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A Dialog with Jeff Foster

The following is a dialog that I had with Jeff Foster in June 2007, after I had read his book 'Life Without a Centre: awakening from the dream of separation'.

In the discussion below, my words are in blue (Dennis Waite) and Jeff's are in red (Jeff Foster). The reason I am writing is that Julian Noyce (Non-Duality Press) periodically sends me review copies of new books and,

some time ago he sent me yours, which I read with interest. I just sent the following message back to him and he suggested that I contact you directly. **** As you would no doubt have anticipated, I could not give a favorable review of Jeff's book 'Life without a centre'. In fact, I was tempted to 'hold it up' as an example of the extreme reductionism of neo-advaita (to the point where there is no teaching left whatsoever). But I don't want to be negative about any teacher directly, only about neo-advaita teaching in general. However, I would be willing to host an extract at the website with a link to buy the book because I do still want the site to represent all angles of advaita. The section 'Nothing wrong with silence' Pp82 - 86 was actually quite good (or at least up to the bottom of p.85). What do you think? I can express the same view to Jeff directly if you want. **** As you see, I left the original wording and haven't attempted to hide the fact that I don't accept the neo-advaitin message as being of any value for the seeker, even though true in an

absolute sense. But then you probably knew that already! There are currently essays/book extracts from Tony, Nathan, Leo, Jan, Richard, Unmani and Liz Jones so, if you would like me to host an extract from your book, with a link to your website and to buy the book, I would be happy to do so. As I indicated to Julian, I liked P. 82 - 6 best and actually agreed with most of it but, if you would prefer a different passage that would be fine, too. Thanks for your email! I'm always interested to hear what people think about the book, and I do honestly appreciate your comments. Of course, the message I write about isn't for everyone! I'm interested to know why you say I'm a "neoadvaita" teacher..... you see I have very little idea what that actually means! I would in no way consider myself to be aligned with any school of thought, though I can see why the writing in the book may be classified in that way. I would never want to force a viewpoint or a way of thinking on anyone, including any "neoadvaita" viewpoint.

I can see what you mean about the message appearing to be an example of "extreme reductionism", and how it leaves nothing

for the seeker to do. However, what I would say is that this view, although completely valid, I think misses the point in some ways. The message is not that there is nothing for the seeker to do. The message is not that anyone should give up, or stop trying, or any such nonsense. The message is not that the person "doesnt exist" and so should give up all attempts to get anywhere. This, again, would be to miss the point entirely. The message is not about rejecting or denying the individual, the seeker... it's not about negating the search, the attempt to reach goals, although again, this is how the message is often interpreted. This message (or what I write about, anyway) actually embraces and honors the individual and his attempts to find what he thinks he has lost, or what he thinks he needs. It honors this "I", this "me".... it is not about going around repeating the mantra "there is nobody there", "the I does not exist", "there is no-one". Maybe some teachers say this, I dont know. The point is, there is this apparent person, and let's not deny that! There is an apparent seeker, who goes out and searches for liberation, awakening, for enlightenment, for oneness. But the message asks - what reality does this person have in the first place? This isnt about DENYING that person, or REJECTING that

person. That's a very different message, and I wouldn't want to be put in the same group as those life-denying teachers. This is about the realization that the person who goes out into "the world" and does all those things, the person who meditates and follows practices and rituals and has beliefs and tries to improve himself... that person only ever appears as a presently arising thought. This message is about the simple and obvious appearance of life, now, now and now. That this moment - right now- is all there is. And everything, our whole lives, our pasts and futures, are just stories appearing now. And yes, of course, THAT is a story too! And so this can never really be expressed in words. It's the attempt to put into words what could never be put into words. It's about the preciousness of this moment, the absolute divine mystery of each and every "thing" (even though there aren't really any separate "things" at all), the realization that the entire spiritual search rests on the assumption of an entity there, a "self" who does the seeking. And with that, the assumption of a future, the assumption that there is "something to get". And that's fine - this is NOT about denying this search.

But - and here's the point - what is wrong with THIS moment? Why do we want something more? The spiritual search is wonderful, but it requires a future. What if THIS is the last moment? What if THIS is all we have? I don't see any 'extreme reductionism' here. This is not about reducing life in all its mystery and wonder to a simple concept (e.g. "this is all there is", "there is no self", etc)... although of course, those concepts can be useful, so it's also not about denying those concepts either! If anything, this is the opposite of extreme reductionism! This is about the possibility of absolute freedom, absolute "happiness" as you put it, right here, right now. This is about seeing that the miracle that we are searching for is always fully present, that enlightenment is already the case, but the "search" implied that it wasn't. This is about the absolute gift of this moment. Extreme reductionism would be to claim that absolute statements like "this is all there is" tell the truth about life. But life could never be contained by such pathetic little statements! (and the book is full of such statements! ;))How could life ever be contained by little strings of words, by concepts? Yes, concepts can be useful, but we get so lost in concepts, in systems of thought, in trying to

"understand" reality. And all of that is wonderful, but it kind of misses the point. And so yes, I can absolutely see why you want to classify me as a "neo-advaita" teacher, and maybe some parts of Life Without A Centre have a "neo-advaita" flavor to them. But I'd ask: why do we have to endlessly classify teachings? The mind loves that, to be sure, it loves to classify and compare and contrast teachings, ad infinitum. And there's nothing wrong with that, that's what the mind does. But again, it's kind of missing the point. We can argue and classify and judge and label until we're blue in the face. And that's really the point of Life Without A Centre - where do all these mind games ever get us? All this knowledge? Knowledge is wonderful, and we can build it up over time, and become authorities on every topic under the sun, and we can feel wonderful that we know and others don't, and that we are closer to the truth than others. But what's more wonderful, in my experience, is the collapse into not-knowing, the profound mystery, the liberation that is apparent when the mind dies down, stops all its games and there is just a clear seeing of what is. The mystery, the miracle is all around us, all the time. Which means, the miracle is right now. I don't think that is extreme reductionism. Extreme

reductionism would be to try and reduce the overwhelming mystery of being to simple concepts, simple beliefs. If anything, I'm saying the exact opposite, that the Mystery could NEVER be contained in ANY belief (especially simplistic neoadvaita beliefs!) No, it's not extreme reductionism... you see, I think that's an astonishing miracle that is always available! That everything the spiritual teachings promised us is always available, right here, right now. If that's reductionism then fine, that's reductionism!! ;)

Having said all that, I do appreciate your thoughts and as I say, I completely understand why someone would disagree, and would argue for the "traditional" approach of self-enquiry, meditation, etc. As I say over and over, I'm not rejecting any of that, and I'd never want to stop anyone from doing all of that. God knows, it helped me back in the day. But there came a point at which all striving, all desire for "something more", something more than the present appearance of things, just died away. There came a point in which the present moment was seen to be the Miracle of all miracles, and the desire for seeking just faded away, and this "Happiness" I'd been searching for throughout my life had ALWAYS been freely available- and it was the seeking that implied that it wasn't

(because the seeking always aimed at a future... a future that never came) But this is just my experience. I'd never stop anyone from seeking, and would never want to. I disagree with the NeoAdvaita teachers who deny seeking, who deny the seeker, who deny the self.... this message has nothing to do with any sort of denial. I hope in some way I'm making myself clear. And I absolutely love that you don't necessarily agree with me - I love diversity, the way different people believe different things. That's really beautiful, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I truly appreciate your honesty and the way in which you didn't hide your feelings about the book. I find this very refreshing, and thank you once again for this. P.S. I just read on your website that you summarize neoadvaita as: "We can stop seeking because there is no seeker and nothing to be sought...... Everything is already fine as it is. We just need to accept this." Dennis - if that's neo-advaita, I want nothing to do with it! ;)

The Discussion 1. You say: " But the message asks - what reality does this

person have in the first place? This isnt about DENYING that person, or REJECTING that person. So are you saying that the person exists or not? - I see this as a false dichotomy. The mind believes that something has to "exist or not". But who would know whether a person existed or not? A person?

Without consciousness, nothing exists. But it seems that this is the usual absolute versus empirical reality problem. Since we are using language and having a dialog, both of us are implicitly assuming the existence of separate persons. You cannot deny this without making nonsense of your position as a teacher and writer. So the answer to your question what reality does the person have is that he has an empirical reality. This has to be accepted as a given at the level of the world appearance. The question as to whether this person has an absolute and separate existence is another question entirely. 2. Your answer seems to be that: that person only ever appears as a presently arising thought . I would have to ask: to whom or in what does this thought arise? How do you define person in such a way that it can arise as a thought in something

other than a person? - EXACTLY, Dennis! The moment we say "something arises"... it implies that this thing arises in something... and then how do we define that in which this thing arises? The words "the person arises..." point to something that is so utterly obvious the idea of "me" arises now. But then, to WHOM or WHAT does that arise? Any answer would just be something else that arises. No. You are still confusing levels. At the absolute non-dual level, you can say everything arises in Consciousness, if you like. But clearly at the empirical level, what arise for me does not arise for you and vice versa. There are effectively separate minds and each has its own (usually mistaken) ideas. These need to be resolved before the concept of everything arising in Consciousness can be appreciated. 3. You say that: This message is about the simple and obvious appearance of life . Again, I would ask: appearance to whom? - EXACTLY! Dennis, can't you see that we're saying the same thing in different ways? No. You are denying that, at the empirical level, things appear to people. Appearances have to be to an observer for the word

to have any meaning. Things cannot appear if you are talking about absolute reality because the non-dual reality simply is. Appearance and duality come and go together. 4. You go on to say that: our whole lives, our pasts and futures, are just stories appearing now. Appearing to whom? Written by whom, for whom? EXACTLY! There is the ASSUMPTION that everything appears to an entity. And indeed, language implies this entity. Using words implies a person there who uses words. A lot of non-dual folks say things like "everything appears ... to no-one". But isn't "no-one" just another idea? Appearing to no one is simply meaningless. But I have already clarified this above. Appearances belong to the empirical realm where there are definitely people, doing things, including seeking and teaching! 5. I disagree that: the entire spiritual search rests on the assumption of an entity there, a "self" who does the seeking. I suggest that the seeker begins with the assumption that there is a Self (capital s) to be found. I agree that he also starts out with the mistaken belief that he is a separate entity but this is not an assumption; it is a firm belief. The spiritual search is the

belief that there is a small self seeking a big Self. The spiritual finding is that there is no separate small self and I am the big Self. - Yes of course the seeker believes there is something to be found, that he is a separate entity. That's what the seeking is all about! But isn't "I am the big Self" just another belief? Just another way to imply separation? "I am the Big Self!" It seems just another way to bolster the ego, another attainment. It seems like it's just the ego dressed up in fancy clothes. And I would say the same for an ego that claims "I am no-one!" or "I have ended the search" or a billion different things. What reality does this ego have in the FIRST place, BEFORE it can claim any of these things? I am the Self remains a belief until it is realized to be the truth, yes. And this has nothing to do with ego. The search may begin with an ego wanting enlightenment but it ends with realization that the ego was a fiction. If you claim that you are not a person (small self) and not the big Self, who do you think you are? 6. You ask: what is wrong with THIS moment? Because of identification with the body-mind, there is the belief that in this moment I am suffering, unhappy etc. From the vantage

point of the person, there is a future when things may be better. - Of course! Why else would we seek! Yes? What point are you making? Your question what is wrong with this moment? implied that nothing was wrong with it but now you seem to be agreeing that there is something wrong, which is why we are seeking. 7. You also ask: What if THIS is all we have? The answer for some might be suicide! Especially if you convince them that this really is so! - Yes, of course! And this is acceptable? You seem to be happily admitting to a completely amoral attitude. 8. You say that: This is about the possibility of absolute freedom, absolute "happiness" as you put it, right here, right now. This is not possible while there is self-ignorance. - Of course! I am not denying that. So where is the knowledge coming from in your teaching to remove this self-ignorance?

9. You say: This is about seeing that the miracle that we are searching for is always fully present Yes it IS always present but, and this is a very big but, it is not known to be present. - Of course. It cannot be known as long as there is the striving for it to be known. The striving, the desiring obscures the obvious present actuality. The striving implies that this is not it! And with the striving, with the search, with the promise of a brighter tomorrow comes the inevitable dulling of the present. No. It cannot be known in the present because it is covered over by self-ignorance. The striving is irrelevant as far as that is concerned. Seekers constitute a very small minority in the population. Are you suggesting that all non-seekers are fully present/enlightened or however you would prefer to put it? The striving is for the appropriate knowledge to remove the self-ignorance and, when it arrives, the striving ceases. 10. You also say that: enlightenment is already the case Enlightenment is not already the case. We are already free but we do not know it. Enlightenment comes when we discover it. This is confusion of terminology.

Of course. But it will never be discovered in the future. Enlightenment is THIS. This moment is the miracle. Sitting here, everything happening - thoughts, sensations, the sound of the birds outside, the hum of the television. What a miracle this is - that anything is happening at all. Why would we want anything else? The absolute perfection of this, beyond anything words could ever capture. The search for something MORE would imply that THIS wasn't enough. This is to use a word in a meaningless way. Enlightenment literally implies bringing light into the situation. We are currently in the dark (self-ignorance) and light (knowledge) is needed to enable us to see how things really are in this moment. People are searching, not because the moment is not REALLY enough but because it is mistakenly believed to be inadequate. Simply telling someone that it IS adequate achieves nothing. 11. You ask: why do we have to endlessly classify teachings? Because all teachings are not equally likely to lead a seeker to the truth. - And that's the spiritual game we play. The endless search for clearer and clearer teachings. And I'm not denying any of it. I'm not condemning any of it. It's one way to pass the time.

Seekers are not looking for the teaching. The teaching is the means to knowledge. If they could find one that provides that knowledge, they would stop looking. What would be the point in then looking for another teaching? 12. On the subject of knowledge, you say: we can build it up over time, and become authorities on every topic under the sun. You are talking here about relative knowledge, not selfknowledge these are totally different things. - By knowledge I mean thoughts, concepts. Are you saying there is a knowledge beyond concepts? And if there was, how could we know that? On what basis? Wouldn't that just be another concept? The knowledge that I exist is beyond concepts. And you know that! Your knowing that you know - that, too, is beyond concepts. Your knowing that you do not know Mandarin (assuming you dont!) is beyond concepts. 13. You then talk about: the collapse into not-knowing, the profound mystery I dont know (!) what this means sounds a bit too mystical for me. - Well, I suppose those words do sound a bit mystical! I'm talking about the huge relief, the liberation, the sense of

freedom when the mind's endless search for something MORE than the present moment dies down, and there is only what is, and nothing more. It's the "profound mystery" because nothing can be known about it. OK, Im happy with relief and liberation but I would use fascination instead of mystery after all, I am That. Notknowing is quite misleading. 14. If anything, I'm saying the exact opposite, that the Mystery could NEVER be contained in ANY belief (especially simplistic neo-advaita beliefs!) Words never contain the mystery, but they can be used to point to it. Everything is here right now does not provide any pointers that might overcome the essential ignorance. - Yes, words as pointers....of course. 15. Talking about the traditional approach, you say: God knows, it helped me back in the day. If it helped you, what makes you think that anyone else can get it without similar help? - Well, this is the paradox. In the story of "Jeff", there were many practices and rituals and self-enquiries that appeared to help. BUT all of that is just a story, a memory, happening now.

My whole life is just a memory. Just a thought. And any idea of a solid person there who is "having" these thoughts is just another thought. "Thoughts without a thinker" as the Buddhists would say. But that's not to deny the apparent thinker! Sorry, Jeff, but this is where you start to lose me. And this is what I mean by neo-advaitin teaching all just a story. The practices either helped or they didnt. I dont dispute that there isnt actually a thinker as such, i.e. we cannot choose to have a particular thought but there is no denying the empirical validity of a person to whom those thoughts occur. In practical terms you are communicating your thoughts and I am communicating mine, regardless of the fact that this is all just the movement of name and form on the surface of the absolute. The absolute cannot have a conversation with itself; conversations take place in time between persons why pretend otherwise when it only misleads and confuses? Basically, you cannot deny the first-person perspective while you are still operating through a body-mind. 16. You then go on to say: the seeking always aimed at a future... a future that never came. But presumably it has come, now. Again, why do you say that the traditional approach is unnecessary if it helped you to get to where you are now?

- I never said it was unnecessary. It's wonderful, traditions are wonderful. And I'd encourage anyone who wanted to go off and follow any tradition, to read all the books they can find, to meditate and do a million things. But all of this implies a future, implies that we have time. We could die tomorrow. I work in a hospice, and many people there only have a few days to live, maybe only a few hours. What then comes of our plans for a future enlightenment? None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. This moment is all we are guaranteed. And so how precious this is. Tradition is wonderful, but it assumes a tomorrow. And tomorrow is only a thought. And yes, looking back, it appears as though the past brought us to the present. But really, there is only the present and the past is always a memory. You are playing with metaphysical ideas and confusing absolute and empirical again. You switch the kettle on in anticipation of making a cup of tea a few minutes later. You advertise forthcoming satsangs and so on. It would be hypocritical to deny the validity of the concept of time at the empirical level. Of course many people will embark on a spiritual path and die before they complete it. But the knowledge that might be imparted/gained over many years on a traditional path

cannot be transmitted by a few words, however much we live in the now. And living in the now does not in itself remove selfignorance. 17. You say that: this message has nothing to do with any sort of denial. But you just denied that any striving is necessary because the happiness is always freely available. - Dennis, from one perspective striving is necessary, of course. And from another it's completely futile, because this moment is all we have, and striving is just another desire, another aim for the ego. Sometimes I express one viewpoint, sometimes another, it depends on the context. I would deny neither perspective. I thought you said the message has nothing to do with denial! Dont you see that you are confusing levels? Time is only meaningless at the absolute level. As soon as you have a mind, you have cause and effect and time and space and all these are as real as they can be from that perspective. As for the striving, we dealt with this in 9. 18. Finally, you say that: if that's neo-advaita, I want nothing to do with it! Im still not clear how, essentially, your message differs from this. It is all about denying the relative reality

and trying to impose the absolute reality before the mind of the seeker is ready to accept it. - I would never try to impose an absolute reality - that would completely go against the message. But you are, as I have pointed out above. I have never claimed anything about my "teachings", and indeed I don't really consider myself a teacher. But the seekers who attend your talks and read your book do consider you to be a teacher and that is what counts! The words come out, and they attempt to express what is going on over here. If they resonate with others, great, and if they don't, great. I know you think that what I write is of no use to the seeker. But I receive emails and phone calls all the time saying how helpful the book has been, how people feel calm and clear after reading it, how frustration dies away and the search for something "more" is seen to be futile, and how this gives way to an ease of living and a peacefulness which underlies everything else, and the "enlightenment" sought for a lifetime is seen to be ever-present. I dont dispute this but Im afraid they are deluding

themselves. There may be ease and peace etc. for a while but this is not knowledge. The basic ignorance is still there because there has been no new knowledge to remove it and it will reassert itself all too soon. Then the suffering will return. There is a danger too, then, of additional frustration or a sense of hopelessness. If they believe they have actually had all there is to get, but are still suffering, what hope is there? I'm not saying this to boast or to make myself out as anything, just to point out that paradoxically this message CAN be helpful, as the seeking mind finally, after a lifetime of searching, of believing the present moment isn't enough, dies down and the perfection of what is, is all there is. Ah! You are citing a special case here. I agree that it is possible for a message such as yours to tip the balance for a long-term seeker. But I suggest that the majority of seekers you encounter are not long-term (or even medium-term). But of course, many people don't like the message, and want to go out and seek, and that's wonderful too, and I mean this genuinely. I'd never ever want to stop anyone from seeking, and I'd never deny that seeking happens or any such nonsense, and I'm sorry if you've read this into what I've written. I just wonder sometimes whether this whole seeking business is not

just a nice distraction, to give the mind something to do. Because the last thing the mind wants to do is give up. It craves the known, it craves classifications and building up knowledge and following the latest teachings. And this is wonderful and I'm not denying it. But the words you use do not convey this message any such nonsense, nice distraction, etc. Seekers come to listen to you and read your book because they believe that you know something that they dont and they listen to the things that you say and absorb them. They are bound to come away with the impression that seeking is a waste of time. But all this knowledge, it pales in comparison to the awesome perfection of this moment - to this cup of tea, to this little bug crawling across the floor, to the flower that the Buddha is holding up in front of us. The mind desperately wants to KNOW about the flower, and could spend a thousand years building up that knowledge. But to SEE the flower, how long does that take? Do we really need years of seeking to see the flower? That flower is the end of it all. I fear that with all our classifications, our philosophical systems, our claims of being enlightened and being the Big Self, our practices and rituals and complex systems of thought, we lose sight of the flower. ;)

What flower? There is no such entity read my essay on What is advaita?

Concluding Remarks Thanks for your replies, I find it fascinating to hear your views, and I've learned a lot about your "traditional" approach and how it differs from the "neo-advaita" approach. I am not all that familiar with all the terminology so it's been very useful. Both approaches have much in them, but from over here, both seem to miss the point entirely, and so I'm not sure it would be useful to carry on debating in this way. Krishnamurti once said that 'truth is a pathless land', and I don't believe that truth could ever be captured by any process or practice or tradition or set of concepts, however wonderful they are (and they are wonderful - without our traditions the world would be a very dull place indeed). And the mind could go on and on, arguing over which tradition is correct, which concept is the clearest - and how the mind loves knowledge! - but again I fear that this completely misses the point. But that's just the experience over here, and I'd never want to stop anyone from doing anything they wanted to, to gain

whatever they wanted to gain, whether that be "enlightenment" or a million pounds in the bank. And over here, it is seen that the search for something more only ever implied that the present moment wasn't enough, and there was something to get in the future. Seeking implies a future goal. And how the mind loves to create and pursue goals. But then again, goals are fine, and I would never stop anyone from pursuing their goals ,if that's what they wanted. And indeed, in the life story of Jeff, there were once a million goals to pursue. But once again, I'm not saying this to make "Jeff" seem special in any way (he's far from special!), just to say that the book "life without a centre" came out of these experiences, and it was in no way written to try and convince anyone of anything, or to win any arguments, or to convert anyone to a new way of thinking. God knows, there are enough books like that in the world, enough people trying to win arguments, enough disagreements, enough of the "I know!" mind....

I'd love to carry on our conversation but I think it's going to get way too long and confusing, even with the color coding, so I'd suggest that maybe you'd like to have a chat on the phone one day?

Best wishes my friend, and I really have enjoyed this. Jeff ;)

The essay below is an extract from Jeff's book 'Life Without a Centre: awakening from the dream of separation'.

This is the unnamable Mystery. And yet we give it a name.

And having named the unnamable Mystery a thousand times over, we take those names to be the reality. And we live according to that reality, forgetting that the names were arbitrary, and a product of the mind. And the names torture us; we are caught in the middle of the polarities, torn between the opposites: good and evil, love and hate, right and wrong, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful, sacred and profane. This prison is of our own making, and yet we do not realize we do it to ourselves. The mind (that is, "you") is not interested in the Mystery, because the mystery cannot be an object of knowledge. Indeed,

it is That from which objects of knowledge arise, the Void which gives birth to all life. Without it there is nothing. Call it the Tao, call it God, call it Spirit, call it Consciousness, call it Life, call it nothing at all or even deny it; even the denial of it is simply It denying itself. No proof is needed for It. Why? Because this moment is. You are here. It is now. That, and just that, is God. There is no need for belief. A belief in God is a denial of God. You don't need to believe in something if that something is staring you in the face! And when this is realized, how quiet everything becomes! All mental noise dies away, and is seen for what it is: a false reality, an illusion, nothing more. You are no longer a person: not a man, not a woman, not English, not American, not black, not white, not Hindu, not Christian, not Muslim, not atheist, not rich or poor, good or bad, not happy or sad; you are not any of these things; you are not this, not that, not any object of consciousness. You are not the body, not the mind. Those feet are not yours, those hands, those legs. That face doesn't belong to you. That head is there, but you do not own it. No eyes, no tongue, no nose, no throat, no heart. No form. Before you are all of these things, you are. You are consciousness. You are awareness. Pure, unconditioned awareness. Not the idea but

the actuality, the simple feeling of being. Presence. You are Life itself, not an individual cut off from the whole, but you are one with all things, because all things are manifestations of the one Life, and you are that Life. The illusion of individuality arises, yes - but it is a manifestation, and you are not doing it. It is not personal. And the manifestation need not be denied - no, it is there. No selfdenial is necessary. The self arises. Let it be. It is an illusion, after all, a construction of thought. You are prior to that construction, you are the awareness in which the construction arises. You are the awareness in which the "you" arises. This is not clever wordplay but the actuality of things - look for yourself right now. Meditate on it. Come back to present experience (this is true meditation). Is there anything solid there called "self"? Is there any clear distinction between you and not you? Where is the boundary? Are "you" contained within the skin surrounding the body? Is that what you experience yourself as? Come back to the present experience! Without reference to the past, can you know who you are? Can you say who you are, really?

***** Ah, this is tiring. Attempting to name the unnamable, to describe that which is prior to all description. Perhaps I should just let it be. There is nothing more to say. Silence is the only honest way to go. Once you reach this point all words are just noise. Noise to fill the silence which is prior to, and envelops, all noise. Why do we pay so much attention to the noise? What is wrong with silence? ***** Silence. We reach the point of creation. Why is there anything at all? Why isn't there Nothing? What is wrong with silence? ***** The noise comes, though. But now we see it in a new way. It is pointless. In the sense that it is equal to silence. Not better,

not worse. But it is undeniably there. So we honor it; we do not deny it. And so now life becomes a play, a game, a divine dance, because it's all meaningless and pointless and purposeless, and it exists for no reason whatsoever other than to be itself. Noise and silence, noise and silence, inseparable. Being and nonbeing, inseparable. Me and not-me, inseparable. Everything in divine union, not fragments anymore but aspects of a whole, each part important, each piece enabling everything else to be; nothing out of place, nothing unwanted, nothing disposable. Nothing sacred, nothing profane. Being and non-being as two aspects of consciousness, as the two faces of God. And really, God has no faces at all. Ah, but the words are just ripples on the surface. Plunge back into the silence. No words needed. No words necessary. No real urge to speak of it anymore. Just the simple feeling of being is enough, the simplicity of this, just this. This moment. ***** Only this. Only ever this.

Why did it take so long to see it? Why was I sleepwalking my whole life? It doesn't matter now. Let the past slide away. It is as unreal as the imagined future. The sound of breathing. The hum of the computer. The creaking of the radiator. A tingling in the toes. Hands moving over keys. Words coming out. Breathing. A sense of deep peace. This is life, damn it! Here! Right here! Words cannot even scratch the surface of things. And yet we spend our lives scratching on the surface. Thinking we have the answers. Not realizing that there are no answers, because there are no questions. There were never any questions, because this moment is always already perfect the way it is. Any question would take you away from that. Oh, let it be. Let it all be. ***** Stay rooted in the silence, and honor the noise...



by Jeff Foster - November 2008
Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish your opinions. Zen saying

This is not a teaching. Its not even a communication from one person to another.

It is a sharing, from nobody to nobody, from Source to Source, of something so intimate, so present, so damn alive that words cannot even begin to touch it.

From the moment I started talking about this, I knew that not a single word I said about it could ever be true. * The wonder and the grace of this: nobody can own it. It cannot be held, cannot be possessed, cannot be grasped in any way. Although Ive been writing and talking about this for a few years now, I have never, ever had the sense that it has anything to do with me, with the character called Jeff. Never felt that I was in any way special.

In fact, thats exactly what fell away: the specialness of Jeff. Yes, that was the shocking realisation: this had nothing to do with anything Id ever done, or not done. Nothing to do with Jeff. Nothing to do with a separate me, a separate self. Nothing to do with effort or attainment or adding anything to the seeker.

No, no. The seeker is destroyed. *

And so of course, there is nothing and will never be anything - to defend here. There is no need to make any claims about Life Without A Centre. No need to compare and contrast it with any other teaching or non-teaching. No need to attack teachers who arent quite as nondualistic as me. Whatever the hell that means.

No. This speaks for itself, and doesnt need me to defend it. Its not a teaching; it is simply an expression of the inexpressible, a puttinginto-words of that which is totally beyond words.

I dont own it. Its not mine.

And even if I could own it, I wouldnt want to. Its too precious.

And with that I think, comes a certain humility. If there is any hallmark of liberation (or whatever you want to call it) perhaps its that. I can only speak from experience. You see, Jeff is constantly humbled by the wonder of what is, by the grace of this divine, purposeless, priceless play. And he knows that his words are always and forever equal to the barking of a dog or the miaowing of a cat. They are simply part of the song of being, the divine dance of nothing and everything which reveals itself in and as everything and nothing, which sings and shines from the toothbrush as I brush my teeth in the morning, from the fish and chips that I munch on the beach, from the cold autumn breeze as it lovingly caresses my cheek, from the dog shit that I step in on the way home, ruining my new shoes, for a while, anyway.

Life happens, but there is nobody there to whom it happens. And when there is nobody there, there is nobody there who could ever become defensive about their own understanding or expression of this. There is nobody there who could ever believe their own bullshit anymore.

Nothing to defend that goes right to the heart of this seeing. *

To the individual, this freedom, this grace, will always seem out of reach. The moment you have an individual, you have separation, and the moment you have separation you have the longing to end that separation, to heal the divide, to come home. Its the wave longing to return to the ocean. And of course on some level the wave knows that it was never for one moment separate from the ocean - that the sense of being a wave is merely a temporary contraction of the whole.

The little wave is inherently a seeker, and he runs around the world like a headless chicken, trying to find something which of course he never lost in the first place. And he never lost this because he never had it. He always was it. The wave was always, always, a perfect expression of that which cannot be expressed. You the character, the person, the individual were always the divine expression, expressing itself perfectly, completely, and exhausting itself in that expression, leaving no trace, no residue.

And the cosmic joke? Even the individuals endless and exhausting search to come home even that was always the divine expression. It was always Oneness seeking itself.

Well, of course it was. There is only Oneness. * And so when the search collapses, what goes along with it is the sense of being an individual separate from the whole, the sense of being a little wave in a big ocean. Its not an intellectual thing. Its a collapse into Intimacy. Totally beyond the intellect. Totally beyond words.

But heres the rub: its not something that you could ever have, or do.


Because you are looking for this in all the wrong places, and all your doing is directed towards a future that will never arrive. You are looking for this within the world. That is to say, you are looking for it within your world. And there is no other.

You see, the character and the characters world are inseparable. Once you have a character, you immediately have a world in which that character functions. A world in which that character lives and breathes and sees himself. An angry character sees an angry world. A depressed character sees a depressing world. A spiritual seeker sees a world full of things to look for, a world full of teachers and teachings and the hope and promise of salvation.

The seeker only ever sees his own world.

And within that world, the seeker hears about awakening or liberation or whatever you want to call it. And he begins to look for it within his world.

Anything is possible within the seekers world. Within the seekers world there are a million different spiritual paths and processes and practices and goals. A million things to do, a million things on offer. Within the seekers world, you can look for enlightenment, you can wait for liberation, you can anticipate some sort of energetic transformation. Within the seekers world, you can go to meetings and hear about future events that might or might not happen to you. You can believe that there is no person or there is nothing to get or that one day separation will fall away. Its a world full of belief. Its a world full of second-hand concepts passed down by well meaning people who really believe what they tell you.

But what the word nonduality points to has nothing to do with any of that. It allows it, embraces it fully, but really what we are pointing to has nothing to do with that whole seeking game. Its not something that the seeker could ever find in his world, because what we are pointing to is the dissolution of the seeker and, along with it, his world. Its a falling away of seeker and world, and a plunge into something much more mysterious, vibrant, and alive

than the second-hand concepts ever promised and thats not something that could be found within the world!

And that plunge, well the moment we talk about it, we are into the language of seeker and world. But of course thats the only language we have. All teachings function within this realm of seeker and world (taken together, we could call this the dream world). Even these words, and the words expressed in the meetings, function within the dream world, and that is why, as I said before, I know that the moment I speak about this, its simply not true. The moment I speak about this, Ive made it into something, something in the dream world, something for the seeker to hold onto and attempt to understand. Ive turned it into something for you to get in the future.

In a sense, if you want to talk about nonduality youre doomed from the beginning. Thats part of the humility too: the seeing that you will never be able to express this. And that even the idea of a perfect nondualistic communication (if that was even possible) is still totally and completely within the dream world. * In this dream world, everything is in perfect balance. A depressed character is met with a depressing world. A fearful character is met with a terrifying world. A seeker is always met with teachers who will cater to the seeking, feed the seeking.

In fact, the teacher needs the student as much as the student needs the teacher. The student functions in the teachers world in the same way as the teacher functions in the students world. He meets a need. Because of course, a teacher cannot know himself as a teacher unless he, in some way, uses the students to create and maintain that identification. And so he clings to them as tightly as they cling to him. In the dream world, in your quest to be a person, to be a somebody rather than a nobody, in your attempt to make your life work, you always meet your own reflection. And the teachers promise you so much! They promise a future event called enlightenment, or liberation (for someone or for no-one how we love to play with words!), or some sort of shift or change in perception that you can or cannot obtain.

But in the falling away of the self-contraction and along with it, the contracted world space in which all teachers and teachings operate, the grace is revealed, and it has nothing to do with any sort of future event, or spiritual experience, or shift in perception, or transformation of consciousness, or anything else that was promised by the dream teachers. And its shockingly ordinary. Its drinking a cup of tea. Its eating fish and chips. Except now, nobody drinks the tea, and nobody eats the fish and chips. Drinking tea just happens. Eating fish and chips just happens. Tea drinks itself. Fish and chips eat themselves. Thats about as close as we can get in language.

Its totally beyond anything you expected. And its not something new that appears - its a revelation of something that was already there, apparently hidden but really always in plain view. This ordinary life has always been longing to reveal its secrets. The fish and chips and the cup of tea (and yes, even the dog shit on the pavement) were always the Beloved trying to calling us home.

This is not an intellectual realisation. If it were that simple, it would just be a matter of changing your thoughts, for example from this isnt it to this is it, or from Im not awake to I am awake. Within the dream world, of course, changing thoughts can be a wonderful thing. If youre going to have a dream, its probably better to have a happy dream. If youre going to have a dream, why not think positively instead of negatively! Why not think youre awake instead of asleep! Within the dream world, the individual can do a million different things to their thoughts, and thoughts in turn can create a million different experiences. But what were talking about here is totally beyond all of that. It cannot be captured by any thought-created formula. In fact, there is no person and there is a person both miss the point. There is choice and there is no choice both miss the point. Within the dream world, these pairs of opposites arise together and fall away together. But they cannot take you to where you really want to go: your own absence.

Beyond the opposites of the self-contraction, this grace, this wonder constantly shines, and in fact it is only because of this grace that

the self-contraction can appear to operate at all. Being plays every role, even the role of the one who appears to be ignorant of Being. Its all Being. That is the revelation. For no-one.

The person was always imprisoned by their world, without ever realising it (and then they imagined that freedom could be found within that world!). In the falling away of person and world, there is no person to be imprisoned, of course. There is just what is. Just nothing being everything. Just this and even that is saying too much.

All we can really do is try to point back to this as clearly and as honestly and with as much humility as possible, using words to go beyond words. And in the dream world the arguments go on: My teacher/teaching is better than yours! Teacher X is completely dualistic, she gives people something to do! Teacher Y teaches purely from the intellect! (You wouldnt believe how often I hear comments like this!). And in the dream world, these arguments may have some validity. But they completely miss the point: nobody can teach this. Nobody owns this freedom. And thats the beauty of this, thats the joy of it: its totally free, constantly available, and when this message is really heard, when the seeking dissolves and the self-contraction heals, what these words are pointing to are revealed in absolute clarity, and the my-teaching-or-teacher-isbetter-than-yours game that gets so very serious and tedious is seen to be what it always was: an intellectual game, a battle of egos, a distraction from what, for this character anyway, has always been at the very core this message: unconditional love, and the revelation and expression of that.

And all the while, beyond the futile attempts of the character to communicate this message and defend their communication, this intimacy which is beyond measure and yet totally so ordinary lies quietly in the background, whispering so very softly that all is well, and that, of course, there is nothing to defend nothing to defend


(Originally appeared in Watkins Review Issue 20)

The secret of spiritual awakening is staring us in the face Life is not really life at all. It is the unknowable Mystery, it is Unity in diversity, it is the Tao appearing as a thousand different things, it is God dancing, it is something emerging out of nothing, it is creation and destruction all in one. Life is grace, and it is given freely, now, now and now. And yet we are so lost in the dream of separation that the secret of spiritual awakening, which is right under our noses, may be ignored for an entire lifetime. You see, we believe that we are separate people, individuals, somehow separate from each other, somehow separate from this moment, somehow separate from life itself. Somehow abstracted from these present sights, sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings. We talk about me and my life as if we had a life, as if we could lose a life, as if we were a little wave separate from the vast ocean of life. But of course, the wave was never for one moment separate from the ocean, and we were never for one moment separate from these present sights, sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings, from the heart beating, from breathing, from the little robin in the tree over there, singing her heart out, from the roar of traffic, from the sound of children playing out in the street. Life has always been here, right here, closer than a heartbeat, closer than anything we could ever imagine. And yet we spend our lives searching for something more than the grace that surrounds us. I know I did, anyway. Let me tell you a little story. Years ago, my search for spiritual awakening has made me into something of a misery. I had tried everything to escape the suffering of a lifetime and to reach that elusive state of joy and peace that the spiritual masters had spoken about so eloquently. And yet nothing I ever did seemed to work. After years of meditation, contemplation, self-enquiry, and all sorts of thought gymnastics, I had reached a place of total exhaustion and despair. I was never going to awaken. And then one day, in the midst of that despair, I saw a chair. And in the clear seeing of something so ordinary, the miracle was revealed. And the miracle? Well, its really too extraordinary to talk about. But if I had to use words, it would go something like this: It wasnt a chair at all. It was Oneness dressed up as a chair. It was God pretending to be a chair. It was unconditional love, manifesting as a chair. Words could never capture the grace of it. A chair, how ordinary! And yet, when seen in clarity, how extraordinary! William Blake once wrote If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. And that

cleansing is the falling away of the little me, the separate, solitary self, and a plunge into the mystery at the heart of the Universe, a mystery which is all the more mysterious for being right there in the midst of the ordinariness and messiness of our lives the last place wed ever look! In this clear seeing, life was never the same again. All seeking fell away, and along with it the sense of being a separate, solid, suffering individual. Last year I began to run meetings in the UK, in which this secret is shared in friendship and openness, with much laughter. What a gift, to be able to share this message of love and intimacy with others all over the world, although of course there are no others at all, and Im only ever meeting myself, and Oneness is already shining, dancing, singing, from every pore of the universe. Life isnt life at all. Its a constant revelation of Oneness.


Breathing... the heart beating... sounds in the room... sensations in the body..... thoughts arising and dissolving into nothingness... Already, there is only Oneness. And this is it. Just life, but nobody living it. Just this, playing itself out spontaneously, of its own accord, in its own time. And there is no "you" separate from "this". That's the illusion. That's the dream. That's the suffering. Only nothing - no-thing - arising as everything. Only the absolute paradox of it all. And yet, in life without a centre, there are still faces, places, feelings, ups and downs. Although now the ups are equal to the downs, pain is equal to pleasure, the most excruciating

suffering is equal to the greatest joy. Because with the collapse of the individual self comes the ending of all opposites, all opposition, all duality, which is to say that everything now exists in perfect balance (as it always has done). And yet, there is nobody to know that balance, nobody who could name it, nobody who could speak of it, even if they wanted to. This is grace, and it will never be captured in words. How to use dualistic concepts to describe that which is beyond duality? And anyway, isnt beyond duality just another concept, perhaps the biggest concept of them all? And of course, the mind will struggle with these dream questions. But the mind has missed the point entirely. The mind is so lost in the dream that it could never hope to see this. What is being said here has nothing to do with words. Once we get lost in words and concepts and meanings we're so totally, completely, utterly lost. Because this message is about what is presently happening present sights, sounds and smells. Its about the utterly obvious present appearance of life, an appearance which appears to nobody, an appearance which dances and swirls and pretends to be solid but actually has no solidity at all, an appearance which cannot be grasped in any way (and the attempt to grasp it would only lead to suffering anyway) Its an appearance which cannot be escaped, cannot be denied, cannot be transcended, because the person who would try and do any of these things in the first place does not even exist. The person is an apparition, a ghost, a mirage, a thought. And what power does thought have? And so this is the end of choice, the end of control, and a plunge into something far more explosive. This is the absolute freedom which cannot be reached through any sort of effort or non-effort. This is the end of duality because it is the wide open space, the vastness in which duality appears to arise in the first place. This is totally extraordinary, and yet it is nothing special. This is the miracle of all miracles, and yet it is as simple as breathing. This is death, and yet it is also the source of all life.

This is not something a mind could ever hope to grasp. This is not a concept to be understood, not a new belief to be believed. This is breathing, this is the heart beating, this is an entire world arising out of nothing and falling back into nothing, ceaselessly, playfully, like waves in the ocean, like icy breath on a winters day, like the memory of a loved one, long since departed. This is not a state to be reached; it is not something that some people have and others dont. This is just a description of the utterly obvious. And its so simple a newborn baby could see it: life already has no centre.

INTIMACY This exquisitely fragile world, this mind-blowingly impermanent, iridescent parade of sights, sounds smells. How impossible to communicate the absence at the centre of it all, the fact that it has no centre, that it swims in nothingness, arises and dissolves continuously in the barest emptiness. How fragile it is, how fleeting. How beautiful. How indescribable. And yet, how simple, how utterly obvious. And in liberation, when the person is not there, it is not an empty void .... not at all!... it is a full-bodied cacophony, a stunning play of dancing, singing, shimmering reflections of refractions of reflections of the original One, an utterly convincing trick of light and it all happens for no-one, and it is always already released from the need to be anything other than what it is. Yes, it all appears to no-one, happens for no-one, but its not a detached world, no, not at all. in fact, its now all so intimate, in fact it is nothing but Intimacy itself. because there is simply no me separate from it Only It, only Life in its totality, the One and only, in its infinite, intimate manifestations.

This will never be communicated. It is beyond all that, too great for all that. and yet too simple for it too. Just this shimmering this, impermanent this, ineffable this.

IN THE ABSENCE OF THE PERSON No wonder "you" cannot see this : This is a freedom that a "person" will never see. How could a "person" ever accept that everything happens spontaneously, of its own accord, in the absence of the person? The Tao (or Oneness, or God, or Life, or Spirit, or Emptiness) has no centre, no mind, no personal volition. It appears as everything, but itself is nothing. Nothing manifesting as a world, as everything there is and is not. And there is only the Tao, which is to say there is no Tao at all. And even to speak of it, even to think of it, even to do that is to lose it forever. And yet the thinking and the speaking are fully the Tao; there is nothing that it is not. It is the no-thing by which everything appears. And its not even that, because its not an it at all. When speaking of the Tao, silence is the only way ---

Yes, only the Tao, only Oneness, only One without a second, appearing as a world, endlessly, continuously, without beginning or end. The mind could never see this. How blind it is to all this, and yet how perfectly blind it is, how it couldnt be otherwise!

This world is a perfect world, perfect in its apparent imperfection, extraordinary in its ordinariness, Divine in its perfectly acceptable and appropriate and inevitable search for something more. In the absence of the person, in the absence of the world out there, everything is. And thats the miracle that will never be spoken of. These words hint at the miracle, but will only ever hint. Pointers will only ever point. The futility of trying to communicate the incommunicable is at once comical and utterly Divine, as it is. It couldnt be otherwise. -Everywhere you go, people believing they are separate from each other, arguing, wanting to be right, wanting to know. How to communicate to them that nobody is speaking? That there is only noise, and nobody doing it? No, there is no way. The silence is always apparently ignored. Because what is silence to a person? What use is it? No use, of course. To a person, only noise is of any value at all. Hence separation, hence suffering, hence the human condition. But Forgive them Father, because the silence is All, and All is the Silence. And even the noise arises in the Silence of all Silences, and so there is nothing to forgive, nothing at all. But how could a person ever see this? A person is nothing but noise, nothing but an attempt to fill the silence, to avoid it, to resist the Nothingness at the heart of all phenomena. Because to a person, silence is death. And yet, what the person cannot see is that he has no existence at all outside of the silence. Without the silence, he is nothing. No thing at all. And so the person is really always at war with the ground of existence itself. And it never ends. Computing, competing, the mind searching for something it can never really have. Until it all ends, that is.

But never mind. Searching is all a separate person can do, because a separate person believes they have lost something. Forgive them Father, they have no choice, no choice at all. -And really there are no people in the first place. No people separate from the silence. The mind itself has created silence and noise, created them and separated them, separated them and kept them apart, never to be reconciled. But in the absence of the person, in the space where a person once was, the noise never began, and the silence never ended, and there is no death. No death, no life, just this, beyond all knowing and all knowledge and all words and concepts, beyond all beyonds. And nobody here to know all this. Nobody writing it. Pen moves over paper. No volition, no control, no centre. No idea what the pen will say next. God Himself writes, Spirit writes, the Buddha writes, Life Itself writes, and yet Nobody writes at all. What freedom in this a freedom that isnt really a freedom at all, because there was never any bondage to be free from! When the person is no more, when the search is undone, when the demand for life to be anything other than what it is collapses, the noise and silence, the freedom and bondage, the Yin and the Yang are all seen to be illusory, simply the minds attempt to cut the world up into manageable little pieces, and the truth is revealed: there is only the whole. And that When is now, and there is no other time, and the whole spiritual search will only ever be a cosmic entertainment.


All around, the utterly ordinary reveals itself. And this ordinariness is precisely that which we have been seeking our entire lives, without really knowing it.

You see, in the search for the extraordinary, the ordinary was always ignored. And indeed, in the search for the extraordinary, the ordinary was created. And so, as long as there was seeking, the ordinary stayed ordinary, and the extraordinary was always out of reach. But with the collapse of the search, with the collapse of the extraordinary as a goal to be achieved, the extraordinary collapses into the ordinary, and the ordinary into the extraordinary. And so there is really no extraordinary to be found, and there was never anything ordinary to be escaped from. Which is to say that this the obvious present appearance of it all is always already beyond all ideas of ordinary/extraordinary. Its just this so simple, so obvious, and yet so damn elusive to a mind searching for it. So ordinary, and yet so extraordinary. The clarity weve been searching for is already with us. And it doesnt take any time to see this. And its not something a person could ever see. Why? Because it is always now, and a future time in which this could be seen would just be a presently arising thought. And the person who would see this is just a thought too. And so when I say that this is the end of the search, I mean exactly that. The search never happened. It is always now, and the search is just an idea, arising now. And it arises in this ordinary, extraordinary present appearance. A person could spend a lifetime trying to end the search. But how could an illusory person end an illusory search? It could only ever end in frustration. But there was never any need to fight. The miracle is already here. The miracle is already this. Nothing more to do. Nothing more that needs to be done. Nobody here who could do anything anyway. Just this and nothing more.


This has nothing to do with effort.

This has nothing to do with understanding. Nothing to do with process, nothing to do with praxis. Nothing to do with lack of process or praxis. This is not about seeing anything new, or getting rid of anything old. This is not something the mind could ever grasp. Nor does the mind need to give up its grasping. This is nothing personal, nor does it have anything to do with the "impersonal". This is not about choiceless awareness, or seeing through the ego, or self-enquiry. This cannot be expressed using concepts. Nor will it ever be expressed in the absence of concepts. This is not about words. Not even these words. This is not about getting anywhere. This has nothing to do with any kind of future achievement. This is not about following a path: there is no path, although there may be the idea of "a path". This is not about reaching a higher state: there are no higher states, although there may be concepts about "higher states". This is not about becoming anything, although beliefs about that may arise too. This is certainly not about "putting an end to the I". Only an "I" would want that. This is most definitely not about "becoming more present" - the present was never lost in the first place. This is not about waiting for an event called liberation - that would require time, and a "me" who would eventually become liberated. This has nothing to do with going "beyond" anything - there is nothing to go beyond, and nobody who could go beyond even if they wanted to.

This is not about enlightenment. There is no such thing as enlightenment. This is not about awakening. There is no such thing as awakening. This is not about enlightened individuals passing on their understanding. That's a good story, and a compelling one, but it's just a story, and has no deeper reality. This is not something that could be of any use to anyone. This is not something that anyone would ever want. But no matter - the "me" who would want this is just a thought anyway. Just a thought.


The message of nonduality is simple: nothing is separate from anything else. But apparent separation is at the root of everything the individual does; indeed, the individual is nothing but apparent separation, and that separation drives the entire spiritual search and the quest for the dissolution of the ego, as well as all worldly pursuits. But the seeking mind (that is, "you", the individual) will never be able to grasp this message, as, to the mind, this message is nothing but its own dissolution, that is, its own death. Yes, this message is death, but it is also life. All life is here, all life is now, and the mind cannot accept that, because the mind is nothing more than a denial of life. The mind cannot grasp the totality, so it creates a world, a little world of knowledge and values and meaning. And that's fine, but the intellect will never grasp the vastness of life, because life, that is, this, is prior to intellect; indeed, the intellect already arises out of the totality, out of this. In this moment, all the problems of an individual are merely thoughts, and since thoughts already simply appear in the play of life, thought is already impersonal, already liberated, because consciousness already transcends, inherently transcends, everything that appears in it. But this is already getting way too heady, too intellectual. The reality is simple, obvious,

present. Thoughts appear now: they are not "my" thoughts, they are just thoughts. They are not "my" problems, they are just problems. This is not "my" life, this is just life. Life plays out, and I am both utterly immersed in it, and utterly absent. And these are not polar opposites: to be immersed fully, is to be fully absent. Fully immersed, fully absent. And yet there is still the noise of traffic outside, still the clickclick of the boiler switching on and off, still the sound of breathing, still the tap-tap of the rain at the windows, still the tiredness in the body, still the sensations, moment by precious moment And so, even though I am fully absent, life carries on. Even though I am nowhere to be found, life cannot, will not cease, not now, not ever.

This is timeless, deathless, eternal. This is without equal, this is never-to-be-repeated, this is utterly unique and totally new, in each and every moment, although there are no moments at all. This is empty of all qualities, even the quality of being empty of all qualities. And yet, this is totally full, pregnant with infinite possibility, possibility that overflows again and again into a world. This is peace, but it is a volcanic peace, a peace which does not deny noise but embraces it fully, a peace which does not rest, an ecstatic peace that throws itself out of itself now, now and now. This is completely unknowable, and yet it is filled with the knowledge of things, filled with an apparent world "out there", in its infinite guises. This is something that cannot be spoken of by anyone, and yet words are thrown out, day after day after day. This is not of this world, and yet it is nothing but this world. This is completely extraordinary, and yet it is as simple and as obvious as the sound of

the rain splish-splashing on your rooftop. Splish! Splash! This is a wide open space, with enough room for an entire world, pulsating with a radical and unconditional love that will never be grasped by a mind locked in the search for something more. This is simple, obvious, ordinary. This is what everybody is seeking, but nobody can find. And nobody can find this precisely because the one who searches for this is exactly that which apparently obscures this (although this can never be obscured, because it already includes any idea of a somebody who would want something more). This is Jesus dying on the cross. This is the Buddha seeing through all confusion. This is the world falling away when two lovers embrace. This is a mother cradling her newborn child. This is watching an old man waddling down the pavement, and seeing only yourself. This is your heart breaking at the sight of an old woman, her shopping bags full of groceries, struggling to cross a busy road, and finding yourself, without hesitation, rushing over to help her, because you have no choice, and you never did have any choice. And this is realising, at long last, that choice is illusion, that you were never for one moment separate from this thing we call life, that we were never for one moment separate from each other; that no man is an island, that we affect each other in more profound ways than the mind could ever hope to grasp. And yet, there are no others, and "you" cannot realise a damn thing.


Only this. Only ever this. Arising spontaneously. Leaving no trace. How could it be otherwise?

Emptiness and fullness, being and non-being. All is here. All is Now.

But those are just words.

No words necessary. Just this.

Cat miaowing. Kettle on the boil. Heart beating. Eating cornflakes (milk's a bit sour). Bills plopping through the letterbox. Breathing. Breathing. Liberation. Eating. Liberation. Drinking.

Liberation. Going to the toilet. Liberation. Pain in the chest. Liberation. Craving, delusion, desire, love, hate, jealously, guilt. Liberation, liberation, liberation!

No need to search anymore. Was there ever a past? Was there ever someone who searched? Someone who suffered and longed to be free from it all?

Someone who believed in anything?

Oh, God! What madness! To want anything other than this

Just stop. Stop, look and listen: This is all there is. There was never anything else.

I wonder how much British Gas have charged this month?


This is it. This is the end of the spiritual search. Freedom and happiness and enlightenment are to be found nowhere else but here: right in front of us. The low hum of the computer fan, a tingling feeling in the left foot, the tweet-tweet of the little birdies in the garden, hopping from branch to branch. Why are we never satisfied with this? Why is this moment never enough? Perhaps it is because at some point in our lives we picked up the belief that there exists something More Than This; some sort of state in which our True Nature is revealed to us in all its glory, in which all thoughts dissolve, in which the ego burns up and vanishes for all time, leaving no trace. Some state, in other words, that is very different from this present state. But what reality does any of that have? Right now, there is only the sound of the little robin jumping about in the tree over there, the beating of the heart, the steam rising from a freshly brewed cup of tea, the morning breeze gently caressing my cheek..... And then the thought "there must be more than this! Im not there now, but soon, one day, maybe, maybe even in a few minutes, Ill reach that state that Ive read so much about! That state of no-state, that freedom, that release!" But the thought "there must be more to life than this" arises now. It is a present thought, as all thoughts are. All thoughts are present thoughts. All sounds are present sounds, all sights are present sights. The present can never be escaped: thought is just the illusion of past and future. And if there is only ever the present, then this state of enlightenment, of liberation, or whatever you want to call it, must be achieved in the present. Which is to say, it cannot be achieved at all. Because an achievement implies time, implies a self. Someone to achieve, and a time when it will be achieved.

Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless! There is only ever now. There is only ever this. The search for something other than this is a denial of the undeniable thisness of this, the undeniable presence of being. The search for enlightenment is a denial of the enlightenment that always already is. The search for oneness is a denial of oh, you get the idea. And the paradox goes even deeper. Because even the search for oneness, for liberation, for release, for freedom even the search is simply an expression of oneness, liberation, release, freedom. It cannot be found, it cannot be escaped, it cannot be avoided. * And so, after a lifetime of searching, the utterly obvious reveals itself. And the utterly obvious is always right in front of us. AND THIS IS IT! This is oneness! This is liberation! It cannot be lost, it cannot be found. It cannot be avoided, it cannot be ignored. Avoid it, and it is simply oneness avoiding oneness. Ignore it, and oneness is ignoring oneness. Try to find it, and it is oneness trying to find oneness. So what to do? Is there still seeking? Thats fine. Is there still pain? Thats fine too. Is there suffering, hope, despair? Thats all fine. Nothing else is needed. Nothing more, nothing less. The end of the search is a radical, radical acceptance of what is. And this acceptance, this seeing through, is not done by you. It is not a doing. It is not an achievement. Not something to be strived for.

* So, there may be seeing through, or there may not. There may be absorption in the search, or there may be a sense of ease, a feeling of release. It's all fine, it's all wonderful, it's all part of the play. There may be a little robin hopping from branch to branch, and it may be seen (or not) that there is only the robin, there is only the hop-hop-hopping, there is only the "tweettweet". All this is oneness. Without beginning or end. Without purpose or goal or meaning. The little robin doesnt give two hoots (tweets?) about finding itself, or reaching a state of liberation. For it, just the hopping, just the search for the next worm is enough, it seems. Perhaps thats why were so drawn to nature. Animals seem to be so free of the burden of individuality, of selfhood, of the search for something more meaningful that what is already the case. But the great liberation is already here, for all of us. This - what is already clearly given in this moment - is all the meaning there is. This sitting on the toilet, or eating lunch, or buying bread and milk from the local shop - is all the purpose there is. It is the very search for purpose that creates purposelessness, and it is the search for meaning that creates meaninglessness. * There is nothing more than this. Fall in love with it... or not. You know, it doesn't really matter either way. There is nothing to be gained by seeing this. This is not an achievement, it is not the result of a long struggle, it is nothing to do with intelligence or skill or knowledge. It is nothing to do with cause or effect, with effort or persistence or anything else. Freedom and enlightenment are to be found nowhere else but here. Which is to say, they cannot be "found" at all.


Out of the void, a world begins to take shape. Out of absolute nothingness, forms begin to emerge.

And these emerging forms dance and swirl, and boundaries appear where once there was only nothingness, and things appear where things have never been before. The shapes are taking shape, and shaping themselves into a world, a world which has no solidity at all, a world is really only a dance of form, a trick of the light, a play of consciousness, no matter how solid it appears to the eye. But really to call it a world is to miss the point entirely: there is only this trick of light, this dance of form, this play of the divine, and there is nothing at all that anyone could ever point to and claim this is a world. And the world is always dancing in the darkness, in the void of all voids. And the world is not separate from the void. Indeed the world is the void and the void is the world, and there is no duality at all. The duality only comes the moment we speak of it. And yet, even the speaking of it is perfectly whole. And so to say I am a person in the world is to fall into delusion and therefore suffering. There is simply no separation between me and the world, only the illusion of separation, an illusion which is inevitable for a self. Because a self is inherently partial, fragmented, separate. Otherwise, how would he know himself as a self? To know oneself as a self there must also be knowing of oneself as separate, distinct, divided from the whole. For a self to be a self and to know itself as a self, there must be the other. And the other haunts the self, it torments it. For the self can never be the other, can never know the other, can never escape from the other, and yet can never exist without the other. The other is always other, always alien to the self. And the message of the other is this: Dear self, you are not whole, and you will never be whole! As long as you have breath in your body, there will be a longing for completion, oneness, God, call it what you will! I guarantee it! Because as long as there is the other, there is a self, and as long as there is a self, there is the other. They arise together. They live and die together. And as long as this is the case, the longing for completion (the human project, so to speak), will always be there. And yet (and heres the rub) the longing for completion can never be satisfied here on earth, nor could it ever be satisfied in the beyond (because the beyond is just the beyond for the self, and therefore offers no respite). And so the poor old self, living in a world that is always other, longs for completion, a completion which it can never ever reach, no matter how hard it tries or doesnt try. And yet although the self longs for completion, it also fears completion more than anything, because completion is death. Death of the self is not something the self could ever want, because the self is nothing but the striving for the preservation of itself.

Yes, it is the void that the self fears most. The void is seen as the ultimate loss. Nothingness, death, emptiness. And yet the world is nothing but a dance of the void, and so the self is always, inescapably at war with existence itself. In avoiding death, the self perpetuates the very suffering that it is desperate to escape. But what the self does not and cannot realise is that death is not the enemy, it is liberation, freedom, the end of all suffering. But the self does not actually want freedom. No, it wants to exist. It wants choice. It wants to make its mark, it wants to be something rather than nothing. And so it invents free will and responsibility and self-esteem, denies the void at the heart of all things, and tries desperately to establish itself on earth. It pretends to forget that it came from nothing and will return to nothing. But all things are impermanent. All things on this earth must die. That is a certainty. And the self knows that one day it, too, will die. And the self could never, ever know when that day will come. It comforts itself by saying one day, one day, but not today! For the self, death is always a future event. But the universe screams death from its every pore. Death lurks around every corner. Non-being permeates being, goes right to the core of it. In every moment, death is a possibility. Indeed, life is not even possible if death does not permeate it, go right to its centre. And deep down, the self knows this, knows it full well. It knows full well that it came from nothing and will return to nothing. It knows the game of being something is only temporary, only a momentary distraction (and to the universe how momentary a single human life is!). Yes, deep down it is known: this life is a dance, a fleeting, fragile dance. A precious, moment-to-moment manifestation of utter emptiness. To the self, life will always be a problem. But to life, there was never a problem, ever, and the self is just a minor inconvenience. Life knows no problems, because life has no past or future (and therefore no present) in which to have problems. To life, there is only this: what is presently happening, beyond all words, concepts, ideas.

Only this and nothing more. And the dear old self emerges out of the nothingness, and believes what it wants to believe, and pretends to choose, and plays at working and works at playing, and really

this self has no reality whatsoever, it has no substance, no permanence, no existence outside of thought. And a thought is just a thought. And the thought arises out of the emptiness and falls back into it. And really, nothing ever happens. And the world doesnt even matter. And the overwhelming mystery of life, the sanctity of it, the preciousness of it, the wordlessness of it, the silence at the heart of it all, is untainted by the world, by this apparent self, by anything at all. There is a purity the self will never know.

A WALK IN THE RAIN [This is an edited version of a longer piece which appears in Jeff's book "Beyond Awakening"] In the gap between subject and object lies the entire misery of humankind. - J. Krishnamurti As the story goes (and I can barely remember any of it now) I was walking through the rain on a cold Autumn evening in Oxford. The sky was getting dark; I was wrapped up warm in my new coat. And suddenly and without warning, the search for something more apparently fell away, and with it all separation and loneliness. And with the death of separation, I was everything that arose: I was the darkening sky, I was the middle aged man walking his golden retriever, I was the little old lady hobbling along in her waterproofs. I was the ducks, the swans, the geese, the funny looking bird with the red streak on its forehead. I was the trees in all their autumnal glory, I was the sludge sticking to my feet, I was my body, all of it, arms and legs and torso and face and hands and feet and neck and hair and genitals, the whole damn lot. I was the raindrops falling on my head (although it was not my head, I did not own it, but it was undeniably there, and so to call it "my head" is as good as anything). I was the splish-splash of water on the ground, I was the water collecting into puddles, I was the water swelling the pond until it looked fit to burst its banks, I was the trees soaked by water, I was my coat soaked by water, I was the water

soaking everything, I was everything being soaked, I was the water soaking itself. And everything that for so long had seemed so ordinary had suddenly become so extraordinary, and I wondered if, in fact, it hadn't been this way all along: that perhaps for my whole life it had been this way, so utterly alive, so clear, so vibrant. Perhaps in my lifelong quest to reach the spectacular and the dramatic, I had missed the ordinary, and with it, and through it, and in it, the utterly extraordinary. And the utterly extraordinary on this day was awash with rain, and I was not separate from any of it, that is to say, I was not there at all. As the old Zen master had said upon hearing the sound of the bell ringing, "there was no I, and no bell, just the ringing", so it was on this day: there was no "I" experiencing this clarity, there was only the clarity, only the utterly obvious presenting itself in each and every moment. Of course, I had no way of knowing any of this at the time. At the time, thought was not there to claim any of this as an experience. There was just what was happening, but no way of knowing it. The words came later. And there was an all-pervading feeling that everything was okay with the world, there was an equanimity and a sense of peace which seemed to underlie everything there was; it was as though everything was simply a manifestation of this peace, as if nothing existed apart from peace, in its infinite guises. And I was the peace, and the duck over there was it too, and the wrinkly old lady still waddling along was the peace, and the peace was all around, everything just vibrated with it, this grace, this presence that was utterly unconditional and free, this overwhelming love that seemed to be the very essence of the world, the very reason for it, the Alpha and the Omega of it all. The word "God" seemed to point to it too, and the word "Tao", and "Buddha". This was the self-authenticating experience that all religions seemed to point to in the end. This seemed to be the very essence of faith: death of the self, death of the "little me" with its petty desires and complaints and futile plans, death of everything that separates the individual from God, death of even the idea of God himself ("if you see the Buddha, kill him") and a plunge into Nothingness, the Nothingness that reveals itself as the God beyond God, the Nothingness that all things are in their essence, the Nothingness that gives rise to all form, the Nothingness that is the world itself in all its pain and wonder, the Nothingness that is total Fullness. And yet this so-called "religious experience" is not really an experience at all, since the one who experiences, the "me", is the very thing which is no more. No, this is something beyond, something prior to, all experience. It is the foundation of all experience, the ground of existence itself, and nobody could ever experience that, even if the world lasted another billion years. * That day, there was nobody there, and yet everything was there in its place.

Beyond experience or lack of it, there were the ducks flapping their little wings, there were the raindrops trickling down my neck, there were the puddles under my shoes which were now caked in mud, there was the grey sky, there were other bodies, just like mine, splashing through the puddles, some walking their dogs, some alone, some cuddling up to their loved ones, some running frantically to escape the downpour. And there was a great compassion. Not a sentimental compassion, not a narcissistic compassion, but a compassion that seemed to be part of what it meant to be alive on that day, a compassion which seemed to be the very essence of life, a compassion which seemed to pulsate through all living things, a compassion which said that none of us were separate from each other, that nothing at all was really separate from anything else, that your pain was identical to my pain, that your joy was my joy, not because these were principles we'd read in the Bible or taken on authority from those we held in high esteem, not because these were ideals that we tried to live up to, but because this seemed to be the way of things, this seemed to be the nature of manifestation: that we were all expressions of something infinitely larger than ourselves. But even the word "ourselves" seemed to imply that we were separate, and therefore this was a compassion which was beyond words, beyond language; indeed this compassion transcended any idea of compassion, this compassion arose from the fact that there actually is no separation at all, that separation is an illusion, that in fact we are each other, that I am you, that you are me, that we cannot be ourselves without others, that I cannot be I without you, and you cannot be you without me, not in some wishy-washy loveydovey sentimental way, but really, honestly: we need each other, we are bound to each other, we cannot live without each other, we cannot live without everything else. I cannot live without that tree I'm walking under, without the raindrops that have made their way down my back, without the old woman who's managed to waddle a little further down the path (she's being so very careful to avoid the puddles, bless her!), without the pond, without the ducks, without the swans, without my new coat keeping me warm, without the man with the dog who smiles and says hi as he walks past. We are bound to each other, all things are bound to all things, which is to say there are not really any separate "things" at all, there is only Oneness, only the whole, only the Buddha, only Christ, only the Tao, only God himself, and nothing exists apart from anything else. And so to say that on that day there was no "I" is really to say that there was only God, there was only Christ, there was only the Tao, only Buddha, only Oneness, only Spirit, and Jeff had exploded into it all, Jeff was nowhere to be found, in the sense that he was not separate from everything that arose. Jeff was just a story spun by a storyteller with a vivid imagination, Jeff was missing from the scene and yet infused into it, Jeff was nothing and he was everything, he was present to his own absence and absent to his presence, he was life itself, in its entirety, and yet he, in all truth, had died.

And yes, there were tears. What else is there to do but cry at such a discovery? A discovery which really wasn't a discovery at all, because nothing had been found, since nothing had really ever been lost. This clarity had always been there, I'd just been looking elsewhere my whole life and ignoring the utterly obvious. God had always been right there, in the present moment, in the midst of things, but I'd spent my life seeking Him in the future. The Buddha Mind had been my own mind, always, but I'd spent years trying to attain it. Christ had been crucified and resurrected and was walking in the midst of us, drenching our lives in unconditional love, but for a lifetime I had assumed he was elsewhere, in some other world (or in this world but not in my own life, at least). No, nothing had been found, because nothing had ever been lost. But perhaps it was the realisation of the utterly obvious that hit me that day, the realisation that there was nothing to realise, that everything I ever wanted was always right there in front of me and always would be, that peace and love and joy were always freely available in each and every moment, that love, pure unconditional love, the love of Jesus, the love of Buddha, the love that passes all understanding was the very ground of all things, the very reason for anything being here in the first place. It was there, always there, always waiting patiently for me to return home. And there, in the rain, on that day, I knew finally that I was home, and what's more, that I would always be home, that I had always been home, through it all, through all the tears and the pain, through the dark times and the desperate times and all the times I thought I'd never make it, through all those times and more, the Home of all Homes had been there. The possibility of the Kingdom of Heaven was always present, the grace of God was always an open invitation, through thick and thin, through sickness and through health, through all that, world without end.... * It was a very ordinary walk on a very ordinary, and very wet, Autumn day. And yet, in that ordinariness, the extraordinary revealed itself, shining through the wetness and the darkness and the sludge on the ground, shining so brightly that I was no more, that I dissolved into that brightness and became it. And yet, that makes it sound way too special. That day, in the rain, nothing really happened at all. It was just a very ordinary walk on a very ordinary day. I left through the large iron gates, crossed the road and waited for the bus, huddling in the shelter with several others. Nothing had changed and everything had changed. I had glimpsed something, something deep and profound and in some ways shocking, and yet something that was utterly ordinary and somewhat unsurprising. Yes, it was unsurprising that the very ordinary should turn out to be the only meaning of life, that who I took myself to be should turn out to be just a nice fairy story.

Yes, it was unsurprising, that the divine should be in the utterly ordinary, that God should be one with the world, present in and as each and every thing. I boarded the bus and as the rain streamed down the dirty windows I smiled to myself. What a gift - to be alive now of all moments, to be in this body of all bodies, to be here, in this place of all places, even though it is all a dream, even though it is all impermanent, even though if we really look, we find nothing but emptiness.


The power of my belief in the fiction that Im locked into an image from a slice of history is more overwhelming and more restricting than my individuation, and it stills the dynamic of an empty self which is restorative. The actual event in itself has become mythologized, and in reality is a fiction created by the mind and entrenched in memory. I sometimes received slaps when very small My brother was often given preference I was sometimes humiliated I was given too many chores to perform My father was too strict I wasnt encouraged or given goodies I didnt have a positive role model I responded by committing a crime I blamed my parents for the punishment I received Im now judgemental/resentful and form strong opinions
Greg Goode says: Look at your hand resting on your knee. It probably seems like its your hand. But everything you can say about it is based on a thought, or image, a kinaesthetic feeling, or a belief. These thoughts and feelings arent tied down to an owner. They are not located or centered, but float free in awareness. There is nothing about these feelings, and nothing in awareness, that makes

any of it yours. There is no tie to a person. The person is not the experiencer; the person is experienced. You take yourself to be a container of experience. It seems to you that experience is something that happens inside you, and that other people have their own experiences inside them. But it is the other way around. Your body, your mind and everything identifiable about you are experience-ed, witnessed. Body, mind, thoughts, values and memories are all objects. The clarity is the light within which they arise. Stand farther back for a moment and be open.... The person is something you seem to observe as if from a small distance. You arent actually the skull, mind, body or memories of the person those are objects that are observed. You are what they appear to that global experience, that openness, within which things seem to arise. The body, mind, even the entire person seems to arise within this openness. The openness is you, which is why it seems that you notice things arising.

Let me remind you that the perceived cannot perceive. Let me also remind you that the perceiver cannot be perceived. The very centre from which the perceiving emanates cannot be an object of perception. The centre cannot be known, it is itself the very knowing. One of these objects is the perceived person, and another is thought or mind. This unknowable knowing is here right now, aware of the reading of these works and the thoughts that arise. Leo Hartong No character, no story, no suffering! It is seen that everything is just this! There is only what is. There is no one to accept or not accept an apparent belief in an idea that something should be different seems to cause suffering. All that is, is presence. Only through belief in thoughts of separation suffering arises.
"What's really important in our lives is spending time together, chatting with our close friends and reading beautiful books and listening to beautiful music, and we're really lucky to live in a beautiful place and there are lots of stimulating cultural activities around. With all that you can't really ask for much more.