Tag Archives: zen

Double Take on Life

Double Take on Life – from nitty gritty to neti neti

 

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.

Double Take
Double Take

About Us:

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!
Who knew?
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.

Double Take Blog

Subtraction

Fellow TAT member and friend Shawn Nevins has written a clear, personal account of his search, along with tips for seekers of all types, well worth a read:

This story of friendship, love, and the darkest nights of the soul, follows a young spiritual seeker who drops out of graduate school and spends the next decade in a spiritual search that leads from a Zen master in the wilds of West Virginia, to an iconoclastic Christian mystic in the heart of Los Angeles, and an architect-turned-sage in England. Entertaining storytelling combined with practical tips and lessons from the path of spiritual awakening make this a must-have edition for those both curious and passionate about the mysteries of life, death, and enlightenment.

TAT Foundation conscious.tv interviews

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.

 

 

Becoming

When you go into openness, the listening attention, you have become something good. You are something good rather than trying to feel good. You also have become in terms of: you don’t need to learn, you don’t need to think, you don’t need to analyze, compare, use concepts. You’re out of the thinking mind. You are, you’re awareness, the listening attention. In that state all the thinking, comparing, etc., are seen as lower states of the body mind.  They have their functions, but they cannot tell you what you are;  the lower cannot create the higher.

This is how you describe becoming rather than learning. You go from experiencing and thinking to just existing, to being. This doesn’t happen by constantly trying to get thoughts in the right order, get the thinking right then you can become, it’s more like you have to get sick of the thinking and clearly see that’s it’s a dead end and drop it. There’s no thinking that has to happen per se, it’s only the realization of what thinking is, and how it doesn’t ever lead anywhere in terms of becoming.

listening attention
listening attention

Transcendence and Ego1-Ego2

Transcendence of thought is not transcendence of self. Shifting the focus of attention away from thought and onto breath or body is a useful prelude to a meditation of self-inquiry, but as an entire meditative technique it is an exercise in self-forgetfulness. It may lead to a wonderful experience but the mind is simply resting on the I-thought, and that I-self is having a very pleasant experience while remaining safely hidden behind the cloak of mental quietude and physical ease. The notion of “coming into the body” is a form of engaging in what Alfred Pulyan describes as Ego1-Ego2.* The experience generated from this meditative technique is not the absolute realization that Rose, Nisargadatta, Maharshi, and others speak about. There is always a desire and a need for experiences to be extended in duration and intensity in order to satisfy the ego’s need for affirmation, progress, and the nagging, deep sense of lacking a final answer to the question of ultimate self-definition.

*Pulyan wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego with the need created by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self.
~ Bob Cergol, 2014 Labor Day TAT presentation
* Alfred Pulyan, a mid-1900’s Zen Master who engaged with students through the mail, in one such letter wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego … by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self. ~ Bob Cergol

Alfred Pulyan, Ego1-Ego2 Incursus
(Devices to preserve Egocentricity)

We do not pull flowers up to see how they are growing, but Ego (Self!) cannot endure being out of the driver’s seat and so even in the “work” he tries to be both objective & subjective. To be specific, Ego1 wants to watch the progress of the work with an occasional criticism or pat on the back for the Master.

“How shall we handle Ego2?” is asked by Ego1. Or – “I don’t think I (who is “I”? – why Ego1) would have handled me (Ego2!!) quite that way.” Or: “Fine,” says Ego1, “that’s showing him (Ego2).”

This schizoidal device preserves Ego at the expense of a fictitious Ego2!! You have already started this process.

Sometimes Ego1 will say he is “seeking” & does not DESIRE TO FIND. What is this? A pleasure merely in the action of the reason? Apparently. In any case, Ego2 is not even necessary here. Ego is asserting the utmost “doubt even of doubt” & refusal to go even as far as the word “the” without definition. It is a sound & invulnerable position. So is advanced psychosis, but that seems more restful – at times! Such a position (like solipsism) is fine when one is healthy, happy, young & immortal. It gets an awful kick later.

Ego1, for all that, sometimes feels that his constant observation of Ego2 (“self-consciousness”) is unsatisfactory. He may feel that his division is a faked device. In love, he may for a time forget himself (which means – become spontaneous) & the experience is delightful, unaccustomed & turns out often to be most unwise. It occurs often when young & when judgment would be desirable (for a change!), especially if the girl is not so spontaneous! If they both are, it is wonderful, but again the claims of the everyday come in, & the magic fades away. Everything in Japan used to be a “way.” There was a “way” of sword-play, of wrestling, of flower arrangement, of drinking tea, of commerce even, of drawing & painting – and the characteristic of each was spontaneity. Even archery (incredible results even in semi-darkness, splitting one arrow with another) – & such spontaneity daunts us. We are system-minded. Zen may seem to be a “system” of mass-production, but the essence of the work is individual. I have no “system” whatever for the same reason – no two people are alike. Certainly egocentricity is always the devil to be conquered, but from that central point he (ego or self) diverges in innumerable ways & uses every imaginable device, some very snide, others really subtle. He may know it too – and still throw up a smoke-screen! He resists the means to release – to the point of murder even (fortunately, since he is free to withdraw at any time, he usually withdraws under a confusion of self-justification. But if he were trapped – as I was – oh boy!!! In the Reichian technique for example the room is often a shambles).

So we DO “protect” something. And how! What? Ego? Oh no – while we live we are of course “we” & always that remains – but the “boss conception,” the “ultimate decider,” the “second line of defense,” these he INSISTS on at all costs. So Jung & others know the truth but sit in the audience (behind their desk for example) and are never part of the play. It is ludicrous to think I could help Jung – he is heavily armed. I could get ONE letter from almost everybody by promising “a new technique” but to get involved in it. Oh dear no! Most certainly not! Utterly fantastic! – who knows what –    Thus Jesus was correct. It is the treasure of the humble & for this goodly pearl a merchant sold all he had – and bought it. I can persuade almost anybody to say “O.K. Go ahead! What do I have to lose?” It is a Pyrrhic victory, it is unreal. In that way one sells toothpaste. They must come to me and really want it. Since they can easily push God away, how can I succeed where God does not? This is not a mystery I can solve. But the truly accessible, as Jesus said, are FEW. Up to you –    And so many words!
~ Correspondence with Richard Rose

material taken from July 2016 TAT Forum, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2016-07.htm#4 –Thanks to Art Ticknor, Editor

Rebirthday by Douglas Harding

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.
headless
headless
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 from On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, first published in 1961, available now through the Sholland Trust.

Double Head-Head

doublehead
doublehead

I once had a dream of having another head on top of the original, like an appendage emanating from the present noggin. In the dream I was told that I was using spiritual work to build this second head, the ‘double head-head’. Instead of using self-observation to see my present personality pattern, the pattern of experience built up through my present life forming what I called my ‘self’, I was engaging in a strange fantasy. I was manufacturing a second head, which I then ‘worked on’, rather than observing the original. This kept me safe. I didn’t have to actually face anything unpleasant about myself, for everything in this second head was created with the express purpose of keeping the ego intact and unassailed. This new head was all I really knew, it was ‘me’.

I could keep being ‘myself’ while thinking I was engaged in serious spiritual work. I could ‘see’ things about myself freely, for they would be recommended and okayed by the ego. The realization struck me that I had been doing this for decades, living in a false self-created ‘self’ that kept me a stranger to the relatively real me. I was a mystery to me, but not, apparently, to everyone.

After the shock of the dream, I began to look more closely at myself, hoping to catch glimpses of the double head-head, and how it worked. Listening to others when they offered advice or criticism began to hold value too. Group work suddenly held a new purpose. How did this work? Could I see it in others as well? How could one be so naïve?

Later, I came to understand what Alfred Pulyan had called the Ego1-Ego2 game, the ego splitting itself in two, and calling the separated part ‘ego’, thus keeping itself safe from scrutiny. And also Carl Jung’s work on the ‘shadow’, that hitherto mysterious dark side of which I was sure I was immune.

Working in an illusion serves the ego’s prime directive: survival. It feels threatened with annihilation when things such as self-observation and looking at one self directly are entertained. In order to survive, it creates an ‘ego2’, a second head, on top of itself.

This process has been going on all of our life. Many of our phobias, inferiorities, and grandiose imaginings about ourselves are only in this second head. Once we cut it off through self-inquiry, a form of productive thinking, we are free, free to begin the real work of facing the original head.

To give an example, we may feel we have something wrong with us, stemming from the negative criticism of a parent figure when we were too small to understand or protect ourselves. This may have given us a feeling of inferiority, for God as the parent has told us we are lacking. Later in life this feeling of something being wrong is what is answered to. We may be engaged in spiritual work to compensate for this: to fix our inferiority complex. In actuality, we are working on a fantasy, an incorrect idea of ourselves injected into us from outside. We may never have even begun to act on our innate positive potentials due to being sidetracked: trying to fix a false problem. Have we ever tried to find what we are, inside, without relying on what we have been told? Has this outside information kept us down, or inflated us with a grandiose expectation of things?

Living in our imagination will not set us free, for what we seek freedom from is our own false conception of ourselves. Take courage and patience, learn to look for the facts of your life, not the fantasy of the double head-head.

Bob Fergeson

Here’s the  Double Head-Head video:

Breathing Underwater Part 2

A talk about the benefits of stilling the mind:

link to the original Breathing Underwater video: https://youtu.be/2lVE64vZvVE

Text of the talk:

Hi Folks, I’d like to talk with you today about a meditation exercise, that I’ve mentioned and made a little video about in the past, called breathing underwater. To me this exercise, which could be called stilling the mind, placing our attention into the quiet, the stillness, so that there’s no movement of the attention. This can feel at first like you’re breathing underwater because you’re so used to allowing the attention to run free. We’ve been taught to let this attention run out into the world for two reasons: One is the adventure of it. You could call this entertainment. The ego wants to go out into the adventure of the world to entertain itself, to look at all the strange things out here, and to identify with them, put our sense of “I” into them, so that we think we’re the ‘doer’. To get back past that sense of doership to the real reality that we’re just the observer, we keep this attention still, we can allow the will of God to come forth. This is like a trick of surrender. We can’t surrender on purpose, that’s just another ego move. What we can do is keep the attention still. Another thing we’ve learned is to try to escape. To let the attention run out into the things of the world in order to get away from the bad feelings inside of us, that may have been put there in our childhood, through school, through being told we’re inferior, bad. This is unconscious mostly, it’s not our fault, but if we can still this escape mechanism, not try to fix it, solve all the little details of it with analysis, but simply to be still and watch it and see that it’s not us. This little attention thing is like a cursor on your computer. If you hold it still and don’t click on it, then things stay still and there’s silence. This is like I said, a strange form of surrender, and that we can let our mind be still, but the world still flows through. Then God’s will is manifest rather than ours. This can be pretty scary at first to let go, it takes a long time for us to have Faith, so we don’t think the world will either fall apart, or go nuts on us, if we don’t have our little will in there trying to control it every minute. This practice, the more we do it, the more we try to hold our breath, our attention, our will, the easier it becomes until we find we can do it without effort, and that the world goes on. It can go from being brief seconds to being minutes, of allowing God to take over, and we can just relax and sit back and watch the show.

Awakening Together Interview

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:

Audio from March Satsang with Bob Fergeson

Dark Zen – A Guru On The Bayou

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.Dark Zen - Bob Fergeson-1

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.

– Dark Zen in print

– Dark Zen Kindle –

 

Bayou Glory
Bayou Glory