Self-Discovery Portal

Looking All the Way Through

by Art Ticknor

This was the final part of a presentation made at the 2006 TAT Spring Conference. See What Is Spiritual Action? for a video trailer from the conference DVD.

Foyan (1067-1120), recognized as one of the great masters of the Song Dynasty revival of Zen in China, asked an audience: "Are you in harmony with truth or not? Here you cannot be mistaken; investigate all the way through."[1]

What exactly does it mean to investigate all the way through??

Nobody can tell you how to do it. You have to keep putting effort into trying to know the self, trying to find the truth, trying to observe the observer until all the tumblers fall into place and the lock opens.

The progression in my case went like this: I began implementing Richard Rose's teaching, as outlined in his Psychology of the Observer and other writings – with the advantage of personal interaction with him – beginning in 1978. The objective was to define the self by using the following approach or paradigm: The dividing line between inside/outside is the line between viewer/viewed, and anything in the view is outside the self. By this method I eventually pared down my self-definition to that of a featureless separate observer or awareness.

In October 2003 I visited Douglas Harding at the recommendation of a friend and fellow Rose student who had successfully reached self-realization. Douglas did his "tube" experiment with me, and I saw clearly that I was the space for all things. In other words, everything in the view was inside the self. This left me in a state where the mind was able to flip back and forth between the two contradictory paradigms or ways of viewing the world and my assumed relationship to it, both of which seemed equally valid: 1) all things are outside the self; and 2) all things are inside the self. A situation like that is like a lit fuse in the mind.

I visited Harding again in February 2004 and bought his Little Book of Life and Death when I returned home. When I read the Prologue, it brought on the desire to get more serious than ever before. I hoped the feeling would hold until a solitary retreat I was planning for May.

On the last day of that May retreat, a Sunday, it had been overcast most of the day, but the sun came out late in the afternoon, raising my hope that I could see the sun set over Lake Erie – which I had left as a treat for the last night.

That evening I noted in my journal that Sunday had been an unplanned transition day from the relaxed but intense focus of Friday and Saturday, when I had been rigorously going through the "exercises in immortality" in the Harding book, to the expected end of the retreat on Monday. I also noted that I had been feeling "antsy" all day – very unusual for me – up through and including the 8 PM walk to the lake.

At 9 PM I journaled the following:

Have been sitting not doing anything since I got back [to the cabin] around 8:30. Great! [This is something I have never been able to do as long as I can remember, always having to have some distraction to occupy the time.] Found myself looking into what I look out from spontaneously, as has happened a couple times earlier today. Just occurred again as I finished tea, moved from the kitchen table and sat in a chair in the LR. This might have been a deeper glance, for it became obvious that what I'm looking out of is Self-aware – that there's no "little person" sitting in a chair [inside my head] watching a movie screen. [My previous concept of an observer.] The screen is self-aware. There can only be one observer – and that's IT....

When I attempt to look, the question: "What am I looking out from?" pops into my head, and that seems to be the "open sesame."

Then at 10:12:

This creature moves from the chair to the kitchen table, to record what has occurred over the past hour. His hand writes, not knowing how it knows. His memory is somewhat sketchy, so he will see how much of what occurred comes back. I say "he," but he is really Me. Well, as real as a shadow gets. I have created this one – a tableau of events, a story – and projected it so that he thinks he's alive....


Previous satoris or discontinuities had always felt as if there was farther to go but that the mind was somehow not ready.

I finally "saw" the truth – that what we're looking out from is self-aware. That seeing was not of internal imagery but an intuitive seeing, which I don't know how to describe. It's "seeing" in the sense of something having become obvious, but by a direct knowing as opposed to conceptual understanding.

And a component of this direct seeing was an admission or acceptance of the implications. That acceptance could be described as a letting go or a dying of the individuality sense, which is what occurs when you look all the way through.

[1] Instant Zen: Waking Up in the Present, is a book of Foyan's teachings.

Instant Zen: Waking Up in the Present translated by Thomas Cleary. Published by North Atlantic Books.

In addition to, and are good sources of new and used books.

Go to: More articles by website author | Main Articles & Excerpts Page | PSI Home Page | Self-Discovery Portal

© 2000-2024. All rights reserved. | Back to Top