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#3727 - Friday, November 27, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights



An Extraordinary Absence:

Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life

by Jeff Foster

Review by Jerry Katz

Jeff Foster is a young and gifted confessor or sharer of what is. Jeff's words are full of space. This book is incredibly effective in getting "you" to see there has never been a "you." There's only this.

I like the writing styles: Question and answer; confessions of what is; some writing structured as poems; and a fourth kind of writing that is set off by its own font, a courier typewriter style font, that gives a sense of "happening now." This fourth kind of writing appears throughout the book under the heading "this"; here's an example:

"Silence. I have no answer for her. This is empty of questions and answers. I am a child, I know nothing about nonduality. All I know is car horns, the whiff of aftershaves, the blowing of noses and aching of feet. This is where I live. Right here, not in some other dimension. The mouth opens to speak, even though I have no idea what to say."

An Extraordinary Absence is a book of beauty but it's not pretty. Jeff talks about pain, including his own extreme physical and emotional pain. He writes about the spectrum of humanity from "A little red-faced toddler in blue dungarees" to a man with terminal cancer:

"He is losing control of his bowels ... I don't tell him there's no suffering, I don't say `I'm enlightened and you're not,' I don't even mention nonduality, I just wash his testicles."

The Foreword by Kriben Pillay and the Introduction by Philip Pegler are themselves worthwhile documents on nonduality. Especially Kriben, a writer, observer, researcher, and publisher of nondualia since the mid-90s, makes strong statements:

"Much of the current nondual scene is ... engaged in layered deceptions..."

It is essential that nonduality constantly check and undo itself. If the worldly construction of nonduality -- as it is known in books, websites, forums, gatherings, conferences, satsangs, all media -- if it can't stand up to its decimation, what good is it?

Something else I like about this book is the quotations. They balance the book.

By around page 90 came the insight that I was reading a classic, even a potential screenplay with Jeff starring and doing the voiceover.

I also like how Jeff brings in Zen, Advaita, and Christianity. The emphasis on Christianity and crucifixion convey that Jeff knows Jesus the man, and resonates with the pain and the utter humanity exposed in this book, and yields this confession:

"Waking up from the dream of separation, there is a death, and that death, as Jesus said, is the only salvation. You have to lose your life to save it. And so when there is no-one, there isn't an empty void, a lonely and joyless black space devoid of all qualities, no, no, no. That void is full, it is bursting with life. ... And in that, all the concepts in the world dissolve."

Read An Extraordinay Absence and watch how you become comfortable with wonder.

~ ~ ~

An Extraordinary Absence:

Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life

by Jeff Foster


Publisher in the U.K:



Extracts from

"An Extraordinary Absence: Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life"



This is beyond existence and non-existence. It’s beyond self and no-self. It’s beyond subject and object, time and space, past and future. All those words become redundant when the taste of your cup of tea, or the tweet-tweet of a bird, or the roar of the traffic becomes the most fascinating thing in the world.


Subject and object arise together and dissolve together.

And yet, in truth, there is no subject, and no object.

There is only what’s happening. And even that is saying too much.


What should you do with your life? It’s always the wrong question. Wait and see what life does.

“But this will lead to inaction and passivity!” you say. Well, what I find is that action happens. It breathes. It moves. It gets out of bed. It brushes its teeth. It plans, or doesn’t. It talks, or doesn’t. It travels, or doesn’t. The Mystery has its own way. Fall madly in love with it all. Or don’t. The Mystery remains a Mystery either way.

It is the seeker who is passive.


I used to think that it was very important to have something called a purpose. I spent years trying to find this purpose. I made myself very miserable in doing so. Everyone else seemed to have one, but I couldn't find mine.

How wonderful to see that life needs no purpose. That its purpose is its purposeless present appearance. Does music have a purpose? Does a sunset have a purpose? Does dancing have a purpose? Its purpose is in the listening, in the seeing, in the dancing. Life is at once meaningful and meaningless. It’s both and it’s neither.

How wonderful to see that my purpose – if there is any such thing – is just to be sitting here, breathing, heart beating, sounds happening. What awesome freedom in that.


Why do we look for God when he is always staring us in the face? In every sight, sound and smell. In the trees and flowers and birds, in the roaring of traffic, in the beating of the heart. In these words and outside of them. In the white of the paper and the black of the ink. In the space and in the silence. In the in-between and the unseen as much as in the visible. In the throb of life and in the peace of death. In the cry of the baby, and the death rattle of the old man. In everything, as everything, God sings.

The word ‘universe’ literally means ‘one song’.


There could have been nothing. And yet there appears to be something here. There might have been a dark, empty void with nobody there to know it. And yet there appears to be something happening here. There appear to be sights, sounds, smells, colours, motion. Bodies, trees, flowers, cars. Wars, cancers, puppies. There could have been nothing, and yet there is something.

That’s the only miracle. There’s no need to make one movement away from that. We’re always seeing the miracle unfolding right before our very eyes. Do we realise how lucky we are?


It’s the shift from

a person sitting on a chair,

to sitting on a chair just happening.

The shift from a person walking down the street,

to walking down the street just happening.

From a person living their life, to life just happening.

This shift doesn’t happen in time.

In truth, it’s already happening.


The individual looks around the world and asks “What is the point of all this? What is the meaning of life?”

If there’s any point to this manifestation, it’s in the seeing of it. Everything is there to be seen.

It’s like waking up from a dream, and wondering what the point of the dream was. Well, from within the dream, there could be a million different answers to that question. A million different meanings, explanations, theories.

But when you step out of the dream - and of course, that’s not something that you can do - what’s seen is that the dream was only ever leading to one place.

Within the dream of time and space, it seemed as though A was going to lead to B. In the waking up, it is seen that A was only ever leading to the waking up. And so it wasn't really 'leading' anywhere at all, because outside of the dream there is no time, and so no causation.

Everything in the dream points to the possibility of liberation.



I am talking to a woman. She is telling me about a passion of hers. Her dream is that one day she will own and 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 start 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. Because there is no ‘me’, there is no separate 'you' either. There are just voices, faces, the welling up of tears, or not. Just what’s happening. What’s happening fills all space. As that woman relates her story to me, I become her. I long to own a little bed and breakfast by the sea. It is my heart’s true desire. I feel the passion 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. He says he is going to use it to take his family on holiday. They’ve never been on holiday before. The man laughs and shouts and weeps with joy. This laughs and shouts and weeps with joy. There is nothing to separate us. Oh, my family will be so happy when they find out!

Images of famine on the television. A young Somalian girl, all skin and bone, with hollowed out eyes and sticks for arms, gazes into the camera. There is nothing to block that poor child out. I am the child. I am gazing at myself. She enters me, and everything heals itself.

I am on the train. A large bald-headed man starts to shout at me for no reason. I think he is drunk. He shakes his fists. 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 have been this man. I am this man now. He is myself, coming to meet me on the 12.23 to Brighton.

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 a 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.

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 here 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 sea, 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 is nobody here’ is – like any concept – not true.

When you are not, what else is there 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.

An Extraordinary Absence:

Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life

by Jeff Foster

Publisher in the U.K:

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