Four-day isolation retreat at TAT Center

Good bench for listening quietly

Spending some time alone in an isolation retreat can get new perspectives, sometimes changing someone’s life, or even realizing what they really are beyond a mind. I hadn’t done one in a while, and got a new tent with my coronavirus stimulus money that finally arrived, so it was time to go. These are some photos and highlights.

The TAT Foundation recently bought some acreage north of Durham, NC, and the space is planned to be used for meetings, group retreats, and isolation retreats. It has a few spots for camping, so I asked if available, got the OK, then headed down to set up camp. On the way down, I listened to a recording of an old TAT meeting where Tess Hughes mentioned she felt her takeaway from the meeting was “find your thread.” She meant it in a Joseph Campbell “follow your bliss,” sense, and I felt that would be my goal for this retreat, to find a thread for my search I could believe in and have some emotional energy to it.

I arrived late Thursday, and Bob F. and Mark W. helped me bring stuff to the location so I could set up. They offered again to allow a place to stay inside, as it was getting dark, but I wanted to get started, and had stopped at a couple gas stations with people coughing without masks, so didn’t want to risk staying indoors during a pandemic.

That first evening, I stayed in a “go” mode mentally, focusing on new tent set up and letting my mind adjust to a slower pace, not checking emails, news, Netflix, etc. I noticed sounds of nature, crickets, birds, squirrels. But also traffic. It being November the trees have dropped their leaves and the nearby road sounds easily got through the canvas. Traffic died down late around 11pm, and then I slept 12 hours, catching up 🙂

The next day I went for a walk on the trails Bob and Mark built and are maintaining. As someone who waits for the HOA to send a nasty letter before raking leaves from my yard, these trails stuck me as a labor of love.

There were several thoughtfully located places to sit and reflect. It felt to me a bit like a monastery without the symbols. Figured if I need symbols, I can carry around my laminated Ramana Maharshi photo and look at it every 100 steps. Or do a Douglas Harding looking exercise or something.

Douglas Harding would say if you notice you don’t see your head from your own point of view, there is A LOT of significance to that.

I did feel a more positive and potentially productive energy for me than at Richard Rose’s farm for isolation. Having an active teacher on location may help. Another teacher, Joel Morwood, recommends having a relatively strict schedule for a solitary retreat. I didn’t feel I could do that this time. I just wanted to get out of my normal thinking, though might want to plan a schedule for next isolation. Besides walks, food, meditation, and journaling, I did read some of Rose’s Psychology of the Observer very slowly.

Rose’s honesty in POTO struck me, and after this first full day, I was thinking maybe my thread is self-honesty. I noted, “The value I feel is like the truth shall set you free – like somehow there is a kind of freeing aspect of this truthfulness.”

I could see I imagine a thread as a thread of study – like a topic I’d pay attention for insights when reading a book hoping to generate new ideas. But not necessarily a thread of self-study. I imagine the thread is intellectually appealing. Yet, “it’s not in books. If it was in books I would have found it by now.”

Considering my usual efforts to change the world around me so I can be happy and feel satisfied, I noticed, “Here I am with a fire, in a tent, with some chocolate, reading about reality, trying to get enlightened. This must be about the highlight of life.” But, “I still don’t have a clear pull anyway.”

Day 3, I walked the trails a lot, stopping to listen. I began to wonder if this hope for a highly compelling thread is itself procrastination and resistance. I already believe I can only find answers by going within, so I have a thread intuitively, and journaling from my heart, I feel that’s it. If I wait for the body Umpire to get fired up about seeking within, that fire might not last.

It feels dry, asking, “who am I?” Maybe I will never have more motivation than I have now, and I just need to start, like starting cleaning my room as a kid – it seemed impossibly huge a task, yet once I started it became easier to keep going until it was cleaned.

Finally, day 4, I was feeling going within is the tentative answer to, what is the thread that can take me home? The next step would be questioning assumptions about what’s alive. I’ve written a handful of these down before that I believe with my level of conviction on a scale of 1 to 10, things like,

  • I have control over the mind 5% of the time. 10
  • I’m what experiences. 10
  • I’m not any object outside the body. 10
  • I’m not my current emotion. 9
  • I’m not my current thoughts. 8
  • I’m the problem-solver. 8
  • I’m a separate mind with some doership ability. 8
  • I’m a focuser of attention. 8
  • I’m not the generator of my current thoughts. 7
  • I’m not the decision-maker. 7
  • I’m not the intention-setter. 5

While not, per se, thrilling to question these beliefs, I do think the truth can set me free a bit there. Maybe a big bit. Yet I noticed I didn’t think I could commit.

My last notes before going and talking with Bob and Mark were

“Maybe the intellect can’t get excited about going within, but maybe longing can. I have that longing to become one with all ever. Maybe I can act on that a little at a time: hear it and act. Like I’ve done for intellect.

“So the longing is the thread? And to keep my mind on it, it’s not mental chewing on a paradox, it’s listening and acting on longing?”

Before heading out, I said goodbye, and the three of us ended up having an impromptu discussion. It ended up being a highlight of the weekend. Some things that stuck with me are the idea that the search might be 90% feeling 10% thinking, that I might need to pay more attention to my feelings in meditation in a basic sense, and that longing or nostalgia is a pointer that I can ask where is this coming from? and that might begin to re-prioritize.

In the days since, I’ve been noticing what I’m feeling more often than I had been before and trying to catch the longing beneath the surface to ask where it comes from. In terms of the vector, I’ve also been looking from a perspective of, what if I were starting over as a seeker, what if I were totally new? Somehow the task feels more possible removing the idea of “so much history.”

What is a Glimpse?

William Samuel recommends adding glimpses to your journal, and I’ve been doing that for about half a year when I review the day. If I haven’t had a glimpse I write down something I appreciate… or can appreciate.

A direct glimpse example: 11/1/19: The source of love is what’s alive – almost by logic.

But what is a glimpse? Is there a “true” glimpse? What voice does it speak for?

Once the wonder of Glimpses is understood, it isn’t long until we’ve examined them carefully enough to see that they come from two seemingly separate sources. First, there is the direct Glimpse, as when we’re writing in our journal or when an answer comes out of the blue from NOT thinking. Then, there are the indirect Glimpses as when we see the beauty of a galloping horse or the grace of a new rose in the garden or the tender smile of a stranger. One glimpse is direct, the other indirect, as if delayed in the world’s time while it developed for the receptive awareness to see it.

…Glimpses arrive in both ways, and their Origin is the Same Light beyond ordinary light. This is in part what Jesus meant when he said that the stones would minister unto us. “Cleave a piece of wood, I am there; lift up the stone and you will find Me there.” Yes, there is Light beyond light; there is a significance in everything, quite beyond the values given by men.



An indirect glimpse from 10/17/19: The moon looks so big…because it is big. – somehow this makes me cry, release, hope, like believing in God, that the universe is OK – it can take care of itself.

If a glimpse comes from reading a spiritual book, I think that leans towards an indirect glimpse. For example, these three while reading Richard Rose’s 3 Books of the Absolute on 10/19/19: “I is dead. Death is dead and life has no living…All that remains is all” – a feeling he’s seeing something true and real. This implies unconscious knowledge of this.
“and I saw the voices of men…and I saw the beautiful patterns of motion…but the world was as still as death” – still as death, this feels important – an issue I turn from and not faced yet. To face these could be a path.
The poem, in general, feels honest, true, and says there’s more than I’ve seen yet.

What should I do with these? Sit with them; pick one and sit with it, asking what do I hear? What message is it saying? It has a life to it – could change me a bit. And would be safe to let in. I have let it in a little – but not fully.


As one lets go, it becomes natural to have more Glimpses. They come in greater strength and regularity—provided we know what to do with them when they arrive. Among many things I do with my Glimpses is to look for their confirmation out in the tangible world of people, places and things. Direct glimpses are precursors of knowledge breaking into the community of mankind. Presently my Glimpses tell me that a new clock is soon to begin ticking in the guts of people everywhere. I anticipate seeing these insights confirmed as Good in the affairs of men.

Yes there is a time to withdraw from the world and think of other things, but there is a time to come back and see the mountain again—and commence to do on the mountain what that seeing commands.

It sounds like the question I need to ask myself is, what action does this glimpse request?

10/16/19: self-definition is something you get to do. You get to define yourself. You already do. This one seems to suggest taking up the reins and being my own authority about what I am in a way that can choose to exclude what anyone else says. After that, I did allow a self-definition as an individual observer with limited will. But have I really done everything with this moment of light I can?

Can glimpses become more, or do they stay enigmas? Like abstract art that seems to have some message, but it’s not clear what I’m supposed to hear? Like a dream that feels important but its message is unclear. Glimpses do seem like dreams – the mind projected something on what it heard.

Once upon a time I wanted the glimpse to bring information to this old sense of myself and work a wonder for it. Hear this softly now: The Glimpse doesn’t just bring the truth like a messenger; the Glimpse is the Truth; the Glimpse is the Light; the Glimpse is our genuine Selfhood emerging!

The value of the Glimpse itself eludes everyone until precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, slowly it dawns. Most remain unaware that it is the Glimpse of Light that matters and does the work in the phenomenal world.

Or maybe it’s just a matter of saying “thank you.”


Individual mind vs. Unmanifested Mind

In, The Mind, Rose talks about a so-called, “unmanifested mind.”

We experience two minds: the individual mind and the unmanifested Mind-Stuff.

The individual mind is individual in appearance only, but we will call it that, when we refer to the mind of personal observation.

~ quotes from:

Right now, I experience personal, individual mind. That may even define me: my current self-definition is an individual consciousness with limited willpower over thinking. If my experience goes beyond an individual mind, however, this might change who I am.

The mind is like a two-way camera that takes pictures and projects the picture at the same time.

The mind is like a camera in that it has points of focus, similar to lenses. It has a big roll of film, or memory bank… The light seems to be coming from the external world.

Diagram 2: The mind-camera analogy (a.k.a. Ray of Projection/Creation)


However there is a Light, coming from behind, for the Unmanifested Mind, which is actually projecting a picture, which we are in reality only able to see when stimulated by percepts.

Any specific content of my individual consciousness seems to be coming from an external world. For example, when I see a pen, there is a pen in an external world. Our culture has worked hard to explain the contents of personal experience. Hard sciences explain objects, and social sciences explain psychological forces. Those “unmanifested” realities governing capillary action of ink on paper, for example, have a longer-lasting reality than any specific manifestation in a given pen.

So, in my first guess at unmanifested mind, I speculated science refers to this but takes a stance this “mind” is unconscious and non-reactive. So, the unmanifested reality behind personal observations is clockwork-like. Actually, reality behind objects is probabilistic sub-atomically, just that there are so many independent random events making up any observation, essentially the central limit theorem kicks in and unmanifested principles appear identical to clockwork.

Of course, you may know toward the end of Isaac Newton’s life he had more interest in Theology and Alchemy than Physics.


Principles and laws aren’t very mind-like. A “mind” would react. When we pray for a manifestation in our favor, we probably temporarily adopt that outlook. A mind might also have some of its own memories that influence how it reacts, causing “miracle” discontinuities.


So, a scientific view is helpful, but it clearly backs away from unmanifested mind.

As a second avenue to get a sense of why Rose used these words, could my belief in solely an individual mind be false? Maybe, the observer could be non-individual if there is no information passed between individuals. Or, if this experience now is a dream, the contents are actually imagination and projection from some bigger mind that has not manifested. These both allow for a logical possibility I’m wrong, but a possibility is not really counterevidence.

If it’s true that my mind is not just an individual mind, shouldn’t there be evidence of it?

Perhaps there is. Sometimes it feels like information is passed from an individual mind to another individual mind without an obvious communication medium with sufficient “current” capability. So, a third avenue to find evidence of “unmanifested mind” is seemingly unlikely coincidences of communication among people. One example could be walking by someone and having a sudden shift in mood. Another could be a feeling of rapport – either positive or negative. Do these imply my mind is more than personal?


(There’re a few books by Rupert Sheldrake about this stuff I haven’t read yet)

On one hand, a feeling direct mind communication may have occurred is never convincing. If I have a feeling while being tailgated someone is in my head or while serving customers at a restaurant I’m in someone else’s head, those could be imagination. It’s never clear, but if they’re ever true intuition, that could mean my individual mind is somewhat connected to another mind. Or Mind.

On the other hand, even if apparently real, Rose seemingly dismisses these experiences as solid evidence of experience beyond the individual mind:

Telepathy received is still perception. Telepathy transmitted is projection. The Percepts are not limited to the five senses.

So far, these avenues look for observations to trace back to unmanifested mind. My fourth angle involves tracing back the observer of this individual experience.

The lights are on. It seems unlikely purely unconscious matter could become conscious; as I evidently am. When compared to the noise and picture of my observed individual experience, who is experiencing is completely quiet and unobserved. Being an individual experiencer seems it implies defining myself in terms of what I observe. Which may be like saying a submarine is a deep water viewer when that’s its current environment.

Am I, as the observer, limited to an individual because the experience is individual? What is the source of this light, this consciousness? Evidently, that is even more unmanifested than any laws of science.

Willpower, automatic or willed?

Right now I feel I am applying willpower. I’m writing about will, which takes more will than not writing. I see my inner argument if attuning to it: do I do this writing or not write? It’s a little painful, but I’ll work towards awakening and think this is part of that.

It feels like it’s my decision to make. When I know which side will win an inner argument, I don’t have a decision to make really. Only when I don’t know what will happen, could voluntarily applying will have value.


I see it like shooting a basketball in that I don’t know if my intention will happen, but by trying, by applying will, my agenda, my vision for the future is more likely.

Now you will immediately ask, “But do we not think? Or do we not will to do certain things?” The truth of the matter is that we do not perceive, or remember, or really act or react, by virtue of will or volition. The Will is in itself only a reaction.

Quotes from: The Mind, by Richard Rose, at:

We do not begin life willfully, nor live it willfully, until we are able to find out the limits of our bondage. When we find out whether we are able to do anything on our own, then it is possible to try to enlarge that ability.

Will is but a particular Reaction to various Reactions and Percepts.

Let us try to get behind the false face. We can observe, by introspection, that much of what we would like to think of as thinking, is nothing more than reaction, – and mostly automatic reaction without any volition on our part. Of course we can get into some very complicated reaction patterns, and this complexity (as is noted in the Law of Complexity) is visible life.

Next, we are inclined to look at the above analysis of the mind, and take pride in being able to “Project.” We might think for a while that our ability to project is our individuality. The truth is that we are but a channel for the projection, if we are referring to the individual mind and the Unmanifested Mind, neither of which we really are.

Likewise, we can take some steps away from illusion. We begin by recognizing that the material world presents an illusory picture. We secondly notice that we are automatons of a sort, galvanized by desire and curiosity.

But then we settle back and say, – well at least we perceive, remember, react, and project. Actually these qualities are also automatic. We cannot control these functions, unless we controlled the entire environment.

So this will, experienced as my force in the mind, could be as automatic as the forces it wants to push.

If I want to write something semi-useful and not too annoying, I have a conflict with voices wanting to spit something out quickly. I can get identified with a mental effort reacting to this.

So why does it feel like me? Like I am the one willing to assert willpower to direct the mind? Am I, as will to assert willpower, just an automaton? Identified with “Reaction to various Reactions and Percepts”? Isn’t all reaction willful?

What of this am I controlling? Is the control just a useful lie? Why can’t I control it?

Attributes of an individual mind

We experience two minds: the individual mind and the unmanifested Mind-Stuff.

quotes from: The Mind, by Richard Rose, at:

I’m conscious of the individual mind. I wouldn’t say I’m conscious of “unmanifested Mind-Stuff.” Not offhand, anyway. Though he seems to think human minds can experience “unmanifested Mind-Stuff” or else actually do, just don’t really think about it as having a different source than the individual mind.

The individual mind is individual in appearance only, but we will call it that, when we refer to the mind of personal observation.

I am not sure why he says “appearance only” – it sure appears individual 🙂

There’s more on that individual/unmanifested distinction later, but first the article dives into what the individual mind is composed of.


This mind has four apparent qualities or attributes. Perception, Memory, Reaction, and Projection. All human actions are contained in these four. We perceive, we retain, and we project. We are like a camera that takes pictures, and projects pictures aided by Light.

Can I see these four attributes of my mind?

I’m listening to some music, “Happy Together” played on classical instruments at the library. I perceive the music. I also perceive the lyrics in my mind; imagine them anyway. That may be another of the four, probably projection.

I hear the violins and cello. I remember the recording and lyrics as the Beatles. I react somewhat without will to “hear” the lyrics in my imagination in a British-sounding voice. I react to this by trying to remember which Beatle sang it. I project their voices as well I can on the melody, trying to figure it out. (It turns out the song is by California band, the Turtles.)

This sounds similar to what the quartet played at the library:

Obviously, if the audio is working – if you know the audio is working – perception occurred. If it sounds familiar, memory occurred. If the mind tries to remember lyrics, it reacted. And if you can imagine the lyrics sung, maybe projection occurred.

So all four arguably are occurring, but are they the only four attributes of a mind acting in this scenario? Some potentially additional attributes can be considered combinations of these four. For example, Rose states:

The Reaction of memories upon memories is imagination.

When imagining the lyrics, is this so? Could it be so? I think this definition of imagination could be when imagining a song that doesn’t exist, sure. Well, in fact, since the Beatles cover doesn’t exist, to hear it maybe requires some interaction of memories upon memories. But if continuously incoming perceptions keep moving thoughts, it seems like imagining sung lyrics that line up with memory, doesn’t involve a second layer of memory. It’s not trying to imagine a new version, just replay a remembered version. Trying to imagine a Beatles version would have memory acting upon memory. (And I argue would sound the same 😉 )

So, many attributes of the individual mind can come from a combination of these four attributes. But what about individual willpower? Choice? Decisions?

Now you will immediately ask, “But do we not think? Or do we not will to do certain things?”

I’m going to will to check spelling and post this now.

Study the mind directly

The reader can reject the whole concept if he wishes, since the object of this book is to encourage the reader to find things out for himself.

Quotes from: Richard Rose’s The Mind

When we’re talking about the mind, you don’t have to believe other people, you can look for yourself. Do you trust authorities to teach you about yourself, or can you be your own authority? What of what you know from others is real knowledge and what is merely concept juggling?

I think of studying my psychology as something like this image, wandering my attention and occasionally noticing manifesting features. Over time invested in the maze, its walls start to become more obvious. Its walls are its patterns. And I can talk from some degree of authority on my mind.



Many of the earlier authorities who felt obliged to define their work came up with several compartments, and seven to nine attributes of the mind.

What are the top seven attributes of your mind?

Some possibilities:

  • Cognitive functions (i.e. thinking, feeling, sensing, intuition, and the introverted and extroverted versions of those)
  • Worry, anxiety, defensive reactions
  • Desire, hope
  • Self-referential thoughts
  • Honesty & dishonesty
  • Management of competing desires
  • Perception of silence?

Those are my first seven guesses.


The eight cognitive functions Jung identified are displayed in this graph:


(Image source:


We must approach the subject in a simple manner, until we are able to experience the mind directly – which is the correct way to study it.

Anything anyone else says about their mind came from introspection and can only help direct questions for our own introspection. It’s their truth. Freud offers a classic example. Perhaps projection explains every theory of reality.



A Prayer Template

“This morning I woke up
again to endless possibilities.
Today may…”.

Fill in the blank with whatever wish you want. I’ll start with mine:

This morning I woke up
again to endless possibilities.
Today may there be remembering of what matters,
strength to step back,
clarity to see.

A Question

Ignoramuses Anonymous

by Francis Thompson

O bird with heart of wassail,
That toss the Bacchic branch,
And slip your shaken music,
An elfin avalanche;

Come tell me, O tell me,
My poet of the blue!
What’s YOUR thought of me, Sweet?––
Here’s MY thought of you.

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown fleck of nought;
With winging and singing
That who could have thought?

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown amaze withal,
That fly a pitch more azure
Because you’re so small.

Bird, I’m a small thing––
My angel descries;
With winging and singing
That who could surmise?

Ah, small things, ah, wee things,
Are the poets all,
Whose tour’s the more azure
Because they’re so small.

The angels hang watching
The tiny men-things:-
‘The dear speck of flesh, see,
With such daring wings!

‘Come, tell us, O tell us,
Thou strange mortality!
What’s THY thought of us…

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A Question

by Francis Thompson

O bird with heart of wassail,
That toss the Bacchic branch,
And slip your shaken music,
An elfin avalanche;

Come tell me, O tell me,
My poet of the blue!
What’s YOUR thought of me, Sweet?––
Here’s MY thought of you.

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown fleck of nought;
With winging and singing
That who could have thought?

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown amaze withal,
That fly a pitch more azure
Because you’re so small.

Bird, I’m a small thing––
My angel descries;
With winging and singing
That who could surmise?

Ah, small things, ah, wee things,
Are the poets all,
Whose tour’s the more azure
Because they’re so small.

The angels hang watching
The tiny men-things:-
‘The dear speck of flesh, see,
With such daring wings!

‘Come, tell us, O tell us,
Thou strange mortality!
What’s THY thought of us, Dear?––
Here’s OUR thought of thee.’

‘Alack! you tall angels,
I can’t think so high!
I can’t think what it feels like
Not to be I.’

Come tell me, O tell me,
My poet of the blue!
What’s YOUR thought of me, Sweet?–
Here’s MY thought of you.



This is a sweet, beautiful way to express the limit of thinking, especially in the context of finding out who it is that is really living. The personal-me sense is all I know to be me, and though it’s obviously an experience, and therefore cannot be the one who is living, I find myself clinging to it, though it has become nightmarish. Familiarity is a strong bind indeed. I know of no other way to know. I suppose the poem appealed to my sore head because it served as a kind of soothing balm. And it’s also an inspiring example of a way, a cathartic or creative one, to channel and transform the frustrating question that is myself–––other than my own personal favorite of keeping on banging my head against the wall followed by, well, angry frustration (then eating a pack of cookies).

“Alack, you tall angels, / I can’t think so high!”
Amen, Francis Thompson, indeed. Realizing that relying on the mind alone, I’ll always be cornered, praying for help is the rational course of action. “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.”


by Paul Schmidt

Sneakered feet hover-glide
then drop home
onto the asphalt below and before me
Could gravity be defined as exalting?
Is this what is meant as a bond?

Walking just walking
Each planted step I become a tree
and know its feel…
being of the ground,
the primal solidarity which celebrates in height

Walking down the middle of the street
I couldn’t fall out of rhythm
or take a false step if I tried
A cat skip-arches across up ahead,
out of the source of laughter

All of god’s creation
now gathered in a walking body
The solid river moving beneath us
I am king
The world at my toe steps