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

TAT Forum

February 2021

TAT February 6, 2021 Spiritual Retreat Banner

Attend TAT's February Spiritual Retreat Day—In Thought, Word and Deed


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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

A Story About a Kite

Isn't it strange how a sailing boat inside a picture frame has the power to whisk your spirit away. When I read Richard Rose's "The Call" for the first time, a poem about just that, I was reminded of a childhood experience. Older kids piloted huge home-made kites from a hilltop adjacent to our little town, and at most, I was permitted to touch the taunt line, like a leash of wire that held the kite back from free flight. My father, older by 50 years, sought to address my envy and constructed what he called a "frog," an approximately foot-square piece of newsprint with two opposite corners folded up and back, connected with a delicate stick attached to a fine silk fishing line. Hanging below was a sliver of a bed sheet as a balancing tail. It had been late evening when he was about to transfer ownership to me with a practice run in our yard, but I remember that there was no wind, no air movement at all as night was beginning to settle in. But my dad insisted on throwing this fragile thing up and with several quick steps back like a dance with something that couldn't fly. I clearly remember embarrassment and frustration as I watched him fail time and again until, amazingly, it literally hung as if embraced by some unseen force above us. I also remember him saying that down here you might not feel any wind, but it's up there, "You have to catch the breeze."

Decades later, that single experience and memorable words would amazingly summarize my search and prayer for ways to elevate and enhance my spirit. And somewhere along the way, the words were added: "I have to throw myself up" and catch the breeze. * "The Call" Carillon -Richard Rose, p66


~ Thanks to a TAT member who wishes to remain anonymous. "The Call" is published in Carillon : Poems, Essays, and Philosophy of Richard Rose.

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!

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.

2021 TAT Meeting Calendar

* February 6, 2021 *
April 10-11, 2021
June 12-13, 2021
August 14-15, 2021
November 6-7, 2021

Until 2020, TAT held four in-person meetings each year: one in April, one in November, and two in the months between April and November. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, all four meetings for 2020 were held online. See the events page for descriptions of the past four weekend events. We're hoping that it will be feasible to resume in-person meetings in 2021.

We're starting 2021 with a one-day virtual gathering on Saturday, February 6th. See the February 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 meet every second Wednesday on Zoom. We are working using two different approaches. The first is the standard confrontation approach of people giving an update on what was coming for them in the previous period, in terms of their path. The second is the distribution of a piece in advance for reflection. In the last meeting, the Bob Cergol talk from the November 2020 TAT Meeting was shared with participants in advance, along with a few questions to reflect and respond on in the meeting. Then we proceeded with confrontation based on the response. We will continue in this vein for the time being, using either a general update or a piece for reflection shared in advance. ~ Contact for more information.

rose Update from the Dulverton, South West England self-inquiry group:
‘We continue to stay in touch but meetings have been suspended for the time being due to a second lockdown. We have a quorum of three and two other interested in joining when guidelines permit. ~ Please contact for more information.

email icon crystal 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. 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. Recently we started trying to keep it to each of us asking just one question to each participant--switching from a shotgun to a rifle approach. 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. We're looking into starting a Zoom or other online meeting. Please let us know if you're interested. ~ Email or for more information.

   TAT Press publishes three of Art's books: Solid Ground of Being: A Personal Story of the Impersonal, Beyond Relativity: Transcending the Split Between Knower & Known and Sense of Self: The Source of All Existential Suffering?

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.

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.

   See the 2020/11/28 post: Four-day isolation retreat at TAT Center, with photos and YouTube clips.

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 meets by conference call line (no video) every Monday from 6-8 PM EST. The phone number is (425)436-6381 and the passcode is 889361#. More details, as well as our weekly discussion topics, are available on our MeetUp page (link above) and via email at .

Update for the Online Self-Inquiry Book Club:
This online Self-Inquiry Book Club meets Sunday afternoons. Our book for February is The Zen Experience by Thomas Hoover (pdf; Kindle). ~ 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. Now meeting at 7:30 pm EST (previously at 7 pm), 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:
We will begin a Ramana Maharshi book review every other Monday beginning in February.
Group confrontation and individual contributions online every Wednesday, 8:00 pm via Zoom.
Wed, Jan 27: "What do we see/receive through your Wounds?" Does a life-time of emotional and mental scarring inhibit, enrich or mature your search? If a younger seeker, does opportunity, grace or reluctance come through your emotional and mental wounds?
Wed, Feb 3: Are you a seeker, do you meditate or have 'spiritual' techniques? Bob Cergol's 11-7-2020 TAT Weekend Talk had some important questions for you, a dynamic confrontation of your ways and means.
Wed, Feb 10: An evening with Bob Fergeson: Is there a True Self and a False Self? In his article "The Dividing Mind" he wrote about how the mind plays games rather than seeking the Inner Self.
Wed, Feb 17: Is there only one reality? Is your reality different from my reality, do we each create our own? Am I part of your reality but not vice versa? To what degree can I affect another's reality or even my own? Is there a final Reality? Or no reality?
Wed, Feb 24: The basis of religion is belief, and traditionally religion has been the domain of religion. What is your spirituality or the deepest thing you long for, and what is your bedrock?
~ 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.

   TAT Press publishes Bob's gateway to within, The Listening Attention, as well as Images of Essence: The Standing Now, which features poems by Shawn Nevins accompanied by Bob's photos.

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.

   TAT Press publishes Shawn's Images of Essence: The Standing Now, which features his poems with photos by Bob Fergeson, The Celibate Seeker: An Exploration of Celibacy as a Modern Spiritual Practice, Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment, and Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred, which features his poems with photos by Phaedra Greenwood.

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

Everything Is Nothing

everything is nothing

Hanging from a Tree Limb

This guy was climbing a tree when suddenly he slipped, then he grabbed at a branch and was hanging there. After an hour or so had passed he felt himself getting exhausted and looked up to the heavens and cried out: "God, help me, please, help me." All of a sudden the clouds parted and a voice boomed out from on high. "Let Go!" said the voice. The guy paused and looked up at heaven once more, then said: "Is there anyone else up there?"

4 diamond separator: />

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~ Appears on multiple websites; original source unknown.

Guardian Angel

I think my guardian angel drinks

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

Sloppy Thinking Antidote?
From "The Conversation: Bill Gates"

You're known for clearing time on your calendar for "Think Weeks," where you hole up in a cabin, read books, and ponder the world. Why is this so essential?

Adult life is so easy to fill up with activities. The ability to step back and read deeply or think deeply or write up thoughts is largely missing. And so I work hard on my schedule to make sure I'm not filling it up with too many things. It's been a little bit easier with no travel this year. So I think of myself as a student where I need almost like a reading period to consolidate my knowledge. It was particularly challenging when I was CEO of Microsoft. Eventually, I got to two weeks a year that I was setting aside. Since I retired from Microsoft in 2008, I don't have to do it necessarily as one block, a week at a time, but I do set aside lots of days, and then I say, "Did I write the memo that I intended to write?" The act of writing—when you try to explain it to someone else—is where you really are forced to think things through and not be sloppy in your thinking.


From a September 2020 Fortune interview by Clifton Leaf.


Conceptual Thought

Thank God for conceptual thinking. It provides something to look at to reveal the fantasy we live in that keeps us from seeing the truth. The notion that you just turn that off and an ego is dropped and all identifications and attachments are gone is rather absurd. The fact is ego just pauses or goes to sleep and there is no Transcendence.


~ Bob Cergol (personal correspondence)

Who Am I? - The Mysterious Thing You Always Are


~ Thanks to TAT friend Peter L., who wrote: "This video I just stumbled on presents an interesting sci-fi take on the classic Who Am I? inquiry. It's essentially a short-story thought experiment aimed at more of a mainstream audience, rather than the usual spiritual seeker who's probably done this exploration themselves." [Maybe so, but I think it's an interesting angle - Ed.]

A Hasidic Tale

Rabbi Hayim of Tzanz used to tell this parable:
A man, wandering lost in the forest for several days, finally encountered another. He called out: "Brother, show me the way of this forest." The man replied: "Brother, I too am lost. I can only tell you this: the ways I have tried lead nowhere; they have only led me astray. Take my hand, and let us search for the way together".

Rabbi Hayim would add:
"So it is with us. When we go our separate ways, we may go astray. Let us join hands and look for the way together."


~ Thanks to TAT member B.

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?

"It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin." ~ per Benjamin E Mays (see The Tragedy of Life in last month's Forum).

The Reader Commentary question for the February TAT Forum is: Does the tragedy of life lie in not having a goal to reach? Is sin not failure but low aim?

Responses follow:

From Tyler T:
The true tragedy of life is that our aim is not low enough. It is not pointed towards the Ground of Being, the Absolute Substratum of All That Is, the Changeless, the Ordinary. Rather, through everyday human conditioning our aim is ever pointed towards experience – namely, a different experience than the one showing up now. As such, the vast majority of so-called human beings will never know the sweet taste of no agenda, no personal will, and no self-partiality. They will never know their true identity as Source.

But not to despair – life doesn't get things wrong. It is through the setting, attaining, and also failing in our goals that the movement towards attainment and gaining a different experience is eventually found unsatisfactory. Even our attainment of spiritual experiences, and their transitory nature, leave us wanting more. This is grace because it is in that very frustration with our goals, or perhaps exhaustion, we eventually, in some dream-like life, are ripe to hear the simple call: “Be still.”

Taking up that call, and no longer orientated towards pursuing experience and attaining anything (spiritual or otherwise), we begin receding back into That, which transcends all experience. Being pulled now more than being pushed, we engage in honest observation out of genuine curiosity. We inquire for the sake of love. And we recede into the Unborn in service to an ever-present and subtle joy. It is in this space that spontaneously (and perhaps surprisingly) the timeless Truth annihilates all our wrong ideas about the world and what we have taken ourselves to be. We then know unequivocally: goal or no goal, all is well.

From William R:
What is sin? I remember Richard Rose once saying, “I don't believe in sin. We are not smart enough to sin.” Well, we might say, to sin is to willfully cause others to suffer when it is unwarranted and unnecessary. But, with examination and reflection, we see that every individual who brings injury upon another has a justification, a rationalization. Even the most malicious, malevolent and nefarious will argue the righteousness of their actions, and the truly heinous and demonic will proclaim, “I couldn't help it, I could not resist the urge.” And in the crime of passion, it is understood that one is temporarily overwhelmed and seized by a venomous force heedless of any moderating or tempering voice.

In order to understand, to make sense of, that which we may label “sin”, we must see that each and every one of us is driven by the same root ego: the imperative to be, the urging to self-empowerment, the insatiable appetite for invigoration. The sinner may be driven by the most base and infantile of resentments: “How dare he be more successful than me? How dare he be more admired!” “How dare she be more beautiful and accomplished than I!” The sinner may be driven by self-absorption, oblivious to, and unconcerned by, the consequences of his or her actions that undermine the well-being of another....

See William's complete response.

From Shawn Nevins:
A young friend once joyously told me she'd discovered the secret to happiness—aim low. All of the striving and straining was leading her to misery, so the alternative seemed a relief. I don't know how long the conviction of her discovery lasted, but I wouldn't call it right or wrong. At least she was considering her options.

Lack of understanding is what I consider the tragedy of life—not understanding the origins of the goal, not having the discernment to see the forces shaping our opinions, beliefs, and aims, or even what we consider failure.

[See Shawn's website at SpiritualTeachers.org and his prose and poetry on the TAT Forum Shawn's latest book, Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred, is available at www.spiritualteachers.org. -Ed.]

From Chitra D:
It is indeed a tragedy, both in the worldly realm and the spiritual one, when we don't have a goal to strive for. Without a goal, no growth is possible, except perhaps by accident.

I'll focus on how this applies to my life on the spiritual path. Without a spiritual goal that motivated me, that burned inside me, making me uncomfortable and dissatisfied and downright distressed and wanting nothing else because nothing else was worth it, I would not have moved beyond looking for success and happiness in my everyday life, or being satisfied with distracting myself when bored. My goal of Self Realization forced me to examine my life, my mind, and my thoughts and beliefs (to whatever extent I have been able to do this—it is a work in progress). My determination to prioritize this goal helped me to focus my energies on it and do whatever I could. I tried many things: from prayer, reading and meditation to watching the mind/ self inquiry/confrontation/trying to be in the Present moment. Some worked; some didn't. Some may be working deep inside but I can't tell.

But there's another side to this. Did I really even create my goal? I'm no longer sure....

See Chitra's complete response.

From Michael R:
The tragedy of life, in my mind, would be to live one's life not following one's innermost calling—whatever that might be and however unknown that journey. To allow fear or lesser desires to leave one on their death bed having not honored that truest part of themselves. To settle and in this way not live fully. I don't know if everyone has such a goal or aim, and if satisfaction is found without one then that's fine so far as I can see. Who's to say there has to be a goal or aim? Or that striving isn't the problem in itself? You can't intellectualize this, though. If you feel a calling, it would be a tragedy to not follow until its source is found.

From Sheryl S:
My short answer to these two questions is “Yes” to both. The longer answer is that in considering these questions I'm more prone to think/believe/say, for me, the tragedy of life lies in seemingly not knowing what the goal is, making it quite difficult then to go about trying to reach it. And as soon as I think this, I question my own “answer” and other inquiries arise.

For those of us who ask whether or not the physical, or relative world, is all there is and who are reliant on the words, pointers of persons who tell us there is another reality beyond the physical, the concept of this Reality (or Truth) is a mystery and the supposed goal. So, how to reach the goal while defining the goal at the same time?

Am “I” deceiving myself by saying “I” don't know what the goal is? Is this a diversion? Is there a relative “me” who can't do anything and an objective “me” who can do and is part of the All along with the many, many other supposed pieces of the relative world? Can I hold both these “entities” and not separate them? Is the seeming difficulty of this also a deception? Is the goal as “simple” as an agreement to refuse to separate? And are all these questions the tragedy, the sin?

From Anima Pundeer:
Yes, it is a sin to have a low aim or not to dream. In the context of man's existential hunger, it takes courage to accept that, no matter what you do, this hunger inside will remain unless you give ALL for it. It is the highest goal for a human life. So most of the time we try to take an easy route by telling ourself that only a few get there. And after all, I have limitations. We find for ourself more achievable and tangible goals.

Eastern thought is that human form is the only opportunity for a being to know her Divine nature. What a loss of opportunity for a human being to not even aim to reach his highest potential. If nothing else, you do become a good animal, I found.

Kabir says:

Night, spent is slumber; Day, spent in eating;
This priceless, diamond life, is given away for pennies.

And this is how life gets spent….

From Mary H:
Does the tragedy of life mean not having a goal? Does anyone not have a goal? I have always had goals, purpose, jobs to do, things to improve about myself, things I enjoyed doing, Many were self-serving, like a healthy lifestyle, so that I feel better. Many had unconscious motives of pleasing others, so that they would like me, and I would then feel good about myself. So is this also a tragedy, a misguided aim? Isn't sin also about being off the mark, misguided?

My Catholic moral goals were all very outward focused, rule bound, someone else was going to do my tally at the end, and reward me. Little did I think that actually uncovering the humble authentic inner child/self had anything to do with spiritual life, and that many of the roles I took on were more to do with my survival mechanism, belief systems, conditioning and life experience and very little to do with God. More to do with MY Will than Thy Will!

One of these survival mechanisms has been to keep a low profile....

See Mary's complete response.

From Art Ticknor:
I came across a quote recently from the psychologist Abraham Maslow, which expressed something I've seen but hadn't put together as cogently: “It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”

Seeing clearly what we really want from our life is an intuitional shift that creates an overriding goal and priority, which somehow puts us in touch with the umbilical cord connecting us to our essence. Maybe. :-) That's my feeling based on my own experience.

Richard Rose used to say that we're not smart enough to sin. I read somewhere years ago a definition of sin as "missing the mark"—like shooting an arrow and missing the target. In the search for our essential identity, we are the bowman, the arrow, and the target.

From Bill K:
It depends on the goal. From my perspective, if one would have been haunted by some inspiration or desire to seek out something of some higher aspiration, to search for something that might yield little if no utility for oneself, to have heard a calling that their heart responded to, but then failed to commit to pursuing with seriousness, then the great downfall or tragedy in life would be to have lacked the discipline and commitment to pursue that direction with everything they had.

From Brian M:
It all may depend on a person's life situation and intentions. I think a person will be guided to where their intentions lie. Whatever the intentions are is up to each person. The choices that are made along the way can lead to different goals and different intentions. Aim is very useful, it will give direction, though be careful what you choose; as the saying goes, "... be careful what you wish for".

If FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) are oppressing a person's life to reaching any of their goals, then that is unfortunate. However it seems to be that whatever place a person is in, in this reality, there will be a set of choices that can be made that will potentially help or hinder them to reach a goal. Unfortunately FUD can keep one's aim low. so this is a bit of a tragedy until the FUD is removed.

Looking for some sort of answer to the questions "What am I?" and "What is all this?" seems to me like a good aim, as does the goal of ending suffering. It is a way to bring balance to material existence, to know that there is a great mystery at play and that trying to understand our Creator in some way is a precious (though challenging) gift.

From Patrick K:
The word “serious” gets a bad rap. But I believe to develop high aim is to really start to "take your life serious" in the words of Jim Rohn. Maybe to treat life with the pinch of salt it deserves, the world will always affect you and you will never affect the world the way you would like, but you can at least take yourself quite seriously. What is my purpose here? For me I think real, genuine humour comes from taking that part seriously. When I didn't treat myself seriously, I was lost and the joke was on me. When you really take “your” life seriously, your “meaning” in this world, and work to find your meaning above all else, there will be no doubt about it that your life will develop high aim as you back away from all the meaningless things. That for me is the way of the vector that Richard Rose talked about.

Another angle I look at is that maybe we need some adversity/adversary. Seneca quote: “No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity, for he is not permitted to prove himself”. By this I mean we hold back. We are afraid to be rejected. We keep our fearful identifications closeted. We keep our gripes concealed, buried. All in order to maintain our perception of a smooth relationship with our human family. Be we've got to go there, bring light to the darkest reaches of our shadow and psyche. My granny's favourite saying: “Tell the truth and shame the devil”. I understand all the negative things have no value, but when they are concealed they are incorporated in a shadow energy that will blind the seeker and make him feel less than and like a coward, and block his full and wholehearted expression. A major obstacle and a sin committed against your own self. When you challenge the adversity in yourself you will hear the call of freedom coming from within, no doubt about it. Let everything else go to hell if it does but honour that call of freedom above all else, don't deny it.

Maybe adversity could be as simple as dissatisfaction. Instead of just rolling with the punches life deals out, maybe take a look and face this dissatisfaction. I could be misleading with the Stoic references but I can't help myself, I love the Stoics, and a good challenge :-), and a good fight. My father's favourite piece of wisdom is “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Where will I find the motivation to make Self-realisation a “necessity”? Maybe when I “fully” realise that Self-realisation is the Ultimate meaning of a life?

From Stuart:
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life—longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will... I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” —“I've been to the Mountaintop" address, Martin Luther King Jr.

Tragedy is loss, witnessed. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination was one of our nation's greatest tragedies. And though Dr. King did not get to experience the liberation and salvation he dreamt of, the years since his prophetic death have scattered among us bits and pieces of the vision he foretold, proof of what can be accomplished with a dream.

What is a hero but one who aims high and finds loss? What is a villain but one who aims low and finds loss?

We gather around our heroes and villains to cheer or jeer. What keeps us away from the aimless? If tragedy is indeed loss witnessed, what are we to make of the unseen loss of those without aim, the loss that keeps them from trying?

From Dan G:
I disagree with Mays because everyone has dreams and goals, and it's tragic when they're not conscious of them. My dad saw a musical called The Rothschilds as a teenager and formulated a life goal to become like those characters. He even made a SMART goal to become a millionaire by age 25, which keeps getting pushed back.

What's tragic isn't that he hasn't achieved that. What's tragic is his underlying goal to feel fully loved hasn't been achieved. His not reaching that dream behind his dream is tragic.

Reading about the history of Zen recently, I had a dream of being a Zen master like Nanquan Puyuan, retired in a self-made mountain hut, being asked by the local Buddhist monastery to teach students, some of whom become Zen masters. If I don't achieve that dream that's not a tragedy, but there is a dream behind that dream that would be a tragedy to fail to achieve.

What is my dream behind my dream? Some version of blissful stasis? I can see it's for me, not for any higher purpose. It's even before step 1 of the 12 Steps. Let's say I can get to blissful stasis behind the dream, then what? Then where is God? Is a feeling that God is still here and never left "stupid"?

Next Month

The Reader Commentary question for the March TAT Forum is:

How can a seeker who is questioning their beliefs and “doubting everything” sincerely pray?

Thanks to Brett S. for the question. Please your responses by the 25th of February 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 Brett S.:

Don A. wrote in response to Art Ticknor's January reader commentary, "I question how honesty has anything to do with it if I don't sense any of them already, but believe that I really want to." From my perspective, being honest has a lot to do with what Art wrote:
- Accepting the great uncertainty of "right action."
- Relying on a Higher Power within us for guidance.
- Seeing clearly what we're here for ... our purpose, what we really-really want from life.
I'd say that the first one has to do with admitting that my point of view is limited and subjective; and that other people have equally valid points of view (even if they're wrong haha). Acting from that place of uncertainty about "right action" it requires me to get off my "default" way of operating and work to be as honest as I can whenever I can in my actions.
I'd say the second one is an extension of the first one: asking for help because I honestly am uncertain about what to do, how to live my life, etc. But if I wasn't honest enough to admit I "don't know" with regards to right action then I wouldn't have any need to rely on a higher power...
And I think the third one requires honesty because it's like, "hey, I may not know what to do, but I'm gonna try anyway!" And so it takes honesty and even courage to peel away superficial, circumstantial, and biological layers and try to look at what my true desires are.

From William R., also referencing the "other reader commentary" in last month's TAT Forum ["I question how honesty has anything to do with it if I don't sense any of them already, but believe that I really want to"]:

The beginning of honesty is to say, “I don't know.” I don't know if I am being honest. I don't know what “right action” may, in fact, be. I don't know if what I think I want is actually what I want. I don't know what I, in fact, know, and what I don't know.

A second commitment to honesty may be the question, “Am I actually willing to do what it takes to achieve what I claim to want?”

Honesty is a path that is trod by constancy of self-examination, and commitment to confronting the weaknesses and rationalizations of the ego.

From Anonymous:

In last month's "Afflictions to the Sense of Self," Michael R. asks what is felt when we read Rose's poem "The Dawn Breaks."

I love a good story or poem that unexpectedly forces me to see from a previously unknown perspective, and this poem immediately uses a mechanism artfully hidden as a double meaning right in front of us: is "The dawn breaks" a hopeful opening, beginning of a new day, or does it imply a break as "broken" perhaps like some bubble, our reality being burst?

Reality is depicted as anthropomorphic, what else could experience be? Wispy, vague, a dalliance as here now, gone again and forgotten. Flighty, yet delicate like a butterfly visiting a flower and to never return. A lover who yawns and stretches and the prior sex act forgotten as other desires take its place. And the sun and sky and ego all share this stage again and again and again, as nothing more than experiences, and viewed as if contained in some crystal ball, a broad panorama of the wonders and experience that include everything from life to death, all abbreviated, held before us. But before we are again seduced, even inebriated by it all, as if by some mystical face-slap we are retrieved from this theatre of splendor to gain perhaps a sense of sanity, a perspective from a freedom as if pulled back and recognizing there actually is nothing to it all, nothing to experience, no meaning, no involvement.

Simultaneously, a recognition like a great relief in finding the real substance to it all, that can only be hinted at poetically, and realized through letting go. But Rose's last stanza I do not understand, I cannot grasp, but I also can't help but sense hope that this can all be "known" from where this is all viewed. Perhaps, no matter how much one would long, there is no place to go, everything is exactly as it's supposed to be, Everything is perfect.

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?


Trust: The joy of being a Granny. © by TAT member Mary Harrison.

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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.

"The Mirror"

Who is it that speaks to you?
Who is it that listens to me?
If all is God . . .

Can we pretend to be the soliloquy of God?
Can we pretend for a moment that we are all particles of God,
Enjoying his divinity?

A bird in the tree sings, saying,
I am here now, I am here now,
O the glory of being here now . . . .
O the glory of being here . . . .
O the glory of Being . . . .
O the glory of . . . .
O the glory of meeting a predator . . . .

And he meets a worm, which like manna
Is a delicacy, a divine aspect,
A gift of God's own body in particle form.
And he eats the worm joyously . . . .
God victorious and God experiencing destruction . . .
God sadistic and God masochistic . . .
God organic and God as fertilizer . . . .


See the complete poem in the June 2001 TAT Forum.

It was first published in the TAT Journal No. 10 and republished in Carillon: Poems, essays and philosophy of Richard Rose. © Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. The TAT Journal, precursor of the TAT Forum, was published from 1977 to 1986. See the TAT Journal Archive page.

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

We're looking forward to in-person events at the TAT Center in 2021 and will keep you posted. Until then, people continue to use the Center for solitary retreats, and there are rumblings and rumors about potential construction of a retreat cabin. In the meantime, we still need your help. We've raised 60% of the funds needed to clear the TAT Center of the outstanding loans and secure its financial future, so please consider a donation today.

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

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