“There are thousands of people who work hard all their lives, without accomplishing anything which is really useful or enduring. There are thousands who labour intellectually or mechanically to perform work which had better be left undone. There are vastly more people engaged in undermining and destroying the health of man than in curing his ills, more engaged in teaching error than in teaching the truth, more trying to find that which is worthless than that which is of value; they live in dreams and their dreams will vanish; they run after money, and the money will remain while they themselves perish and die.
The obstacles which arise from the external world are intimately connected with those from the inner world, and cannot be separated; because external temptations create inward desires, and inward desires call for external means for gratification. There are many people who do not crave for the illusions of life, but who have not the strength to resist them; they have a desire to develop spiritually and to gain immortality, but employ all of their time and energy for the attainment of worthless things, instead of using it to dive down into the depths of the soul to search for the priceless pearl of wisdom. Thousands of people have not the moral courage to break loose from social customs, ridiculous habits, and foolish usages, which they inwardly abhor, but to which they nevertheless submit because they are customs and habits to act against which is considered to be a social crime.”
— With the Adepts, An Adventure Among the Rosicrucian, by Franz Hartmann (1910)
Two friends—one a TAT member, one a TAT friend; one living in Canada, one across the border in the US; one male, one female—have partnered to create a blog site, which they hope other TAT members and friends will enjoy and respond to.
My kids call me crazy mom. I like that. Stephen, the crazy Irishman from Braveheart, is how I most like to see myself. He’s a lot fearless, a little crazy and, most importantly, has managed to negotiate a mutually agreeable contract with God as it pertains to all things life with its rogue and dangerous shenanigans. This deceptively impossible feat has allowed Stephen an ease about himself. He laughs easily, readily. Yes, I like that.
In a slightly less delusional depiction of my self, I am your average, garden variety suburban mom of two, who one day, while trying to pay attention to life, accidently discovered an affinity for writing!
A FB friend invited her friends to a 63 day challenge. The challenge was titled ‘Attitude of Gratitude’; write daily about something you are grateful for. Simple enough I thought, and thus began the writing.
I did not anticipate how fun the challenge of trying to express life’s cornucopia of experiences would be! The deeper I looked, felt and dissected any given moment, the deeper I could see and feel and dissect! In trying to extract the feel of an experience, I would bump into the essence of that feeling sense. Then while examining the essence, I would discover a lingering mood, or atmosphere, that beckoned more attention! And now I must know, what is this curiosity that not only desires to look so deep, but is able to do so? What is this ever deepening sensitivity for movement, for life?
Subtler and subtler, challenging words, challenging expression.
In the fall of 2016 I met Paul. His calm energy and slow movements caught my attention. His depth of feeling kept my attention. We began a modern day pen-pal correspondence on everything from daily mundane interactions with the people around us (Paul can bring anyone’s life alive), critical views on women/feminism (critical is definitely my strength), love, trucks, goats, improv, sex, health and anything and everything that captured our curiosity, interest or made us laugh. Really, we’ve been blogging unintentionally for a while now!
In a larger, grander context we see many things similarly, but then dicker over the details. Other times we agree on the details but dicker over the big picture. In the end though there is love, friendship. Perhaps that is the grandest mutuality. Not at all unlike my own contract with God
There’s a scene in the classic film “Taxi Driver”, where Travis Bickle, the slowly unraveling anti-hero, is having his first date over coffee with his idealized angel Betsy. She tells him that he reminds her of a line from “The Poet”, a Kris Kristofferson song – “He’s a walking talking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” Which pretty much fits me to a T, exhibiting for better or worse a lot of polarities, and providing a familiarity with often competing identities and outlooks. Head in the clouds, some college, but a blue collar job hopper for most of my life. My real education has been stolen from inspired tangents, raw experience, and a Zen teacher. By nature, I’ve always been more of an outsider compulsively observing the parade of life. And somehow crazy curious about human nature and Reality.
I think Sheri said all there is to say about our eclectic friendship. I see her as deep water. Someone who thinks before she speaks, who’s one of the best listeners I know, and one of those rare persons who’s able to be open-minded about both sides of an issue. She has a quick wit so it’s easy to improvise with her. Due to some intangible in her nature, Sheri has often served as a muse for my writing, encouraging many new things to come out I had no idea were there.
Four members of the TAT Foundation have now been interviewed by conscious.tv. These interviews are an open invitation to the wisdom these folks have become. Thanks to interviewers Ian and Renate McNay, the lives, tribulations and paths of each of these members is available on youtube under one play list.
Tess Hughes: Fear of death through an experience when she was only eight, set Tess off on a journey to find the meaning of life. After 30 years of inquiry into her mind and experience she woke up to find there was NO SELF. From reading the work of Saint Teresa of Avila and through her personal experience, Tess has come to see that the most difficult obstacle on one’s own path is the overcoming of self-esteem. She also believes that taking full responsibility for your own Awakening will set us free.
Bob Fergeson: Bob is author of the book ‘The Listening Attention. He talks about his life and awakening: ‘I was taken beyond myself into the place of no concern. The years of wondering, of alternating between pleasure and misery came to an end along with the searching and longing it generated. I saw that in all that time I had never really moved; rather I simply woke up.’
Art Ticknor: Author of the book ‘ ‘Solid Ground Of Being’ Art talks about his search for The Truth as his life, though perfect in one way, lacked purpose and meaning. After many years working with Richard Rose’s TAT groups and many individual retreats and Douglas Harding’s work a breakthrough occurred, ‘Art Ticknor was never alive, something broke the identification with the observer, there was no regret in seeing the sense of separate self go.’
Shawn Nevins: ‘The Way Of Subtraction’ Interview by Iain McNay Shawn is author of four books including ‘Subtraction: The Simple Math Of Enlightenment.‘ In the foreword he says, ‘This book answers the question of how to find out the answer to who and what you are beyond any shadow of a doubt.’ His spiritual search ended on December 28th 1999 having started 7 years earlier. During that time he meditated for thousands of hours, fasted, prayed, retreated, met spiritual teachers, and never gave up. His primary teacher was Richard Rose but he also spent time with Bernadette Roberts, Douglas Harding and others. His breakthrough came when he read through a transcript of a talk by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. Shawn’s story has many ups and downs. His sincerity during his search shines through and his many realizations on his path are tangible.
“The key to the whole process lies in the fact that there is a fountain-spring of endless guidance and information within every human being. One only has to learn to get out of its way, to let the consciousness generate in a stilled and quiet mind. – The fountainhead lies totally within.” – Jim Burns
One of my favorite songs as a child was ‘Desert Pete’ by the Kingston Trio. The dilemma of the thirsty traveler in the song fascinated me. What would I do if came upon an old well in the desert, and found the bottle of water for priming the pump? Would I pour it into the well, acting on faith that the message in the note was correct, that there was just enough water to prime the old pump? Or would I take the easy path, and drink it?
Our spiritual life poses much the same dilemma. Do we spend all of our time and energy on life and its pursuits? Or can we invest some of it towards future understanding and possible transformation? Do we have faith that our investment will come to fruit? Are we even aware that we have energy and time, and that they can be re-directed, invested towards something higher, rather than living from day to day, spending it all on whatever desire or fear presents itself moment by moment?
The Parable of the Talents presents a similar lesson. We are given energy and life, talents, which we can invest through faith, or we can covet the energy, bury the talent in the ground, and through fear of the higher(the Master in the parable) keep our self-love intact. The servants who invested their master’s money were rewarded for their efforts, while the one who buried his talent(no pun intended) had it taken from him and was thrown into darkness.
The song tells a similar tale. Do we trust in a higher power, and pour the precious water into the well, invest it, or do we take the way of fear and need, and drink it up?
Jim Burns talked about the hidden spring within each of us, and how all spiritual work was designed to re-connect us with this wellhead. To uncover the inner fountain of spirit through faith is, in a fundamental sense, our task. Life’s trials and tribulations can plunge us deep into ourselves, and at the bottom of this dark well, we may find spiritual gold. We come to see there is something higher, that comes from deep within. That the world and its desire/fear system lead nowhere but farther into need and separation. We gain faith through insight and intuition, and one day ‘prime the pump’. We start to question our need to drink all water as soon as we are given it. We are able to resist the world and its promises, the easy bottle, and to stop doubting ourselves. This saves the energy of the moment. It’s invested instead. We are starting to have faith. The pump is primed, the inner connection is re-established. The water of wisdom and love can come forth from our own inner well.
We are given many notes on how to prime the pump, how to have Faith. Teachers and spiritual systems have been presenting this message for centuries.
One day, we may realize we have been investing, priming the pump, through simple acts such as prayer and meditation, seeing others as ourselves, and listening to our heart. The inner connection will clear, the wellhead will have been uncovered. Then the cool clear water of our inner divinity will spring forth, healing our mind and heart, guiding us back to the Source.
The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.
It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.
What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in – absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.
It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything – room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.
It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of “me”, unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.
Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face – my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.
– Douglas Harding
This is an extract fromOn Having No Headby Douglas Harding, first published in 1961, available now through the Sholland Trust.
I was thinking this morning of how I have attempted to accomplish control over the fear of death. I saw that I was comparing my efforts to accept death, and the failure to do so, only within the context of what I believed. I realized this could never be accomplished; it was trying to change an idea with an idea, working only in the realm of thought, rather than becoming that which observes thought.
It strikes me that much of what we call ‘spiritual work’, but isn’t direct inquiry, is this phenomenon in one form or another.
Whether it be death, anger, or whatever else we believe we need to make peace with or become, before we awaken.
Awakening is not an accomplishment. Its road is not a series of modifications, but rather a direct seeing of what is.
This is not the same as struggling with thought to ‘remove’ thought. You see thought directly. You are ‘behind’ even thought.
It’s when we believe we see from the same level as thought (that seeing is possessed by an object we take as our self) that we attempt to modify it. We believe this modification will allow a more direct seeing as the object we believe ourselves to be changes.
You cannot see through objects. Thought cannot be made more transparent (a movement to its opposition) or more opaque (a movement towards its reinforcement) and thus solve the problem of identity.
When thought is seen as an object and not as a lens, you may ‘see’ seeing itself and thus be the truth of yourself, even here, in the world.
You can’t accept anything before its actuality presents. This ‘acceptance’ would only be an idea and ideas can only be believed in. They should not be accepted at their own level, the level of ideas. True acceptance comes as the ‘I’ is chased down.
The pride of accomplishment is a sneaky bastard. Be it positive (I did good) or negative (I did bad)
The pride of accomplishment and the pride of ownership are the same pride as that of doer-ship. They occur at the unquestioned level of identity. An identity of thought only pointed at but never fleshed out in what can be directly viewed as actual. Much suffering comes from this.
“Nurturing the now is a way of living in the present with peace and optimism. You must yearn to return…to the living experience that you are.” – Vicki Woodyard
Vicki Woodyard has brought the fruits of her life and suffering into a teaching that is inspirational and a comfort to those in need. She speaks from the heart of wisdom, without pretense, a valuable rare thing in this age of non-duality spin doctors. Her path was one of finding inner wisdom through grief and loss. She has taken this suffering and turned it into spiritual gold, helping others to find their own inner teacher.
The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts.
The next step is into surrender. Let the thoughts be there without fighting them.
Thirdly, admit that you need higher help. This will bring in the principle of humility – Vicki Woodyard
Her latest method of passing on her insights is through a series of short videos. This very effective approach can almost immediately drop one down from the head into the heart, as we listen without argument or agreement. Here’s a sample:
She has a couple of Facebook pages she posts to, as well as her web site and a youtube channel:
A fellow Southerner and a teacher of integrity and patience, Vicki studied with Vernon Howard, who imparted his no-nonsense way of teaching to her. I recommend everyone who is interested in finding their own inner wisdom, to give Vicki a serious listen.
This is a fine example of her insight put into prose:
“I am intensely fierce, a warrior. My teacher this lifetime was and is Vernon Howard, who taught the Work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, esoteric Christianity. Christ was concerned with living the truth and letting the chips fall where they may. He counseled his disciples to shake the dust off their feet when encountering uninterested people.
The Work undercuts the ego at every opportunity, which is why it is never for the masses. The masses settle for church and social institutions, believing that by good works they can save the world. Vernon used to say that if you cleaned up a slum, it would recreate itself before you could turn around. How true that is. Charity begins within.
I believe in the power of the living truth to change me when I am ready to face it. Until I am ready, the truth will wait on me as long as it takes. Love is patient and kind.
It takes a lifetime to make any progress, a total dedication to seeing how bad off you really are. To see it is to be free of it. But no one stays free for long. It is an ongoing witnessing that must take place within one’s own consciousness.
If you are involved in the work of waking up, the older you get the better your life becomes. Why? Because you always get your spiritual gold. Your outer life is a reflection of your inner one, so a simple life is always best.
Simple living and high thinking is the phrase Yogananda used. To be economical on every level is to be simple. Just as you get rid of junk, you get rid of emotional disasters in your personal life. This requires a cutting away of worldly ties. The true way is not for the timid. There is always new ground to break and old ground that falls away.
A warrior, when afraid, remembers the truth within that will never desert him or her. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And we walk on, preceded and surrounded by the light.”
This past Sunday, March the 20th, I was privileged to talk with Regina Dawn Akers from Awakening Together. We discussed many topics relevant to the spiritual search, a good evening that I hope will be informative to those longing to look within.
The audio of the interview is available on their web site through this link:
Ever wondered about the connection between Zen and self-knowledge? If you have even a glimmer of interest in these matters, this book can open a new dimension for you. This much prized knowledge is delivered via the friendship that develops between a lost young man and a Zen master.
Nostalgiawest photographer Bob Fergeson has just released a new book, set in the swamps of Louisiana. Bob couches Zen lessons and a methodology for spiritual development into a simple story that allows the teachings to shine through. This book has something to offer the complete beginner and the more seasoned seeker – simple explanations of profound truths.
The book is available on amazon, in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindle version has full color photos taken by the author in southern Louisiana.