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

TAT Forum

March 2021

TAT April 3-5, 2020 Spiritual Retreat Weekend Banner

Attend TAT's April Spiritual Retreat Weekend—In the Quiet...


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Convictions & Concerns

TAT members share their personal convictions and/or concerns

What Really Matters
A "lecture of questions" from the November 2020 TAT Gathering

What Really Matters: distilling the search and path to its essence. This weekend will cover a lot of ground, and present many voices, each a facet of the ineffable. Where are we now and where do we go from here?

Notice how you feel as I ask these questions. Notice how your mind may want to grasp at the questions, to solve them. That's not the point.


What do you know for sure?

Do you have power or are you overpowered? A predator or a victim? Or both?

Do you enjoy or are you consumed?

Do you really reason … or are you so programmed?

Can you learn … that which you really wish to … by yourself alone?

What is the difference between knowledge and being?

Can you become? How shall you know what you should become?


Who is knowledgeable about good, the item goodness?

Is good that which we desire … or that which is in itself good?

Do we discover that which is Real or do we create it?

Do we actually know that which we are doing? If so, why do we repeatedly regret things that we do?

If we decide to create our future through positive thinking or levers of manifestation, should we not first have some understanding of what motivates us?

Have you ever watched yourself make a choice? What is the impulse that precedes the decision?

From what depths does the final decision bubble up into consciousness, or from what heights does inspiration descend into the mind?

What are the depths and heights of our being?

Do we ever see the world or ourselves clearly? Or is our view constantly colored and influenced?

Which of these is your chief influencer? Opinions absorbed from family, friends, or neighbors, advertising that imitates news, news that imitates truth, conscious or unconscious traumas, hereditary conditions, instinct, past lives, planetary forces, or the will of God?


Do animals have consciousness? Do plants? Or molecules?

How do we measure consciousness?

If we judge someone or something as unconsciousness is that simply a failure of the sensitivity of the measuring instrument?

Do animals feel pain? Joy? Love? Do they feel the approach of death?

Science periodically announces the discovery of human-like qualities in animals. Is this the truth or are all human qualities simply those of animals?

Does a spider plan its web? Does a human plan its life?

What is the difference between natural and man-made?

Are humans separate from the natural world or an emanation from it?

Are humans a parasite on the Earth, its divine guardian, or a visitor?


Are you a unique identity or an assemblage of parts walking in a meatsuit?

Do you plan the motion of each footfall?

Is there an intelligence of the body? Of the digestive system? Of the cell? Is there an intelligence of mitochondria within that cell? Of an enzyme within that mitochondria? Of the amino acid that forms the enzyme? what of the carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N) elements that form the amino acid? Is there an intelligence of the atoms which form the elements? Of the protons, neutrons, and electrons within the atom? Of the quarks within the protons?

Is the mind separate from these excavations into ever more fundamental divisions of particles?

Or are the mind and matter inseparably connected?

What is the mind?


What is time?

Does time pass or is it only you who passes?

Which lasted longer: the summer vacations of your youth or this past year?

Does the ant or amoeba interpret duration the same as a human or does its time pass more swiftly?

If the clock stops, does time stop? If the rotation of the earth stops, does time stop?

What is space?

Is space interdependent with time?

Do space and time exist at all except in reference to us?

Does stopping the mind stop time?

What is eternity? What is infinity?

Can we conceive of an eternity as anything other than a very long span of time?

Can we conceive of infinity as anything other than a very large space?

What does a lifetime feel like?

How will we know when it ends?


What is self? What is other?

What is the borderline between self and other? Is it the surface of our skin?

If we touch our left hand with the right hand is that left hand an “other?”

If we touch our friend's left hand with our right hand is their left hand an “other”?

What is “inside” and “outside” in relation to our self?

Where is “inside our self”?

Without distance and separation would time exist?

Without the senses, would we be imprisoned or freed?


What is the Now?

If you are not “being here Now” then where are you?

If you think of the past, does that thinking happen in the past? If you think of the future, does that thinking happen in the future?

Or is all thought occurring in the Now?

If so, then who is it that believes the Now is someplace other than right Now?


What is awareness?

Is awareness separate from the mind?

Is awareness separate from the body?

Have you ever passed out, been knocked out, or anesthetized? What became of awareness?

What becomes of awareness when you sleep?

Does awareness only exist for you if you are aware of it?

If you become aware of awareness are there now two awarenesses within you? If so, which awareness is more real?


What is feeling?

What is a feeling of God, the Divine, or something/anything other than our individual self?

What is it to know with certainty?

Do you remember the certainty with which you held to childhood beliefs in Santa Claus, God, or monsters under the bed?

What is intuition?

How does one arrive at it? Can it be improved?

Is intuition limited by the symbols in which we allow it to be expressed?

Are those symbols in turn limited by our preconceptions, beliefs, fears, and desires?


What is death?

Is all religion and philosophy merely rationalization … to answer constant cellular awareness of death?

Or is the belief in life after death an intuitive reading? A reading not completely translatable into limited human symbols?

What proof do we have of life after death, for us as an individual?

We see a dead body and recognize something is missing. What is it? Where did it go?


What is life?

Is it a collection of memories?

What fraction of a day do we remember and how accurately?

Is life a dream – or an illusion, or an opportunity?

What is a life well-lived?

Is this life just one of many?

Are we ever-evolving?

If so, what is it that is evolving? Is it a soul? A spirit? An individual self?

If so, what is the point? What is the ultimate aim of this evolution? Is there an end?

What happens after we reach the end?

What were we before we were born?


What are death and life?

Can we conceive of anything other than endings and beginnings?

What is the difference between something and nothing?

Between being and non-being?

Or is there a third way? That is not a way at all?

But a transformation.

A revealing.

A revelation.

Beyond seeming.

Beyond dreaming.

That is both the roaring of a waterfall,

the ringing of a tiny, silver bell,

And silence.


~ Thanks to Shawn Nevins. Shawn is the author of the recently published Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred with photos by Phaedra Greenwood and Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment. He also produces the SpiritualTeachers.org website featuring his podcasts of interviews with teachers.

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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 started 2021 with a one-day virtual gathering on Saturday, February 6th. The next gathering will be a virtual gathering on Saturday and Sunday, April 10 and 11. See In the Quiet... for details and registration. Questions? 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.
We've had two new folks join in February, resulting in two men's groups with 8 participants in each. They (the weekly exchanges, not the participants :-) 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. We're currently 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. ~ 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:
=> Book review of Be As You Are regarding Ramana Maharshi dialogues: Richard Grizinski will again lead the study every other Monday beginning Mar 8 at 8pm. He asks that each participant purchase a copy of David Godman's book since book sales are Godman's only source of income at this time. Contact selfinquirer to receive a Zoom invitation for all chapters.
=> Online group confrontation and individual contributions every Wednesday, 8:00 pm via Zoom:
- Wed, Feb 24: Discussion and review of Bob Cergol's 11-7-2020 TAT Weekend talk, which had some important questions for a seeker: a dynamic confrontation of your ways and means.
- Wed, Mar 3: Bob Cergol will be our guest for Q & A regarding our previous week's discussion and his 11-7-2020 TAT Weekend presentation. (Email selfinquirer to receive a transcript, which is not available for circulation outside this meeting. Bob's notes for the talk will appear in the May 2021 TAT Forum.)
- Wed, Mar 10: Bart Marshall's 10 Strategies for Self-realization. What does and doesn't work for you?
- Wed, Mar 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? Is there only perspective?
- Wed, Mar 24: What does it mean to be asleep? How would one know if one is asleep, and if asleep, how can a sleeping person awaken himself or herself? What are Gurdjieff's and Rose's teachings on sleep?
~ 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.)

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Your Contributions to TAT News

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



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


EGO = Edging God Out


~ Thanks to Larry I, who says that this definition of ego comes from Kabbalah teachings.


forgiveness (hunor)

"Be Careful What You Wish For"

I never saw a purple cow
I never thought I'd be none.
Thank God for Non-duality!
Purple, man and cow are one!

Among equals but I walk, divine
'Mid curses, gestures and sneers.
An upright-walking purple bovine
Belief becomes substance, ignorance conquers fear!

I don't fit in my old ways
Sometimes talk and sometimes moo.
Dilemma awaits my final days
Cemetery, or can of cat food?

God will greet at the Gateless Gate
The Question asked is one:
You a human, sacred cow or God?
One answer, please: One, all or none.

That which sees cannot be seen,
I am more than me.
Ponder 'bility is inverse
To substantiality.


~ Thanks to Gus R, who dubs the verses as "Foolishness pretending to be Humor."

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

Advice from Elon Musk

In a 2017 TED interview, the serial entrepreneur hit on what it takes to develop a successful mindset.

People are mistaken when they think that technology just automatically improves. It does not automatically improve. It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better, and actually it will, I think, by itself degrade, actually.

You look at great civilizations like Ancient Egypt, and they were able to make the pyramids, and they forgot how to do that. And then the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts. They forgot how to do it.

We could sum up Musk's point in a single sentence:

If you're not progressing, you're regressing; so, keep moving forward.

It doesn't really matter what your personal goals are. The key to success in any field or endeavor is to keep moving forward.


From an Inc.com interview by Justin Bariso.

Falling for Truth

TAT Press publishes Howdie Mickoski's Falling for Truth: A Spiritual Death and Awakening. Howdie has been reading his book, a chapter at a time, on YouTube:

Also on YouTube is an interview of Howdie by Iain McVay of conscious.tv.

You can also watch interviews on conscious.tv of TAT authors Bob Fergeson, Tess Hughes, Bart Marshall, Shawn Nevins and Art Ticknor.

Knowing What We Want

It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement. ~ Abraham H. Maslow

Neil Crocker says: "By opening your personal aperture as wide as possible, you can build a more complete picture of who you are and who you want to be." Here's a description of a small group he has formed, called The Elephants, which he feels employs a system for better living.

Hal Holbrook

Actor Hal Holbrook, who played Mark Twain longer than Twain himself, died at 95 in January 2021. There's a short audio story on NPR by Jesse Baker.

Shawn Nevins likes the Mark Twain quote: "There are shoals and shoals of fools out there, running around outside the asylum, exhibiting some form of specialized insanity." Holbrook himself laughed at that, pointing out "not just insanity, specialized insanity!"

Holbrook played the stage manager in the 1977 made-for-TV version of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, "a drama that has been performed more than any other play in the history of American theater." Here he is in the brilliant 3-minute opening monologue:

Here's a moving clip of Ron Franz's (played by Holbrook) farewell to Christopher McCandless in Sean Penn's Into the Wild.

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 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. Responses follow:

From Tess Hughes:
I wonder what the questioner's idea of prayer is? And beliefs?
I'm guessing (and of course, I may have this totally wrong) but that belief is about rationality and the ability to articulate a mental idea and that prayer is about ritual and begging founded on irrational beliefs, maybe even superstition.
The fact that one is a seeker assumes a belief in the possibility of some kind of resolution to one's perceived problems. You might not be able to rationalise this seeking or convince others of its value but for you it is something that you cannot give up. At least not easily. What a gift it is to find others who are equally driven by this irrational drive to heal their human condition, even as they fail to be able to articulate it.
Various tools have been developed over the millennia to address this human condition. One tool is questioning everything. It's called self-inquiry. It assumes that the problem is in the mind.
Another tool is prayer, it assumes that we are cut off from something that is essential for our happiness.
So, prayer is about trying to make a direct connection with that something.

“Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication”. - Wikipedia

Self-inquiry focuses on the mind. Prayer focuses on feelings.
They are not at odds with each other. It's like using a hammer and a drill to bore a hole through a wall, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The other tool, meditation, is about clearing the space for the prayer and self-inquiry to proceed effectively, unhindered by the issues of daily life. Well, that's my very broad take on it.
Different traditions emphasise different aspects and tools, depending on the mythology they use as a means of communicating something about this universal human condition. No mythology has the full “story”. It couldn't. Mythologies are generalised ways of thinking about the human condition.
Christianity emphasises feeling over thinking. Eastern traditions emphasise thinking.
The thing is, for you, personally and specifically to find ways to think about and interpret and understand your particular condition. Becoming yourSelf is a particular, specific example of the general. So, we have to learn how to apply the general teachings to our particular selves. This means learning to trust yourself and to have the courage to take yourself seriously. It also means becoming discerning about what works for you.
And, since we live in an age where we have access to all the world mythologies and tools, we can pick and choose the ones that work for us personally. We can try out different ones and test for how effective they are for us.


TAT Press publishes Tess's This Above All: A Journey of Self-Discovery. You can contact Tess by .

From Richard G:
The answer is found in the question. If one is “doubting everything” or every “thing” there cannot be any sincerity in praying. For example, how can sincerity be instantiated if the individual doubts their mind's existence, doubts whether they are honest, doubts the purpose or reason of prayer, and doubts the object of prayer?

I think a “doubting everything” or questioning person can pray intensively or emotionally for things or occurrences, e.g., money, removal of illness, enlightenment, bringing back their loved one, or to revere a deity but not sincerely. One cannot be sincere if they know or believe what they are praying about or praying to is an ephemeral, transitory thing. The doubting of an object of prayer and/or one's identity (sense of I-ness) modifies the perspective and hence beliefs and affect. The doubting modifies sincerity (IMHO).

I reviewed the Realizations of various spiritual “heavyweights” at the www.searchwithin.org website. Some of the writers had expressed various doubts, for example one mentioned that they did not know whether they would wake up or not. Once the Awakening occurred, however, there were no doubts or at least I haven't read or found them. In other words, with Realization or Awakening, doubts are gone, no subject, no objects, and no things. Others may have questioned the veracity of the claims of those who talk about their Realization or Awakening but not the authors of theses narratives. Once the “I-thought” is neutralized, Realization follows....

See Richard's complete response.

From No One:
I'll start by saying that the premise of the question implies that prayer and questioning one's beliefs are at odds with one another, which may be another belief :)

This is a tough one because many things in life can become beliefs (with an agenda/profit motive) without one even realizing it, even the belief that one should be questioning or "doubting everything" in order to attain some end state. So any prescriptive advice here would just create another belief structure or an object/agenda for a seeker. So maybe my first answer to this is to relax! Relax into whatever your current experience is - breathing, heart beating, feelings of frustration with seeking, thoughts of wanting to already 'achieve enlightenment,' etc. Capital T This is all there is. There is nothing outside of that (and phrased differently there is No-Thing outside of that).

Some fun prayers to pray (that wouldn't violate a questioning of beliefs) might be the following [my asides are in brackets, ignore them if they sound like nonsense]:

  1. "Dear God/Me/Awareness/Truth/Absolute/Void/Tao, how is my current experience illusion?" [you will have to see what in your experience is Unreal before you can accept that things/thoughts/etc. are both Real and Unreal as they constantly manifest from/in/as You]
  2. Some favorites taken from Bart Marshall (all credit to him): "What the heck is going on here?" or "Whatever stands between me and Truth, please take it from me." [including any beliefs, misplaced attention, etc.]
  3. Pick up a random object in your house and address it as your God. Pray to it, and ask, "how is this [fill-in-the-blank] also Me?"
  4. A favorite taken from Anita Avent (all credit to her): "I am willing to be willing to let go." [an attempt at surrender, which sadly, cannot be gamed or artificially created but can be intended]
  5. "Thank You for [whatever your current experience is]. I give up trying to look for anything outside my sights, sounds, smells, sensations, thoughts, and emotions." [same as the above]

From William R:

This is really two questions: 1) How do I pray? 2) To whom or what do I pray?

To pray sincerely, you need only know that your intention is sincere. This is not complicated: you look at your emotions and thoughts in this moment, and you simply be honest with yourself. Perhaps you want to pray for insight or understanding, perhaps you offer a prayer of thanksgiving, perhaps you ask for inspiration or accomplishment, perhaps you ask for blessings for another … but always intending from the place of, “This is true at this moment.” What you know is true at this moment is always the beginning place. Don't over-think it.

As to whom or what, realize that you are a component of the singular mystery of being. Until you know The Absolute, the source of all existence is a mystery, the organizational principle that gives structure and form to the field of information that is being-ness is a mystery, the imperative of life – of animation and self-replication - is a mystery, and the origin and nature of self-awareness is a mystery. You can always pray to The Absolute, or The Source, or The Mystery, and know that what you are doing is reaching out to The Greater, that which is All, even if The All remains a mystery.

And then, having formed your intention and having made a sincere gesture, let go, for you do not control the results.

From Ike H (ikeh):
When you get truly desperate, you will pray. Someone who perceives him- or herself to be in grave danger will cry out, “Help!” It is pride, not doubts, that prevents us from praying. Another thing that prevents us is a cynical and fearful belief that there is nothing that hears us when we pray. A belief that we are a self-powered entity solely in charge of the whole show. But prayer is not just petition. Christians count ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication) as praying. I know a man, a former atheist, who, overflowing with joy, began praying prayers of thankfulness when he found himself head over heels in love with a woman. My questions to you: How do you define praying? Why do you want to pray? And what exactly prevents you from praying? Do you know you are in trouble?

From Chris L:
My Grandfather was a Lutheran minister, and my first memories were of living with my grandparents in the castle-like church parsonage that their church provided for them. The church itself was a playground for my brother and me. I remember the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary and pictures of Jesus hanging in the home and all over church. They told us kids that Jesus loved us and looked over us, but I didn't really get it. My grandfather had a hologram picture of Jesus praying next to a rock in his office where the light from heaven shined on him, and it used to fascinate me. That's always how I pictured praying.

*sad story alert*

In later years, into boyhood, my life became very painful from a dark and traumatic home-life that I had no control over. Very quickly the version of faith that I was taught, that I was loved and protected, even by my family, seemed to be a lie. I started to notice that everyone seemed to be acting. Most people hold themselves to believe that they would intervene if they were to witness a child hurting … I noticed it just made people very uncomfortable … and the tendency was to pretend nothing was wrong. I realized I knew nothing, and that stayed with me. I didn't know my family like I thought, and I couldn't understand why anything happened. Years later, I fell into drinking and the confusion and frustration … and the pain multiplied. At 29, I found my way out of that horrible mess, and it was like hitting a patch of clear air after a life of turbulence ... but still not knowing where I was going. Thing is, all I knew for sure was that I was very confused. It was like an unbelievable, long-awaited sigh of relief … followed promptly by, “What now?”

Well I started noticing that, although I had no clue what to do with myself, an opportunity would show up at very pivotal times … as if life was just saying, in a very loud and obvious way, “Here, do this.” I can't tell you how mind-blowing this phenomenon became to me. Just out-of-the-blue opportunities. It became so unpredictably reliable (reliably unpredictable?) that my new life began to take its shape from these strange gifts of circumstance. In retrospect, 7 years later, it is what provided everything. I noticed eventually, because of the insistence of the recovery community to pray, that the only prayer I could “sincerely” muster was something like (to whatever is listening), “Look, I'm lost, but if you make the next move obvious, I'll do it … but please make it known.” I've come to rely on this principle, this prayer, although I'm not sure I ever really do it gracefully … because it kind of demands that I get out of my own way. It led me to finding TAT. It led me to the only belief that I consciously cling to, which is that there is truth … and it can be found.

From Tina N:
I had some difficulty responding to the question because it seemed to breed more questions :)

Q: How can a seeker who is questioning their beliefs and “doubting everything” sincerely pray?
The first thought that came upon reading the question is, "Why not?"
Doubt to me is a microscope that reveals what is put under its view.
What can doubt reveal about sincerity, and prayer?

Also, it struck me that there can be a sweet sincerity in doubting everything. Can doubting everything be a sincere way to pray?

From Art Ticknor:
Existential angst rests on not knowing anything for sure. We can assign probabilities to our interpretations/beliefs/conclusions—the sun will "come up" tomorrow: 99%; I'll die: 98%; I'm omniscient: 1%, and so on—but they're all iffy.

Questioning our beliefs and doubting everything (other than our ability to doubt, as Richard Rose would put it) is a reasonable way to live our lives pursuing Truth/Reality/Certainty.

Praying implies the possible existence of a higher power that we may have a relationship with and be able to communicate with. It doesn't require knowing anything for sure. Chances are we wouldn't do it unless our fears and desires prompted it, our logic told us it was a way to cover our bases in case such a higher power exists, or our intuition influenced us in that direction.

I remember one time telling my friend Bob Fergeson that I only felt I could pray honestly when I felt I was backed into a corner. Bob replied: Aren't you always backed into a corner?

From Sarah J:
A few days ago I began answering this question. I had a foundation. Now I have come back to finish writing and those words have vanished. But it seems irrelevant because in exploring this question I have found a painful and seemingly impossible barrier in this path: I don't trust that God cares about this particular manifestation – “me”, “my life”, “my” experience.

This is one reason this ego, small self, (or whatever it's called) continues to cling. It doesn't trust that if it lets go there will be anything looking out for “me” in what seems to be the crazy and often cruel charade of being human. Surrendering control doesn't make the charade go away. I fear it leaves “me” without an actively engaged defender. At the same time, I long to give up this painful narrowing of focus and perspective.

This isn't what I intended to write. It doesn't make sense. I've said it in prayer in a hundred different pleas and sometimes, ferocious arguments, but somehow I couldn't see what I was saying. This is why I pray, to find truths hidden within the veils I use to hide from myself. I wish for connection, for reassurance, but I come away with difficult understandings.

One of the difficult understandings is “we're not ever separate”. What does that even mean in this context? And why won't ‘we' help?

I'm done with playing it safe so I'll leave this with all its confusion, with no conclusion. I realise the outlandish arrogance it speaks of—an egoic mirage, but one that tells a truth of woundedness and fearfulness.

From Rob H
We begin life with our parents and caregivers being outside authorities. And we often transfer that authority to school teachers and maybe to religious leaders. Those early authorities may teach us to ask an ultimate authority--an all-knowing and all-powerful god hovering above us--for guidance and help. "Now I lay me down to sleep...."

When we mature to the stage of doubting in such an ultimate authority, can we continue to pray sincerely? We may try to do so "just in case," or we may feel that we're connected to something bigger than this earthly self. Doubt can loosen disbeliefs as well as beliefs.

From Gus R:
My God! For someone like me who lies, cheats and steals, who's gluttonous, proud, envious, lazy, forgetful, obsessive, easily angered, covets his neighbor's wife, is mad at God: would Christ have said "Well, no, his prayers are unacceptable!"?

It seems to me that prayer, love, faith, hope, etc., are all of a different realm. Prayer seems to be like a love note, placed in a bottle and tossed, lovingly over the wall, hoping that through some part of me, the recipient will receive it. I don't know how, because I don't understand. I don't know how it works or if that direction is inward, up or down or whatever. Doubt and questioning begs understanding, but for some things, maybe doubt ends up with just not knowing.

From Dan G:
This Rumi poem comes to mind.

What I hear him saying is: at all moments I am praying. And: at all moments my prayer is heard.

From Anima Pundeer:
Sincere prayer originates in humility. I don't have a shade of doubt in my mind that it ALWAYS get answered. It is direct communication with your higher Self, God. Without any pretense. Life provides us with ample opportunities when we are brought to our knees, prayer comes directly from our heart.

I remember thinking 'who am I praying to?' I was questioning and doubting what my idea of God was. Who am I praying to if god is not separate from me? Then it occurred to me that the problem does not lie in if there is God, or higher power, but the problem lay in this separate entity Anima. I was the one who was a separate suffering entity.

I had to question and doubt who I was. It was my identity, belief in who I was, that needed to be scrutinized.

No matter what was going on, I have found myself communicating with whosoever I thought would be listening. Most of the time my prayers came out as complaints.

From Patrick K:
This is a question that comes up for me regularly. One thing I do know is that prayer doesn't belong in the thinking mind. It has to come from feeling, a feeling that is longing maybe. I long to pray more sincerely myself. I get afraid because there are times that it strikes me how little I am, how helpless, so much like a pawn or a puppet being moved around the board at the behest of forces not in my control. Why am “I” so adhered to control? Because if I was to be really honest with myself, what awaits me down the track are health complications and my eventual death, and like the spooky title of a Stephen King novella, Everything's Eventual.

Art Ticknor suggested a good way of praying, from the instincts to a higher self. That feels right to me. And do I feel a connection to a higher self? It's debatable. It ends up like praying to a concept. But maybe that doesn't matter, and the fact it ends up feeling like I am praying to a concept probably means the thinking mind is back interfering. Feeling from the heart, engaging the longing, whilst looking at the instincts/nerves/reactions, praying for more clarity, to shine a light on me so I may become one with my Higher self and transcend identification with the mundane self, the separated-me sense.

Next Month

The Reader Commentary question for the April TAT Forum is:

What do you feel is the most important purpose in life?

Please your responses by the 25th of March 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 Don A:

In the February issue, I hope no one missed a beautiful account of an Isolation Retreat in the Local Group News / Ignoramuses Anonymous blog link to the article on a four-day isolation retreat at TAT Center.

What better way to spend your stimulus check than for getting away from all stimulus. And the article captured that sense, for me, perfectly. No exciting accounts of wrestling with bears, or raccoons, or hail storms and snow while trying to survive by only tent and outdoor wits. No, because once settled in, he was settled in, and the images both photographically and mentally depicted that perfectly. (Hot tip: there's another stimulus check on the way. What can we do with it?)

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?


1792 painting of a Hindu temple and choultry (a travellers' rest house), Binjaveram Tinnevelly district, Tamil Nadu India. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

Closing Doors

Whenever you are travelling in what I call the desert without any railroad tracks—you have no trail to go by—you have to have some beacon light, something to guide you. Logic will not do it; your faith alone will not do it; but intuition will. It will take you through the abstract realms.

Any system that pretends to take you into becoming has to have some mechanism for facilitating your skill in becoming—the necessary skill—and that skill involves intuition. You can't argue it out logically, this is the whole thing.

So once you hear it—it amounts to the business of closing doors. The human mind is like this room, and if they're pounding on a piano next door, or the sirens are singing outside that window, you're going to be distracted, and your computer's not going to work—because all this stuff is continually going to be injecting itself into your problem. So the secret of course is closing doors.


From “Laws, Yardsticks, Exaltations,” a 1974 public talk given at Ohio State University, in Columbus, OH.

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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