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A full-length interview with Jeff Foster.
“This is the possibility of total freedom. Right in the midst of a very ordinary life.”
“Join Jeff Foster, the well known Non-Dual author of An Extraordinary Absence, and Chris Hebard in a unique discussion regarding the deeply private journey of self inquiry. This DVD is both an acknowledgment of the deep trials and tribulations on the path but also a hymn of praise regarding the Beauty uncovered in the process. It is a unique dialogue, honoring and discussing issues rarely covered in public. Jeff is both magnetic and wise we promise you have never seen anything quiet like this dialogue!”
A review of the DVD
“True Freedom is the loss of everything.”
On this DVD, which was filmed at the 2009 Science and Non-Duality Conference in San Rafael, CA, Chris Hebard sits down with Jeff Foster and has an in-depth and extremely candid conversation with Jeff about his life and awakening experience.
While Jeff is one of the most popular non-duality teachers out there, and has put out several DVDs and books, I don’t think you could meet a more humble person. I attended his talk at The Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice, CA in 2009, and can tell you he has a low key, but charismatic presence. He doesn’t appear to take anything too seriously, and is quick to have a good laugh.
However, this was not always the case. On Awe and Wonder: It’s Darkest Before the Dawn, Jeff tells how he grew up in England painfully shy and insecure, so much so that his teachers would often write on his report card, “What’s wrong with Jeff, why doesn’t he talk?” Jeff points out the irony of this given that these days he goes around the world giving public talks!
Hearing Jeff share, in detail, about how much pain and suffering he went through before awakening will, I suspect, prove enormously helpful to many who are currently going through their own “Dark night of the Soul.”
The spiritual path can feel awfully lonely and confusing at times, especially if you are the only one in your family who is going through it, which is often the case. Hearing a fellow seeker share how he too felt alone, confused, depressed, etc. lets you see that in fact you are not alone. Indeed, far from it.
What’s more, as Jeff takes you step-by-step through how he came to see that the “Jeff” he thought he was did not actually exist, you can’t help but begin to question your own belief in a separate self. In other words, the very process of listening to Jeff tell his story of awakening can lead one to draw the same conclusion about their own life-long belief in a separate self: that it doesn’t actually exist.
Specifically, what he came to see was that the “Jeff” he thought he was, was just that, a thought, and nothing more–full stop. So seeing was happening, hearing was happening, thoughts and sensations were arising, but for no one. Says Jeff, “I used to think that life was all about Jeff; what Jeff wanted, what Jeff needed. And it turns out it never was about Jeff… Life has its own way.”
A Common “Spiritual Trap”
On the DVD, Jeff also covers some of the common “spiritual traps” that many seekers fall into (as did Jeff himself). One that he talks about could be called the, “Jeff must die before he can awaken” trap.
In other words, he initially thought that he needed to get rid of, or somehow kill off the “Jeff” he thought he was, and then he would be free. As he talks about this period in his life, he shares now what he couldn’t see then: “What would try to get rid of an ego, but an ego!?” That the attempt to “kill Jeff” was what was actually keeping the seeking going!
Remember, the mind doesn’t care what you try to do to it, even attempting to “kill” it is fine, as long as you engage it it is happy because it can continue to perpetuate the story of a separate self. When one awakens, one simply lets the arising thoughts be as they are, as it is enough to see that that they are not you.
It’s worth noting that while many seekers look for teachers, Jeff says that he knew that he had to go the path alone: “I wasn’t interested in having teachers… maybe it was my scientific background, but I knew I had to do this myself, I had to investigate this by myself. No one else could do this for me.” This is a crucial point, for regardless of how many wonderful spiritual teachers you sit with, books you read or videos you watch, in the end you have to figure this stuff out for yourself, otherwise it will always stay at the conceptual level.
For Jeff, who grew up an atheist, his suffering and depression eventually lead to a complete physical and emotional collapse, and he ended up in the hospital. It was there that it suddenly dawned on him how precious life was and how easily it can be taken away:
What did everything mean… achievements, what we own, relationships, if it can all be taken away in 5 seconds time? I suddenly felt the need to know what the hell ‘this’ was, and who the hell ‘I’ was! These were questions I had never asked before. And suddenly I found that I needed to find the answers to these questions. That it suddenly became life or death. And I knew I couldn’t go back to the way things were. -Jeff Foster
Another Common “Spiritual Trap”
This initial insight was followed by Jeff falling into another common seeker’s trap: The idea that he was ‘no one,’ that HE didn’t exist. In other words, the ego just swopped beliefs, from thinking it was a ‘someone,’ to now thinking it was a ‘no one': “Oh, I get it. Who I really am is no one. That is who I am!” Not surprisingly, this led to a healthy feeling of superiority as his ego proclaimed, “I am enlightened, and those people over there are not!”
However, Jeff points out that: “There isn’t even anyone here to even know that they are nothing!” And that’s why the mind will never grasped this, because it is a complete paradox. It is nothing appearing as, playing as, dressing up, as everything!
Eventually, in a moment of clarity, this feeling that Life was one big problem that needed to be solved, to be figured out by this character called “Jeff,” suddenly dropped away:
‘My life’ dissolved back into life itself. In reality, ‘my life’ was always an illusion, because there was never anyone there separate from life. ‘My air’ was never really separate from ‘air’ – inside and outside are one. There is only ever everything, and you cannot ‘own’ or ‘lose’ a part of everything.
There is much more material on this DVD that I will not go into on this review, but if you like what you have read so far, you will really enjoy this intimate conversation with Jeff. Lastly, much appreciation to Chris Hebard, for not just hiring the camera crew, recording and editing the interview, and making it available on DVD to all who are on this path, but for his genuine passion and enthusiasm for the material as is evidenced by his website, StillnessSpeaks.com.
-Michael Jeffreys, mjeffreys.com