Self-Discovery Portal

Looking Back

Art Ticknor / February 2016 Retreat Presentation Notes

Let me remind you
That the perceived
Cannot perceive.
~ Huang Po

Jesus said: "If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don't bring forth what is inside you, what you don't bring forth will destroy you." ~ The Gospel of Thomas

Looking Back

God made the senses turn outwards. Man therefore looks outwards, not into himself. But occasionally a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself. ~ Katha Upanishad


"Nothing I Can Do About It Now"
Sung by Willie Nelson

I've got a long list of real good reasons
For all the things I've done
I've got a picture in the back of my mind
Of what I've lost and what I've won

I've survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.

I've got a wild and a restless spirit
I held my price through every deal
I've seen the fire of a woman's scorn
Turn her heart of gold to steel

I've got the song of the voice inside me
Set to the rhythm of the wheel
And I've been dreaming like a child
Since the cradle broke the bough
And there's nothing I can do about it now.

Running through the changes
Going through the stages
Coming round the corners in my life
Leaving doubt to fate
Staying out too late
Waiting for the moon to say good night

And I could cry for the time I've wasted
But that's a waste of time and tears
And I know just what I'd change
If I went back in time somehow
But there's nothing I can do about it now.

I'm forgiving everything that forgiveness will allow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.


Beth Nielsen Chapman wrote the above song. Here she is singing "Years":

Them that's got shall have / Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
~ From a Billie Holliday song

Pearl Beyond Price

Suppose that one's true identity is always-and-forever. Can an individual, who was born and will die, estimate the true value of Knowing?


"You Are That Which Sees"

You are that which sees,
Never that which is seen.
You are that which experiences,
Never that which is experienced.
You are that which knows,
Never that which is known.

The cosmos of mind
Is a realm of relativity,
A dimension of duality,
Ruled by the law
Of the excluded middle,
Where x and not-x are never identical,
Never one and the same.

What is your true identity?
Here you are defined only by what you are not:
You are not that which is seen,
Not that which is experienced,
Not that which is known.

Your identity is unseen,
Un-experienced, unknown.
As far as we know, we are that which
Was born, suffers and will die … until
We transcend the split between knower and known.


"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." ~ Unbranded, a documentary of four young Texas A&M grads riding mustang horses from Mexico to Canada

"Why Are You Here?"

"There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now lend me you horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samara [84 miles north] and there Death will not find me.

"The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in it flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.

"Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me [the speaker is Death] standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, "Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

"That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra." ~ "Appointment in Samarra," as retold by Somerset Maugham

You are here because all your life experience up to this moment led to this.

  • All that you've experienced consciously
  • Plus all action to this point
  • All of which has been reaction.

What is your boundary?
Where is the dividing line between you and not-you?
What was Gautama's obstacle during his pre-Buddha years?

  • Ignorance?
  • Pride?
  • Fear?
  • Outsmarting himself?

What would you feel utterly lost without?
What are you most sure of?
What is your primary worry/concern/quest?
What is integrity?


You're in this room
And this room is in you.
Where are you?

"Another Way"

How do I get there … "there" being the place of completion?
I know it has to be within, that I have to somehow go, sink or dive within.

But what strategy makes the most sense?
Do I adopt a contemplative tradition, like one of the Catholic or Buddhist ways?

If so, as a full-scale monk or as a layman?
Or do I look for an enlightened teacher, and dedicate my life to his or her tutelage?

Or do I remain independent, picking techniques
Recommended by teachers who appeal to me

And practicing them as long as they seem to be producing results?
Or is there another way? Could I let the mind find the way, like the amazing true stories

Of dogs and cats and aboriginal girls finding their ways home?
Is there an innate sensor that will find the path if it's my top priority?

Can I feel "the call" – the voice of nostalgia, the call to come Home?
Since it must be coming from Home, could its music lead me there?

Do I need to have a map and complete directions
Before I start the rest of the journey from here to there?

Or do I merely need guidance for the next step?
Will the necessary guidance always be posted in plain sight

Where I can't miss it, or do I need to be vigilant?
If I don't hear or see or feel the guidance for the next step,

Can I receive it by asking where It is …
Then listening as if for the echo from a sonar ping?

Does the mind have a homing device?
If so, can the mind be trained to pay attention to it?

If Home is the abode of our highest state of being, is prayer a progressive form of tuning in to the homing device until we've completed the return trip to our source?

Let us work and pray together and separately,
Let us ask and pay attention together and separately,

Until we recognize the Truth.
Until we and the Truth are One.


The only meditation is what you devise for yourself. The best meditation is just to look at yourself: "Why did I think this?" or "What should I do more dynamically tomorrow?" ~ Richard Rose, Peace of Mind Despite Success talk (Akron, 1984)

"Common-Sense Meditation"

The word "meditation" has many definitions, each of which has many understandings and probably many more misunderstandings. I'm using it here to mean any attempt to go within to find the source and essential nature of our being, our I-amness….

The process of going within seems to rely on some combination of effort, intuition, and accident. Looking back over our path to self-realization, we can only speculate on what may have been helpful to us and what may have retarded our progress. And if those speculations have some accuracy, they may or may not help someone else.

The teacher or friend who has been down the path relies on intuition and a direct form of knowing, keeping their fingers crossed that they do more help than harm. If they say or imply they know what you need to do in order to "follow" them, be suspicious. Respectful doubt is a precious commodity; faith is another, although more risky.



Ramana Maharshi constructed a table of sentience, going up the levels of faulty belief to the Truth:

Object Seen (Insentient) Seer (Sentient)
The body, a pot, etc.
The eye
The optic nerve-center
The mind
The individual self
The eye
The optic nerve-center (the brain)
The mind
The individual self / the ego
Pure Consciousness

He annotated the table with the comment: "The mind is nothing else than the 'I'-thought. The mind and the ego are one and the same. Intellect, will, ego, and individuality are collectively the same mind."

The eyeball doesn't really see the body or the pot; the optic nerve-center doesn't really see the eyeball, etc. He constructed a ladder to demonstrate the refinement of disillusionment as we lose identification with lower levels of non-sentience.

Who or what sees the individual self? The Real Self – labeled Pure Consciousness by Ramana. The occurrence is referred to by various names such as self-realization or self-recognition.

If you are That which sees, that which is truly sentient, then what's your feeling-belief about what would have to "occur on its own accord" to show you what you are?


"Keep to the business of observing. When observation turns into a course of action in regard to adversity, then a religion emerges. And when a religion is formed, a dichotomy of the mind follows. In other words, observation is just looking until realization is reached." ~ from "The Practical Approach" section of Psychology of the Observer by Richard Rose


If you can accept the word of a friend:

  • Knowing the self solves the problem of fragmentation, of existential angst.
  • The way to know the self is to observe the mind until we transcend the split between knower and known.

The "work" is not to become something that you aren't.


Identity Crisis

Identity: Who or what you are. In mathematics, A = B.
Crisis: A stage at which the trend of future events is determined; a condition of instability or danger; a turning point.

A. What you're searching for, knowingly or not, is what you are.
B. What you are is what you're looking for.

A = B     | "=" as a reflexive operator; a
B = A     | more complete definition of identity

Isness = identity.
Identity = oneness.

Living is an identity crisis, although it may be obscured by prides and paranoias. Dying while living peels away the instability, revealing the Oneness of identity.


Confound: Mix up, bewilder, bemuse.
Foundation: The basis on which a things stands or is supported.

The world is in you.
The world is infinitely large.
You have no length, no width, no depth.
How do you contain it?

The world is outside you.
You are within.
You have no size, no shape, no texture, no color, no noise, no movement.
How are you going to find yourself, to know yourself?


"Last week I stumbled upon my own 'Harding experiment'. I was scratching the back of my head and had the strangest experience. I wasn't scratching my head at all. The scratching of the back of the head was in front of me, in my field of awareness. I've always had a doubt that the body and mind weren't me, but this seemed to prove it. After a bout of girlish giggling, I played around for a bit. I started with my hands out in front of my face looking at the back of them. I slowly pulled them towards me and then backed them out of my field of vision. Once again, even behind this head, they were still strangely out in front of me." ~ James L.

You are not what you look like!" clip from 1991 Harding talk:

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