Meetings and Writings on Self Inquiry

A Brief History

Beyond rightness,
what is Reality?
The mind grasps perfection,
but what is an Eternity?
Beyond the balance of life and death,
beyond the mind, bursting thought:
“Nothing to cling to or stay your fall.”

That sums up my taste of spiritual realization. My spiritual path began with the Self Knowledge Symposium, which was a group of college kids meeting once a week to hear August Turak challenge and inspire us to do something amazing with our lives. That led to Richard Rose, an enlightened teacher in rural West Virginia. Rose gave me two gifts: the undeniable depth of his presence and time on his farm to devote myself to self inquiry. Suffice it to say I meditated for a long time, read a lot of books, experimented with celibacy, hypnosis, fasting, dream work and many other practices, until I hit a dead end.  After four years, I left Rose’s farm and spent another three years delving into the intuition—particularly through writing poetry. Finally, Douglas Harding‘s suggestion to look at the space I was looking out from challenged everything I thought I knew.  At last, one evening in what I can only describe as a moment of complete honesty, I experienced something beyond experience—a place which is no place, where there is no flip side to the coin. That moment answered the gnawing questions in my bones about my identity, my reality and my place in the universe. If you want to know more about that, read my book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment.


A group we call Hollow Reed meets once-a-month at our house for group self inquiry. Sometimes there is a prepared topic, sometimes there’s a burning question, sometimes the air itself is afire, and sometimes it is just good to see friends on the path. Whatever happens, every month reminds me of the gift of meeting others face to face and finding common ground. If you are in the San Francisco Bay area and interested in attending, send me an email: shawn (at)

Talks on Self Inquiry

I have spoken many times over the years on the ways and means of the spiritual life. Generally, you will find me at TAT Foundation events, but I’ve also spoken at the Theosophical Society, and in the San Francisco Bay area. Here is what some say was my best talk ever… could be a good or bad comment depending on how one interprets that. Download the mp3 file Living Truths and Dying Lies (19 MB). While not talks by me, you should check out my latest project: The Journals of Self Discovery podcast featuring in-depth interviews with spiritual teachers.


Poetry was a form of self inquiry that came to me as a result of listening, and translating the silence. Some of my early work appears at Poetry Chaikhana, which has an amazing collection of spiritual poetry from all over the world.
Images of Essence is a full-color, softbound book of my poetry matched with photographs by Bob Fergeson. It was great fun to work on and is a darn good book. “Let the stillness without reveal the stillness within,” it says in the foreword and the entire book drives towards that home. Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred is another stunning collection of poems and photographs, this time with noted photographer Phaedra Greenwood. Many of my other poems, all with a spiritual bent, have been published in the TAT Forum — a free, online magazine to which any serious truth seeker should subscribe.


My latest book is Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment.  It’s an entertaining read about my spiritual adventures meeting different teachers, trying all sorts of practices, and generally failing, yet persisting, at this amazing adventure called the spiritual search.  It will certainly make you laugh, maybe make you cry, and likely give you a taste of the profound.  The list of “Spiritual First Aid” in the last chapter is invaluable.

I’ve written a multitude of essays on the spiritual life, a few of which have caught the eye of others: “The Black Wall,” and “The Seeker’s List of Things to Do.”

The true story of the rise and fall of John Davis fascinates me, and I think it fine film material. So much so, that I wrote a screenplay that is available on Amazon Kindle: The Resurrection of John Davis. John Davis III was a friend of the Kennedys and player in West Virginia’s scandal torn political landscape of the 1960s. After a horrific car accident, Davis struggled to keep his family and ambitions, while the system he once used turned against him. His spiritual resurrection is a testament to the power of grace and the human will.

Richard Rose, a deeply profound spiritual teacher, used to advise us young guys of the importance of celibacy for the spiritual path. There wasn’t much sharing of people’s experiences with it, though, so I set out to write a little book of interviews, a survey of sorts, of people who I knew experimented with celibacy. The Celibate Seeker is a fascinating, short read that just might inspire you to take a break from nature’s game and see what results.