Somehow it can be shared

June 2008 a young Englishman, Jeff Foster, came to Holland for the first time. When I talk to him, he tells me he is surprised to find himself doing the meetings and coming to different places in the world. At first he didn’t speak about ‘it’, because he realised it cannot be communicated. When it was seen, it was too simple to talk about. But then he was asked to speak to people and people came to listen. During the interview he says: I never get bored talking about this, it is always new, always alife. And the visitors of the meetings in Amsterdam will certainly recognise that. Jeffs expression of what was seen sounds very fresh, full of life, and it carries the power of silence.

You want what you are talking about to be very accessible to everybody?

What I am pointing to, this openness, simplicity and spontaneity, is something that at some level we all know. We all have been newborn baby’s. As adults we seem to have moved away from this and became so solid. From my perspective it is simplicity itself and it is revealed in everything. It can’t be possesed or owned, so it is available for everyone all the time. That is why I like to stick to keeping it very simple, very ordinary and accessible.

Everybody has experienced it also as an adult, playing with childeren, walking in nature, listening to music. There is no past and future then, no time and space. There is just what is happening. Those moments there is no one there, life is just flowing. As it is always, it is just living itself. To me, awakening is not ‘out there’ or special. It is very ordinary and hidden in the ordinary things of life. Apparently we were so busy looking for something more that we missed this.

So you don’t explicitly refer to traditions like Advaita, Zen, etc. that speak about non-duality?

This freedom cannot be contained in a system. I don’t reject the traditions and people may call me an Advaita teacher, but I would never call me that myself. It is something that cannot be taught, but somehow it can be shared. So I would not say from myself that I am a teachter. It is a pointing back to something that is already there and that is there for everybody, but that is overlooked because we are so busy seeking.

Ultimately it is not about the words. Traditions are wonderful and can be very appropriate in some point in a certain situation, but what was seen here is that it is everywhere in all ordinary things of life. So we can call it nonduality or oneness, all very nice words. Being an Advaita teacher could become another identity though.

But other people will call you that anyway?

We can’t control what stories people tell of you. The mind always make stories, it gives it something to do. The beauty of this is: it can’t be understood, it cannot be found by intellectual understanding. It is in the mystery of everything, in the not-knowing, it is where we are. The mind will go in circles trying to inderstand what can’t be understood. Over here this trying to understand is what fell away. Then it is nothing you ever thought it would be.

So the mind, always seeking and active is what is in the way of awakening, how will it give up?

In the story of Jeff: some years ago I got into this intense depression and misery and to escape that I started to seek for answers. This idea of awakening seemed to promise the end of that suffering. I read about hunderds of books, meditated for hours, did self enquiry etcetera. I had all kind of spiritual experiences and glimses of oneness. But the seeking never seemed to end, and I got more and more desperate. The energy always was moving into a future, the goal of the mind was now this awakening. All I can say is that I never found what I was looking for. As long as I was looking for it, there was this assumption that Jeff was going to get this awakening. The seeking reached a point of despair and in that despair something opened up. The mind failed to get what it wanted and after enough failure it just exhausted itself. It gave up and it was seen clearly that there is no me to get awakened. This freedom that I was looking for was always there. The very effort of grasping the freedom makes it appear as if it is not here. I wanted to escape my prison, but the attempt to escape the prison is the prison. Looking back it seems funny, but at the time it was very serious. In the collapse of the mind the secret is revealed and it is revealed in all the ordinary things of life. It is in a chair, the floor, the air, in all things. So looking for the extraordinary is creating the ordinary. As long as I was looking for something more out there, there is the assumption that this is not enough. They always go together, the search implies that this is not enough.

This search is there not only in spiritual awakening, but in all what people do and desire?

To a seperate person life is never enough, there is always this longing to come home, to reach wholeness. This search for wholeness takes a million forms. It isn’t only spiritual seeking, it is also the search for money, for status, for being somene special. It is this movement to find some sort of completion, to come home. We often have this idea that spiritual seeking is in some way ‘higher’. That can be a real trap. There is no difference between I am a millionaire or I am the greatest pop star or I am a spiritual person, it are all identities.

What was seen is essentially that ‘me’ is the illusion. It doesn’t matter what the me is. We put so much effort into becoming someone, that is is quite shocking to see that the whole thing is a dream. This whole me, past and future, where is it? I just couldn’t find it anymore. It had become just a thought. It is a kind of death to see that: I don’t really exist, I am just a thought.

It was seen right in the midst of misery and confusion and despair. Right in the heart of not getting what I wanted. So if you are 5 or 100, if you are a millionaire or a beggar, it is possible to see that I is just an illusion.

You talk to people, they listen and how will this help awakening in them?

I don’t even hope or expect that awakening will happen. It will happen when it happens. Also I don’t feel it is my mission to wake people up. I see this as a sharing, like meeting friends. I have no sense Jeff is doing this. The words come out, I hear the words come out and sometimes it shocks me. I, Jeff, coudn’t have done it. This is oneness expressing itself, it is oneness meeting itself.

Somehow, I don’t understand how, it can be shared. In that sharing there is no longer me and you, no longer Jeff teacher and you pupil. In sharing there is just oneness, oneness appearing as this body, oneness appearing as that body, oneness looking through these eyes, oneness looking through those eyes Oneness appearing as the chair, as the floor... When people ask questions it are all questions I also asked. I never got answers to any of these questions. I am not a teacher because I never answer anybody’s questions. There is just circling around them till the questioning dissolves and it is seen that this is already complete. In itself life is whole, complete, it is already oneness. It is oneness expressing itself, oneness meeting itself. People who come to the meetings sometimes say that the words leave them confused. The moment you talk about nonduality, there is paradox after paradox. But beyond the words something is happening. It is like a feeling: I don’t understand it, but somehow I know it, somehow I have always known this. This is what these meetings are about, not about Jeff trying to teach.

Do you think there is some kind of a process before someone is seeing this?

There appears to be, but when it is seen, it is seen that there is no past. Of course we can still tell the story about the person Jeff who was miserable. But it feels like a story, as a dream. It might be a story about someone else, the whole past- it is gone. This is what is more amazing, so alive, so fascinating. This is constantly changing, now and here.

When you meet people, in the heart of that, there is nobody there. It is the most natural thing and true for all of us. It is not a special state I am in. It is true for us all that the past is just a story, what we are as a person is just a story. As I said earlier, we experience that all the time. Mind doesn’t want to stay with that for long, it always wants to seek again. So the mind comes back and makes everything seem solid again, but it always is falling away also all the time. We don’t notice it, because there is nothing to notice. When you are not there, there is nobody there to notice.

When the mind knows as information how that works, it can at least be open for that?

It can see: o, it is that simple. That is what happens in the meetings. Questions fall away. It is simpler than every thought. Relax into that , you don’t have to meditate for thousend years, it is already trying to show itself in everything. Everything is trying to teach us this. When you see a flower and you are absorbed in a flower, this is destroying you. Maybe we are so attacted to nature, because in nature there is no grasping. The trees and flowers allow you to be nobody, to be not separate.

All spirtitual teachings are pointing to this. But they become a practise, something to do, to put effort in, another addiction. On the other hand, when you find yourself meditating, this is exactly what is needed. In my case it was seen that life itself, whatever is happening, talking, sitting ouside and eating breakfast, whatever, that is already it. Trust that the practises are there when you need them, whatever they are. Ultimately you are not doing this, there is something far beyong the mind, that the mind can never understand. Life is actually always trying to show us things are outsinde out control. When this relaxation happens there is no way of knowing where this will take you when this starts to resonate. You might be the greatest meditator in the world, become a spiritual teacher, go off and make a million on the stockmarket or anything else. There is no way of knowing this. It is so clear in the case of Jeff. I found myself doing this. A year or two ago, when you would have said that I would be talking to people and travel around the world I would have thought you were crazy, but life takes you there. It is a mystery of life, that it takes you where you need to be, because you are not separate from life.

The theme of this Amigo is 'the beauty of our powerlessness? Of our not-being-able-to… You said already a lot about that.

In my experience the intense suffering was necessary to wake me up. Your whole life is given, everything is trying to wake us up, even pain or suffering. There is a beauty in all the seeking and suffering and longing to come home.

Home is so close, it is here. Then it is seen that you were already home and have always been home. It is astonishing, it is the mystery of creation that this is even possible, that there is apparent separation from oneness and seeking – some people go all over the world- and then coming back to itself. Seeing it has always been there. The whole thing unfolded in complete innocence. Mind is innoncently looking for something it can never have, for something that has never been lost. Somehow, yes, there is a real beauty in that.


Jeff published 2 books with Non-Duality press
• Life without a centre: awakening from the dream of separation
• Beyond awakening, the end of spiritual search

[by Patrica van Bosse]