Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nonduality Highlights each day

How to submit material to the Highlights

#3515 - Monday, April 27, 2009 - Editor: Gloria Lee

The Nonduality Highlights-          

An interesting excerpt from Jeff's new book, no release date as yet.

Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life
[Release date TBA]
Jeff Foster


I am talking to a woman. She is telling me about a passion of hers. Her dream is that one day she will run a small hotel, a bed and breakfast by the sea. I notice that her eyes begin to well up with tears as she relates her dream to me. And then I notice that these eyes are starting to well up with tears too. It's like what's happening there is being mirrored here. Because there is nothing to get in the way, what is left here is just a total openness to others, just an open space which welcomes everything that appears. Her eyes well up, my eyes well up, what's the difference?
When there is nobody here, there is nothing to block "you" out. And then something strange happens: because there is no "me", there is no "you" either. There are just voices, faces, the welling up of eyes, or not. Just what's happening. What's happening fills all space. As that woman relates her story to me, I become that woman. I long to own a bed and breakfast by the sea. It's my heart's true desire. I feel it deep within my bones, and the tears come.
I'm watching television. It's a game show. A man has just won a large sum of money which he is going to use to take his family on holiday. They've never been on holiday before. The man laughs and weeps with joy. This weeps and laughs with joy. There is nothing to separate us. My family will be so happy when they find out!
Images on the TV of famine in Somalia. A child, skin and bones, with hollowed out eyes, gazes into the camera. I am the child. I am gazing at myself. There is nothing to block that poor child out. She enters me, and everything heals itself.
I am on the train. A man starts to shout at me for no reason. I think he is drunk. He shakes his fists at me. His face is red with anger. I am the man. I feel the anger, the violence, and underneath it, the anxiety, the fear, the contraction that goes along with being a separate person. I know what that's like - I once would drink and get angry for no reason and feel like I was living in a prison. I have been this man. I am this man now. He is myself, coming back to meet me.
And then the woman stops talking about her bed and breakfast dreams, and the tears are wiped out. There is no memory of them. Everything is wiped clean, and it begins again.
The game show ends, and I change channels on the television, and it's now a shopping channel, and the laughter and joy and money and family are wiped out, and now there is only fascination with item number 176387, what beautiful colours! It becomes absorbed in the shopping channel, and the game show vanishes without trace. The game show might have happened a million years ago for all I care: this replaces everything.
The doorbell rings and I walk away from the image of the starving child. It's my friend at the door. The starving child is wiped out, and my friend replaces her. The beauty of this is that it's everything and it's nothing. It's no particular thing. One thing replaces another, and there's no way of knowing what's coming next. Friend replaces dying child, brother replaces friend, shopkeeper replaces brother, cat replaces shopkeeper. It emerges out of the Unknown, innocently, playfully, ceaselessly.
I walk away from the angry man. The anger disappears immediately. It's like it never happened. Something else takes its place. And then something else. And then something else. There's enough space here for an entire world. Joy, anger, fear, sadness, laughter, tears. Everything is welcome here. The only question is: what's next?
I have no way of blocking life out anymore. Because there is nobody here, there is only raw, unedited, uncensored, unfiltered experience. And you can't even call it an experience: there's nobody there to experience anything. There's just this, happening to no-one. Nobody sheds tears, nobody senses anger, nobody watches television.
But it's not an empty void. It's a space that's constantly filled by life. By the woman who wants the bed and breakfast, by the starving child, by my friend at the door. You provide the solidity that I lack. The story of time and space is dead here, but you keep it going for me. There's nobody here, but then you enter the picture, and suddenly "there's nobody here" is - like any concept - not true. This is the essence of compassion: to disappear in favour of what's happening. To dissolve into the vast open space in which a whole cosmos can play itself out, a space which is not separate from that cosmos.
When you are not, what else is there to do, but to be all that is? 
When the witness collapses into everything that's witnessed, when awareness collapses into its contents, all that remains is a deep and total fascination with whatever is happening, and unconditional love for all there is.


At the heart of the crucifix, there is eternal life.
At the heart of the most excruciating worldly suffering, in the midst of broken bones and shredded skin, right there was eternity. Jesus did not attempt to escape from the cross but willingly went to his death, because he knew that all the violence of the world could not destroy the Indestructible, could not shake the Unshakeable, could not touch the unborn, undying essence of Life itself.


You want awakening? First of all find out if there's anybody sitting on this chair. When it's seen that nobody is sitting on this chair, it's also seen in clarity that there is nobody there who could ever become awakened.


So many spiritual teachings are about bringing your awareness back to the present moment, paying attention to what is, allowing everything to be, or attempting somehow to be at peace with what's happening.
What I'm suggesting here is that there is only what's happening, and nobody there who could pay attention, allow everything, or be at peace with what's happening. That would suggest separation from what's happening, and that is the primary illusion, which falls away in liberation. No, there are only present sights, sounds and smells, but nobody who can be present or not.
"I'm present with what is" is just another identity.
When there's nobody there to be present, the idea of being present just becomes obsolete. And then there is only presence, and nobody there to know that.


I'm not telling you to give up your spiritual practices; giving up happens or it doesn't. Spiritual practices happen or they don't.
And remember:
Giving up on spiritual practices just becomes another spiritual practice.
The anti- spiritual practice ideology is just another ideology.


Nobody has ever died.
Right now, there is only presence. A few moments before what we call death, there is only presence. Upon what we call death, there is only presence. What falls away is the person. What falls away is the person who splits life from death, the person who loves one and fears the other. What falls away is everything that can fall away. And what is left, there is no way of knowing. Anything we say about that would be purely conceptual.
And so death is a plunge into the unknown, the unknowable, the unborn, the undying. And even that is to say too much. Even that is just the person talking. In the absence of the person, there is nothing. No world. No birth. No death. No time. No space. No world in which to die, and no person to do the dying. At the moment of death, what falls away is the person who could die.
Nobody has ever experienced death. We only ever experience what we know. Death is what we know about death. When nothing is known, there can be no experience, and no death.


"You say there's nothing we can do to get this, and yet you write books and give talks. Aren't you implying that there is something we can do, namely read your books and go to your talks? You say that we shouldn't listen to teachers, and yet you appear to be a teacher yourself. If, as you say, this cannot be put into words, why do you bother to talk and write books about it? Perhaps you secretly believe that you can teach this to people? Or perhaps you're just doing it for the money or the attention? Either way, haven't you fallen into the guru trap?"

I get this all of the time. My response is usually this: that we could find a million different reasons why we shouldn't even speak about nonduality.

And yet, as I always say, why not. Why not. When the 'why' goes, life is lived out of the 'why not'. Silence and noise become equal. Not speaking about this and speaking about this become equal. It speaks, or it doesn't. Often it keeps quiet about this. When someone asks a question, sometimes it likes to offer a reply. Sometimes it sits down at a computer and starts typing and books start to take shape. Where the words come from, I don't know.
From the moment I started writing and talking about nonduality, I knew full well that I'd be accused of falling into the guru trap. That my words would be completely misunderstood, that I'd be accused of trying to sell shoddy goods, that I'd be labelled a wannabe guru, that I'd be compared to the other teachers and non-teachers out there. It was absolutely inevitable.
Look, I have never seen myself as a teacher. Could never see myself as a teacher. I have always seen this as a sharing - between friends - of something that's too intimate, too present, too alive to talk about.
You know, for a long time I wasn't going to talk about this. I was going to keep quiet about it for the rest of my life. What had been seen here is that this is the miracle, that there is nothing higher or more sacred than what's happening, nothing more 'spiritual' than this present appearance. What had been seen is that there is an intimacy here that will never be communicated.
So, how to put this intimacy, this presence into words? Into the words of the world? Into the words of duality? I knew that the moment I uttered the first word about this, it wouldn't capture it at all. I knew that anything I said about this would not be true. The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao. Words felt so dead in comparison to this aliveness.
Besides, I had no interest in converting anyone, no interest in helping anyone to see this, no interest in being someone special. If I am not here, how could I possibly be special? How could I ever separate myself from others and call myself special? But I knew that the moment I started talking about this, it might make me seem special.
And yet, what went right to the core of this seeing is that Jeff was not special at all! No more special than the chair or the carpet. It was all the divine expression! The moment Jeff opened his mouth to talk about something called nonduality, it was inevitable that others would make him into something special. Or they would think that he was trying to make himself special, that he had an agenda, or that he was doing it for the money, for the attention, for the fame. That he wanted to be a guru. It was inevitable that these projections would happen. I saw that from the very beginning, and that's why I was never going to speak about this.
And then, at some point, there was an invitation to talk, and the mouth said "yes". Previously it had said "no", and now it was saying "yes". No and yes - totally equal in the seeing of this. So a while later, Jeff found himself in front of a small group of people, and the words started to come out. Still no sense that 'I' was speaking, still no sense that there was anything to say. Still no agenda, still just words happening or not. Whether 'other people' were listening or not, the seeing was the same.
And although the crowds are a little bigger now, nothing has really changed at all. It's still a sharing with friends, and although at many of the meetings Jeff sits in front of an audience and talks, and questions are asked and he appears to reply, of course the secret is this: it's only Oneness meeting itself, and no 'teaching' is happening at all.
But hey, the world will tell its stories. Until the seeker dissolves, and along with it the contracted self-sense, there will appear to be a world of teachers and teachings and gurus and lineages, and those projections will continue to be made. The seeker always sees a world of seeking. When all of that nonsense falls away, what is seen in shocking clarity is that there cannot be any gurus, teachers, or teachings, because there cannot be any people at all. Wholeness is already here, and it has nothing to do with a separate person. What's seen is that we are already home, and the relief is absolute.
And so the world will think what it wants about Jeff. He's doing it for the money? He's on an ego-trip? He's a nonduality missionary? He secretly sees himself as a guru? I can't make any of those stories mean anything anymore. I just go back to my very ordinary life by the sea in Brighton, have a cup of tea, and forget it all. I've always seen this as a sharing, between friends - always have and always will. And the sharing will go on until it doesn't. It's that simple.
A guru is someone who seriously believes that they can help you in your search for enlightenment or awakening. How ridiculous. The dream 'enlightenment' that the gurus promise is an experience in time, and there is no time. It's a construct of the mind, and there isn't one. It is an awakening for a person, and there is no person. Because the guru still sees you as a person who needs help (and still sees himself as a person who can give it) he keeps you locked in the illusion that you really are a person, and that there really is something called enlightenment. In his innocence, he keeps you trapped in the world of time and space.
When all of that nonsense falls away, what is seen is that there are no people to help, and no people who could ever awaken. In that, the guru-disciple or student-teacher relationship is obliterated. There were never any teachers, gurus, students or disciples: there was only ever unconditional love.
So, do what you do, and let the world say what they want about you. Let them crucify you if that makes them feel better about themselves. They are only crucifying their story of you anyway, in their dream world. They can destroy everything, literally every thing that exists, but they will never touch this aliveness, they will never taint this presence, they will never make even a little dent on Life.
I have no interest in what the world calls me. And for the sheer joy of it, I'll share this message until I don't. People will listen, or they will walk away, and it's fine either way.
And right now, as I sip my cup of tea, and watch the seagulls on Brighton Pier, none of it matters in the slightest. I laugh at the idea that I'm a teacher or guru. I'm nothing. The tea and the seagulls are everything. My nothing is the world's everything, and it all ends here, in absolute simplicity, and there is only gratitude for all of it.
Just this, just this, forever and always.  

Best Wishes,

Steve Summers

top of page