Twenty Questions with Jeff Foster
Life Without A Centre is about the non-separation (‘nonduality’) between you and your world. It is about the origin of suffering, and the discovery of freedom within that very suffering.
It is about the ways in which we try to run away from uncomfortable and painful experiences, and the possibility of discovering ease and relief right in the midst of those experiences. It is about seeking, and the end of seeking. It is about seeing life as it is, right now. ~ Jeff Foster
1.) Are you a teacher?
Well, I don’t consider myself to be a ‘teacher’, in the same way that I don’t consider you to be my ‘student’. I don’t feel that I have anything that you lack. I’ve always seen what I do as a kind of sharing. A sharing between friends of something that’s really too intimate, too alive, too present to talk about. And yet talking happens, and that’s part of the adventure.
Why would one share the sunset? Well, why not?
Why do I talk about nonduality? Well, why not.
Call me a teacher, or call me a friend, or call me nothing at all, it doesn’t really matter in the end. I am what you are. Underneath our individual stories, what could possibly separate us?
2.) Do you consider yourself to be enlightened or awakened?
Well, to see myself as ‘enlightened’ or ‘awakened’, as a rare and special human being, as different from or better than you in any way, I would, on some level, have to separate myself from you. I would have to tell a story about what I am, and about what you are not. It would be my own belief – I would have to believe my own story. It would be my own dream.
Beyond the dream of identity, how can I know what I am? Beyond the dream, how could I ever separate myself from you?
“I’m enlightened” or “I’m awakened” or “I get this and you don’t” or “I’ve transcended the ego and you haven’t” (and the list of boasts and claims made by the ego are infinite) are all just thought-constructed identities.
In other words, somebody who thinks they are ‘enlightened’, and that you are not, is simply somebody with a belief that they – a separate individual – are ‘enlightened’ and you are not. They see themselves and you as separate. Beyond this, there is no way of knowing that you are ‘enlightened’ – and so there is no enlightenment. The question ‘are you enlightened?’ becomes totally irrelevant when things are seen clearly. The question simply burns up in the clarity of present seeing.
3.) Somebody who claims to be enlightened still sees themselves as separate perhaps?
Of course, since there is no other way to see yourself as enlightened! A self-image, including any ‘enlightened’ self-image, is always separate. It is always part of the dream.
This message is about seeing through the dream of separation. That’s why when it comes to this message, there are no authorities, no ‘enlightened’ or ‘awakened’ people, no gurus and no disciples. It is the person, ‘enlightened’ or not, that is seen through in the end.
An authority figure is someone who thinks that they know. This message is all about the not-knowing. And who could be an authority on not-knowing? Can I know more about not-knowing than you? Can I possess more nothing than you? Can there be any more Being here than there is there? Can there be an authority on life? Or is life itself the only authority?
4. What is enlightenment or awakening? Do those words have any meaning?
Okay. So let’s take a fresh look at those words. You see, for me, enlightenment has nothing to do with ‘somebody’ becoming ‘enlightened’. That’s the mind talking. That’s the voice of the seeker.
Awakening has nothing to do with ‘somebody’ becoming ‘awakened’. That’s the myth. That’s the dream – the ultimate dream of the ego, in fact.
‘Enlightenment’ is simply a word that points to the en-lightened nature of life itself. If something is en-lightened, it is in the light. It is lit up. It is visible. And what can be seen is this: Life itself is already fully visible – it is already fully enlightened, filling all space, appearing as everything, right here and right now.
Open your eyes and the world is simply there. What a miracle! Sights, sounds and smells simply appear. A bird singing. Hunger. Cars whooshing past. A thought about last night’s football match. Life simple appears, out of nothing. It appears, and is seen, and life is not separate from that seeing. Was there ever anybody here separate from this seeing? Was there ever anybody here, separate from life, who could become enlightened? Maybe that was part of the dream…
Similarly, ‘awakening’ is simply a word that points to the ever-present awakeness of life itself. Life is not asleep, it is awake. Life is not switched off, it is switched on. It is already awake to itself, appearing as everything. It is already awake to sights, sounds, smells, to colours, textures, movement. To the sound of that bird singing. To present feelings in the body. Was there ever anybody here separate from this ever-present awakeness? Was there ever anybody here who could become awakened? Maybe that was part of the dream too…
5.) Could it be said the, that Life Without A Centre is about the discovery of who I really am?
It is the discovery of what you are – and what you are not! All your life you have taken yourself to be an individual, a separate person. You live with a story of yourself, a self-image that you attempt to protect and defend. This story becomes your identity – who you think you are – and you end up forgetting who you really are, beyond that story.
Thought weaves a story about who you are, based on past experience. Before you know it, you are a ‘someone’ rather than a no-one. You are a person in a world. You have a past and a future. You try to fit in, to adapt, to make things go the way you want them to, to make your life work. You build up a list of achievements and failures. You work on yourself. You try to fix yourself. When asked, you tell your story of ‘me’. You listen to stories about other ‘me’s’, and compare and contrast, defend and attack these stories, forgetting that your ‘me’ is simply a story, and that story cannot even begin to describe what you really are.
You start to believe that this ‘me’ really exists outside of thought. You take it to be so much more than a story. You start to believe that this ‘me’ is who you really are! You defend this illusory story of ‘me’, and forget that you are defending nothing more than an image appearing in awareness. This is the origin of all violence and suffering. Violence and suffering do not begin ‘out there’ in the world, they begin with ‘you’.
The ‘me’ is your personal journey, your life story. It holds everything: Your successes and failures. Your past and future, your memories and projections. Your beliefs, your judgements, your opinions. Your fears, your regrets, your worries, you’re seeking. I refer to it all as ‘the story’, because that’s ultimately what it is, a story, a narrative, a tale, appearing in awareness, appearing in the present moment… and there is only the present moment.
Ultimately, your entire past and future are merely thoughts appearing in the present moment, and that’s the only reality this personal ‘you’ has. The personal ‘you’ has no reality outside of presently arising thoughts…
6.) Is there anything wrong with having a story of ‘me’?
Well, there is nothing wrong with the story, in itself!
Many people believe that this ‘individual self’ is what they are, and they ignore the space, the openness, the vast ocean of Being in which the ‘individual’ arises. They identify exclusively as a ‘separate person’ and never stop to ask if that is what they truly are.
You see, this message points to the possibility that you are not what you think you are.
You have taken yourself to be a separate wave in a vast ocean. You see yourself as a little person in a vast ocean full of other people. You see yourself as an individual in a world which is fundamentally separate from you.
But of course, the ‘separate wave’ in the ocean is not really ‘separate’ from the ocean at all! The ‘separate wave’ is really just the ocean appearing temporarily as a wave.
The wave is actually one-hundred percent water. In essence, it’s the same as the ocean. And so really there is no ‘separate wave’ at all.
There only appears to be a separate wave. The wave is in appearance only. It is a temporary appearance of the ocean.
You – what you take yourself to be – the person, the character, the ‘me’, only has existence as an appearance, a story appearing now in boundless Being, a story which is ultimately not separate from Being…
7.) Is nonduality all about getting rid of this separate wave? Is it about getting rid of the appearance of the ‘me’ and falling back into the ocean?
Perhaps it does sound like I’m saying that the appearance of the separate person is a problem and we should get rid of it. But who is going to get rid of the wave? The wave? How can the wave get rid of itself?
This is one of the traps that people fall into when they identify themselves as being ‘spiritual seekers’. They think that they need to get rid of the wave in order to reach the ocean, and there seem to be a lot of spiritual teachers and gurus out there who believe the same thing. Some spiritual teachers implore you to ‘kill the ego!’ or ‘destroy the mind!’ or ‘get rid of the self!’ and miss the fact that the attempt to kill the ego is that very ego, and the effort to destroy the mind is the mind, and so on…
The point is, the wave is already fully ocean. Any attempt to get rid of the wave is the wave attempting to get rid of itself.
Years ago, when I was a very serious and intense spiritual seeker, I tried desperately to get rid of Jeff, the character, the person. But this attempt ultimately ended in failure and frustration, because I was trying to get rid of something that wasn’t actually there! I was fighting an illusion, and when you fight an illusion, you are assuming that the illusion is real. What you fight, you give life to. What you resist, persists, as they say.
You don’t need to get rid of an illusion. To expose the illusion as an illusion is enough. To expose an illusion is to end it.
And so the attempt to destroy the ego, transcend the mind, kill the self, get rid of the ‘me’ – in other words, the spiritual search – is really just a war with life. It’s water fighting water.
Luckily, my spiritual seeking failed. And in that failure, this other possibility shone through – a possibility that went beyond seeking and finding, beyond ‘me’ getting what ‘I’ wanted, beyond my personal desire to become an enlightened person. Beyond the seeker and the sought, there was – and is – only unconditional love…
Nonduality does not mean ‘not-duality’ – that would be completely dualistic! In reality, nonduality includes (the appearance of) duality, because it is everything. It is nothing – no-thing – and it is everything.
Ultimately, nonduality appears as duality. They are one and the same. Then you can’t even speak of ‘nonduality’.
In other words, the appearance of the separate wave is not a problem for the Ocean. The appearance of your life story is itself a perfect expression of Being. In this unconditional love, nothing is denied.
And so it was never about getting rid of Jeff. It was always about falling in love with Jeff, and through him, everything…
8.) How does the experience of being a separate person relate to seeking?
The individual, the separate person, is a seeker. The separate person always seems to be looking for something more. The gift of this moment never seems to be enough. They experience lack, and look into the future to find the end of lack (which is of course, a projection of themselves).
The moment you have an individual, a wave separate from the Ocean, somebody separate from life – you have a seeker.
The moment there is separation, the moment there is two (one ‘thing’ separate from another ‘thing’), you have a longing to return to One. You have the experience that something is missing.
The moment there is separation, there is a longing to end the separation.
It’s out of the sense of separation – which manifests in the individual as the sense that there is something missing in the present moment – that we begin to seek. We seek to fill a hole in our lives, to put an end to the sense that we aren’t quite whole, the sense that we are not quite complete. And we look out into the world (in other words, into time and space) to try and put an end to this sense of lack at the heart of our experience.
But no matter how much we achieve in the world, no matter how much money we make, no matter how many spiritual experiences we have, no matter how ‘enlightened’ we get, no matter how many times we meet our ‘perfect partner’ or get the ‘perfect job’, we never seem to feel complete. No matter how much we find, the seeking seems to carry on. We get the new car, the new house, the new job, the new lover, the new guru, the new spiritual high, and it all satisfies for a while… but then the seeking starts up again. There always seems to be a longing for something more. We just can’t seem to shake off the sense that we are incomplete.
But here’s the problem – the individual, the seeker, is the very sense of lack he seeks to be free from.
How can the individual (separation, lack, seeking) put an end to separation? This is the dilemma which every seeker faces in the end.
9.) When I feel separate, I seek. How is separation and seeking related to Oneness or wholeness?
Well, really the search of a lifetime is the search for wholeness, for Oneness, for the end of separation. We think we are looking for money, for power, for wealth, for love, for spiritual experiences, for enlightenment, for liberation, for Nirvana.
What we are actually looking for is wholeness.
You see, if we’re honest, we don’t really want material wealth, power, success. We don’t really want to become an ‘awakened’ or ‘enlightened’ person. What we really long for is to end the sense of being a separate person, to end the sense of being someone over here looking for something over there, to end the sense of being a seeker separate from what is sought.
What we really long for is just to come Home. To finally come Home to what we are. To finally see life for what it really is, beyond our concepts about what it is.
The seeking can become so exhausting. The fight against life can drive us to despair, to depression, to addiction, or simply to a lifelong sense that there is something missing, that we ‘aren’t there yet’, that we ‘aren’t good enough’, that we are sinners, losers, failures…
Perhaps it’s the failure of seeking that points us Home in the end.
10.) Separation is seeking, and seeking is always about the search for wholeness…if so, how do we stop this process? How do we stop seeking?
Good question. But can you see that the search for the end of seeking is just more seeking? This is another trap on the spiritual search. We see that seeking is the ‘problem’ (in the sense that seeking is the very sense of lack we are trying to overcome) and so we try to give up seeking. We seek the end of seeking, and the seeking never seems to end.
11.) If we can’t stop seeking, and seeking the end of seeking is just more seeking, what can we do?
As Krishnamurti said: “There is no how to be free. If you ask how, you’ve stopped listening.”
If you ask ‘how do I – a separate person – stop seeking?’, you’ve already stopped listening to what is being communicated here.
This message is about the possibility that there never was a separate person – there never was anybody there separate from life. There never was a seeker separate from what was sought. The question ‘how do I stop seeking?’ is rooted in faulty assumptions about who you really are.
And so the question “how do I stop seeking?” is replaced by “is there actually anybody there who can seek or not seek?”
The question “how do I stop seeking?” is replaced by “is there a seeker at all?”
At the heart of your experience, can you actually find a seeker? Can you actually find somebody there who is separate from life? Can you actually find a person there who is living your life? Or is there just the present appearance of life?
Is it true that you are a separate person doing breathing, doing seeing, doing hearing, doing thinking? Or are breathing, seeing, hearing, thinking just happening? Have you ever stopped to look, with fresh eyes? Or have you been on automatic pilot your whole life, just accepting what the world tells you about life and yourself, and never questioning it? Do you believe that parents, teachers, gurus, masters have the answers, and have you accepted their answers unquestioningly?
12.) How can I see that I’m not separate from life? It seems as though I am!
Well, that’s the play. Of course it seems as though you are separate. Of course it seems as though there’s a me and a you. Of course it seems as though I’m over here and you’ve over there. Of course it seems as though there’s somebody here subjectively looking out at a solid, objective world. It’s supposed to seem that way. The seeming is the appearance. The seeming is the play. The seeming is the dance – the dance of duality.
But beyond the seeming, is there actually any separation?
Right now, what is happening? For a moment, if you can, and if you are willing, put everything you believe on hold, suspend all your second-hand knowledge, forget for a moment what you’ve been told by teachers, gurus, authorities, and look with fresh eyes at life. Look with fresh eyes at your own experience. Begin again, like a child seeing the world for the first time.
Right now, are sounds appearing? Listen: sounds simply happen. Without any effort, without you having to do anything, sounds simply appear. The sound of breathing. The sound of cars beeping their horns outside. The television blaring. A bird singing.
There is simply the spontaneous play of life.
And then a secondary movement seems to happen: thought comes in and says “I am hearing”. “I am a separate person, hearing these sounds. There’s me, and there’s the sounds. I am the subject, and the sound is the object. There is a perceiver and the perceived.”
But does this separation ever really happen? In direct, unfiltered experience, is there any evidence that there is somebody here, hearing sounds? Is there actually a person here who does the hearing, or is hearing simply happening, effortlessly? Is there somebody here doing sounds, or do sounds simply appear spontaneously?
Yes, thought says “I hear the sounds”, but this begs the question, what is this ‘I’ who hears the sounds? Is there really an ‘I’ hearing the sounds? Who hears the sounds?
13.) There is hearing, and then a thought says ‘I am hearing’?
Well, in direct experience, right now, can you find two things (the one who hears the sound, and the sound itself)? Or is there just the sound, being heard, effortlessly?
Is any personal doing involved in hearing? Or does hearing just happen?
Could it be that the hearing of the sound, and the sound, were never separate? Can you find any dividing line at all, in your direct experience, between the hearing of the sound and the sound? Any gap in time, or distance, between the sound and the hearing of the sound?
Can you find the one who hears the sound over here, separate from the sound over there? Or are ‘over here’ and ‘over there’ never part of your actual experience?
Are there two things? Or is there just the singular movement of life?
Same goes with seeing, thinking, feeling. Can you find anybody here doing seeing, doing thinking, doing feeling? Or are seeing, thinking and feeling simply happening, effortlessly?
A question asked by spiritual teachers throughout the ages: Who sees? Who thinks? Who feels?
14.) Is this what you mean by Life Without A Centre?
Well, can you actually find somebody there at the centre of life doing hearing, doing seeing, doing feeling? Or is everything happening spontaneously – in a very mysterious way – without you?
Without the thought “I hear”, hearing still happens, doesn’t it?
Without the thought “I see”, seeing still happens, doesn’t it?
We say “I am thinking, I am feeling, I am seeing.” But in direct experience, isn’t it more true to say that thoughts just appear? Feelings in the body just appear? Sights and sounds and smells just appear?
That they don’t appear to ‘you’ or for ‘you’, they just appear?
That life isn’t happening to ‘you’ or for ‘you’, it’s just happening?
That really life has no centre?
That really, there is simply the present appearance of everything?
This is the dream: that you are a person at the centre of your life, somehow separate from life. That you are a person doing life, a person controlling life, a person in charge of life, a person orchestrating thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds smells…
See that life is just living itself. This is not ‘your’ life, this is just life. Freedom from the burden of individuality cannot be found by the individual in time. Freedom from individuality is right at the heart of individuality. True freedom is not freedom from the personal. It’s freedom in the personal. Freedom as the personal. As Jesus said, you have to lose your life to save it. Perhaps this is what he was pointing to…
15.) Do you offer a practice, a method, something that I can do that will bring me closer to what you’re saying?
Well, in a way, if you ask for a practice, you’ve not been listening to what I’m saying. You’ve already concluded that you are not there, and that you need a practice or method to take you there. Of course, if this is what you believe, it becomes true for you. If you believe that you are not there, then you will need time to get there, wherever you think ‘there’ is!
Of course, when it is discovered that there is really here, the question ‘how’ dissolves. Because the end of seeking, as I always say, is life as it is. The end of seeking is not something to be found by the seeker in the future. The end of seeking is the seeing-through of that very seeker – a timeless seeing that is always now.
The end of seeking is hidden in and as the seeker. Ingenious!
I’m not saying that practices and methods are wrong, or bad. You will find yourself doing practices or not. I’m certainly not saying “don’t do a spiritual practice because all spiritual practices are dualistic” – of course, that would just be a practice in itself. The practice of no practice. The anti-practice practice.
Some people meditate, some people self-enquire, some people visit gurus, some people just like walking in nature or listening to music. It’s all life, it’s all absolutely appropriate to each and every dream, and I’m not here to tell you how to live or what to do. But what these words are really pointing to is the possibility that there is nobody there separate from life in the first place – and that life itself is not the result of any practice.
You see, no practice can bring you closer to life. There is only life, and all practices, and absence of practices, appear within life, which is what you and where you are. If you think you are closer to life, or further away from life, these are just thoughts appearing within life. ‘Closer’ and ‘further away’ are simply concepts appearing in that which is prior to, and beyond, all concepts.
Some people do meditation because they think it will get them closer to what I’m pointing to. Some people do self-enquiry because they think it will get them closer to what I’m pointing to. Some people give up practices altogether because they think it will get them closer to what I’m pointing to. I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong, I’m just saying it’s what seekers apparently do!
The real question of course is who does the practice? Who sits down to meditate? Who self-enquires? Who asks questions and waits for answers? All practices, in the end, lead to this question. All seekers, in the end, are confronted with their own absence.
So, are you open to discovering what lies beyond seeking? Or are you going to run away from this message, and fall back into seeking, and into time itself?
16.) Why do you think some spiritual teachers give out practices?
Well, perhaps the ultimate point of practices is to make you believe that you are getting somewhere, until it is seen in clarity that there is nowhere to go but here! To make you think that you are getting closer to your goals, until it’s seen that your goals are imaginary. However, this could be seen whilst doing spiritual practices… but it could also be seen whilst having a cup of tea, or walking in a park, or listening to music, or shopping in a supermarket…
There’s a world of difference between sitting down to meditate to get somewhere, and meditating for its own sake. There’s a huge difference between singing mantras because you think it will bring you closer to awakening… and just singing mantras. There’s a huge difference between sitting on a chair watching your breathing because you think it will bring you closer to enlightenment… and just sitting on a chair. There’s nothing wrong with meditation, or singing mantras, or sitting on a chair. How could there be?
But the question is, what are you looking for? When will you find it? And is there actually anything to find? Or is there only the present appearance of life? Is there only life, appearing to no-one? Is that possible? And are you open to that possibility?
Yes, the need for spiritual practices may simply fall away when it’s seen that there’s nobody here separate from life. And then you will find yourself meditating, or not meditating, and either way, you can’t go wrong. Because you will see that meditation is equal to eating a cheese sandwich. And repeating mantras is equal to going to the shops to buy a newspaper. It is all the One Taste, as they say in Zen…
Perhaps the reason I don’t give out specific practices is because I don’t know what’s best for you, in your dream. I am not an authority on life – there’s no such thing. I’m not a guru – I don’t have a one-size-fits-all method or practice that will magically solve all your problems. That’s a lovely idea but unfortunately life doesn’t really work like that. In the end, life isn’t something that needs to be fixed anyway…
17.) Are you saying we should just stop practices, stop trying to help ourselves, and others?
I’m not here to tell you how to live, only to point back clearly to life as it is. I’m not telling you to give up on life, I’m not telling you to stop doing what you’re doing, I’m not telling you to stop helping others, I’m not even telling you to ‘do nothing’…
Look, you will find yourself helping people or not. You don’t need me to tell you how to live. But beyond helping and needing to be helped, there is a wordless intimacy here in which nobody can help anybody – because there is simply nobody there separate from life. Beyond help and helplessness, you are already free, and that’s the possibility that is being shared here. And again, this could be seen in the midst of practice, or in the midst of watching TV or doing the washing up.
Nonduality isn’t about detaching yourself from the world and from other people (and justifying that detachment with the belief that ‘there is no world and there are no others’). Detachment is separation. No, this is about a life lived in fullness, where nothing is denied. And that fullness could include moving to help apparent others, although ultimately there are no ‘others’. It could include moving to improve your life, if you think that your life needs to be improved, even though ultimately it’s not ‘your life’ at all.
To the mind it’s a total mystery, a total paradox… but to what you are, it is the clearest and most obvious thing of all.
If someone is hungry, you might give them food. If somebody is in physical pain, you might help ease their pain if that is possible. If somebody is upset or frightened, you might help them to take a look at what they are thinking in the moment, to help them feel exactly what they feel, to see it all as just a story, and to find the open space beyond the story. When there is unconditional love, there is enough room for all of this. But where the action comes from, you don’t know – it all happens spontaneously, without any specific agenda.
When the completeness of life is seen, there is room for appropriate action, always.
When you see that the world does not need your help, perhaps that’s when you become the greatest help. Because ‘you’ get out-of-the-way.
So, after all that, do I really need to give you a practice? Can’t you see that you already have the perfect practice? That you’re doing it right now? That, in fact, you are it?
18.) Do spiritual practices bring you to that very realization? Didn’t you do spiritual practices when you were a seeker…didn’t they bring you to where you are today?
My goodness, a year ago I used to be obsessed with spiritual practices! I was desperate to become an ‘enlightened person’, I was desperate to become ‘awakened’, to lose my self and merge with life. I was a depressed, miserable human being, and I saw spiritual enlightenment as the only way out. Modern psychology hadn’t worked for me – it only seemed to deal with surface issues. I didn’t want to ‘fit in’ or ‘adapt to society’ – I wanted to be free, totally, radically, free. I didn’t want a fleeting state called ‘happiness’ – I wanted truth and reality, something absolute and unchangeable, something totally beyond earthly pleasure and pain. And so I turned to the teachings of enlightenment, and I became obsessed with my own enlightenment (a wonderful contradiction in terms!)
I tried everything. I meditated for hours every day, I did self-enquiry obsessively, I even became a vegan for a while because I thought it would bring me closer to enlightenment, closer to the disappearance of the self, closer to the dissolution of separation. And it was all very exciting at first, because I thought that I – a separate person – was getting somewhere. I thought that the seeker was getting closer to the sought. I thought that I was ‘nearly there’.
But eventually, the seeking failed. Why? Because no matter what I did, or didn’t do, there was still the sense that there was somebody there, separate from life, doing or not doing. No matter what I did, or gave up doing, to try and get rid of separation, separation still seemed to be there.
I was in a double-bind. I saw that seeking was futile, but I couldn’t give up. I saw that practices were pointless (because they seemed to fuel the sense that I was separate) but I also saw that not doing practices, or giving up practices, was just another practice, just another tactic to bring about a desired change. The seeking ended in despair and frustration. How could a separate self get rid of a separate self? Not possible. I was lost.
And in that lost-ness, in that frustration and despair, another possibility arose. And it had nothing to do with somebody doing something to get somewhere. It went beyond doing practices or not doing practices. This possibility said that freedom was already right here and right now, and that there had never been anyone here separate from it. That no practice can take you to freedom, because practices already arise in freedom. That the ‘I’ could never become awakened, but ever-present awakeness is already here, lovingly embracing everything, and here is the end of all seeking. It all became as clear as crystal, as obvious as breathing. It wasn’t an experience (experiences come and go), it wasn’t a passing state (states are in time), it was life as it is, and it had always been staring me in the face.
In the seeing of this, practices became totally unnecessary. Having a coffee with a friend became equal to sitting down to meditate. Why? Because it was seen that the one who sits down to have a coffee with a friend is the one who sits down to meditate! The one who walks through the park looking at the beautiful flowers, or the one who lies in a hospital bed in extreme pain, is the one who sings mantras or goes to therapy or spends a lifetime seeking enlightenment! The seeker is the sought. There is nothing to find – nothing was ever lost. As wise men and women throughout the ages have tried to tell us – You Are That. Already.
And so these days, life is very simple. The spiritual search came crashing down, and what emerged from the rubble is a very ordinary life being lived. Who it is lived by, I have no way of knowing. The question, ‘Who is living life?’ self-destructs the moment it asked. It collapses under the weight of its own assumptions – every question does in the end.
‘Who is living life?’ – that question cannot stand.
The mystery is enough. I still call myself ‘Jeff’ (the character is not lost, the wave goes on being a wave), but what is seen is that ‘Jeff’ is simply a wonderful story, a narrative that comes and goes in that which does not come and go. I don’t even need to be attached to the story ‘I am not Jeff’ or ‘I am nobody’ – that would just be another identity, something else that comes and goes.
And so, what is left? Life, lived in fascination. Life, lived in gratitude.
Life, in its radical simplicity.
19.) Did those practices lead you to this realization?
Yes and no. It’s always yes and no, and totally beyond yes and no. The mind operates in the world of ‘yes and no’. But of course, life is always beyond mind. This is why this is very difficult to talk about…
You see, practices were all about me attempting to get somewhere, while this realisation was a seeing-through of this me who was trying to get somewhere! Practices were all about doing something to bring about a change – this was the seeing that life is always exactly as it is, and no change, in the moment, is necessary.
Practices were all about cause-and-effect, about putting in effort to get a result, and what was seen is that life is ever-free from cause-and-effect. Life as it is is not the result of effort, because ‘effort’ and ‘result’, ‘cause’ and ‘effect’, indeed all thoughts about life, are simply thoughts appearing in life.
The thought of a ‘cause’ doesn’t actually cause anything. The thought of a ‘result’ is not the result of anything. The past does not bring you to the present. The present is all there is, and the past is just a story arising in the present. (And ultimately the ‘present’ is just another thought too…)
In the story of time, it seems as though there is cause and effect. It seems as though A leads to B. It seems as though acorns grow into oak trees. It seems as though what I did brought me to where I am now. It was this illusion (this seeming) that was seen through! The seeming has no reality outside of thought. I’m not saying there is no seeming. I’m saying there is only seeming in thought.
No practice brought me here, because ‘I’ am not here! Or you could say that ‘I’ is just a story arising here, appearing in the vastness of life itself. The shocking realisation was this: freedom had nothing to do with whatever Jeff did or didn’t do on his spiritual search. Freedom is not a result of Jeff’s search. Life is not caused by Jeff’s search (what arrogance it would be to think that!). Jeff’s search appeared in life… and itself was a full expression of life.
In other words, I had always been Home, but hadn’t realised it.
Even in the depths of seeking there had been Oneness. But that hadn’t been seen – and that’s why the seeking had continued for as long as it did. Seeking is equal to not-seeing.
It was Oneness, dressed up as a seeker, looking for Oneness!
Oneness looking for itself…
20.) Do you feel that your seeking was necessary?
I must say this: the story of Jeff’s search is the only story that could have happened, because it did happen. I simply had to go through what I went through, not because it was predestined, but because it happened, simple as that. What happened, happened. The dream you dream is the only possible dream. Your life story is the only possible story that could have arisen. Your dream is perfect for you.
And so spiritual practices were necessary (only because they happened)… until it was seen in clarity that they weren’t necessary. And when it was seen that they weren’t necessary, it was also seen that they had never been necessary, because there had only ever been life, and no practice had ever taken me even one inch closer to life.
You see, I have always been this. Even before I did spiritual practices I was this. When I took my first breath, I was this. When I take my last, I will be this. I cannot not be this. And neither can you. You are what I am. And that recognition renders all spiritual practices obsolete.
As I said, this is not a rejection of spiritual practices, but a movement beyond them, for those who are open.
It doesn’t take another 50 years of meditation, or psychotherapy, or guru worshipping, to become what you are. However, if you believe that it does, if that is your dream, then you will probably find yourself meditating, or worshipping a guru, or attending psychotherapy sessions for the next 50 years. I wish you the best of luck! You live your own dream. What you believe is necessary becomes necessary for you, in your dream. It’s that simple.
And maybe the freedom that being pointed to here will be seen in the midst of meditation or psychotherapy. Or maybe it will be seen in the midst of doing the dishes, or walking through the park, or reading these words. Who knows. There are no rules, and there is no authority. Or if there is any authority, it is life itself, not any particular individual within life. Although ultimately every apparent individual is simply an expression of life…
You will find yourself meditating, or not meditating, and I am not here to tell you how to live. There are enough people in the world telling you how to live! But if you really listen to what I’m saying, you may find that the need to practice or be practiced on simply falls away very naturally… and then all that’s left is life happening, with no need to do anything to get closer to life happening. It’s an intimacy beyond words, and really it’s where you already are, even if you don’t know it. Everybody is this, even if they don’t recognise it.
Ultimately you can’t even ‘return Home’… because you never left Home in the first place. You can’t ‘find’ the miracle because you’ve always been living it. You can’t ‘become’ awakened, you can’t transform into an ‘awakened person’ or reach an ‘awakened state’, because life itself is already awake, and there is nobody here separate from that ever-present awakeness. In a way, this turns all spiritual teachings upside-down and inside-out, revealing a previously ignored simplicity right at the heart of life.
For the spiritual seeker attached to their spiritual teachings and teachers, this message is radical, no doubt about it!
I know that not a word I say could be true, because no word can touch life. Life is too alive for words. So, no, I don’t actually believe in this stuff, in the sense that I cannot form it into a ‘belief’ that I’m separate from. I don’t believe in life – because there is only life. Life as it is does not require belief, and that’s the beauty of it. It is simply this – here and now. It is breathing happening, it is the heart beating, it is sights and sounds and smells appearing exactly as they appear. It is sound of the washing machine whirring. It is the taste of the cup of tea I’m drinking. So simple, so obvious, so present. So wonderfully ordinary, so extraordinarily wonderful. No need for belief, at all. All belief comes and goes, but this remains, whether Jeff believes it or not!
Life is the bonfire that burns up all beliefs, all words, even these words, leaving only presence. These words appear and are immediately burnt up. Jeff knows he is not special or different – he is simply an appearance in life. I cannot be an ‘authority on nonduality’, I cannot ‘know’ this, because these words are equal to the barking of a dog or the tweeting of a bird. It is all the One expression, it is all an expression of the One, and nobody can separate themselves from that expression and claim ownership. Nobody can teach life itself, nobody can give you that, because the dog barking, the bird singing, the sun shining is already life itself. Nobody can teach you it because everything is teaching it – everything is it.
I’m not saying “there is no authority, except for Jeff!” (and this is the guru trap of course). I’m saying there is no authority, and that includes Jeff and his expression . To be totally free from all authority, including your own… that’s the real freedom.
These words come from the certainty that there is nothing to know. It’s not the certainty of the mind, but the certainty that is not-knowing itself. All knowledge, all intellectual certainty, is just a play of thought. Beyond thoughts, there is no world. Beyond the world, there is nothing to know. Who would know it?
You see, where there is belief, there is doubt. Anything you believe, you can also doubt. If I believed any of this stuff, I could also doubt it. But because for me this is not a belief, there is no doubt either, not a trace of it.
Life as it is cannot be doubted. In simple language, you cannot doubt that you are awake and present, right here, right now. You cannot doubt this simple feeling of being that is identical with life itself. You cannot doubt the sound of that bird singing, or the taste of this cup of tea, or breathing happening…
Oh yes, you can doubt everything you know about life, you can doubt all the language we use to point to and describe life, you can doubt even the word ‘life’ itself, but you cannot (unless you are in total denial!) doubt the reality to which the word ‘life’ points. And even if doubt appears, life is that which is doing the doubting. So in the end you can’t escape it. You are Home, no matter what. Beyond belief, beyond doubt.
When there is nothing to know, when there is no belief and therefore no doubt, all that’s left is life itself, in all its beauty and rawness, and a deep, unshakeable knowing that this is all there is – and that this is enough (because this is all there is).
It’s not something that ‘you’ know. But, undoubtedly, it is known. Life knows, because life is. The Knowing is the Being, and in that, everything comes full circle, and life completes itself. The origin of life is its destination, and its destination is its origin. Creation and destruction are not-two.
To look life in the face, and to see only love, only an intimacy beyond words looking back at you, that’s when you know it’s all over… and only just beginning.
Welcome to Life Without A Centre, the life you are already living!
*Artwork/banner by Sarah Pollak