recent topics:
Oct 28: Are there ego traps in bonding, meeting, exchanging with other seekers?
Oct 21: Nisargadatta: "Desire is the memory of pleasure and fear is the memory of pain." How is this a self-perpetuating trap?
Oct 14: Nostalgia: a Door to the Spiritual Life?
Oct 7: Catching Glimpses, Intuitions, Hunches
Oct 2: Invitation to all Meetup and new members: Nisargadatta: Did he actually teach a system?
Sept 30: Are there Natural Laws for Success?
~ All Forum subscribers are welcome to join us. Email to receive weekly topics with preparatory notes and Zoom invitations.

Update from the Portland, OR self-inquiry group:
A small group of us meet most Sundays at a coffee shop. The format for our meetings is to give each person 20 minutes or so to talk about whatever is coming up for them in their practice and to answer questions from the others. ~ Email for more information.

Update from the Raleigh, NC Triangle Inquiry Group:
The group is starting up again after a hiatus, now with Zoom online meetings. ~ Email for details.

Update for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area TAT Center:
The new TAT Center in Hurdle Mills, NC recently hosted its first event: an open house for folks in the Raleigh and Lynchburg areas. With the successful opening of the center, teacher-in-residence Bob Fergeson and caretaker Mark Wintgens are looking forward to hosting retreats and meetings for local group members as well as all TAT seekers. ~ Email for information about future meetings and events.

Update from the Richmond Self Inquiry Group:
There isn't a Richmond self inquiry group at the moment…it never really got off the ground. I'm considering a few different approaches for round three, but it'll be at least a few months away before that takes form. ~ Email for information about future meetings and events.

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 Washington DC Area Self-Inquiry Discussion Group:
[This group was previously listed as the Rockville, MD self-inquiry group.] We've been meeting monthly at Rockville, MD Memorial Library. While the library is closed for public health reasons, we're participating more in a weekly online book club. Forum readers are welcome to participate. ~ For more information, please email or see the website http://firstknowthyself.org/virtual/.

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 August 2019 Workshop was titled Beyond Mindfulness: Meditation and the Path Within and included three guest speakers who each led separate workshops. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

TAT's June 2019 Spiritual Retreat Weekend was titled Between You and the Infinite. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

TAT's April 2019 Spiritual Retreat Weekend was titled Once in a Lifetime is Now. The following audio recordings are now available in the members-only website area:

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:

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

Amazon and eBay

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

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.

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

I Asked My Wife

I asked my wife

~ Thanks to TAT member Paul Constant.

Salary Negotiation

Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources person asked a young engineer fresh out of MIT, "And what starting salary were you looking for?"

The Engineer said, "In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."

The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to a package of five-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50 percent of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?"

The Engineer sat up straight and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"

And the interviewer replied, "Yeah, but you started it."

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~ Thanks to Humorous Comeback Stories.

Just Saying

just saying

~ Thanks to CoolFunnyQuotes.com.

We enjoy presenting humor here from TAT members and friends. 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


Is all thinking compulsive? Richard Rose advised looking at extreme cases to get clues about our psychology.

In the May 2018 TAT Forum: Life in Rewind.

The uplifting story of an amazing obsessive-compulsive's life with excerpts from the book and a 30-minute NPR audio interview.

Five bullets from a talk by Jim Burns summarizing his advice to seekers.

See The Key in the September 2003 TAT Forum.

And right below it, A Koan for Today by Shawn Nevins.

And right below that, Gauging the Need to Continue the Search by Bob Cergol (Q&A).


Life Story

My life story
What I remember
Is an interpretation
Of a tiny percentage
Of what I've observed
Which is a small percentage
Of what I've seen
Which is a minuscule percentage
Of what happened
Which may or may not have caused
the events I remember
Which change over time -
Both what I remember,
and my interpretations of them
dependent on factors
of which I may only be dimly aware
if at all
And which I probably have little control over
if any
And that are impossible to remember all at once, at the same time
So that an infinitesimal sliver
Of the sum total of experience
Of an incomprehensibly minute proportion
Of circumstances created before I was born
that appear and disappear
in a passing moment
“my life story”


~ Thanks to TAT member Brett S.

Things Are Getting Better, So Why Are We All So Gloomy?

Why are we so willing to believe in doomsday scenarios that virtually never materialise?

At the end of last year on CapX, I documented the constant stream of technological, scientific and medical breakthroughs that are improving the lives of billions of ordinary people. Given all this good news, the real question is why people are so unbelievably pessimistic….


~ Thanks to TAT member Paul Constant. See the humanprogress.org article by Marian L. Tupy.

"The simplicity of Self"

The Self I be, is not the self I see,

The self I see, is not the Self I be.

The self cannot find the Self through practices.

No path, plan or strategy will suffice,

Nor is Self found after transcending much struggle and strife.

No object, no subject – the Self is a mystery for sure,

The Changeless. The Ordinary. The Silence - nothing obscure.

Impervious to awakenings and experiences of all kind,

Never speaking, never doing, nothing to find.

The self screams in agony: just tell “me” what to do?!?!?

This “doing” and quest to awaken has ensnared more than a few.

The answer is too simple for the self to take hold,

Be still, and return to the Self – the sages have told.

But how? But how? The self relentlessly contends!

It is on the thoughts, the vasanas, that the self truly depends.

Yes, the thinking and imagining have a strong pull,

And the self remains intact attempting to control.

Then one day when the self is thoroughly tired of trying,

It goes back, back, back to Self – an idea surely dying.

Remaining, relaxing, the self abides with intention,

It is then that the Self reveals its own pull on attention.

Finally, a Peace is born and it is only a matter of time,

Until the Self-consumes all and nothing remains “mine.”

To be sure, intention and attention are the timeless key,

For the simplicity of Self to become the simplicity of Me.


~ Thanks to TAT friend Tyler T.

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 Reader Commentary question for this month refers to the article on Casual Intensity in last month's Inspiration & Irritation section: How do you know if you're taking yourself too seriously? Responses follow:

From Tara S:
This reminded me of that book titled Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and It's All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life and what AA calls “Rule 62” [Don't take yourself too damn seriously]. I still do it, fairly often, even though I am aware of it and have tools to counteract it. The trick is to head it off at the pass before it starts. Taking myself too seriously is a habit that has evolved over many decades and reinforces assorted notions about who and what I think I am as a person. It is an identity creator and stabilizer. I recognize when it's rearing its ugly head in many ways: tension in the body, exhaustion, muddled thinking and inability to focus, projection onto others, ruminating about “ME and MY issues” and worrying. I have come to see this overly serious attitude as the result of a belief in what some call “doer-ship”, as though I am the one making life happen and that I am in charge of the festivities [good and bad], that I can control things that are clearly beyond my control. It also shows a lack of acceptance and surrender to “What Is”, as though things are not okay just as they are.

Fortunately, I work on this daily and am getting better at recognizing when the world starts revolving around little old me. Self-importance is incredibly tiring and a waste of valuable energy. And it doesn't mean I am belittling myself in any way – far from it. When I look at my role in life and the world at large as being part of a much bigger picture, I function better, feel healthier and can enjoy [or at least be mostly unaffected by] whatever presents itself. To judge digressions too harshly is not helpful; better to simply laugh and learn.

From Shawn Nevins:
When you allow yourself to pause in the midst of doing and notice if the thought of failure equates to the feeling of death or annihilation. If it does, then it's time to reconnect with why you're doing what you're doing.

[See Shawn's new book, Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred, at www.spiritualteachers.org. -Ed.]

From MT:
Seems to me most all the problems and evils in the world stem from people taking themselves too seriously. This question reminds me of words I read in GK Chesterton's book Orthodoxy: "Life is too serious to be taken seriously". When I take myself too seriously ... I feel tense and stressed with no sense of fun or laughter happening and out of touch with my deeper guiding light. This self that is taking itself too seriously is like a little prison from where I cannot see the vastness of the heavens and beauty of the earth. For years I lived a lot of my life in this prison and, looking back, it is like watching a horror movie. I know this part of myself is still there functioning at a deeper, probably more unconscious level, but I am at least more aware and watchful these days, and the identification with emotions, thoughts, states of mind/etc. has less hold on me. I can do work on myself seriously but this is different than taking myself seriously ... after all ... it's this serious self that needs to eventually fade away so there is only the self that seeks to be like a feather floating in the Divine wind ... becoming one with my true Self ... my real nature ... being what I was created to be ... the Union with God that Bernadette Roberts achieved and lived for many years before she went on to go through the No Self journey.

From Chris L:
I'm new to TAT. Just discovering this fellowship (or rather having it revealed) is a rejuvenation of the possibility of truth revelation and a relief unto itself. The search has been on for years … and now it continues. It's like the determined archaeologist that's been trekking through the jungle alone for years that finally happened upon an ancient lost city. It's overgrown by the jungle and everything is covered in hieroglyphs, but the treasures are surely there somewhere. Only thing to do is start digging.

Does that sound too serious? Maybe the guy decides to fashion a loin cloth before he starts digging … or maybe that makes things more serious. I don't know. I used to be a drunk, so the idea of finding myself doing anything in my underwear isn't really that far-fetched … I digress.

Recovery is the stepping-stone that preceded finding TAT. It lit the fire for my search for truth. It also taught me to be able to laugh at things that would (and do) normally horrify the average person. The friends I've made there are true blessings. Although most of them don't share the same drive to seek the truth, they have made a very constructive habit of laughing in my face whenever they deem I'm taking myself very seriously. There's a warm saying in these circles, “If you're looking for sympathy, it's in the dictionary between shit and syphilis”. Feels like a big hug.

There was a man named Sandy B. that was a lighthouse for me during the early stages of recovery. He said something once in such a simple way that it always stuck with me. He said, “you have to stop having a way”. At the time, this pertained more to expectations of circumstantial outcomes of trying to build a new life. Seven years later the search has turned to “what is truth?” If I don't know what the truth is, I can't have a way to it. All I can do is pray that the right opportunities and signs present themselves … and they have!

How can I take myself seriously at this point? What does that even mean? The idea that I ever actually know what I'm doing at any given moment is absurd as far as being on a “path” is concerned. If I'm upset … it's a good time to check if I'm taking myself too seriously. There's much to learn about what's standing in the way in looking at these reactions.

The whole thing is like an Indiana Jones movie to me. It's so exciting. I can't help but stay committed and hopelessly interested (borderline obsessed). The powers that be blessed me with a new chapter of discovery in revealing TAT. With great gratitude and a prayer for continued direction, I sincerely hope I get to make each of your acquaintance.

Don't forget to laugh.

Much love.

From Sunil V:
Whenever a suffering arises such as anger, fear, despondency, jealousy, pride or any combination of these, it is highly likely that I am taking myself too seriously. The antidote to such suffering is a realisation that I am mistaken in my view of what's really happening.

This form of self enquiry is not too difficult if I am honest or if I have a guide to help me through this. Suffering arises, dig to the core, ask that dreaded question "Why?" I invariably find the cause to be a hard-core self-delusion. A belief that there is a solid "me" at the centre who is either a victim or a perpetrator. This "I" can not be found. Do this exercise a few times, or a few hundred times depending on how stubborn you are (I am a ten). One day it will take just a flash to see through.

I find Buddha's Right View very helpful. I am suffering because I am clinging to an object or phenomenon. I forget that all objects are impermanent; even the so-called observer of these phenomena is impermanent. Having the right view points directly to "taking myself too seriously", seeing a me when there is none.

From Anonymous:
Initial response: I'll pass this one Art. I don't think I'm taking myself seriously.

Second response, after more consideration: I know I take myself seriously because I follow what my feelings tell me is the right path. But I don't think I take myself too seriously because I know I could be completely wrong about what I'm thinking is right.

From Kevin S:
It seems to me that, in the world of trying to wake up, anything that indicates that there is a self is taking yourself too seriously. That would include most of our beliefs and conditioning, but for the most part I am not aware of those from moment to moment. We begin to feel their presence when something happens to offend or afflict our sense of self. Perhaps also when we get positive reinforcement to the self, but I think we often just go with the flow in those cases – we like it. The negative instances are much more likely to get our attention.

An example for me is when I do something (or don't do something) and my wife expresses her disapproval. I crave my wife's approval more than anyone else's. That in itself, no doubt, is fertile ground for inquiry. But the resulting sense of discomfort (guilt, hurt, frustration, anger, etc.) is a clear indication that I'm taking myself too seriously.

Another example, also approval related, is when I consider reading my poetry at a meeting. I always feel torn between two impulses: One – I genuinely feel there is some insight or inspirational value to be shared. Two – I'm pretty sure there is also a part of me seeking approval.

Then the question becomes, if you see these things happening, what do you do with the information? I usually try to let go of the angst and try to step back and act out of a sense of clarity and spontaneity. I can't say I'm always that successful. I can only hope that as the awareness increases, I'll learn to step away from it earlier in the process. I'm sure there is much more I could do in terms of inquiry, but it seems so obvious – self-consciousness, positive or negative, reinforces the sense of self. All I know to do is look at it.

From Brett S:
I don't think I knew I was taking myself too seriously until this past weekend. Through some conversation and confrontation with other seekers, I got the sense that I had a rigid way of protecting myself from my own feelings through the use of philosophical concepts and spiritual ideas. It may not always be true, but it felt more true in that moment (for me). I put that in the category of "taking myself too seriously" because my mental commitment to a certain version of the spiritual search seemed to keep me closed off from something other than what I thought I already knew. And what I'm looking for isn't, I think, something I already know, or can conceive of; otherwise I don't think it would be worth looking for! So I think I was taking myself too seriously as a seeker because I was blocking myself off from the feeling of being lost, and unknowing. I don't know. In general, I think someone is taking themselves too seriously when they can't laugh at themselves. Coincidentally, I see laughing at oneself as a sign of self-honesty and a lack of pretension.

From Art Ticknor:
I can easily come up with several behaviors that I have indulged in at various times that may indicate taking myself too seriously. One is giving advice. Another is assuming I know what other sunbeams know about their state of being. And a third is wallowing in self-pity. I ask myself what are the downsides of those indulgences. First is that advice is likely to be applied in the wrong way and/or at the wrong time, as Richard Rose used to say/quip. Second is that errant criticism may contribute to air pollution, poisoning the mental air. And third is that self-pity can lock us into attachment to our faulty beliefs.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if all emotional suffering is a very common symptom of taking ourselves too seriously. If so, it may not have just a downside since it goads us to seek an end of suffering.

From Anonymous2:
With the same mocking grin as my Grandfather, I sense the temptation, and hear his blunt words: “stupid son-of-bitch;” got something to prove.

This month's TAT Forum question asks “How do (I) know when I am taking myself too seriously?”

Of the many flavors of addictions, like sex, drugs, power, there is also the one that promises that the mind (ego) is right. As a second generation atheist, my Grandfather told people that religion was like cigarettes: “an addiction, or a crutch to hold onto.” This human story, the one that began typing this response, sometimes holds onto the idea of knowing something, or believing he has something worthy to share.

I attach to the idea that I have something to say, or write, or that may show my wisdom, or be helpful to another, and it often results in a tug-of-war. Part of me has a mocking grin, as I edit this response, and if you are reading this, then I am that son-of-a-bitch again!

Other times I recall something that causes my body to contract or recoil, coinciding with a memory of shame or embarrassment. Something I once did, said, or didn't do (or write), that I now attach to “knowing better.” That said, I also have vicarious humiliation when watching Mr. Bean; so just another quirk in my DNA.

If I notice the temptation, and remember to let it go with that humorous mocking-tone; as if to say: “I don't know nothing!”

Fall back, or surrender and remind myself, to only be curious as to what choices will randomly show up for me, and whether I will choose the course of uncertainty, and possibly an unfamiliar outcome, or choose the habitual or safer and familiar one.

I recall reaching out to spiritual teachers, including teachers like Art, Shawn, and others, and although I really enjoyed the exchanges, I daresay, benefitted from my one fall TAT Retreat in 2018, yet I don't recall any of the questions I arrived there with. Maybe it was the book about “Subtraction,” but I no longer remember why I thought I was on a path, or what I liked about Richard Rose's, or Paul Hedderman's approach. I no longer wish to know who Jed McKenna is either; which is how I found TATFoundation.org.

It might be convenient, if I no longer remembered the embarrassing things of my past, but if I keep wandering through unfamiliar doors, with my boundless curiosity, I am likely to fumble my actions, or words again. Best not take myself too seriously, or the eventual memory will trigger the playful mocking tone: “Are you for real?”

The path has become less about what I “do” know (or get) and more about what I can let go of knowing, in favor of just inhabiting each moment.

From Patrick K:
For me it comes down to the following:

From Mike Gegenheimer:
How do you know if you're taking yourself too seriously?

You suffer.

“You,” meaning the ego identified with the small “s” self, is asserting its identity and seeking affirmation it is not receiving.

And it shows as the ego starts to trigger various reactions. Some tell-tale reactions I have observed:

Surely, overlooked are other tell-tale signs of suffering by the insufferable ego taking itself too seriously...

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!
From "To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church," by Robert Burns, 1786

From Anima Pundeer:
Here are some of the reactions that point out to me that I am taking myself too seriously:

From Jeroen V:
The easiest acid test to know that I'm taking myself too serious is when I can't laugh about myself. Laughter breaks (temporarily) the spell of negative thoughts, and when I take myself too seriously I won't laugh about my multitude of sillinesses. Another sign is when too many of my thoughts have "I", "me" or "mine" as their subject. The incessant "I"-ing in my mind is uncreative and leads to an unhealthy self-obsession. The third hint is when a spiritual friend tells me so.

Next Month

The Reader Commentary question for the December TAT Forum is

How do you know when you are being honest with yourself?

~ Thanks to TAT member Kevin S. for the question. Please your responses by the 25th of November and indicate your preferred identification (the default is your first name and the initial letter of your last name).

PS: What question(s) would you like to ask other TAT Forum readers?

Other Reader Feedback

From Bill K. [regarding Shawn Nevins's interview of Art Ticknor on SpiritualTeachers.org podcasts]:

I took this interview personally, as if I was seated in one of his Intensives that he mentioned. It seemed as if he was addressing my issues from a perspective that does not play into or appease my mental games. When asked about the possibilities for older seekers, he dodged it—exactly what I needed to hear! I can't think of any other Advaita teacher who would not have said something to appease us old folk. Actually it shook me up, not because "Hey, you don't have a chance", but the implied, "Hey, you're not really really serious, so what answer could you expect?"

Another reaction was when he described how he wandered town to town for temporary jobs so that he could quit to do his annual retreat/isolation/intensive, knowing he would always be taken care of with another temporary job and go on another solo-retreat, again and again. He never said "You should," he just laid it out, with his own difficulties during the commitment but also with the persistence that paid-off. Personally, I've managed to squirm away from opportunities for isolation, to avoid getting really intense, one-on-one, me-on-me while walking away completely from everything for a while. Maybe afraid, of either getting bored or of something possibly collapsing or going wrong—either in isolation or at home or work while I was gone.

So this interview got to me. But I don't want to spoil it for you with any more details if you haven't attended this interview yet. Like what I expect from all really good books or quotes or teachers for seekers, there are personal land mines. Some go off immediately, others not so quickly. Someone once said that one does not realize he has been wounded until he sees the blood. Maybe the really good confrontation is never expected, and sometimes it takes a little time to take effect. Unexpectedly, upon listening to it a second time, this recording, too, had a very big impact.

Q: What are your thoughts on this month's reader commentary? Please your feedback.

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?

a rocky shore

A rocky shore. Peaks Island, ME. Photo by TAT member Michael R.

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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.

Notes from a Winter Intensive

[Richard Rose conducted two month-long winter intensive retreats, one in 1981 and one in 1982. I wasn't able to attend the first one, but I extracted these notes from material provided by a friend who did. - Ed.]


Final note (#34): To find the answer, you must teach. To teach, you have to learn the human language. Disdain, deceit, envy, and other aspects of competition will prevent learning the human language. Realize we're all drops of water in the ocean.

See the complete "Notes from a Winter Intensive"

Definition of Terms

cherries separator

Index of many of the key terms and principles in Rose's work, with brief definitions, from Richard Rose's Psychology of the Observer: The Path to Reality Through the Self by John Kent.

Jacob's Ladder (Richard Rose diagram)

Jacob's Ladder © 2001 Richard Rose. See this transcript of a talk on the topic by Rose.

Homing Ground Update

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

Hurdle Mills new home for TAT

Work continues at the TAT Center, and we held our first on-the-ground event in September. While COVID restrictions necessitated a limited attendance, local-only, and invitation-only event, it was judged a resounding success! Additionally, we're half-way (56%) towards our goal of raising $70,000. Thank you! Please consider donating to keep the momentum going. Once we hit our goal, the Center should become self-sustaining as money from events and retreats will cover its operating costs.

Note that for 2020 (which is ending soon!), the U.S. CARES act will allow many people to easily deduct charitable contributions of $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple). Read more at https://info.pgcalc.com/cares-act and check with your tax advisor.

expanded meeting room exterior finished


Let's bring this to life! "The job is upon us," Richard Rose said, "and it is worthwhile." To contribute to the TAT Center, mail a check made out to the TAT Foundation to:

TAT Foundation
PO Box 873
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Big checks, little checks, all are welcome. Or use the PayPal link above (though we lose 2.2% of your donation to PayPal fees).

* See photos and more on the Homing Ground page. *

In friendship,
Shawn Nevins
on behalf of the TAT Trustees

TAT gathering

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