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Art Ticknor – Solid Ground of Being

Interview by Iain McNay

Iain:  Hello and welcome again to Conscious TV.  I’m Iain McNay and my guest today is Art Ticknor.

Hi Art.

Art:  Hi Iain.

Iain:  And Art has written a book called ‘Solid Ground of Being’ and a lot of the interview will be based around this book.  It’s a very interesting book.  It’s not necessarily something you read and you get gripped and you can’t wait to turn the next page; it’s a book of contemplations, and meditations, and some poems.  But it does, very much, reflect Art’s journey, I think, and we will look at Art’s journey now.

So, when you were in your childhood, you weren’t too happy, were you?

Art:  No, I probably – I see that more in retrospect than I did at the time, yeah.  But my earliest memories were always, sort of, of feeling that I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and gotten into an environment that wasn’t too friendly.

Iain:  And how was that for you?

Art:  Well, the way I could maybe put it in perspective is:  as life has gone on, it’s gotten progressively easier for me.  And some people, when I talk to, they say, “Oh, it’s just the opposite with me!”  But, for me, I never felt quite like I was at home...

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  … and I grew up in a small town in New York State, in the USA.  And I knew everybody in town, I liked people, I always waved to people, you know, and knew all the folks in town.  I can remember though, as a kid, I felt I could trust older people and not kids my own age.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Now that’s almost opposite way around, now I have more trust in kids – I think kids are more naïve, maybe, and more straightforward.  As we get older we get more sophisticated and cover up our feelings, and things like that.

Iain:  So you got married at about 18 years old?

Art:  Yes, mm hm.

Iain:  And started a conventional life:  went to college and you…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … was it Computer Sciences you were studying?

Art:  Well, they didn’t really have much in the way of Computer Science, so…  I got married at 18.  I found out – I probably shouldn’t say this! – but I found out my girlfriend was pregnant, and I was delighted, because I’d already gone to college, flunked out of the first year of college, I didn’t know why I was there.  So when I found that – I had a direction now, I think that I was happier about it than my girlfriend was.  And so when our first child was born, when we were both 19, after he was maybe 3 months old something, was like a switch, flipped in my head.  One day I was looking at him and I thought ‘My God, here is somebody I would like to see ahead of myself in the trough for life’s goodies!’  I think those were the exact words, I think they’re indelibly inscribed in my mind.

And, the flip side of that coin was, I saw that I had been the most selfish person in the world before that.  And I don’t think I could’ve seen that without the contrast.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  So I think that was actually the first time I fell in love.

Iain:  It really opened up something in you.

Art:  I suppose it did.  I didn’t see any great changes after that, in terms of the way I acted or whatever.  But I think the mind opens, or you could say the heart opens, at various points in your life and what you’re able to experience at that time depends, almost, on what you may know about yourself.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  And so falling in love is like a death experience in some ways, the ego was momentarily out of the spotlight.  There was a huge relief, you know?

Iain:  And then, over time…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … you got a qualification from from university.

Art:  Right.  I majored in Math.

Iain:  Maths, right.

Art:  That was the one subject I had to study in High School.  I breezed through High School.  I think teachers just liked me, maybe, I don’t know.  And, when I got to college, I had no study habits and I majored in Math but I think what I liked about – the same way with Mozart – there seemed to be… it was logical and I have a logical-type mentality, and there is an answer.  You can work the problems, get an answer, and you can see very beautiful ways to get there in a sophisticated but simple way.  I think that’s what I liked about it.

Iain:   Yeah.  And you say in some notes I found on the Internet that, basically, you had what you wanted in life, at that level.  You had a beautiful marriage, you had a child, a family, you had a job which was a decent job…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … you had a nice house and everything.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  And yet something was gnawing inside you, wasn’t it?

Art:  Yeah.  It would come and go.  So it wasn’t every day that I was consciously aware of.  But, seemingly – I don’t know what the periodicity was – but, you know, over a period of 10 years, say, it would come and go once or twice a year and I would – I thought of those as identity crises and I think, in retrospect, that was exactly what they were but I had no idea why I thought of them that way.

Iain:  So what form did that take at the time, having identity crises?

Art:  Well, as you say, I felt I had everything that should have made me happy and I would try to scan the horizon to see if I did this, if I acquired this, if I went back and got another degree…  And all those things I’ve done enough so that I could mentally fast forward and realise:  that won’t do it, that won’t do it.  But I had no idea, so I was ‘at sea’, I had no idea what was missing.  I felt like it was a missing purpose or meaning.

Iain:  Mm.

So you started to explore a little in reading some Zen.

Art:  Mm hm.  Very simple stuff.  It was Alan Watts, who was probably the first American who started talking about Zen so that it became popular over there.  So I read some Alan Watts and there was something about Zen that sounded appealing.  I had no idea what it was, I thought it was black robes, sitting with your feet under your knees, and watching candles burn.  And that was my idea of Zen.

Iain:  And then there was one point where you went to the library, it was raining one afternoon…

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  … and your wife saw a flyer…

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  … for a Zen discussion group.

Art:  Mm hm, yeah.  That was at the local university, Ohio State University, and I thought ‘Well, I’ll go check this out’.  And the funny thing is it took an entire year before I got to the first meeting of this little group, and, when I did, I found maybe a dozen people sitting in a circle talking, talking.  And I thought ‘They don’t have a clue what Zen is about’ – you know, what I thought Zen was – but, after I listened for 5 or 10 minutes, I thought ‘They’re talking about things I never heard anyone talk about before, it’s immensely interesting to me!’

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  So that was a relief, in one way, I guess, was it?

Art:  It was.  I’m not sure how much of that – my wife and my family were all I felt I needed for years, I didn’t try to make friends other than people I worked with, you know, but casual, but no deep friends, nobody to really talk to about things like that.

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  And I think that was a big component, just finding people who had a common interest and you could talk easily with them about it.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  That’s an interesting thing with what the whole concept of what friendship has become, isn’t it, in the world?

Art:   Yeah.

Iain:  It is about people that you have common interests with, maybe sports or hobbies, or just neighbours, or whatever.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  And you have a conversation and yet, for some people, there is this yearning to have a conversation at a more deep level.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  And that, somehow, it isn’t always appropriate in those people that you know.

Art:  Quite.

Iain:  So it is isolating, it can be isolating.

Art:  Very much so.  Yeah for years and years – I didn’t see this until one time later – I had the feeling that I’d better wait for someone else to make a gesture of friendship.  I didn’t want to be the first one to hold my hand out and get a rejection.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  And so I imagine that’s very common, that most of us are like that to some extent.

Iain:  So this group you went to – it’s a TAT Foundation group, is that what it is?

Art:  Well, it wasn’t named as such.  The name they had for it was ‘Pyramid Zen’.

Iain:  Pyramid Zen?

Art:  Pyramid Zen.

Iain:  OK.

Art:  This was back in the era when pyramids had a lot of connotations.  You know, the pyramids you sit under to ripen the vegetables and all that kind of thing?

Iain:  OK.

Art:  But this was based on – the group had been started by some students at the University after Richard Rose (a man from West Virginia, who I later became very friendly with, you know), after he’d given a public talk there at the University.  And his idea – the way he used the term ‘pyramid’ is he would talk about… oh… distributions over a large number of people.  So that, like wealth for example, there is a pyramid of wealth where most of us would be down near the bottom and then gradually, you know, the pyramid gets steeper and steeper at the top.

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  And he was also talking about that in terms of a pyramid of spiritual levels and spiritual work.

Iain:  So was there a political side to his work as well?

Art:  No, not at all, he was –

Iain:  You used that as an example with wealth.

Art:   One of the funny things was to watch the news with him.  He’d watch the news on TV with the sound off, much of the time, and comment about the psychology of the newscasters, the people in the news, and things like that.  It was a huge learning experience!

Iain:  So he was doing it through observation.

Art:  Yes, yeah.

Iain:  Interesting.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  Yeah.  So tell me a little more about Richard Rose, I haven’t actually heard of him before.

Art:  He’s not very well known, obviously, is he?

Iain:  Yes, not in the UK, no.

Art:  No.  Not in the US either, really.

Iain:  So what’s his background?

Art:  Well, he grew up during The Depression.  He was from a family with 4 children, his father was a plumber.  And they had a lot of trouble during The Depression and, at one point, a couple of the kids were in an orphanage.  In order to feed the family the family sold property in town, bought a farm out in the country to try to grow some vegetables and things like that.

And Richard was a fellow who had been very religious as a little child – and also psychic.  And that was something I’d never been around before, I thought that was all… baloney.  But, as a child, he was – for example I remember he said one time when he had gone to – his mother would go to mass every morning, she was Catholic – and he said one morning, he went to mass with his mother, he saw the priest and he said, “He’s going to die,” and his mother said, “Ssh, don’t talk about things like that.”  And apparently, within a week or two later, the fellow had died.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  And so… but when he was about 12 years old, still during The Depression, he went into a preliminary seminary – I forget exactly… like a junior seminary, something like that – 50 miles, or 100 miles away from where they lived.  And he thought that was wonderful, he said, “These people – the nuns and the brothers there – will be talking directly to God.”  And so, as a little child, he wanted to get talking directly to God.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Very religious.  And he said, “It didn’t take long to get disappointed!”  He found out they didn’t have a direct line to God!  And he was in and out of that preliminary seminary until age 17 – two or three times he was back and forth.  He said, “Eventually –” (it was one of those huge old mansion type places), and he said, “I spent time up in the attic reading the books that you weren’t supposed to read.”  So that’s how he found out about the Albigensian Crusade, for example.

Iain:  Yes, yes.

Art:  The first book he wrote, and the only one that was published when I knew him, when I first met him, he called it ‘The Albigen Papers’.  And he didn’t mention Albigen anywhere in the book.  He hoped that people would, out of curiosity, they’d do a little research for themselves and find…  But he respected them because of the courage of their convictions.

Iain:  So what practical work did you do in this group you were in?

Art:  Well, that’s a good question because Richard Rose didn’t feel there was any, like, cookbook approach:  if you do this now, then you get to a certain point then you do this…  So it was, basically, going within.  So the thing, when I met him for the first time – if this gets too long, tell me about this – but when I met him for the first time I didn’t have a particularly good – I’d read his book and I had two impressions:  one is that he had the best sense of humour – and I was a reader, non-stop, from the time I was a kid – I thought he had the best sense of humour that I’ve ever come across; and, also that he felt that he knew everything.  And I was firmly convinced, having a logical-type mind, that you couldn’t know anything for sure.

So when I first met him, maybe two or three months after I’d started going to the meetings at Ohio State – he came up unannounced from West Virginia, where he lived, to one of the meetings – and when I saw him, when I came in, I figured ‘this must be Richard Rose’ so I went to introduce myself.  I said, “My name is Art Ticknor and I’m in this for a selfish reason, why are you doing it?”  I wasn’t trying to be intensely rude, but it was, obviously.  But I’d heard he went around the country, he’d give public talks without charging anything for them, he let people stay on his farm, he asked that they’d share the electricity bill, you know, if they were burning the lights, but…  I felt he had to have an ulterior motive.

He just very calmly looked at me, he said, “Well, first of all, what you’re doing isn’t selfish.  I guess the reason I do what I’m doing is it’s an addiction, I can’t help myself.”  And when he said that it just knocked the block off my shoulder.  I just had a feeling ‘he’s down to earth, he’s, you know, he’s real, he’s not trying to pull any scams, or anything’.

Iain:  But why did you feel that what you were doing was selfish?

Art:  Well, I think everybody I’ve ever talked to generally feels it is.  You realise ‘Well, I’m not diverting this energy toward my family, toward getting ahead, and everything, it’s me, you know, focus on me’, which is egotistical, right.  So I could see that it was selfish in that respect.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  I had the kind of personality that, if my wife was smiling, my kids were smiling, I was happy.  I was an idolater.  And so I could see this was diverting attention from that.

Iain:  You see, I wrote something down here about Richard Rose’ techniques and this says “Rose considered confrontation to be one of the cornerstones of spiritual work.”

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  “Basically, it’s a group discussion where members look for inconsistencies, rationalisations, and blind beliefs in one another.  It easily devolves into ego-based debate and defence without a skilled moderator.”  There’s a piece about you here.

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  “Art’s presence is a great aid in confrontation as he has the wisdom of years and the wisdom of an ego-less perspective, allowing him to more easily recognise the ego’s defences.”

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  So tell us more about that –

Art:  OK.

Iain:  – and what you learned because this, for me, is interesting stuff.

Art:  Yes.  Now Rose, I don’t recall him ever sitting down and having a confrontation session with people, or one on one.  He wasn’t confrontational.  The thing that amazed me, the first few years that I knew him, I never felt that he was trying to push on my mind.  So he was very patient in that way.  He would suggest things but, sort of, he would talk in a broad perspective.  He wouldn’t say, “Now, Iain, you should do this,” or…

Iain:  OK.

Art:  But the two practices he recommended – but this was for people to work with each other, not with him on – one was confrontation, and so every city I lived in after I met him I tried to find a few people to have a confrontation group on a regular basis with.  And some I was successful –

Iain:  What does that mean?  A confrontation group?

Art:  OK, yeah.  So, for example, I’ve been doing one in Pittsburg, close to where I live, for 14 years, I think.  And, basically, what I do is we only have a couple hours at the library, where we meet, and then we go out for coffee afterwards.  But, for that couple hours, I try to structure the time, so that it doesn’t become just chat, and try to give every person a chance to talk about what’s on their mind, or lots of times there’ll be a question or a little excerpt from Ramana Maharshi, or somebody, and ask them for their reactions to that.  And then, after the person runs out of steam talking, then the other folks, we fire questions at them.  And, if we do it well, they’re questions based on our curiosity to understand the other person, not trying to sell our view.  Of course, we’re human so we don’t always…

Iain:  Right.

Art:  … always do that.  But, basically, trying to help.  So it’s a self-inquiry form of practice, and the idea with doing it in a group is for accidents to happen, like group therapy, although it’s not aimed at that, and then for the person to have more ammunition when they go back to do their meditation practice; new angles to do enquiry.  So it’s basically all asking yourself ‘Who or what am I?’ but the mind gets bored with that real fast so that’s the purpose.

Iain:  People coming from different coming from different angles…

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  … to help the person look or confront their reality, what they really are.

Art:  Yeah, yes.  Mm hm.

Iain:  Mm.  That sounds good.

Art:  It’s an intentional use of tension, which is very uncomfortable for us.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  So, new folks coming in they’ll typically try to – they’ll try to fix the person’s problem, they’re talking about.  Or they’ll say, “Oh, it’s OK, you’ll be OK,” you know?  Or they’ll talk and take the focus off the person who’s on the ‘hot seat’, so to speak.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  So it’s an intentional use of tension for, hopefully, productive means.

Iain:  Yeah.  And how’s it being in the hot seat?

Art:  Uncomfortable!  Although, for me, I was more comfortable talking than sitting quietly.  That just – that really freaked me out!  So…

Iain:  But I guess there is an art and that’s why it mentions in this piece here about you being a very good moderator here.  That it doesn’t get into a personal thing with people putting their own unclarities on the other person.

Art:  Yeah.  I obviously have more perspective for doing that now than I did 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  So I’m sure it devolved into just psychological nonsense in earlier years.

Iain:  Yeah.  OK.  So you were going to this group…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  And how do you feel you changed during that time?

Art:  Oh! [laughs]  Two things that occur to me.  One is, after I had gone to a few meetings, I remember one of the weekly meetings I went to at the University the moderator of the group there had asked a question – I don’t know if it was either me or of everyone – “What were you thinking about on the way to the meeting?”  And my response in the meeting was, “I wasn’t thinking about anything,” it was springtime, the leaves were coming out on the trees and I’ve always loved the springtime things.  And so I said, “I wasn’t thinking about anything.”  But, when I walked out of the door that evening, I was stopped in my tracks, I realised ‘My God, I’m watching my thoughts!  I didn’t know that was even possible!’

Iain:  Mm, mm.

Art:  So I was very, very fortunate over the years.  It took me a long time to get to the point where you’d say ‘puts the mind at ease’, but I had many little satori – I call them ‘satori’, that’s not a proper use of the word but… - many little insight experiences like that, that were motivators to continue on.

Iain:  So when you say they were motivators to continue on, there’s obviously a green light there, and did they take away to some extent this unaligned feeling you had beforehand?

Art:  Mmmm…  Only one that I can think of offhand, and that was, probably, 10 or 15 years later.  I think of it as an acceptance experience.  And I could go into more detail, if you’re interested, but basically what happened is I was doing a solitary retreat and it felt like my mind went into a hyperdrive, something I wouldn’t know where to press the button to make that happen.  It was doing a lot of thinking about – I’d made a list, I have to keep backing up to remind myself – I had taken a book [‘The Supreme Doctrine:  Psychological Studies in Zen Thought’] by Hubert Benoit, the French psychiatrist, that I had read years before but… I knew there was something there but I didn’t know what it was?  That had been sitting on the shelf collecting dust for years but, for some reason, I just picked that book off the bookshelf before I went into the solitary retreat.  And I’d read the first chapter, or something, and he had a description of… it wasn’t his neurosis description… I forget now what it was but, for some reason, the first thing I did in the retreat was I made a list of – I call them ‘pain balloons’, they were painful memories I had, maybe half a dozen, that I’d seemed to carry round with me for years and years, where somebody had said something that offended me or, you know, like an embarrassment.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  I made a list of those and Benoit said, in terms of acceptance – that’s what it was – his definition of acceptance was “if you look at something from your total being and ask yourself ‘Would I change it if I had the power to do it?’ ”  He said acceptance would be answering ‘yes’ to that question.  And I argued with that, I thought ‘Oh my God, that would be putting all the stuff in concrete’, you know, all these painful memories and things – or worse yet, in Lucite, where people could see them, you know?

So in the solitary retreat – I didn’t have any plans, this was all just happening, so interesting for me to watch.  I made a list of maybe 4 or 5 of these pain balloons and my mind took the first one and started going like a download on a computer, you know, and, after a while, the answer popped out ‘if I chose to change that, I might have made things far worse than they actually were’.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  And so that answer for that.  My mind started doing the same with the second on the list for a completely different path through all that data but came to the same conclusion.  And that’s all it took to convince the mind.  And what happened is I felt myself going up – although I knew I was still sitting in the chair where I was sitting – but I got like a snapshot.  And I don’t have a pictorial type of imagination so I don’t know the right words to use but like, let’s just say, like a new view.  And then my mind scrambled to find words for that new view and the words that came to me were ‘from up here everything down there is perfect just as it was and is’.

Iain:  Interesting.

Art:  At that time, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  Everything down there is perfect –

Art:  Perfect just as it was…

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  … and as it is.

Iain:  I know that retreats, silent retreats, have been very important to you.

Art:  Very much so, yes.

Iain:  So tell me more about this –

Art:  OK.

Iain:  – in terms of how you felt you would structure the retreats and what you felt you got out of the retreats.

Art:  OK.  I started doing these – this was one of the things that Richard Rose promoted and I was open to trying anything he promoted.  And so, when I first met him, I had started a new job not long before that and I just had two weeks of vacation per year so – selfish! – I took a week in the spring and a week in the fall to do… go off in the woods.  On his farm he had some cabins and old trailers and things like that where you could get away and not be disturbed.  So I spent a week in a trailer that had no heat, it was in the late fall, it was cold, it was rainy, it was miserable.  And I decided not to eat for the week; I’d never tried fasting before but I didn’t want to be bothered with food.  So, being the research-type mentality I have, I read some books on fasting and how you prepare for fasting, went through that whole ritual of limiting things over a period of time.  And the shocking thing was I went for a whole week without eating and never felt what I thought was hunger.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  So what I thought was hunger was ‘entertain-me time’.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:   Yeah.  And on that – I think it was that first one, or it could’ve been the second one… yeah, I think it was because it was rainy and cold and one day the rain stopped, the sun came out and I thought ‘oh boy, I can go out and get warmed up and dried off!’  I went for a walk on a country road and, as I was coming back, I saw – there was a stream running by the side of the road and a big boulder in the sun, I thought ‘oh, I’m going to sit out there in the sun and really get warmed up’.  And then I saw a ‘No Trespassing’ sign – this was in West Virginia, I was living in Ohio, you know, a sophisticated state – not really, but…!  In West Virginia I thought ‘oh, this is hillbillies’ and I thought ‘and there’s probably some hillbilly behind a tree waiting to pull a gun if I step on his property!’ [both laugh]

So this was another time where I was rooted in the road, I couldn’t have moved because what happened is I started seeing the decision-making process in very slow motion…

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  So I was just enthralled, I guess you could say, watching this argument of idiots in my head!  The fears and the desires, you know:  oh, I want to do this but if you do…  You know, it’s like different one runs across the stage with a sign, you know, that represent what it wants and doesn’t want.

Iain:  So what’s happening in your retreats is you’re spending time looking at what your mind is doing…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … and what reality is and how that reality changes.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  Is that right?

Art:  I think that’s very accurate, yes.  And I mentioned before about the going within suggestion or direction.  When I first met Rose, he rang a bell that I didn’t know was in me and the words that came in my mind were ‘this fellow’s telling me the truth’, I’ve never heard it before but something in me recognises it.  And then, a couple of days later, I was thinking ‘What was the important message?’, and it took a long time for it to get through to my conscious mind, and that was ‘The answers are within’.

Iain:  Mm hm.

Art:  And so that was, basically, what I was trying to do was to go within, but, obviously, everything we look at is out here, isn’t it, even though it gets closer in.  So going within is what I was trying to do – I didn’t know what that was or how to do it.  And Rose didn’t say, “Oh, if you want to go within you take two steps to the right.”  So he, basically, was trying – he says, “Whatever’s necessary.  Do whatever’s necessary.”

Iain:  Hm.

Art:  And if I had more character – that’s what I’d tell people – but I try to be more helpful! [both laugh]  But, actually, there’s very little that a person – so everything that I say is based on my own experience and it’s all opinion.  So if somebody says, “Well, what’s it like when you know yourself?” all I can do is, I’m basically using an instrument [indicates mind] that can’t tell the truth about what that is…

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  … and so I find myself – especially with the folks in the Pittsburg group – is, in the coffee shop, they’ll get me talking about something or other and, I think, afterwards ‘I’ve been fooled again, I should keep my mouth shut!’ [both laugh]  Because anything I say can be misleading.

Iain:  Yeah, I understand completely.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  So you actually had a period, 6 or 7 years, with quite deep depression, didn’t you?

Art:  Yes! [laughs]

Iain:  How was that?

Art:  Yeah.  I was living in Miami at the time and I had gone to the farm to do a solitary retreat.  By this time I was doing month-long solitary retreats when I could – lots of times that meant I would lose whatever job I was working on, but I didn’t care, that was really my direction.  And, apparently, usually I would talk to Richard Rose for half an hour or so after I’d finished a solitary retreat but I must’ve had to catch a plane or something, maybe he was out of town or something.  So I wrote him a long letter, every thought I had, basically, during the retreat, you know, way too much detail!  And I didn’t hear back from him, and I figured ‘oh, it must have gotten lost in the mail’.  So, this was back in word processor days and I had a copy, digital copy, so I printed another letter out, sent it off to him, and, when I didn’t hear back from him, I thought ‘he’s lost hope in me; so if he’s lost hope in me, it’s hopeless’.  Yeah, so that’s what kicked it off, I saw very clearly what kicked it off.

Iain:  Did you really believe that?

Art:  Oh my God, yeah!  Yeah, there was no doubt!  And, for me, I’m a professional doubter so whenever intuition hit me it was dangerous!

Iain:  OK.

Art:  Yeah, because, like the light bulb that went on in my head at the first solitary retreat, that was the first, maybe the second, time I’m conscious of intuition really hitting me directly.

Iain:  So that’s actually quite dangerous, that you –

Art:  Yeah! [laughs]

Iain:  – your teacher, you think, had lost hope in you and you haven’t yet found the grounds, officially yourself, to hold that.

Art:  Yeah.  Yeah, the funny thing is that I had a feeling, if I asked him if that was intentional, he wouldn’t necessarily have told me the truth because, if he was trying to produce a shock…

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  So I was stuck in my own corner, I didn’t have any way to confirm or disprove my belief.  Yeah.

Because Rose was, one of the things that he talked about was ‘the mind needs shocks’ and life presents them, it’s not like you have to make them artificially, but…  So sometimes a person who has a larger perspective can produce a little artificial shock that can be helpful.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  So, yeah…

Iain:  And how did you handle that?  6 or 7 years?

Art:  Ha!  I got a lot of mileage out of it!  I think I indulged in self-pity for 7 years! [both laugh]  In retrospect, it could’ve easily taken care of itself in a month!

But, since then, a lot of the younger people, particularly, I run into are… they’re over-educated and depressed.  And it seems to me now that depression is, it’s like going to the health spa:  you’ve been knocked down, you’re not ready to get up yet, so it’s like a rest period.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  I don’t have any argument with that, but I wouldn’t advise anybody to take 7 years before they get up!

Iain:  OK.

Art:  But it was the acceptance experience I had at the end of that 7 years that got me up, basically.

Iain:  And just tell me, briefly, about that experience.

Art:  That was the one I was mentioning before about having read the Benoit definition of acceptance.  [In ‘The Supreme Doctrine:  Psychological Studies in Zen Thought’.]

Iain:  OK, OK.

Art:  Yeah.  So that happened on a solitary retreat and that ended that.  Another thing, during that time, my mother – my father had died quite a few years before that – she had been living by herself for 4 years after he died, wasn’t taking good care of herself, she was in New York State.  I finally got her to move down to Miami with me, and she was at a point where she needed help but she could, pretty much, take care of herself.  But, that whole period, I felt like I had to check on her every day.  And I hadn’t done any solitary retreats for that period, and so she ended up having to go into a nursing home and that, sort of, freed my schedule, my conscience I guess you could say, and so that was the first solitary retreat I’d done in 7 years also.  And that’s when that happened.

Iain:  You also had a near death experience where you almost drowned, didn’t you?

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  In the Pacific Ocean, which was quite a strong experience for you.

Art:  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah, looking back over that and an earlier experience that happened when I was maybe 10 years old, which was also a surrender type experience, I have the feeling – although this is speculation – when you fall in love or when you surrender to death the mind opens up – the part of the mind that I would call the intuitive mind, the heart – opens up.  And that point is when you get new views, possibly big views.

So, with the drowning experience, I’d never even heard of a rip tide before and the first time I swam in the Pacific Ocean I got caught in a rip tide and I started flailing as much as much as I could – I didn’t want to end up in Hawaii, you know. [both laugh]  So I started flailing as much as I could with my arms and legs and finally they just got like spaghetti, the muscles wouldn’t work anymore.  And I realised ‘this is it’.  And I shocked myself at the time ‘it’s OK, this is it, it’s OK’.  The terror had left at that point when I admitted there’s nothing more I can do.  And I started getting a life review, which you hear about that with sailors too, don’t you…

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  … so it may have something to do with that kind of a situation.  And it felt as if I were seeing my life – I was coming up the trunk of a tree from earlier experiences to more recent experiences.  And I had the strong conviction, although I didn’t test it out, that I could go down any branch on the tree as I passed by and see as much detail as I wanted to see about – like my whole life had been laid out on that plane, up to that point.

And, as I was getting closer and closer to that time, I’d lost body consciousness, so all my mind was aware was this ‘film’, or whatever you call it, this picture of the life review.  And the next thing I felt with my body was my knees scraping on the sand and I was a long way up the beach – I think I used to say a quarter of a mile but that’s probably way too long – but I found myself a long way up the beach from where I’d been struggling; I’d just been carried sideways, I guess.

Iain:  So it’s a mystery, in a way, how you got to that point?

Art:  Yes, yeah.  I wasn’t conscious of what was happening.

Iain:  But you were alive and you were breathing?

Art:  I was.  I hadn’t swallowed water, apparently.

Iain:  Wow.

Art:   Isn’t that strange?  Yeah.

Iain:  Yeah.

And then a very significant thing was when you discovered Douglas Harding.

Art:  Yeah, yes.  Yes, definitely.

Iain:  And there’s his book:  ‘The Little Book of Life and Death’.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  Which you connected with.

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  Tell me about your first meeting with Douglas, how that was.

Art:  OK.  I had signed up – at that time he was still making a visit each year to the US, on the west coast one year, on the east coast the next year.  And I had signed up – some friends of mine in Raleigh [North Carolina] had scheduled him to come to Raleigh and come and do a workshop, so I signed up for that.  And that was in the fall of whatever year that was – around 2000, I would guess.

And that summer – he used to do summer retreats every year, not retreats, summer workshops, every year – he had fallen down some stairs and his doctor said, “No more long plane rides!” so he didn’t come to the Raleigh, and…

So, I still wanted to meet him because several of my friends had been in his workshops and – good friends of mine – said, “You really need to check this fellow out.”  And I didn’t have the patience, I didn’t want to go through a workshop, so I just emailed and said, “Could I come over and visit you?”  And he and his wife graciously invited me to come over there – he didn’t know anything about me.  And an important point that I’ve found in this, just my bias also, is that I think a real teacher will be available, that was the case with Rose, it was the case with Harding.  Harding was much better known than Rose so he would have had even more reason not to…

Iain:   So you’re saying, when you’re available, a real teacher becomes available to help teach you?

Art:  Maybe, yeah.  I don’t even know about the first part of it but, I think, a real teacher is available to, well, I guess, what they would pick up is somebody who’s either a serious seeker or in trouble in some way, maybe.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  Yeah.  So no lieutenants to go through, no big organisation.  That’s another reason why – there are people like Eckhart Tolle who wrote a wonderful book ‘The Power of Now’, I think the rest of them haven’t even matched up to the first one – which may be an indication to me that I ought to stop too, although I’m working on a couple more.  But, when you draw a big crowd, I don’t see how you’d be able to spend time individually with people.  And, to me, that’s what’s important.  I’m so thankful that Richard Rose and Douglas Harding were willing to do that with their students.

Iain:  So what did you get from being with Douglas Harding?

Art:  Well, the way I had been working for 25 years was what I’d call a paradigm.  I was looking for the self and the paradigm I was working with was the dividing line between inside and outside.  The self is inside, it’s what we don’t see yet, and anything that is in the view, outside, is not the self.  So that was, basically, Richard Rose’s paradigm and I’d been looking at things through that paradigm for 25 years.

When I met Douglas Harding, he basically – for me, anyway, I don’t know if other people would see this for themselves but – his paradigm was flipped just the other way:  that anything in the view is within.  So before anything out here, in the view, was outside, now it’s within.  And my mind would flip back and forth, like a Necker cube – when you watch the cubes, the lines, where the cube flips in and out as you look at it?  It was like that, my mind would flip back and forth between those two paradigms and it could not pick out one that seemed truer, they both seemed equally valid.  And that’s a condition the mind does not like.

Yeah.  So, to me, it provided exactly what I needed to set up an opposition for the mind to ‘chew on’, you could say, or try to resolve.

Iain:  Mm.  Because he had these, kind of, masks, didn’t he, which you wore?

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  You didn’t see your face at all.

Art:  Yes, uh huh.

Iain:  You just saw the outside.

Art:  Well, the way he would use them is a tube, where two people would put their faces at opposite ends of the tube…

Iain:  OK.

Art:  … and then he had a series of questions.  His experiments were somewhat based on suggestion and he told me when we were talking one time – I met him twice for just a few days each time – he told me he wasn’t above using hypnosis to counter hypnosis.  I think he was a very astute student of the mind, but also he didn’t like anything about psychological self-inquiry, so that was a huge difference also.  Richard Rose thought self-inquiry included that as a beginning level to, sort of, be able to get out of your own way; and Harding thought that was a complete waste of time but all you had to do was look directly within.

But the experiments were basically:  What do you see when you look within?  Isn’t it a wide open space?  Isn’t it?  Looking out of one window [indicates tube over face] not two eyes.  And all those things – I was suggestible enough that they made perfect sense to me.  The idea about the feet being up not down?  Perfect sense, I could see that, when the mind flips to that way of looking at things, it’s right that way.

Iain:  I should just mention to viewers that we do have a programme about Douglas Harding’s work on Conscious TV, by Richard Lang, who’s one of his students.  So if you are interested in following this in more detail you can find that programme.

Art:  Richard does a wonderful job with the workshops.

Iain:  He does indeed, yeah.  I’m not I personally still quite ‘get it’, but there you go! [Art laughs]  A bit more practice needed.

Art:  You may not be sufficiently suggestible! [both laugh]

Iain:  So… you had a very significant retreat where, again, you went away to a hermitage cabin in a Benedictine monastery.

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  And something – you had a little fast, two or three days, to start with.

Art:  Mm hm, yeah.

Iain:  And something really seemed to change.  Just talk us through those 6 days, how long it was.

Art:  Yeah.  When I’m fasting two or three days – I didn’t have too long, I think just a week, 8 days, or something like that so I fasted for two or three days – and when I’m fasting I’m usually too uncomfortable – it doesn’t seem like a productive time, in terms of self-inquiry, but it definitely shocks my mind, which is the value I see of it.  And… gets me out of my comfort zone.

And, after that, I spent about three days going through, in the book that you mentioned – Harding’s ‘Little Book of Life and Death’ – I think it was in the prologue, it might be in the introduction, there was a series that he called ‘Tests for Immortality’.  I may have the exact wording wrong, but that’s basically what it was.  And I’d visited Harding in February of that year, that was 2004, and when I got home or maybe on the flight home, I don’t recall exactly when, I felt a mood descend on me and the mood was ‘I want to be more serious, I want to become more serious than I’d ever been in my life before’.  And this is the mind, procrastination, I could have become more serious right at that point but no, I was convinced I’d never be able to do anything unless I was away from people in solitary-type isolation.

And I had an isolation scheduled for May of that year and I kept my mental fingers crossed that that mood of seriousness would last, which it did, fortunately.  And so the thing that was so different about that particular solitary retreat was I had to see things for myself.  I had to be able to differentiate, when I looked within, I had to be able to differentiate what I had accepted by agreement from Richard Rose, from Ramana Maharshi, from Douglas Harding, from folks like that, versus what I really saw for myself.

Iain:  It had to be yours.

Art:  I had to take the responsibility, you could say.  I think when different teachers talk about becoming your own authority… that’s when it happened for me.

Iain:  Yes, yes.

Art:  And when I got through those three days that was close to the end of my retreat.  I might have had another day later.  But the night, the final night, of my retreat I remember thinking ‘well, it’s been a wonderful week, again, I don’t regret it by any means but I haven’t found what I’m looking for’.  So I – this was just across the road from Lake Erie, where this monastery was – and I’d saved going down to the lake to see the sunset over the water until the last night so I went for a walk.  When I got back to the cabin, the hermitage cabin that I was staying in, I sat in the chair in the living room and I thought ‘my God, this is the first time I’ve ever sat in a chair and not done something’.

So where does that come from?  I couldn’t have intentionally sat there and not do anything.  My mind always had to have something to be working on, a back up plan in case that didn’t work out.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  So I sat there thinking… I was astounded.  And during those last three days there was like an ‘open sesame’ phrase from Harding that would come to my mind:  What am I looking out from?  Question.  And, whenever that happened, my mind – so I didn’t need to do the finger pointing experiment any more but I was looking back in the direction that you look out from.  And, during that final sitting, what happened is it felt as if – Richard Rose said the same thing, I don’t recall asking Harding about it – he says “there’s help”.  And I knew that things were lined up and there’s no way I could have lined them up.  And it felt as if something were holding my inner head, looking back at what I was looking out from.

And so what I was seeing was awareness.  I think before that point we have a feeling that that’s awareness back there – what we’re looking out from, obviously – but you don’t really, I didn’t see it.  So it was just an agreement.  When I was focused – I couldn’t have, if I’d wanted to, turned my attention away from looking back here.  And, eventually, I saw that I was looking at awareness and I saw that awareness was self-aware.  When that happened, my mind said ‘Wait a second, I’m a separate awareness here that’s looking at awareness!  There’s a lie here somewhere.  Either a lie that awareness is self-aware or a lie that I’m an individual awareness.’  And so that’s, basically, what broke the spell.  The hypnosis with the mind, for me.

Iain:  You described it in some notes that I have here that, “on the 6th day of retreat I was sitting not doing anything, looking back at what was looking out from awareness.”  There’s the quote.  “I’m observing it.  Art Ticknor was never alive.  Something broke the identification with the observer.  There was no regret in seeing the sense of a separate self go.”

Art:  Mm hm.  And that surprised me too because Richard Rose, when he had his breakthrough, he was 30 years old, it was traumatic for him…  To me, when you know yourself, it’s a knowing that’s outside of the mind’s knowing but you can talk about the transition leading up to it, the transition coming back from it, and his was very traumatic in both directions.  And so all of his students felt ‘Well, if it ever happened to us, they’d be carrying us off in stretchers!’

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  In my case, I think that the ego, you can say, the identification with the less-than-true, less-than-complete idea about what you are, had been eroded enough over time so that the final thread that broke wasn’t traumatic; it was very, you know, plain.  Art Ticknor, that was what I had believed myself to be, had never existed!  I wouldn’t use the same words now; I would say that Art is what exists, meaning he stands outside of what we really are [from Latin ex+ sistere, to stand outside of].

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  So what I would say now is “What I believed myself to be” – I think those are notes that I actually wrote afterwards.

Iain:  Yes, I took them from some notes that were on your website, yeah.

Art:  Yeah.  So it was just a ‘Oh yeah, so what?!’ it wasn’t a big deal to me when I saw that Art Ticknor never existed.

Iain:  So, if I’m to ask you now, “Who are you?” what’s your response to that?

Art:  In order to try to convey something of it, the best I can do right now is to say that for Iain, for anyone who goes within and finds what they are at the source, it’s what I am.  In other words, it’s not different.  What we are is the same.  But when you talk about ‘oneness’ that’s misleading, because ‘one’ implies ‘many’ so there’s… there isn’t…  You can’t, in language, it’s hard – about the closest you can get is some paradox.  You know, it’s infinite, but it’s not big, you know…

It’s like our personality.  To me there are two primary steps that we, when we retreat from untruth, the first is identification with a personality.  And, to me, personality implies things hanging off of something, so it’s like characteristics.  So my personality is I’m average height, and I wear this… you know… I’ve got 10 fingers and whatever.  It’s the characteristics that someone would identify Art Ticknor by.

Iain:  Yeah, yes.

Art:  And once we realise those are just in the view, they aren’t really what I am – I could live without 10 fingers, you know…  The hard one the mind can’t back itself off from is individuality.

Iain:  Yes, I’m interested in – do you feel your personality changed since this time?

Art:  Yes and no.  So most of my neighbours I don’t think would recognise any differences, even my close friends they wouldn’t see huge differences, although I may not be quite as argumentative as I used to be. [both laugh]

But the huge change is – and I didn’t realise this until a year afterwards – but Buddha had written something about the ridge pole being broken and I realised that expressed exactly what my feeling had been when I came – to use a phrase that will probably get me in the nuthouse – came back into the mind.  It’s such a huge relief because when you know what you are there’s no vulnerability, and you know you’re not what was born and what’s going to die.  You know what you are has no form – it couldn’t change if it wanted to!  You know, it doesn’t want to.  So all the form and everything is a projection of what we are into a split world where you could say the purpose is just to see itself.  It doesn’t see itself directly, it knows what it is and where we are, at the core of our being, there’s never been a problem, all the problems are in the mind dimension, and so it settles the mind.

Iain:  So you are the ‘Solid Ground of Being’ [holding up Art’s book].

Art:  Yes.  As are you, as is… [indicates expansively with hand].

Iain:  It’s interesting the way you use the words ‘no vulnerability’…

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  … because people do talk about being incredibly vulnerable and open –

Art:  Yeah!

Iain:  – but you’re saying there is a stage beyond that which is… it is the solid ground of being.

Art:  Yeah, yes.  Yeah.  And it is the only solid ground, I’m firmly convinced.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  We can become more comfortable but, in order to really put the mind at ease, we have to know, the mind has to know what its source is.

Iain:  Does it come and go?

Art:  No, no.

Iain:  I understand it’s always there, like it always has been there.  We always hear it’s always there, it always has been there…

Art:  Right.

Iain:  But, for you, are you – it’s almost like the words don’t quite fit now but I have to use it…

Art:  I know, it’s a communication problem isn’t it.  Yeah.

Iain:  But, for you, there is never a time where there’s any doubt.  You are always coming from this place of solid ground.

Art:  The mind resolved that question of doubt.  I remember one of my first reactions – and it may have been in the notes that you read also – was ‘I can see now why Richard Rose thought he might have gone insane’.  So, when your focus comes back into the mind, what you know can’t be computed by the mind.  And so I assume that anybody who’s had that breakthrough when they come back into their mind their mind doubts it, and it should.  And what distinguishes it, eventually, is the mind admits that it’s a form of knowing that it isn’t capable of.  And so, currently, that’s always there.  But dementia could erase that.  Yeah, so nothing, nothing stays still in this dimension.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Stillness is death, you know?  So there’s always movement.  The mind is a moving problem solver.  Yeah, so the brain is certainly subject to disease and so I wouldn’t be surprised if, someday, I get to the point in dementia where this mind won’t know.  But I don’t know if that’s the case either.

Iain:  Is there an evolutionary aspect to the ground of being, or is the ground of being just the ground of being?

Art:  Yeah, the ground of being certainly doesn’t evolve.  It’s hard telling about humanity, whether there’s some evolutionary… like coloured-sightedness, or something like that.  There seems to be a lot of people talking about self-realisation and cosmic consciousness and things like that, and whether it was so frequent in the past or not I have no feeling for.  But I’m sure that what we are, the core of our being, doesn’t need our help evolving [laughs].  It’s running the show!  And there must be a big engineering organisation somewhere between there – I didn’t see the engineers, but…  You know, when you look at the absolute complexity of the body, of the cosmos, you know, there has to be a big engineering organisation somewhere! [both laugh]

Iain:  OK, we have to stop in a minute.  What I’d like to do is, once we’ve stopped the programme, just to do another very brief discussion with you about a paper you wrote on meditation?

Art:  OK.

Iain:  I was hoping to include that in the main programme, but…  It’ll just be 5 minutes or something…

Art:  OK.

Iain:  I’m going to just finish this programme by just reading something which you wrote, which I really like, which is called ‘Finding the Real Self is Looking Until What’s Looking is Known’.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  I should get you to read it [passes paper towards Art].

Art:  Oh, I’d have to find my glasses, I don’t have them with me!

Iain:  OK, OK.  So…  “Work diligently for the beauty of working but don’t strain.  It’s a fascinating mystery to solve.  Look with light-hearted curiosity.  Look for insights into your behaviour.  Look, feel, listen, etc, then relax.  It’s the most natural thing in the world.”

Art:  Yeah.  Yeah, and that certainly wasn’t the way I approached it but that’s my advice for somebody else.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  We get to the point where we don’t take ourselves too seriously but we still – at least for me – I was way too serious, you could say…

Iain:  But that was your path though.

Art:  Yes, yeah.

Iain:  Whatever that means.  Yeah.

Art:   And so my advice to somebody else is:  That wasn’t necessary.  It may be for you, you know, for a person I’m talking to.  But I can see, in retrospect, it’s probably not helpful.

Iain:  Yeah.  OK.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  Well, we end on some advice that’s not helpful! [both laugh]  We try to end Conscious TV with a nice summary, something positive, but er…

Art:  That, I would say is helpful, that positive –

Iain:  OK.

Art:  – summary.  Yeah.

Iain:  So, Art, thanks very much for coming in.  It’s been a very interesting talk, and a really moving, at times, talk.

I want to show Art’s book ‘Solid Ground of Being’.  And we’re now, actually, going to do a small, separate programme, which is about meditation, based on a paper that Art has written about meditation, which, I think, will be helpful.  And I hope you see me again soon on Conscious TV.  Thank you.

Art Ticknor – ‘Insights on Meditation’
Iain:  Hello, welcome back to Conscious TV.  I’ve just interviewed Art Ticknor and we’re just going to do a separate piece, about 10 possibly 15 minutes, talking about meditation, which is something he found very hard for a long time, but now has certain pointers and certain advice, which I’ve found very interesting.

So, Art, you’ve meditated for 25 years…

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  … and it was a tough call at times, wasn’t it?

Art:  Yes, it was.

Iain:  What was hard about it?

Art:  Well the directions from my teacher, which I think were excellent directions because they were not misleading, is “The answers to what we’re looking for are within and we have to go within, we can’t see it from here.  We have to go there.”  But I had no idea how to do that because I felt like I was stuck out here.  I was always looking from wherever I look from, it was out here.  Obviously it wasn’t, didn’t seem to be, within.

So for years at a time I would religiously meditate for an hour a morning.  The morning was – I think if a person starts with a reminder to themselves in the morning of what their feeling is, of what they really want, or what’s missing, that’s a perfect way to start every day.  I don’t think I did that.

Iain:  So when you say “What their feeling is”, what they’re feeling in their body, in their minds?

Art:  Yeah, for a lot of people I think it’s a yearning, a longing.  And, for me, that was in the chest area – I think it is for many people, but not necessarily.  And maybe some people wouldn’t identify it as a feeling in the body.  But it’s whatever we yearn for, that seems to – ‘home’ is a word that rings a bell with many people.  So nostalgia, like around Christmas time the stores all make a big deal of selling us things based on a feeling of nostalgia.

Iain:  Mm.

Art:  Or “I came from somewhere” – we say childhood because that’s as far as our memory takes us – but where things were better, easier.  Richard Rose, my primary teacher for 25 years, said, “Nostalgia is the language of the soul,” and I, sort of, knew what he was talking about.

Iain:  So it’s almost the starting point is not to try and get where we’re not…

Art:  Right.

Iain:  … the starting point is where we are.

Art:  Feeling, feeling that longing, the yearning, yeah.  That, basically, sets the mind to work trying to solve the problem.  In many ways the mind will do it automatically if we can somehow get out of the way.

Iain:  Yes, OK.  That’s very different from other meditation practices where you’re trying to still the mind…

Art:  Yes.

Iain:  … and get away from your thoughts, but you’re almost encouraging the mind to… giving the mind permission

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … to do what it wants to do.

Art:  Right.  And for some people – so there’s no general solution to this – some people would need to find a quiet place in the mind, so they would need to do the mind-stilling yoga, breathing, or, you know, some practice that would still the mind, but that’s not going to take us anywhere, that’s my conviction.

Iain:  You talk about, in your notes on meditation, which people can find on – is it your own website or was I referred there, I can’t remember?

Art:  It may be on my website, uh huh.

Iain:  If it’s not, it’s referred to, yeah.

Art:  The Self-Discovery Portal.

Iain:  You say, “Meditation needs to be confrontational, not restful…”

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  “… it also needs to be observational.  Consider what a person may say when first asked what they believe themselves to be.”  So explain what you mean by meditation being confrontational.

Art:  OK.  By that I basically mean the mind having a question.  It doesn’t have to be in the form of a sentence with a question mark at the end, but something that it’s looking for.  And, to me, ‘looking’ is a synonym for ‘intuiting’.  And some people would say ‘feeling’, some people might even say ‘listening’.  So the sensory analogies break down but it’s… the mind recognises a problem – and it’s the same with every little problem, you know:  we’re hungry and so the mind picks up a feeling of hunger and it goes to work trying to satisfy that.  If something else comes along in the meantime that seems to be more important, it will switch over.

And to me, basically, there’s this underlying problem that once we become, I don’t know, 10 years old, or something like that, we start becoming aware of an underlying problem that isn’t solved by all the other solutions.  And, as we get older, it’s like being a teenager, a male teenager, that the big problem the mind intuits I need is a car so that I can have dates and things like that.  And I think any of those problems are, basically, that’s the way the mind works.  And when we are fortunate enough so that a period is carved out for the mind to get back at that big problem that’s underlying all the time, or we carve ourselves out a period to do that – preferably every day so we don’t have long periods of time where we forget – the mind will automatically try to find what it’s looking for to solve the problem.

Iain:  And so when you say, “You also need to be observational,” you’re watching this whole process go on.

Art:  Yes.  And what I’d say now is, “Notice what we see.”

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  It’s sort of like sleepwalking, we can walk through a room in our sleep and not bump into the furniture, and that’s largely how we live our lives, I think.  So, I would say, the first thing is noticing what we’re seeing.

Iain:  Then you go on to talk about the ‘algebra’ of self-inquiry, “We realise that we’re looking for the self, and anything in the view is not the self.”

Art:  Right.

Iain:  It’s obviously a part of the observational side:  you’re looking, you’re trying to find something that isn’t self.

Art:  Yes.  Any split we use might… one split might make more sense to someone than another but ‘seer’:  we are what sees, not what is seen.

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  So we’re looking for the seer.

Iain:  Yes, I love that, yeah.

Art:  Right.  So any of those splits, I think, would set up the… so this is basically what we currently observe:  there’s an object, a glass with water in it, and that automatically throws in an implied ‘observer-me’.  So there can’t be an object of consciousness [indicates glass] without a subject of consciousness [indicates self].

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  And what we’re looking for to settle – either we intuit this or we believe somebody that tells us – what we’re looking for, to settle the mind, is to see… observe the observer.  To become what we really are.

Iain:  But if we’re observing the observer there’s still two, isn’t there?

Art:  Yeah, that’s what happens, isn’t it?  As soon as we try to observe the observer it seems to get behind us faster than we can look back there.

Iain:  I know this place very, very well, I’m observing and I realise there’s someone looking at the observer.  So there’s two.

Art:  Yeah, right, mm hm.  So that obviously doesn’t solve the problem.

Iain:  Any advice for me there? [both laugh]

Art:  Well, er, again my feeling is it’s almost accidental and what we need to do is try to become accident-prone.  For me, that was setting up these retreats where my mind – it was the only time my mind really relaxed.  It may be different for the next person.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  But trying to – also, one of the things that I think would be most valuable is, if there’s time after the meditation period, rest.

Iain:  Yeah, I’m just looking further into your notes here and you talk about “continued persistence…”

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  “… in the face of the seemingly insoluble final opposition will burn out or blow out the resistance circuitry that prevents individual consciousness of awareness.”

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  And that is going to happen like a grace of God thing, isn’t it?

Art:  I think that’s as good an explanation as any, yeah.

Iain:  You can do everything that you feel you can do but it’s something from that level either happens or doesn’t happen.  That’s what happened to you on the retreat we were talking about.

Art:  Yes, yes.

Iain:  It blew out, didn’t it?

Art:  Yeah, in my case I would say it was like a burning – it wasn’t traumatic…

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  … like it is with some people – to me it was like an insulator burned out or something.  For some reason now the circuit is open and the mind sees the truth.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  It’s very difficult to say anything that’s even close to right about that because, when you know what you are, you’re looking into the mind.  It’s like being in an oyster, we feel we’re stuck in the mind – at least that’s how I felt – so it’s like the world is an oyster, I’m stuck inside the oyster, I look and I see something in the oyster, something here, but I’m in the oyster.

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  But the truth is for light to come into the oyster there has to be an opening back somewhere behind us…

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  Yeah.  And so, when we know what we are, we’re basically back where we’ve always been.  Now we’re looking – when we become conscious of the body again – we’re looking into the oyster world but we know – the mind knows – that its source is really what’s looking.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  In other words, the mind isn’t a sentient being.  The mind is like a rock.  The body-mind is not a sentient being.  There aren’t multiple sentient beings. [laughs]  There’s only awareness.

Iain:  Seems to me that the way you see meditation is very different from what other people see it.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  They think ‘I’m going to relax now and I’m just going to get in touch with my breathing and slow down my thoughts’.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  And that has a value in itself…

Art:  It does, yeah.

Iain:  … but it isn’t necessarily taking you to who you truly are.

Art:  Right.  If someone had a strong intuition that that was the path they wanted to follow, I wouldn’t argue with them.

Iain:  Yes.

Art:  Ramana Maharshi said, “All you need to do is sink into the heart.”  He was absolutely right, but what keeps bringing us back to the surface when we start to do that is, it’s like there’s a life-preserver, you know, that keeps bringing us back to the surface, whether we either try to sink or whether we try to dive into the self.

And so, to me, for a person who gravitates towards self-inquiry, we have to ask ourselves ‘Well, what is preventing me from sinking into the heart?’  We go through the initial stages:  I’m the doer, so I’ve got to dive, right?  At some point we may realise ‘Well doing is all… I’m observing the mind doing, and it’s not me’ and so we get to the point where the sinking makes more sense to the mind.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  I’m going to read one more quote to finish, “To find what we’re really looking for, which can only be described as ultimate certainty about what we are, we cannot rely on any external authority no matter how much value we place on it.  We must become our own authority.”

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  And you’re just saying this now and you also mentioned it in the talk we had earlier…

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  … all about coming to be our own authority.  And from that is the certainty.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  And from that you found the ground of being.

Art:  Mm hm.

Iain:  Yeah.

Art:  Yeah.

Iain:  Good.  Well thanks for that little extra.

Art:  OK!

Iain:  I’m just going to show Art’s book again ‘Solid Ground of Being’, which is – it’s a lovely book because you just take one page at a time and it either connects or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, you know there’s another page.  And it’s the kind of thing, I guess, you keep by your bedside table and contemplate on from time to time.

So, thank you for watching this extra and hope to see you again soon.  Goodbye.


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