A BRIEF HISTORY
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. If that resonates with you, or makes you curious, take a deep dive into the story and get a signed copy of my book for just $13.95: Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment.
My spiritual path began with the Self Knowledge Symposium, which was a bunch 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 the spiritual search. 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. Again, read my book to learn more: Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment.
A group we call Hollow Reed meets occasionally at our house for group self inquiry—San Francisco East Bay. 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, each event reminds me of the gift of meeting others face to face and finding common ground. If you are interested in attending, use the contact form below.
I speak 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, San Diego State University’s “Consciousness Hacking” course, the Perfectly Okay group, Awakening-Together, and in the San Francisco Bay area. What several people consider my best talk … could be a good or bad comment depending on how one interprets that… is Living Truths and Dying Lies (click to listen or right-click to download). If you have the time, check out my interview on Conscious.TV:
Or my recent interview with the Awakening-Together group.
Poetry came to me as a result of listening, and translating the silence. Some of my early work appears at Poetry Chaikhana, which offers an amazing collection of spiritual poetry from all over the world.
Hydroglyphics: Reflections on the Sacred, is a collaboration with photographer Phaedra Greenwod. Her compelling photographs of water drew me in and inspired some of my finest work to date. See Phaedra and I present some of the images and poems at a reading we did for SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest).
Images of Essence is a full-color, softbound book of my poetry matched with photographs by Bob Fergeson. “Let the stillness without reveal the stillness within,” it says in the foreword and the entire book drives towards that home. Many of my other poems, all with a spiritual bent, are published in the TAT Forum — a free, online magazine to which any serious truth seeker should subscribe.
I’ve written a multitude of essays on the spiritual life, a few of which have caught the eye of others: “The Black Wall,” “Ego and Seeking,” and “The Seeker’s List of Things to Do.” Other essays are available in Beyond Mind, Beyond Death — a must-have collection of spiritual essays, poems, and photographs from an astonishing array of spiritual influencers.
To get the whole story, though, you’ll want to read my book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment. At turns funny, sad, and profound, it’s a tale of spiritual adventure worth reading.
Richard Rose, a deeply profound spiritual teacher, used to advise us young guys of the importance of celibacy for the spiritual path. There was little sharing of people’s experiences with it, though, so I wrote a little book of interviews, a survey of sorts, of people who experimented with celibacy. The Celibate Seeker is a fascinating, short read that might inspire you to take a break from nature’s game and see what results. I still find Rose’s teachings among the most practical and profound. My latest book is a concise dive in the core of Rose’s spiritual teachings called Passages: An Introduction and Commentary on Richard Rose’s Albigen System.
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 for 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.
Poetry in Motion Films is a small project I started in 2007. Since then, I’ve produced four documentaries in the conscious film, spiritual documentary genre. The first was Closer Than Close, which I’m proud to say caught the attention of Bruce Joel Rubin (academy award-winning screenwriter of Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder, among others). Meetings with Remarkable Women followed, as an attempt to rectify the fact that Closer Than Close was almost all men. Traveling Lighter with Paul Hedderman was great fun, and a chance to meet one of my favorite Bay Area teachers. My most recent film is Mountain High: Touching the Void with Bob Fergeson. Set in the Colorado Rockies, it’s a visually beautiful piece about a teacher all should know.
A few criticize the idea of rating spiritual teachers. Generally, they argue: Shawn Nevins is in no position to judge “enlightened” people, that I cause irreparable harm to seekers who discover their teacher’s low ranking, or I can’t possibly have devoted sufficient time to studying their (low-ranking) teacher.
Addressing each point in turn: If I didn’t think I had a useful perspective, I wouldn’t write. I can’t tell anyone something they don’t want to hear. One person’s garbage is, truly, another person’s treasure.
I welcome correspondence regarding teachers with whom I am unfamiliar, and questions about the spiritual path. General comments are also appreciated. Please don’t waste your time trying to convince me of the error of my ways. Use your logic and intuition to discover and devote your time to following the path that is yours.
This verse from the Tao Te Ching captures the spirit of my perspective on the spiritual marketplace:
Extol the great illusion and the men of the world will gather.
Talk of success, security, happiness
and the multitudes will flock.
Offer music and tasty food,
and travelers will stop in.
Talk of Tao has no flavor.
Look for it — there is nothing to see.
Listen for it — there is nothing to hear.
Merge with it — there is no boundary or end.
Finally, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this bio page, I hope you’ve found some value on this site and would please consider supporting my work through a purchasing a book, t-shirt, or film at the Store.