A collection of quotes, meditations, teachings and reflections on non-duality, spiritual awakening, relationships, identity, suffering and the wholeness of life
– by Jeff Foster
I remember, early one morning several years ago, while working as a home carer, I found myself washing faeces off a man’s giant, swollen testicles. He was dying of cancer which had spread throughout his testicles and prostate, and in the night he had defecated himself and rolled all around in the mess. We laughed a lot together and we chatted about football and the latest news stories as I cleaned him up. He could barely move, he was so sore and swollen everywhere. He was myself in disguise.
He had a few weeks to live, but he was so alive, so in the here-and-now, without a trace of self-pity. There was no loss of dignity there – there was just what was happening in the moment. He had somehow found a way to deeply accept his circumstances, even though his life had not turned out the way he had dreamed when he was younger and he had time to dream. It took over two hours to get him ready for his day, to hoist him out of his dirty bed, to get him toileted and dressed and into his favourite chair. He didn’t live for long after that. But I will always remember him.
Even when covered in our own shit and without a tomorrow, we are nothing less than divine.
Since every wave in the ocean is ‘made of’ the ocean itself, since it has the same ‘substance’ as the ocean, pushing away a wave of yourself – a thought, a sensation, a feeling, a sound – numbing yourself to it, rejecting it, denying it, trying to escape it – is equivalent to pushing away the entire essence of the ocean. Pushing away a moment of sadness, or pain, or doubt, or fear, or joy, or delight, is the same as pushing away all of life. Even the smallest wave, in essence, is as vast as the ocean – there are no insignificant thoughts or feelings, no ‘ordinary’ experiences, no moments unworthy of kind attention. All is consciousness – or if you prefer, all is God – beyond all our limited and outdated ideas of what those words mean. Even the smallest wave is sacred, here in the vast open space that you are. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”, and perhaps he was talking about You.
“Pain is an illusion!” Easy words to say. But try saying this in the midst of intense physical pain. The pain is not the illusion. That’s a misunderstanding of the word ‘illusion’. The illusion is that, in this moment, the pain should not be happening. The illusion is that the pain is fundamentally divided from what you are. The illusion is that the pain is happening to something or someone called ‘me’, the victim of pain or the creator of pain. The illusion is the epic story of ‘me and my heavy past and future of pain’. In fact, in this moment, when we take a fresh look, all we can find is present pain. Beyond memory of past pain, and anticipation of future pain, there is only what is happening right now, and nothing more. There is just this present dance of raw sensation, appearing in the vastness that you are. Even the most intense sensation arises and dissolves in the wide open space that you are, which is untouched by pain yet fully allows pain into itself…
In other words, pain is inevitable, but our suffering around that pain seems to be optional. And suffering always has to do with our failed attempts to be in control of our pain in the moment, our memory of past pain and our anticipation of more pain in the future. Pain is nothing more or less than a secret invitation to deep surrender…
IS THERE A PRESENT MOMENT?
There is no such thing as a thought from the past. Who we really are does not ‘travel’ into the past in thought. A thought about the past, a memory, arises in the present. A thought about the future, a dream of what may or may not happen, does not happen in the future, it happens here, now. Past and future do not happen in the past or future – they arise here, where you are – just as a movie set in the past does not cause the movie screen to travel into the past. All thoughts are present thoughts. The movie screen is timeless but holds all movements of time.
This moment is not really a ‘moment’ separate from any other moment at all. It is not a slither of time between a separate past and future moment. This moment is the vast field where past and future arise and fall, where dreams are born and die, where thoughts, sensations, sounds, smells, feelings, all arise and dissolve, leaving no trace. This moment is vast and timeless and holds everything. Since the words ‘moment’ and ‘movement’ come from the same root, it may be better to call this the present movement. The present movement of life! The movement of thoughts, sensations, feelings. The movement of past and future. And what is aware of all this movement? That which never moves. That which you truly are.
In the midst of all the movement of life, total stillness.
The Absolute does not stand alone. It has Relatives.
Relatives come to visit without any notice. They let themselves in. They won’t leave until they are allowed to stay. Sometimes they make a mess. But they are always Family. Even after they leave.
This is how the Absolute entertains itself over the holiday season.
And it’s always the holiday season, here in the house of You.
I’ve never spoken to another person in my life. I speak to consciousness itself, cleverly disguised as an ‘other’. And so, ‘I’ don’t really speak to ‘you’ at all, although that’s a beautiful story to tell. For underneath all the words, underneath all the sounds, the complex stories, the agreements and disagreements, the shared history, the hopes of a tomorrow, there is a love here with no name, a silence which cannot be disturbed, a timeless intimacy in its infancy that is ever-present and fresh, a deep rest that endures even after the passing of the impermanent body. Love is stronger than death. May we always meet in this deathless space we call Now.
One of the most divine, sacred, deeply religious things that can happen is a total loss of your personal religion, a dropping of your second-hand belief in God and a waking up to what the word ‘God’ has always been pointing to, beyond words and sounds and images and the passing of experiences. To confine God to a word, a belief, an image, a feeling, a concept, a story, a dream, an ideology, to imprison God in a time-bound religious system, is to put limits on the vastness and give God a boundary, an inside and an outside, a shape, a form, a time-frame. To believe in God, to think of God, to dream of God, to argue about God, to claim God as ‘mine’ or ‘ours’ in any way, is to separate ourselves from God and each other, and create division where there is none. That is idol worship, the worship of form and story and mental truth, and it is not a sin but a vast limitation, a human forgetting of what can be only ever hinted at by the metaphor ‘God’.
God cannot be anything less than the totality, than all that is touched, tasted, heard, smelled, known, imagined and dreamed, and whether we dream of the God of a personal religion or of God’s non-existence or even death, God is a word, a metaphor, for That which gives rise to all of it, prior to human belief and knowledge and even faith. Yes, this is so vast that even our faith is too small to contain it, and our science cannot touch it, and yet it is as intimate and obvious and present as the very next breath…
We may all adhere to different religions, and hold on to different beliefs, and dress in different ways, and speak different languages, but we are all secretly intimate with the same God.
TIME FOR A HOLIDAY?
The recognition that your career, your marriage, your children, your wealth, your titles, your fame, your achievements, your wealth of knowledge, your savings, your possessions, won’t make you happy or bring you the peace and rest you truly long for, can be the beginning of great despair and depression, and disillusionment with the promises of the world, and can lead to a life of burying your head in the sand and dreaming of a better life, waiting for your next ‘holiday’. Life ceases to be holy, and we live a life of comfortable numbness. But at least we are ‘normal’ and ‘fit in’.
Or, if faced head-on, and not turned away from, this disillusionment can actually be an invitation to that great liberation that is the discovery of a deeper, ever-present happiness, not dependent upon people, substances, objects, or life circumstances ‘going your way’, or time itself.
Breakdown can always point to the break-through of a deeper truth, since only that which is false in you can break down. Truth cannot break. Some call this recognition ‘waking up’, some call it ‘self-realisation’. I call it natural sanity.
Remembering who you really are stops you living in suspense, longing for your next holiday, tired of life and waiting for retirement, and makes every day a holiday – a holy day. Which it always was, of course.
What happens when, just for a moment, we stay with our pain, our fear, our doubt, our discomfort, our grief, our broken heart, even our numbness, without trying to change it, or fix it, or numb ourselves to it, or get rid of it in any way? What happens when, even when we feel like leaving, abandoning the moment for the promise of a future salvation, we stay, sitting with the raw, unfiltered, boundlessly alive life-energy that is simply trying to express right now? What happens when, just for a moment, despite all urges to the contrary, we don’t “do” anything about our discomfort or grief, we drop all tricks and tactics and clever manipulations, and instead, begin to deeply acknowledge what is here, honouring it, listening to its deeper call, sinking into the mystery of it? What happens when we make the radical commitment to never turn away from this moment, as it dances in emptiness?
In reality, we are only ever given a moment of pain, and never more, although thought tries to project the pain into time, creating the story of “my past and future pain”, moving into the epic movie of “my lifelong struggle with pain”. But life itself is only ever a moment, and we are always spared from time itself. Can we meet the raw life energy as it arises right now? That is the question. And who meets life? Is there anyone here separate from life in the first place? Is there any choice in the matter? Is there not just intimacy with all experience? Is the ultimate meeting not already happening? Am I not, as the ocean of consciousness, already totally inseparable from the waves of myself, the thoughts, sensations and feelings? Am I not already fully committed to these children of myself, these beloved expressions of my own blood and guts? Is this not an ancient devotion?
And so, it’s not so much that we need to make a commitment to fearlessly contact our embodied experience. It’s more a case of remembering this ancient promise that we already are. In the depths of our being, we are already fully devoted to being here. It is when we forget this primal commitment that we are, that we suffer and seek and long to return home.
“Turn towards me”, our grief whispers. “Just for a moment. Do not be afraid. I am made of you.”
“But I don’t know how to turn”, we reply.
“Then I shall turn towards you. Do not be afraid.”
There is a very fine line
There is no such thing as a miracle from God when you realise that everything in present experience is a miracle from God, every taste, every sound, every smell, every vibrantly alive feeling surging out of the vastness, and so the words ‘miracle’ and ‘God’ are unnecessary, and it is enough to simply be alive, here and now, breathing in and out, savouring the richness and immediacy of the moment, God or no God, miracle or otherwise…
There are no insignificant moments
There are only constant invitations
To remember what you have always known
In your heart of hearts
True happiness has nothing to do with making everything perfect, or denying the imperfections of things. It’s often the imperfections that make something or someone so loveable, so beautiful, so memorable, and even so forgiveable. It’s often the little quirks, the habits and imperfections that we remember so well when someone we love passes. Perhaps instead of ‘imperfection’, we should speak of ‘uniqueness’. True happiness, beyond the mind’s concept of happiness, has everything to do with embracing all the little imperfections or uniquenesses of life, seeing the inherent perfection in them, facing the way things actually are and ending our basic war with existence, an existence we were never separate from in the first place. And paradoxically, when we come out of the lie, and actually embrace present uniqueness rather than fight it, we may begin to find intelligent and very creative solutions to previously insurmountable problems. The illusory imperfect/perfect divide melts away, and there is only life in all its raw brilliance, undivided and unchanging and yet totally unique in every moment…
A CHRISTMAS TALE
Thoughts, sensations, feelings, are not your enemies.
They are not alien invaders, come to colonise your space. As consciousness, they are ‘made’ of you. They are movements of your very own being, sacred currents in the boundless river of you, and they are not inherently ‘against’ you. In your very depths, you are not at war with them at all. When you forget this, and try to push away or deny thoughts, sensations, feelings, you violate the Bodhisattva Vow, an ancient promise you once made, that you would not rest until all beings were also at rest. This violation is known as ‘suffering’.
Give thoughts, sensations, feelings, the rest they deserve, by recognising that, as consciousness, they are inherently welcome in what you are. They are not movements in consciousness that disturb a cosmic rest, they are movements of an ever-restful consciousness, and cannot truly invade, destroy – or de-stabilise -the deep peace of yourself. It’s safe to let them in. It’s safe to admit they are already in, prior to time.
You are vast. The travellers are weary. There is plenty of room in this stable.
THE APOCALYPSE IS NIGH!
[APOCALYPSE: from the Greek word ‘apokalyptein’, meaning “uncover, disclose, reveal”. From apo- “from” + kalyptein “to cover, conceal”]
For you, my friend, every day is an apocalypse. Every hour, every minute, every moment, the old is falling away, the known is burning itself up, and the new, the never-before-seen, is revealing itself, in all its freshness. Truly, every moment is the end of a world, the end of dreams, and the birth of the new. Seen in the light of truth, life is a constant apocalypse, a constant awakening to what is, yet the separate self, with its fear of the loss of the status quo and its clinging to form and belief, pushes ‘apocalypse’ into time, and even fixes it to a specific date. And when that date passes, the mechanism creates a new date. It has to. This has always been the case. It is the seeker in action. To the illusory self, the end of the world will always be ‘nigh’. It’s how it keeps its own illusion going. It loves the drama of it.
And all the while, this timeless, ever-present apocalypse has always been with us, sweetly singing its song of newness and unshakeable truth. Have a great apocalypse.
Just as a parent may say to their child, “I may not always like what you do, or agree with you, or approve of your actions, but please know that I’ll always be here for you, and I will not turn away…”, so who we really are, the vast open space of awareness itself, totally intimate with all of its children, its own thoughts, sensations and feelings, is ever-present, inherently non-judgemental, and would never push anything away, for it IS everything as it arises. It allows and holds all of its children unconditionally, even pain, even fear, even sadness, even doubt, deeply allowing these beloved expressions of itself to arise and fall away in their own sweet time. It would not abandon its children, for it cannot abandon itself. This is the true meaning of love, beyond all our limited human conceptions of love. It is a vast, unspeakable love, so huge that we’ve had to invent other words like ‘awareness’ just to stop our hearts from breaking.
No matter what happens in a movie, the movie screen is not affected. When the main character ages, the screen doesn’t age. When time passes on the screen, time never passes for the screen. When the main character dies, the screen remains, and is not diminished. Even when the movie ends, the screen does not end, it just remains open for the next movie – a comedy, a horror, a romance, a silent movie from 1912, a 3D blockbuster from 2012 – whatever it will be. The screen accepts it all – movie or no movie at all. The screen never fights the movie, nor does it cling to it. It has no name, no age, no identity of its own, but allows all those wonderful identities to parade themselves about, asking nothing in return. It is rarely appreciated, often ignored, but absolutely essential for the relative dance of life. The screen is pure love. It is what you are.
Love does not say “I own you” or “You are mine to manipulate and control”. Love is not conditional, it doesn’t withhold itself for personal gain. It does not possess, but sets free. Or, rather, love sees the inherent freedom in the other, the built-in freedom. It recognises itself looking out of those mysterious eyes over there, and knows that, in truth, there is no other ‘over there’ at all.
Not two seeing each other, but One with eyes only for itself. We are only meeting ourselves, in myriad forms…
When you tell me the story of your life, when you share your trials and triumphs, your failures and achievements, your loves and losses, I do not hear a ‘story’ at all, I hear a unique invitation back to the truth of who you really are, a unique invitation to wake up from all stories, including this story. I never confuse you with your narrative, although your narrative is always honored for what it is…
Our stories are all different, and yet our stories are all exactly the same – they are all simply reflections and refractions of that Original Story before time, that story of the One forgetting itself and seeking itself again, becoming two so it can know itself as One, metaphorically-speaking. And so your story is not really ‘yours’ at all, it is only giving voice to an ancient cosmic nostalgia for a wholeness you may have once known, only a call to stop pretending to be limited and separate, far from the One you love, far from the timeless truth of yourself. For the One you love is already here, calling to you in each and every moment, breathing down your neck, much closer than the next breath, prior to these words, long before even the next thought, and the only words it whispers are, “you are already home, child, you are already home…”
To thought, anything is an object… but awareness will never object to anything.
It’s no wonder that the word ‘object’ literally means ‘thrown out’. Just as the ocean cannot ‘throw’ any of its waves out of itself, so awareness will never ‘throw out’ anything that arises within its all-inclusive embrace, for it IS all that arises…
Your critics are your gurus. They are the only ones who have the power to wake you up from your dream that you are right.
We long for total intimacy – the death of the seeker – as much as we fear it. We long to be stripped naked, divested of our exhausting stories, our defences, our projections, those false self-images and beliefs, both spiritual and profane, which seem to keep us forever at a distance from the ones we love and far from the truth of ourselves. And then to meet each other, to really meet here, face to face, space to space, to turn towards each other, to meet unprotected and without preconceptions, to expose our flaws and our failings and our doubts, and to look into those mysterious eyes, risking absolute rejection, and see only ourselves – the very same consciousness looking back at ‘us’, in the place where ‘we’ are not, and have never been. For beyond awakening, and beyond enlightenment, and beyond the highest and most sacred teachings of this world there is this unspeakable love furnace, and this connection, always this connection. Nothing to fear, and nothing to lose anymore, it says, and all those ancient teachings of non-separation and the absence of the self and advaita and neo-advaita and pure awareness prior to the object, once so serious and important, so dry and intellectual and second-hand, so beautiful yet so detached, so true yet so abstract, so pure yet so inhuman, so inspiring yet so “how the hell do I live it?”, now come fully alive in this grace-fire of human intimacy, and our self-importance and our self-righteousness burn to ash and dust. Mother, father, sister, brother, friend, lover, beloved stranger on the number 23 bus, finally we can meet, our hearts ripped open, never to be repaired, and it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah, always.
Just to sit, without expectation, with someone who is in pain or grief or fear, without trying to fix them in any way, or manipulate their experience to match your idea of how they should be; just to listen, without trying to make things better in the moment, without playing the role of ‘expert’ or ‘enlightened guru’ or ‘the one who knows best'; just to be totally available to the one in front of you – and then, on a practical level, to do what’s necessary and natural in the moment – this is the essence of true healing. It’s in this not-knowing, this deep presence, beyond our concepts, beyond our roles, unprotected, undefended, unresolved, that we truly meet.
Every wave is allowed to arise and dissolve in the vast, unlimited, boundless oceanic space of consciousness that you are, just as all waves are unconditionally allowed to arise and fall in the Ocean, which remains undisturbed, always.
Love is to know yourself as this vast, boundless ocean, and therefore to know deeply that every wave – every thought, every sensation, every feeling, every sound, every smell that arises – is none other than yourself in disguise. Every wave is saturated with yourself – an intimate friend, not an enemy to be feared or pushed away.
When our true nature as the ocean is forgotten, a basic fear of life arises, a fear of the waves, which are now seen as ‘other’, and there is a contracted attitude towards life, with the illusion of a separate ‘me’ at its core, and this is the origin of all of our suffering and seeking, both personal and global.
However, every moment is an invitation to remember, that although the waves of consciousness may rise and crash, in the Ocean’s depths lives the deep peace and silence of yourself. Silence, and knowing.
On your deathbed, will you still care about all the arguments you won, about all the times you proved to others how ‘right’ or how ‘enlightened’ you were, about all the facts you piled up on your journey to this moment? Will you still be thinking about how much money you made or didn’t make, or how far you advanced up the material or spiritual or social ladder?
Or perhaps only this moment will matter, only the grace of each and every breath, only the precious fragility of life itself and the gratitude for it having been at all. Was it all a dream?
Like the dream of a childhood Christmas long ago, perhaps you will not remember the size or shape or the monetary value of the gifts that life offered, or what the gifts were wrapped in, or who got a bigger or better gift than you. Perhaps you will only remember the love and the longing and the hope with which the gifts were given, and received.
It was only ever about the connection.
Awakening is very much like ‘Where’s Wally?’ (‘Where’s Waldo?’).
You don’t eventually find Wally at the end of the book. Awakening is not something that ‘happens’ one day. It’s not an epic conclusion to a linear story. No, Wally is there on every single page of the book, beautifully hidden, but really always in plain sight, and once you know where he is, you can’t ever pretend that he’s not there… and you’ll never again look for him elsewhere.
Every page of the book of your life, everything that’s ever happened in the story of ‘you’ – your trials, your triumphs, your failures, your joys – has been part of your unique invitation, to stop looking for Wally elsewhere, and know that the one you seek, the one you love, is always already here, forever present in the timeless scene of Now…
You can’t make yourself fall in love. You can only notice that you’ve already fallen, and are forever falling…
For who you really are IS this love beyond words, this love that the imaginary ‘you’ eternally falls into, this love in which all ideas about yourself, good and bad, sacred and profane, come and go, like leaves in the wind, like clouds in the sky, like waves in a vast ocean. And who you truly are remains untouched, always.
When there is fear, pain, confusion or sadness moving in you, do not despair or come to conclusions about yourself. Be honoured that these misunderstood guests, at once both ancient and timeless, weary from a lifetime’s lonely travel, have finally found their home in you. They are children of consciousness one and all, beloved children of yourself, deserving of the deepest respect and friendship. Offer them the deep rest of yourself, and let them warm their toes by your raging fire…
It’s about unconditional friendliness and infinite kindness with yourself. It’s about making it safe, finally safe for all of those unloved, un-met, unseen waves of the ocean of yourself to crawl out of the depths, out of the darkness, out of the corners and holes and crevices of experience and come into the light, blinking and full of wonder…
It’s about giving birth to yourself, so that all thoughts are finally allowed to flood in, all sensations, all feelings, all sounds, all those waves that we used to label ‘dark’, or ‘evil’, or ‘negative’, or ‘dangerous’, or ‘sinful’ – fear, anger, boredom, doubt, confusion, frustration, helplessness – are finally allowed to come to rest, to breathe, to be fully themselves in the space that you are. They are not separate entities or enemies, they are intimate appearances of you, and so they cannot hurt you, even if they hurt, and this is what we forget sometimes in our rush to ‘fix’ or at least ‘normalise’ ourselves…
Yes, all of those swirling, pulsating energies of that which we call ‘life’ are welcome in the unlimited room that you are, the vast Living Room in which all of creation sings and dances and paints itself into the ever-changing picture of this sacred and ordinary moment…
Trying to be anywhere other than here, trying to have an experience other than the one you’re having, trying to escape or push away this moment, trying to reach some future state, experience or event in this moment – it all becomes so exhausting, in the end. But the end is really the beginning, and the exhaustion is really your dearest and most trustworthy friend, for it contains within it a secret invitation to the deep rest of yourself, and the end of seeking. Exhaustion is simply the One you long for, brilliantly disguised, whispering softly into your ear, “Relax, dear one, I’m already here…. No need to look elsewhere…. I know you’re tired from seeking me …. It’s safe to come to rest, now…..”
Even when life doesn’t go ‘your’ way, whatever that means to you, know that life not going ‘your’ way IS the way, at least in this moment. Just stop getting in the way of life…
You don’t heal yourself from pain. Pain heals itself from ‘you’.
A human being seeking fulfilment outside of themselves is like an oak tree looking for oak, or a cat trying to hear its own ears.
For what you are is what you have always been seeking. You are your perfect partner, your greatest lover, your oldest, dearest and most familiar friend. You are the one you fall asleep with every night, the one you wake up to every morning, the one who cannot leave you, the one you will eventually die with. You are the one who is never divided from yourself, the one who remains when everyone and everything else has gone.
You are the fulfilment of a lifetime’s search, the epic conclusion to the story of lost love… and a new beginning.
You cannot find The One, for you are The One, and you have always been That, long before the search even began. Rest in what you are.
A loving promise: “I will always listen deeply to you, but I will never try to fix you, mend you, stop you feeling what you are feeling or give you second-hand, memorised answers. I will never pretend to be ‘the one who knows’, ‘the enlightened one’ or some missionary for a conceptual truth so far removed from our present experience. I will not get into drama with you, I will not indulge and feed your stories and mental conclusions and fears, but at the same time, my friend, I will meet you in the fires of hell, I will hold your hand there, I will walk with you as far as you need to walk, and not turn away, for you are myself, and in the deepest recesses of our experience we are intimately each other, and I cannot pretend otherwise…”
Life is a moment-by-moment adventure to be lived, not a story to be completed or an image to be upheld. Conclusions are not your job. In this moment, answers are not required.
We are constantly invited, in a million different ways, to stay very close to what is actually happening, to stay intimate with life as it plays out in real-time, to remain answer free yet experience-near, to no longer spin experience-distant stories about what may or may not happen, come to premature conclusions or give memorized answers.
Yes, the one who seeks answers has been given an extended career break. The one who thinks they need to know can rest deeply now. The mind has been sacked as the CEO of Life. What a relief.
Instead of seeking certainty, can we fearlessly meet our doubt? Instead of seeking security, can we embrace present moment insecurity, and see the aliveness in it?
Instead of trying to resolve our lives perfectly, can we come to rest here and now – the place where everything is perfectly unresolved?
Instead of trying to find the answers, can we recognize ourselves as the wide open space of consciousness in which all questions, all doubts, all movements of mind and feeling are deeply allowed to arise and dissolve? Can we remember that we are neither the questioner nor the one with the answers, neither the seeker nor the sought, but the resting place for all of life?
Instead of striving to hold up the story of ‘me’, or even striving to get rid of that story, can we simply rest as this sacred space where the story has not yet coagulated?
Can we gently notice the story of ‘me’ arise and dissolve with such tenderness?
Can we stop pretending to know, and rest in wonder and never-ending mystery?
Thought is lightning fast. It rushes to conclusions. It quickly tells all kinds of stories.
But as the consciousness prior to thought, you are cosmically slow. You are more ancient than the sun. You have seen it all. You take your sweet time.
You are like the seasons. Spring does not speed towards summer. Autumn arrives when it arrives. Winter is not trying to win.
The grass grows at its own pace. The earth spins calmly on its axis. Life does not rush – it is not trying to get anywhere. It simply celebrates itself as this moment.
Our mental conclusions can wait. Our stories can be put on hold. All that remains is an invitation – to deeply savour this precious moment.
In the thought story, in the story of time and space and individual progression, you’ve been breathing for your entire life. You are the one who breathes, living in time. This current breath is just one in a series of hundreds of millions breaths over a lifetime.
But in reality, without a story, each breath is a brand new breath. Each breath is a present, alive breath. You’ve never breathed in the past or future. You’ve only been breathing in now. Breathing is deeply rooted in aliveness and presence and great stillness.
The body never gets bored of breathing. It doesn’t say, “Oh god, how boring, not another breath!” And it doesn’t pine for the next breath. There is only THIS breath, the first breath, the only breath, the miraculous breath of Life itself – and it all happens miraculously without ‘you’.
No wonder the word ‘spirit’ is derived from the Latin ‘spiritus’ … which means ‘breath’.
Buses arrive late. People don’t always answer their emails on time. Planes sometimes do not leave on schedule. Traffic jams can delay your journey home. Our on-time dreams are often shattered.
But what is never late? What is always exactly on time, never too early, never cancelled? What is never delayed? What can never disappoint you?
What have you always been waiting for? What has always been here, closer than breathing, prior to concepts of time, of early and late and cancelled? What are you inseparable from?
What has always been waiting for you to stop waiting for it? And what has allowed the waiting anyway?
This moment, exactly as it is. Your true home. Ever-present.
Present thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds. This sacred breath. No delays reported.
We can pin all our hopes and dreams on tomorrow, we can wait for a future salvation or saviour and pine for an eventual enlightenment or afterlife that may or may not come, but let us not ever forget today, this living day, so immediate, so close, and even closer, this mysterious moment, beyond time, overflowing with life, gently inviting us without words to relax our cleverness and freefall without protection into its sacred and undying heart.
Love is not something that we ‘do’ – it is an effortless recognition, beyond the story of time and space, beyond the seeker and the sought, that I Am already what you Are. ‘I Am’ is not personal.
And so, ‘we’ do not fall in love, for love is simply the recognition that there is no ‘we’, no ‘you’ divided from ‘me’ in the first place, who could ever fall into something else called ‘love’.
Love is not a presence, but an absence, of separation, and the illusion that in our essence we are divided. Love is simply what we are, prior to the exhausting and seemingly endless search for it.
No need to seek love – it is already here, closer than breathing.
We feel a cosmic hole inside of us, a seemingly empty well that seems like it needs to be filled, and so we try to fill it, with money, with drugs, with sex, with success, with fame, with enlightenment, with knowledge, with all kinds of temporal experiences and states. But everything passes, everything moves, everything is forgotten, even the most blissful spiritual high, even the most shocking life-changing insights, and the hole is still there, hungry as ever, and what to do, what to do? Can anything be done to fill a non-existent hole of unknown size and depth?
We forget that in reality, there is no hole in present experience.
There is only the Whole, this vast capacity that you are, this consciousness prior to emptiness and form, filled to the brim with life, and we are That, and we have always been That: so radically Whole that it even allows the feeling of a hole into itself. Even a hole is whole here. Even a sense of lack is given cosmic permission to find rest in this warm embrace of ourselves.
Love floods the emptiness, and the search for Home never even happened.
Mystery is the only certainty. Beyond belief, beyond doubt, just so.
Mystery is not ignorance, nor is it naiveté. It is not confusion, nor is it ‘hedging one’s bets’.
It is absolute groundedness, wonder, childlike simplicity. It is indestructible, forever renewing itself in the furnace of presence.
It is not “I don’t know”, nor is it the lack of knowledge. It is not knowing, and in that, knowing all there is to know.
Die to mystery.
The touch of a loved one’s hand. The warmth of a fresh mug of tea. A drop of morning dew quietly creeping down a blade of grass, nearly unnoticed. These ordinary moments, given without asking.
And yet, in truth, these are not ‘ordinary moments’ at all. These are only doorways of grace, gateless gates of morning dew and birdsong and tossed apple cores, portals into an unknown world much like our own, witnessed without a witness, prior to the upsurge of thought.
“Enter here,” they whisper in chorus, “and lose your cleverness…”
Friends, are we ready to stop pretending that we have the answers? Are we ready to end our regurgitation of spiritual clichés (“there is no me”, “there is no choice”, “there is only Oneness”)? Isn’t it time for us to wake up from this dream of nonduality, to let go of these final crutches of ours, these last barriers to the raw, fragile, precious truth of unfiltered existence?
No movement towards answers is necessary here, for all questions dissolve in the rawness of life as it is – in the pain and the joy of it, in the sadness and the bliss of it – and at no point are second-hand formulas about the absence of the self, the primacy of consciousness, karma, reincarnation, soul journeys and the existence or non-existence of the afterlife ever required. No teachers, no students, no personal specialness, no story at all will ever survive this real-time furnace of intimacy that we call Life.
When none of it is sacred, it is all sacred. All of it.
True meditation is not a ‘doing’, not a task to accomplish or a process leading towards some future goal or state for the hungry seeker – it is pure, child-like fascination. Fascination with thoughts, with sensations, with feelings, with sounds, with fascination itself – with what is, right now. It is radically being here, and noticing in fascination the desire to get ‘there’ arising and dissolving. Noticing all the ingenious attempts of thought to escape this moment; noticing that even these desires are radically welcome in the silent open space that you are; and noticing that even ‘I am the one who notices’ or ‘I am the controller’ or even ‘I am the one who is meditating’ are more thoughts, which, like everything else, are deeply allowed to arise in you, and deeply allowed to dissolve. This is meditation without a meditator, and it is the light that never goes out.
Conflict ends when you listen to the one in front of you from a non-defensive place of deep acceptance and love, a place beyond “I am right and you are wrong”, a place where you fully honor and allow their present experience of life, however absurd or unkind their views may sound and feel to you right now.
Conflict ends when you are willing to be perceived as wrong, even if you are quite certain that you are right.
Conflict ends when you stop pretending to have all the answers, when you stop pretending to know, and instead you listen, really listen to the one in front of you, who is secretly yourself, ingeniously disguised.
For what you are has nothing to defend, and nowhere to hide.
You don’t ‘have’ thoughts. You are not the ‘thinker’ of thoughts. That is not your true identity.
You are the vast, clear, peaceful sky of awareness in which all thought-clouds are continually allowed to appear and disappear.
Thought-clouds float by, feelings emerge and dissolve, and the vastness of what you are remains, always.
Each moment is an altar on which to sacrifice our dreams and awaken to reality.
Seen through the awakened eyes of gratitude, no moment is worthless.
And there is no dream from which it is impossible to awaken.
This moment is always completely dependable:
it’s always exactly as it is,
not always as you dreamt it should be,
and never as it isn’t.
An Advaita teacher says to me, “You are not an individual. There is no such thing as a person. There is no free will. There is only Oneness”. I find the truth in that.
Someone else says to me, “There is no such thing as Oneness. You are an individual. You have free will”. I find the truth in that, too.
It’s so beautiful, finding the truth in every belief, and not having to believe in any of it.
Who am I? Who are you? And what does it mean to truly meet?
These seem to be the core questions, the questions that can unlock the mysteries of the universe.
To meet experience as it unfolds in the softness and vastness of ourselves. To receive its invitations. To always turn towards it. And to meet each other in the same way, to not turn away, even in the midst of our mutual pain. To meet not as separate entities but as consciousness itself. To meet beyond meeting.
Have we always been meeting like this?
The mystery of life is only a mystery from the perspective of the one trying to understand. When you are life, there is no inner or outer mystery to understand – there is only the radical simplicity of what is, inseparable from what you are. Being here, now, intimately, breathing, in, out, that’s the real mystery…
What is illusion?
The word is so misunderstood.
‘Illusion’ simply means ‘deceptive appearance’ – not ‘non-existence’. The self, the ‘me’ is an illusion, not because it doesn’t exist, but because it doesn’t exist in the way we imagine it to. Its appearance is deceptive. At first, there seems to be a solid and separate ‘me’ – an individual wave separate from the vast ocean of life itself. But upon investigation and inquiry and deep looking, that assumption crumbles. The ‘illusion’ is seen through. The wave is seen to be inseparable from the ocean. There is a self, but it is inseparable from the unstoppable flow of life. It is life, selfing, not a self experiencing life.
And so, by ‘me’, I don’t mean the story of myself. I mean this ever-present, vast, boundless open space in which all those ever-changing thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds, come and go – the space in which every facet of this cosmic dance is deeply welcome, not because ‘I’ am welcoming ‘it’, but because it IS. Ancient galaxies arise and dissolve in the intimacy that I Am, in this boundless love beyond all concepts of love.
And so, in the rubble of illusion, we discover a love beyond imagination.
If you can be In the Now, you can also be Out of the Now. But who would be in or out of a Now? And when? Now?
Even the experience of being out of the Now, if that were possible, would be happening Now. Now cannot be escaped or avoided.
And because all concepts of past and future, before and after, yesterday and tomorrow, then and now, happen Now too, Now knows nothing outside of itself, no boundary, no opposite, no ‘other’. It is prior to time. It is the place where concepts of ‘Now’ dissolve…. into a silent, wordless Wow.
Remembering who you really are
Is a subtle shift of attention
From a tense present
To the present tense.
Life doesn’t need you to accept it. Life accepts you totally in the moment, including your present non-acceptance of life, just as the ocean accepts every wave as itself, no matter how the wave appears. Stop trying to ‘do’ acceptance, and stop rejecting non-acceptance, and sink deeply into the acceptance that is here, the unconditional acceptance that you have always been…
Deep acceptance of this moment as it is, is not equal to passivity or world-detachment. It is the source of all creative, intelligent and compassionate action. It is at the root of fearless engagement with life. Rooted in this deep embrace of whatever arises, no longer at war with ourselves, no longer split, we move as life itself, spontaneous, flowing, free, whole, and radical change happens as if by itself. Deep acceptance of things as they are, and radical change, are not-two, however paradoxical that sounds to the rational mind. The absolute sings the song of the relative, and they were never divided in the first place.
Stop, just for a moment, and consider this: You’ve been given another day on this earth. This day is to be honoured.
Let your heart break into a million pieces today, if it wants to. Allow yourself to cry today, if tears come. Feel vulnerable today, if vulnerability visits. Allow all of life to move through you.
A taste. A glance. A breath. The touch of a loved one’s hand. The vibrantly alive and familiar upsurge of joy or pain. This is a day of gratitude for the smallest and most ‘insignificant’ of happenings, even for those which seem unworthy of your gratitude.
This is not just ‘another’ day. This is your first day, and your last day. Your only day. Your longed-for day of grace.
When you are young, it is tempting to think that you have all the answers.
Then you grow, and you suffer, and bit by bit, life chisels away at your defence mechanisms, and your certainties, and you start to doubt everything you once were sure of.
Faced with the impermanence of things, you may even reach a point of total disillusionment – with yourself, with the world, with your belief systems, with your relationships, with your career, with everything you once took for granted.
This dis-illusionment, this breaking down of illusions, can lead either to a lifetime of depression, fear and a bitter shutting-off from life, or – when listened to – it can become a portal to liberation, to the letting go of the false, and the discovery of the truth of who we really are.
I love it when people come to me in “crisis”, totally dis-illusioned with their lives. I always see it as a new beginning for them, an invitation to a life beyond illusions, to a life of deep rest and true connection. I meet them exactly where they are.
The word “crisis” does not actually mean “disaster”, but “turning point”. Let us turn towards disillusionment, and hear its deeper call.
Who you truly are – consciousness itself – does not belong to any religion or spiritual tradition. It is ever-present and free and cannot be destroyed. It is prior to belief and ideology, beyond doubt and certainty. It knows no opposite, holy or unholy, sacred or profane. It has no enemy, and sees no ‘other’. It is neither ‘outside’ nor ‘inside’, with no fixed form or function, but takes all forms and functions. It has no fixed appearance but infuses all appearances. It clings to no form, nor does it push anything away. It is neither Christian nor Jewish, Buddhist nor Muslim, nondualist nor Adavaitan, atheist nor agnostic, but allows for all these viewpoints. It is what that most misunderstood word – ‘God’ – was always trying to direct our attention to.
We’ve always been longing for, fighting over, and praying to, ourselves. When humanity wakes up to this, the holy war ends.
Love is another word for the wide open field of Being in which the tree of ‘me’ takes root and grows. This limited ‘me’ tree can’t ever find, possess or capture the Love it truly seeks and longs for, not with all the struggle and effort in the world. No matter how much the tree perfects itself as a tree, as long as it sees itself as ‘something growing in the field’, it will always long for union and release.
Until one day, exhausted from the seeking and suffering, it finally remembers that it never forgot what its roots were always rooted in.
We never reach Love, or find it, we only remember…
True peace does not come from our parents, our partners, our jobs, our worldly achievements, our bank accounts. Mountains of knowledge do not lead to it, and all the mental certainty in the world cannot touch it. Every belief can be doubted, so every ideology and religion, no matter how ancient or clever, leaves us restless.
Peace is not a state or experience – states and experiences, even the most blissful ones, come and go. Peace is that which does not come and go. It is who you are, prior to identification as a separate ‘self’.
Peace is knowing yourself as the vast, ever-present, boundless and free ocean of consciousness, in which every wave – every thought, sensation, feeling – is deeply allowed, profoundly accepted prior even to ‘you’ accepting it. Peace is knowing yourself as the tender Home you were always seeking, the resting place for all form, the light that illuminates…
It’s not about becoming a ‘peaceful person’, it’s about recognising yourself as peace itself, beyond all human concepts of peace.
My greatest spiritual guru has always been discomfort.
Just sitting with pain or discomfort, without trying to escape in any way, without expectation, without a goal in mind, without seeking anything – that’s the juicy place, the place of creative transformation, the place where mud turns to gold.
For many years, I would just sit with grief, frustration, anger, fear, pain, just resting in that bubbling, burning mess for hours and hours, without trying to escape or fix my experience, without hope, without a dream… until peace was discovered even in the midst of that storm, the unshakeable, non-conceptual, ever-present peace that I am, and have always been.
Instead of trying to escape discomfort, we let discomfort reveal its deeper secrets. We sit with discomfort and watch all boundaries between ‘me’ and ‘discomfort’ melt away, until it is no longer ‘me sitting with my discomfort’ at all, and never was. We sit with frustration in the place where it has not yet coagulated into ‘I am frustrated’. We sit with fear prior to the resurrection of the image ‘I am the one who is afraid’. We sit with anger before the birth of our identity as ‘the angry one’. We know ourselves as the vast open space, the boundless and identity-less ocean that welcomes all of these waves as its beloved children, returned home at last, home at last.
What is grace? Where is it? Who receives it? And when?
Grace is not our dream of grace. No, no. Grace is here. Grace is each and every moment seen as it is, seen without making it into anything other than what it is. It is not in the future – it is now. It is the gift of breathing, talking or not talking, walking or sitting, watching a sunset or lying in bed in excruciating pain.
All is life. All is given for free. Never forget this. And even when you forget this, remember that the forgetting is also this, ingeniously disguised.
It’s not that we can’t find what we long for, it’s that we can’t ever escape it.
Never forget That which you cannot forget..
Dreams can be shattered. Bones can be broken. Beliefs can be forgotten. Bodies can be crucified. But Consciousness – who you really are prior to your imagination of yourself – cannot. In this recognition lies the unshakeable peace “which passeth all understanding”.
Admit it. You’ve already completely failed to resist this moment. This moment is totally irresistible!
These thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds, are already here. They are already freely arising and dissolving in what you are. Nothing has been able to block them out. There is simply no ‘you’ getting in the way of life. No boundaries. No barriers. The floodgates are already open, and life is pouring in. Utter nakedness.
Raise the white flag! ‘You’ surrendered long ago.
Nothing I say is the gospel truth. I am just a bird singing my song, for the sheer joy of it. That is my freedom. My song is neither ‘true’ nor ‘false’ – it is merely music. You are free to listen to this music, or walk away. To sing your song back to me, or not. That is your freedom.
Either way, the singing goes on, until it doesn’t. The universe sings to itself. Tweet Tweet!
‘You’ cannot be in the Now or out of the Now.
If ‘you’ were in the Now, when would that happen? Now?
If ‘you’ were out of the Now, when would that happen? Not Now?
There is only ever Now. And there is no ‘you’ separate from the Now. You have only ever known yourself Now. The simple non-conceptual sense of being alive is always Now, prior to all our human ideas of ‘Now’.
Even if you think or feel that you are ‘out’ of the Now, that’s happening Now. A memory of being in or out of the Now in the ‘past’, is actually arising Now, not in the past. And an idea about being in or out of the Now in the ‘future’, is arising Now, not in the future. Past and future are deeply held in this vast space of Now.
Since there is nothing that is not Now, we cannot even speak of the Now, since it has no inside or outside, no boundary, and even if it did, that would also be arising Now…
There is no ‘Now’, and that’s the Power of Now!
There is a locked vault containing everything you’ve ever longed for – all the riches of the universe. You spend your life trying to open the vault – through struggling, striving, meditating, transcending, guru-worshipping,believing, rejecting, accepting, praying, self-enquiring, yoga-ing, and so on and so on. Finally, exhausted, you give up trying to open the vault….. and that’s when the vault opens by itself. It was never locked in the first place. What’s inside the vault? This moment, exactly as it is.
Beauty is not a quality inherent in an object or a person but a recognition, a way of seeing, in which there is no ‘other’, no split between beauty and the beholder of it, no division or gap in reality, no seer and the seen, but simply a singular movement of life essence. The recognition of beauty is the electrifying recognition that you are present and alive, that blood flows through your veins, that life pours through you, the same life that moves as galaxies. Whether it is Elizabeth Taylor’s face, or a painting by Van Gogh, or the music of Mozart, or a clay pot made by your 6 year old cousin with Cerebral Palsy, or a tiny worm burrowing into the earth with all its might, let each form, beheld in wordless beauty, remind you that you are alive, and that the essence of all things is mystery.
Every wave in the ocean ‘tastes’ of the ocean, no matter how big or small or intense or gentle that wave appears to us. And so, embracing a single wave of pain, fear, sadness, doubt, confusion or anger, is like embracing the entire ocean. Saying yes to a single wave – or rather, recognising that the wave already has a ‘yes’ built-in – is like affirming all of of life in a single breath. Allowing a wave to consume you absolutely, surrendering to the life in it, dying to its incredible intensity, letting it move freely through you without resistance or judgement, extracts the false and the dead and the temporal from it, sucks the illusion of separateness out of it, renders it harmless and essentially innocent, taking you out of your personal story and leaving you only with its oceanic essence, which is love. Squeeze ‘negativity’ hard enough and love essence drips out. Our limited, second-hand, inherited images of love shatter into a billion little pieces. And then, grounded in this remembrance of who we truly are, even in the midst of our despair and pain and longing for home we can still feel totally alive and undamaged and supported in a way we cannot explain, and perhaps even filled with that strange, causeless joy out of which universes are born.
No two people have ever ‘broken up’. We only ever ‘break up’ with outdated images of each other, with ideas of what should or could or might have been, with hopes, with misperceptions, with “dreams of a future that was never going to happen anyway”. But what is real and true cannot be lost, for it is not a dream. Whatever can be lost, will be. What is, is. And in this way, relationship itself never ends, love is never truly lost – it simply evolves into new, and often unexpected, and sometimes unexpectedly intimate, forms. Death cannot even touch it. Relationship can be the ultimate adventure, the highest form of yoga, the true self-enquiry …. if you are willing to die to dreams and turn and fearlessly face the Mystery, unprotected, totally exposed, not knowing anything anymore.
You are perfect exactly as you are, in this moment – even in the midst of what you or others label as imperfection. It may sound crazy, too simple to believe and way too simple to prove, but all your suffering begins when you forget this basic truth of yourself.
When you ask me what I did yesterday, I tell you my story of ‘yesterday’. However, in truth, ‘yesterday’ is nothing more than a thought story happening in this present moment. I cannot find any ‘yesterday’ outside of right now. In other words, yesterday didn’t happen yesterday – it is collection of thoughts, images, sensations, arising in this present space, the space that I am. And ‘tomorrow’, too, is a story, happening right now. Yesterday and tomorrow are actually happening right now! They are right here, out of time, in this intimate presence. They are part of the texture of this very moment. They arise and dissolve in this vast field of Being. However, when you ask you me what I did yesterday, I do not respond: “What an absurd question! Yesterday is just a story happening now! There is no yesterday!” No, I say, “I went for a walk. And you?” As long as memory is there, response arises to meet question, effortlessly. You see, this intimacy that we are rejects nothing. It deeply allows past and future to arise and dissolve in its unconditional embrace. There is enough space for everything here.
Sitting on the porch with a couple of friends, rain pouring down on each of us, each tiny drop a bittersweet kiss from the beloved, each splash a hello and a final goodbye, a hello to wonder, to the unmistakeable gift of not knowing, to the grace of this fleeting, fragile existence which is given to us for free, to gratitude replacing the goodbye of regret, to crushing humility replacing personal specialness, a goodbye to those second-hand dreams of what should have been and what could never be, not in a million years, a final farewell to the unlived and the half-lived and the never-to-be-lived, and a hello to what only ever Is. Thankyou, to the raindrops, to the friends on the porch, to the rusty metal pig and the rusty metal rooster, both calmly weathering the storm, unblinking yet deeply rooted in whatever we are all rooted in, these very last gurus of grace, these very final reminders of what we have always known but could never admit – that the miracle is already here, that it is this moment in its fullness, that the search is already over. The rain continues to lash down on all things without judgement or apology, relentless yet all-forgiving, brutal yet ultimately loving beyond all concepts of love, and we leave the porch to its own devices, and we step inside, alone, together…
Eventually, we are always brought to our knees. The only question is this: Are we on our knees begging and protesting and praying for ‘anything but this’… or are we on our knees in humility and awe and deep gratitude for what is already here? Either way, they’re the same knees.
And so we make this radical commitment to never turn away. Grounded in an unshakeable knowing – that has nothing to do with thought’s limited idea of certainty – that every sensation, every sound, every smell, every thought, every image, every possible feeling, is already deeply allowed to move and express in us, and recognizing ourselves as the warm oceanic embrace of all these waves, these beloved children of ourselves, we simply cease to doubt our boundless ability to face life and all it throws our way. And if doubt does appear, and if a sense of ‘my inability to face life’ is what we’re facing right now, we simply notice that even these waves are allowed in – already, timelessly allowed in the boundless capacity that we are. And so, it’s not so much that we have to commit to facing life, it’s that the turning away hurts so much, and if we are honest, we long to no longer hurt. At the deepest core of our being, we are obviously already fully committed to never turning away, and we always have been. For we are life, and how can life actually turn away from itself?
We speak these days of ‘identity theft’, but what is the deeper meaning of these words? Well, when there is sadness, or pain, or fear, or discomfort of any kind arising in our present field of experience, in the midst of that mess it becomes easy to forget who we truly are, as the vast, open capacity of consciousness in which all of those energies, bar none, are already being held, embraced and deeply allowed to arise, just as the ocean allows all of its waves, for it IS those very waves and cannot be divided from them. In this forgetting of our inherent identity as unlimited consciousness, there is identification with a limited image: ‘the sad one’, or ‘the victim of pain’, or ‘the one who is afraid’, in other words, ‘the seeker’ (the incomplete one, divided from life, longing for home). Our true identity has been stolen, so to speak! And we live as a fraud, clinging to a false image of ourselves. But who we really are is not an image and never was. You have never, ever been ‘the sad one’, or ‘the happy one’, or ‘the frightened one’ or ‘the enlightened one’ or ‘the incomplete one’ – you were always, always this wide open space, undefinable yet ever-present, radically empty yet totally full, brimming with life, in which all of these energies (sadness, joy, fear, bliss, pain) were deeply, deeply allowed – and this identity beyond image can never be stolen from you, even if your identity (in thought, or on paper or computer) can.
In the first light of morning, a tiny rainbow offering itself on a friend’s back, caught just before it vanished into memory, acknowledged just before it took its last breath. Translucent, transcendent, yet so very ordinary; an offering of light, this ancient light, this timeless light, displaying its miraculous colors just for us, like a strange peacock of unspeakable grace. This ungraspable moment, sent to you now through cables of light, beheld somehow through the miracle of the eyes – or so we are told – and vanishing into the luminous emptiness from whence it came. A rainbow on a friend’s back this morning, and she never even noticed.
Life will only take away from you what was never really ‘yours’ in the first place. Only your image of yourself can be smashed – never who you truly are. It’s no wonder that the word ‘crisis’ does not mean ‘disaster’, but ‘turning point’. Crisis is the invitation to newness.
I’m not a betting man, but I’ll always bet on Whatever Happens.
These are uncharted, unexplored waters, and sometimes life’s ship sails smoothly through. Sometimes the ship hits rough waters and we don’t know how it will survive. Does the ship have a captain? And if so, does the captain have a map? And if so, whose map is it? Can the captain trust someone else’s map while navigating these uncharted, unexplored waters? What if there is no map, and no captain to follow it? Then, can life’s ship ever go off course? What would ‘off course’ mean, if there is was no ‘on course’ in the first place? Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, the ship is always exactly where it needs to be, in this moment. And we sail on, through these uncharted, unexplored waters.
You are not the one who has thoughts: you are the wide open space in which all thoughts come and go. You are not the sad one or the happy one: you are the unlimited vastness in which joy, bliss, sadness and confusion are deeply allowed to arise and dissolve. You are not the one who is afraid: you are the boundless capacity for fear. You are not the one who lives or the one who dies: you are inseparable from life itself, and therefore cannot experience the loss of life. You are not this one or that one: you are the One, the silent, indefinable ocean of consciousness in which all thoughts, sensations, feelings are eternally held, embraced, and deeply met in unspeakable intimacy. You are the One you have sought for so long.
To dream, yes, to dream! And yet, to hold those dreams in a sweet, feather-light embrace, knowing they are loved even when they cannot sustain themselves, even when they crumble and turn to dust. To dream, yes, to dream! But to recognise yourself as the silent, restful background of dreams and their failure, to know yourself as the awakeness that loves to dream even though it is always awake. So dream, hope, change and seek change, fight for those who do not have a voice! And yet know that you are Home, always, and that even in the midst of the rubble of dashed hopes and plans and failed dreams, in the lostness you have always feared, in the absence of a future, I will call your name, I will find you in the darkness, I will take your hand, I will show you a love the likes of which you never could have dreamed.
The word “depressed” is spoken phonetically as “deep rest”. We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity. It is an unconscious loss of interest in our story. It is so very close to awakening – but unfortunately rarely understood as such. Or as one friend put it, “depression has awakening built-in…”
I find truth in anything anyone ever says about me, so nobody can be my enemy. Call me a fraud, I can find it. Call me a liar, I can find it. Call me a failure, I can find it. Call me unreasonable, irresponsible, ignorant, deluded, full of ego, totally unenlightened, the worst being in the world, I can find all of it. As consciousness, I can find anything. Like you, I have have nothing to hide, nothing to lose, and no image to protect. Every possible facet of human experience is available here. This is truly the end of war. It is the end of protecting and defending a mirage called ‘me’. So, next time you get triggered by something someone says to you or about you, ask yourself this: “What am I defending?” This inquiry is the key to unimaginable peace. Deep gratitude to anyone who has ever given me any kind of feedback.
When I’m on the telephone with my father, often I say very little, and just give him space to talk, to
share, to feel exactly what he feels in the moment. Last night, we spoke for half an hour, and I
barely said a word. Later, my mother texted me, saying “Jeff, dad told me all about your
conversation! He feels so much better now. You did such a good job.” “But mum,'” I replied, “I
hardly said anything to him!”. And she replied, “Well, you may have said nothing, but you made a
real difference.” Sometimes, paradoxically, doing nothing does a lot. Oh, this life, this vibrant
silence, this incomprehensible connection we feel, the transmission of that which cannot be
transmitted, it is all so bewildering! … and yet, it all makes so much sense. Let this silence sing.
Conflict ends when you listen to the one in front of you from a non-defensive place of deep
acceptance and love, a place beyond “I am right and you are wrong”, a place where you fully
honor and allow their present experience of life, however absurd or unkind their views may sound
and feel to you right now. Conflict ends when you are willing to be perceived as wrong, even if you
are quite certain that you are right. Conflict ends when you stop pretending to have all the
answers, when you stop pretending to know, and instead you listen, really listen to the one in front
of you, who is secretly yourself, ingeniously disguised. What you are has nothing to defend, and
nowhere to hide.
Just like exhausted children in the back seat of a car on a long drive to a new home, our thoughts
keep on asking, “are we there yet? are we nearly home? how soon can we rest?”, and life, in its
infinite patience, keeps on reminding us that we are already home, that we never left home in the
first place. Even when we move home, our true home, the ever-present inner stillness, never
moves. In the midst of movement, there is total calm. So shhhh now, rest your little heads sleepy
ones, we’ll be home soon…
It’s so beautiful, to not know, to never know, what’s going to happen next, what thought will pop
up, what fizzly alive sensation will dance, what sound will arise out of nowhere, what word will be
spoken, how this bodymind will move or be moved. Even though we sometimes forget, or do not
admit it, we all live here, as we did when we were children, in this limitless space of profound not
knowing, and wonder, endless wonder.
It all points to this: unspeakable gratitude for the tiniest and most ‘insignificant’ of things. A breath.
The taste of an orange. This untameable and unnameable aliveness we call the body. The wild
mystery of the eyes. Live, dear friend, live this day, this ordinary day, this sacred day, this one and
only day, knowing that in some incomprehensible way it has already fulfilled your deepest longing.
The heart shatters into a million pieces in ecstasy, because finally you have remembered to never
It is a great honour to sit with discomfort, for all the mysteries of the universe lie within. As you sit
with discomfort, you also meet discomfort’s best friend – the urge to escape that discomfort! Is
there enough room in you for both discomfort AND the urge to escape discomfort? Of course -
who you are is vast and spacious enough to hold anything. This is true meditation – no longer
resisting discomfort and trying to escape to a future comfort, but discovering the ever-present,
unconditional Comfort that you are, the perfect calm in the midst of the storm.
Walking through the shopping mall on this ordinary day, and oh, the immensity of it! These
shimmering reflections of refractions of what could only – or never – be called love, these sons and
daughters of myself clinging to their mothers’ and fathers’ hands, these darling children filled with
the excitement of togetherness and the promise of a future, and all of this unfolding in the barest
and most pristine emptiness, all of us unknowingly embraced by a love with no name. Who would
want enlightenment? Who would look for it? For the intimacy we seek is already here, and the light
of awareness is already shining and spilling into every crevice and crack, overflowing into itself for
no reason at all. This crushing love for all humanity in its unresolved pain and longing, this
unspeakable gratitude for a timeless moment never-to-be-repeated, this burning, burning, burning
of the non-existent separate self to ashes and dust and memories! And so I walk on through the
shopping mall, and the shopping mall walks through me, and life whispers, barely audible against
the silent cacophony of itself, “This. This. Only This.”
One drop of sadness contains all the sadness of humanity. To taste this sadness without making
it personal or pushing it away, is to awaken to the kind of compassion out of which universes are
Love hurts? No, it is the forgetting of love, the love that we are – the vast and spacious awareness
in which all thoughts, sensations, images, sounds and feelings are deeply allowed to arise and
dissolve – that seems to hurt so much. Love itself never hurts, because it always deeply and
unconditionally allows all hurt to pass through, transfiguring even the deepest pain into pure
True healing has nothing to do with ‘you’. It reveals itself when ‘you’ – the apparent controller of life,
the one who thinks they know all the answers – get out of the way, and the vast, incomprehensible
intelligence energy that is life itself is allowed to move freely. ‘You’ cannot heal or get healed, for
true healing is prior to the healer and the healed. True healing is the absence of a separate ‘you’ -
and this absence we could also call love. This is a long-winded way of saying something very, very
simple indeed: that love is deeply healing.
Even a bird singing – “tweet! tweet!” – is a perfect expression of pure silence, a song of the
vastness. Silence sings!
Life is a tennis game with only one point. Scores begin at zero-zero (“Love All”) and end at one-
zero (“One Love”). It really doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, because the only point of the
game is love.
We talk about “pure, unconditioned, primordial awareness”, but in fact, looking deeply into present
experience, we cannot find a pure awareness separate from its so-called impurities. This
perfection is totally in love with everything we call imperfection! Awareness loves getting messy,
getting down and dirty with every thought, sensation, feeling. Awareness is not behind, beyond or
beneath every thought, sensation, sound and feeling – it is INTIMATE with all of these, just as the
ocean is intimate with all of its waves. It actually takes shape AS all of its waves! So in the end we
cannot conceive of an awareness separate from all that arises. In other words, awareness is like a
pure white T-shirt… and if you’re afraid of getting it dirty, why do you bother putting it on in the first
place? But fear not, all stains are welcome here in what you are, for the detergent of life is
unconditionally loving, and radically forgiving. Pure awareness loves its impurities. So go wild and
get messy, my friends. There is nothing to fear.
Why should I care about you? Why should I be moved at all, when there is no separate ‘I’ to be
found? Because underneath our stories, our masks, our intricate facades, our images and
imaginations of our dreams of our ourselves, I Am what you are – consciousness itself. And so, in
truth I don’t care about you – I am you, and that inseparability is the very essence of care. “Who
cares?” – in that very question lies the mystery of existence.
True meditation is not a ‘doing’, not a task to accomplish or a process leading towards some
future goal or state for the hungry seeker – it is pure, child-like fascination. Fascination with
thoughts, with sensations, with feelings, with sounds, with fascination itself – with what is, right
now. It is radically being here, and noticing in fascination the desire to get ‘there’ arising and
dissolving. Noticing all the ingenious attempts of thought to escape this moment; noticing that
even these desires are radically welcome in the silent open space that you are; and noticing that
even ‘I am the one who notices’ or ‘I am the controller’ are more thoughts, which, like everything
else, are deeply allowed to arise in you, and deeply allowed to dissolve. This is meditation without a
meditator, and it is the light that never goes out.
I talk often about the importance of those we call ‘teachers’ being able to receive honest,
fearlessly human feedback, and even criticism, from their students, without becoming defensive or
angry, or resorting to justification, guru-games and spiritual bypassing (e.g. “that’s just your
projection!”, “there’s nobody here!”, “you’re still a person!”, or the classic, “that’s just your ego
talking!”). So, in the spirit of transparency and openness and practising what one preaches, I
always invite you to provide me with brutally honest feedback and criticism, no holds barred. And if
I become defensive, or tell you that it’s all your projection, or use the Advaita-Shuffle, or attack you
in any way, shape, or form, that’s my problem, not yours. The only question is, what image of
myself I am still defending? What can be hurt here? You are all my teachers, really. I want to
listen. Really listen. The age of know-it-all spiritual gurus is over. The age of transparency,
openness, equality and friendship in spirituality is here.
I once knew a great guru. She was my cat. She taught me everything she knew – Nothing. It was
the greatest gift a cat could give. At the moment of her ‘death’ she was still completely fascinated
with life. Gurus come in all shapes and sizes.
A sip of tea. The gentle, last touch of a loved one’s hand. A flurry of tingling sensation surging
through the body. A stranger turning into a long-lost friend overnight. The incessant beeping of an
IV machine. The sting of a needle that won’t enter its vein. The bittersweet chirp of a morning bird.
An afternoon breeze, gentle on your cheek. This, the first and last day of your life. Ecstasy, and
laundry. Love, and pain. This stunning ordinariness, rich with miracle, overflowing with grace
beyond our conception of it. The completion of life within its very appearance. So rest, weary
seeker. Rest in this. Always.
It’s easy to be ‘pure consciousness’, to abide in ‘primordial awareness’, untouched and unaffected
by anything. The Absolute was once seen as the pinnacle of spiritual evolution, the ultimate
insight, the supreme goal. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the real adventure, the real
beauty and joy of life, lies not in being ‘nobody’, in detaching yourself from the world, in numbing
yourself to feelings and denying emotions, in endlessly parroting spiritual cliches such as “there is
no me” and “everything is a story”…. but in rediscovering your deep humanity, in being a person
again (yes, a person!), in fully engaging with life from a place of vulnerability and deep acceptance,
in dancing with so-called ‘relative existence’. Brahman is the world. Nirvana is samsara. Beyond
awakening, beyond enlightenment, what is left but to fall in love with this precious moment, this
unimaginable gift that we are given for free?
What are you waiting for? The next promotion? The next holiday? The next satsang? The next
Facebook update? The next spiritual high? The next victory? The next relationship? The next level
of enlightenment? The next chance to prove how much you know? The next life? The next
moment? What if this ‘next’ never comes? And even if it does, what if it doesn’t end your seeking?
What if life – and its fulfilment – is always now? Then, what’s next?
If our love is dependent on looks, when looks fade, our love fades. If our love relies on feelings,
when feelings weaken, our love is threatened. If our love is attached to stories, when stories
cannot be remembered, our love is forgotten. If love clings to form, then when form dies, as it
must, love dies too. Is there a love that is not dependent on form or feeling? Is there a love with no
conditions? Is there a love untouched by disease and death? Of course there is. It is this loving
presence that welcomes every thought, every sensation, every sound as its very own child, clinging
to none of it, resisting none of it, saying, “I am what you are, so we cannot be divided.” And so,
dear friend, I do not love you – I am you, beyond hope, beyond fear, beyond all conceptions of
love, beyond death…
Tickle your guru under their arms. If they fall on the floor, laughing and giggling like a child, follow
them to the ends of the earth.
Without the heat of resistance, without the fuel of separation, without the oxygen of ”me”,
Even though we may be playing unknown songs on broken instruments, our music can never be
There is a Knowing that goes beyond all knowledge. There is a Love that goes beyond all
understanding. There is a Freedom that cannot be found through solving all of your worldly
problems. There is a Rest in the midst of chaos, an ocean of Peace that cannot be disturbed no
matter what the waves are doing. This Knowing, this Love, this Freedom, this Peace, this cosmic
Rest, is not some superhuman achievement or attainment – it is who and what you already are,
prior to your imagination of yourself.
The discovery of Oneness is nothing – literally, nothing – without its inseparable lover, the
celebration of uniqueness, which is how that Oneness seems to express itself. Just as the ocean
dances as its waves, this wholeness celebrates itself as total uniqueness. As U.G. Krishnamurti
so beautifully put it, “‘Each individual is unique, unparalleled; there is not another one like you in
the whole universe. That is your natural state!” Yes, this is the gorgeous paradox of living (and, of
course, these are only dead words trying to point to something totally alive and awake and beyond
words) – you are not an individual indivisible from the whole, but at the same time, who could ever
deny this uniqueness, this individuality, the never-to-be-repeated expression of life that you are,
this unique face that differentiates you, this unique body-mind, this mother and this father in this
apparent place and time, with this face, this voice, this hair, this skin, this sense of humour, these
fingers tapping on this keyboard, these unique abilities and talents and interests and funny little
quirks? Who could deny your unique voice, your expression, your song, a song that yes, is the
same in essence as all other songs, but is also totally, radically unique in its form and flavour and
fragrance? “We are One, but we’re not the same” – this seems to be the simplest and yet the
most profound teaching of all.
Walking alone in the rain, bathed in consciousness, soaked in consciousness, consciousness as
the raindrops, as the body they fall upon, as the splish-splash on the sidewalk, as the
incomprehensible intelligence that opens the umbrella exactly on cue, making a mockery of the
concept of the existence or non-existence of a separate ‘I’. And the raindrops whisper that the
enlightenment we seek is not cold detachment, or unfeeling world-denial, or transcendence of the
so-called ‘material’ world – no, it’s this unspeakable intimacy with the appearance of form, with this
ever-changing watercolor scenery of life, its colors forever running into the gutters of emptiness.
“Love us”, the raindrops whisper. “That’s all”. And I smile to myself at the seriousness and the
mad, cosmic innocence of the spiritual search, the search for something more than THIS. For who
could want or seek anything more than what is already given? Still, the beloved raindrops keep
falling, and we walk on, embraced by a love with no name.
I love you. But wait! But wait! – I have no concept of who you are. I have no concept of who I am. I
have no way of separating myself from what you are. I cannot pretend that on the most
fundamental level we are not the same. I cannot pretend that I am not you. Consciousness meets
itself and delights in that meeting, even though there are never ‘two’ who can meet, ever. In an
absolute sense, there is no ‘I’ and no ‘you’, no ‘self’ and ‘other’. Still, like a child, like a newborn
baby, ignorant of what we are supposed to say, oblivious to the technicalities of language and the
ins and outs of non-dual philosophy, totally uninterested in ‘getting it right’ or proving myself as an
expert on reality, I say this, and I mean it, I really do: I love you. I love you. I love you. The innocent
heart delights in getting it all wrong.
Dare we plunge into the flames of life? The flames will only ravage what is false in us. They will
feed only on our pretence and on our dreams. They will burn only reflections and refractions of our
original face. And as they beckon you into their radical embrace, lovingly licking at your legs, they
will gently whisper, “Rest, child. Nothing to fear. We cannot burn who you truly are.”
We seek some kind of permanence; a person, a philosophy, a feeling, a state, a story of
ourselves, even a spiritual identity, to hold onto. But the fleeting nature of all experience ensures
that everything we grasp eventually slips through our fingers – including our attempts to stop
grasping. Until we recognise that impermanence is actually a dear friend, and fragility gives life its
beauty, and this seemingly ordinary day – with its waking, its washing, its breathing, its joys and
even its pain – is the dear friend we have always longed for. The Beloved calls us home in any way
she can, and this ‘ordinary’ life is her ingenious invitation. You are imprisoned in grace, dear friend,
and the key was never made.
It gets exhausting, trying to escape this moment, trying to avoid what is, trying to push away the
waves of life, waves that are already deeply accepted in the vast ocean of present experience.
And it gets exhausting, too, trying not to try. It’s truly exhausting, trying to avoid feeling exhausted.
But the exhaustion is not a mistake, for it contains a great invitation, as everything does – the
invitation to stop pretending to be ‘the exhausted one’, and admit that even exhaustion, yes, even
that, is deeply allowed – already allowed – in what you are. You’re vast enough. So feel exhausted,
feel more exhausted than you’ve ever felt! – and discover the Beloved right there. Even in the
midst of exhaustion – which never belonged to you in the first place – who you are is truly
I don’t need to find compassion for you. I don’t need to try to love you. I don’t need to ‘do’
understanding or kindness. I simply assume that, on the deepest level, beyond our stories, we are
identical. That you are whole, complete – the vast, open, spacious capacity for life itself – and are
only pretending to look for something that deep down, you know was never absent. That you are a
homesick home-seeker who is secretly already home. That you are perfect, even in the midst of
everything you reject or deny in yourself. That everything you long for is already offering itself in the
form of your present experience, even if your present experience is painful to you. Maybe I’m crazy
to assume this. Maybe it’s the ultimate solipsism or self-obsession. I don’t care. It’s how and why I
can love you exactly as you are in this moment. It’s how and why we can truly meet. The holy
books, the sutras, and all the commandments, melt instantly in the fire of simple human
In recognising that on the most fundamental level I am inseparable from what you are – that as
consciousness itself, I AM what you are – there is no longer any need to ‘try’ to love you. That
recognition is love itself. It is the end of the imaginary division between ‘over here’ and ‘over there’,
between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, between ‘I’ and ‘not-I’. Here and there, inside and outside, absence
and presence melt into each other and vanish, to reveal an ever-present love with no name, a love
that has always been silently calling us back to itself. Love is not something you do; it is not a state
to enter, a goal to reach, nor a quality of a separate person – it is the name you were given long
ago, before names even mattered.
The astonishing paradox: there is nobody here separate from this moment who can accept this
moment, and yet, a deep acceptance of this moment is already happening. In other words,
present thoughts, sensations, sounds, are already flooding into the vastness that you are. The
floodgates of this moment are already open and cannot be closed. This moment is as it is. What a
The teachings “there is nothing to do” and “there is nobody here” are often so very much
misunderstood – that’s why I rarely speak in those terms these days, although ultimately these
statements do point to a deep truth. Yes, there is nothing to do (in order to be what you already
are), but at the same time, there is something to deeply recognise in the moment – that the
wholeness you have always longed for is already here, dancing in the form of present experience.
That these thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds, are already embraced, accepted, held, in the
vast, intimate, open space that you are – and this itself is the end of suffering. There is nothing to
do, yes, but is this Deep Acceptance being recognised? There is nobody here separate from life,
yes, but can it be seen that this supposed ‘absence’ is brimming with sights and sounds and
smells – that there is total intimacy with life here, and inherent deep rest for the weary seeker?
“There is no me” so easily becomes just something else for the seeker to believe – another idea to
We fall in love,
in love we fall,
the greatest paradox of all -
since if there’s only One (not-two),
where is the “me” that loves the “you”?
Your deepest longing has already been fulfilled, and you were the last to know. Everything you
have ever longed for is already present, here and now – which is the last place you’d ever look. The
miracle to end all miracles is happening, and it is this moment exactly as it is. Yes – this, this is the
grace. Every breath. Each sensation. Every sound. That which has already been allowed in. That
which cannot be blocked out. Even pain, even boredom, even despair, all those unwanted and
unloved waves of human experience, are finally allowed to flood into the space where ‘you’ are
not, and have never been. And the paradox is this: none of it can touch you anymore, not even the
greatest pain. And yet, and yet, you experience all of it, you feel it all more intensely than ever
before, unable to block it out anymore, unable to turn away. Who would turn away, and from
what? This is life in its fullness, no holds barred. So what is left but simple gratitude? Gratitude for
the fact that anything has ever happened at all. And if nothing ever happens again, know this,
dear friend – you have been here to witness the miracle of life. You have known it. Tasted it. Felt it.
Seen it. The reflection of a waning moon in a car window. The taste of still water. The fragrance of
cotton. The silent depths of meditation. The fierce intensity of fear. Your grandmother’s bones. It
has been enough. Oh, it has been more than enough. It has been too much, in fact. Too much
grace. And so the separate self turned away from it, and looked for more, seeking a future that
never came, and cannot come. You’ve only been seeking yourself. Awe and wonder, my friend.
Awe and wonder.
Break life up into its seemingly constituent parts and still you will never find the magic ‘glue’ that
holds it all together, or for that matters, holds ‘us’ together. What glues the cosmic goo? The
illustrious Maya Angelou suggests that “it might just be Love that holds the stars in the firmament
and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides…”. And Love might just be another word for never
knowing and never needing to know. For being joyfully glueless. For never having a goo. Maybe
babies secretly know the answer: “Goo goo goo…..”
I’ve been teaching (or whatever you want to call this) for a good few years now. I’ve spoken hundreds of thousands of words to thousands of people in dozens of countries. And it strikes me, after all these years, that what I share really boils down to something very, very simple indeed: that even in your imperfection, you are perfect exactly as you are.
Mystery is the only certainty. Beyond belief, beyond doubt. Mystery is not ignorance, nor is it naiveté. It is not confusion, nor is it ‘hedging one’s bets’. It is absolute groundedness, wonder, childlike simplicity. Mystery is indestructible. It is not knowing…. and in that, knowing everything you need to know.
Our deepest fear is not the fear of death, it is the fear of life. It is the fear of living, really living, of truly being alive and awake and unprotected here and now. For life includes everything, not just the ‘good’ stuff or the ‘positive’ stuff. Yes, it’s joy and it’s bliss but it’s also pain and sadness, fear, anger and confusion. To truly be alive is to admit that you cannot protect yourself from any of it. So we close off from life, we numb ourselves, we try to block out half the waves in the ocean of consciousness. But why do we fear the waves in the ocean when we ARE that very ocean? Our fear of life, which we mistake to be the fear of death, stems from our forgetfulness of who we really are. When you are all that appears, what is there to fear?
Is it possible to hear criticism, even insult, and find deep acceptance in any response that emerges in the moment – grounded in the unshakeable knowing that what you really are doesn’t need defending? And then, being radically open, is it possible to find a nugget of truth in what they are saying, even if it results in momentary humiliation, and destruction of the image of the one you thought you were? This doesn’t mean you become passive and weak. Quite the opposite. You stop identifying as ‘victim’ or ‘hurt one’, and stop seeing the other as ‘enemy’, and you remain open and vast, the infinite capacity for all life, for all thought and sensation and feeling. And here, in the midst of conflict, you discover the place where conflict ceases to be conflict at all – and wake up to a love beyond reason. Yes, every human relationship is a constant invitation to let go. Your mother, your father, your friends, your lovers, your co-workers, everyone you meet – here are your final gurus, your ultimate teachers. Listen to them.
It was getting back into real, grounded, intimate human relationships – after so many years of detachment, neo-Advaita world denial and spiritual superiority – that really helped to expose all the remaining stuff about myself that I was still trying to avoid and hide from others. It was painful and humiliating, to be sure. But ultimately, it was astonishingly liberating. For the ‘stink of enlightenment’ (as Mariana Caplan calls it) can’t last very long, if you’re sincerely interested in truth. Clichés like “there is no me” and “there is only awareness” just don’t cut it. Thankyou to all the women who have taught me how to love.
One of my favourite things to do is to sit with my elderly father. It’s a beautiful thing just to sit a place of profound not-knowing with him, a place where I do not know what to say or do. I sit, without expectation, without trying to ‘fix’ him, or manipulate his experience in any way. I just listen, without trying to make things better in the moment, without playing the role of ‘the one who knows’. As consciousness, I am simply available to him. I don’t need to ‘know’ anything in this place, for we are each other. I simply cannot tell who is who, anymore. And here, I notice a deep and profound acceptance of any wave of frustration or sadness that appears in the ocean of experience. His pain, my pain, there is no difference at all. And this seems to me to be what true relationship is at its very core – meeting, really meeting in the moment, without hope, without a future, without expectation, without a story. Coming face to face with yourself. Nobody meeting nobody. I love what Nisargadatta Maharaj says: “With the dissolution of the personal ‘I’, personal suffering disappears.” But crucially, he also adds: “What remains is the great sadness of compassion”. Yes, the absence of ‘I’ is not cold detachment and neo-Advaita world-rejection, but intimacy of the most unspeakable kind. Thanks, Dad, for keeping me grounded.
So many spiritual teachings and practices present themselves as the ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ of being human. They are all about getting rid of what we call the ‘negative’, escaping painful emotions, transcending feelings, stopping thoughts, fighting the darkness, attracting the ‘positive’, floating above our humanity, leaving imperfection behind and becoming perfect and enlightened. But why are we so deeply afraid to embrace our humanness in its totality, to deeply allow the present moment exactly as it is? Why the constant war against thoughts and emotions? What exactly are we trying to protect? What exactly do we fear? It seems that we have forgotten who we really are – the vast ocean of consciousness that unconditionally embraces its beloved ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ children with equal tenderness, that loves its ‘dark’ and ‘light’ waves to death, that holds its ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ with equal understanding. Life is not the problem. Thoughts and feelings are not the problem. The waves in the ocean are not the problem. Being human is not the problem. It never was. The ‘problem’ begins with the ‘solutions’ that we are offered, the paths we follow in our misguided innocence, and in our fear. We do not need solutions to the non-existent problem of being alive here and now.
I used to believe that acceptance was something that you had to ‘do’, and peace was something that you would eventually ‘attain’, through continued effort and practice. I realise now that I had it all upside down and back-to-front. Acceptance is always already here, since what I am is always deeply allowing this moment to be exactly as it is, effortlessly – and the knowing of that IS peace, unshakeable peace without opposite. Peace and deep acceptance, not as future goals, but present moment realities, are not two states or stages – they are one and the same.
Are you breathing? Are you awake and alive? Then you are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. All the world’s money, fame, success, glory; all the spiritual highs available to consciousness cannot even begin to touch this – this simple and undoubtable awareness that does not come and go, that cannot be gained or lost, that is not damaged by pain or loss nor enhanced by luck or achievement, that need not be believed, that simply IS, no matter what is happening. What you are seeking is already here, hidden in every moment – fully revealing itself in every moment too.
Until you are fulfilled with nothing, nothing will fulfil you.
You cannot forgive someone for hurting you. As ‘the hurt one’ you cannot forgive. Fortunately, ‘the hurt one’ is not your true identity. Who you really are can never be hurt, since in its vast and loving embrace it deeply allows all of life, including hurt, into itself. In realising that you cannot hurt me, I no longer need to fear, avoid, punish, or shut myself off from you. In realising that nobody has ever hurt me, there is nobody to forgive. Bones can be broken, yes; egos can be threatened, pride can be bruised, of course; but who we truly are has never been touched. Here in the deep peace of the ocean of you, you can never be a victim. And from here, you can finally love your non-existent ‘enemies’, your heart breaking with compassion for their deep pain. And yes, yes, you can still say ‘NO’. This is not a path for the faint-hearted, I’ll give you that.
Nobody has the power to allow this moment. The good news is that this moment is already allowed to be exactly as it is, whether ‘you’ like it or not. True freedom lies nowhere else but in the ‘suchness’ of this moment, the fragrance of the here and now.
When we forget our basic inseparability from life itself, and identify as the time-bound image of ‘me’, we feel homesick, far from the One we love. And then the hunt begins. We go seeking that One in time – seeking fame, fortune, love, enlightenment – whatever we think will bring us home. In our innocence, we even start to believe concepts like “there is no me”. But we are only seeking ourselves. Yes, sweet dreamer, The One you love, the love you seek, is always infinitely closer than you think. It is breathing down your neck, even as you seek it. Even as you read this. It is your own breathing…. in and out….. in and out……
There is no thinker – there is only thought arising. There is no hearer – there is only hearing happening, effortlessly. There is no seer – there is only effortless seeing; only all of this being seen, presently. There is no lover separate from their beloved. There is no love separate from the one who longs for it. There are no lovers anywhere to be found. There is only love, which cannot be divided.
Who you truly are, as the capacity for hurt, cannot be hurt. As this open capacity, you are never ‘the hurt one’. Bones can be broken, images can be shattered, hopes and dreams of what should be, or what could have been, can die, yes – but who you are remains present, always. It cannot be harmed and does not decay or age. In discovering this ever-present deep acceptance at the heart of all present experience, fear of life comes to an end, and what remains is an effortless willingness to not run away from thoughts and feelings, and meet them as dear old friends.
Trying to allow this moment is like trying to allow a seedling to grow into an oak tree. Trying to fall in love is like trying to make your heart beat backwards.
You don’t find the truth, and it doesn’t find you. You don’t even realise that you never lost it. It is simply recognised that there was never a ‘you’ separate from ‘it’ in the first place. Truth was, and is, always here, closer than breathing. The beautiful paradox of awakening…
Who you really are is like the white background behind this text. Mostly ignored and neglected, unable to be grasped, ever-present, and not particularly interesting to the seeker. But absolutely essential, so that these words are able to appear here. And the white background embraces all of these words unconditionally. It cannot say no. It allows all of life into itself. Any word, any character, any squiggle, is allowed to appear here. Thank you, white background, for your many years of dedicated, uncomplaining service. Words come and go, but You remain.
You’re imagining yourself perfectly. You’re imagining you’re reading a Facebook post by some guy called Jeff Foster – a post about imagining yourself perfectly. And now you’re imagining that you are in agreement or disagreement with the post, that you like it or not. And you’re imagining posting a comment, or not posting a comment. Whatever you’re imagining, and even if you’re imagining that you’re not imagining, and even if you’re imagining that I’m just imagining all of this, it’s all perfectly imagined, that’s for sure. And silently, who you really are watches all this imagination, in unimaginable stillness….
Unconditional love is so unconditional that it even embraces our failure to love unconditionally.
Awakening is easy. Remembering yesterday’s awakening is easy. Talking about awakening is easy. Memorising and repeating clichés about awakening is easy. Concluding that “there is no me” or “all is One” is easy. But really living that awakening, truly recognising who you are, even in the midst of life’s challenges, even when the story falls apart, that’s the ongoing adventure. Discovering That which is not in conflict, here and now, that’s the constant invitation, with no conclusion. And so here we meet, in this bittersweet free-fall into the unknown…
The most unexpectedly beautiful gifts can come from a deep and total embrace of helplessness.
Life always seems to bring us to our knees eventually – through pain, through failure, through identity loss, or through sheer exhaustion with seeking. The only question left is this: Are we on our knees begging and praying and waiting for ‘anything but this’…. or are we on our knees weeping and laughing with gratitude for what is already here? Either way, they’re the same knees.
Every day is our crucifixion and our death and our conception and our birth and our resurrection, and what a gift and a miracle it is to be alive and to experience this ridiculously beautiful and beautifully ridiculous mystery, this paradox of existence and non-existence that never ever ever needs to be solved, only lived. Awe and wonder, awe and wonder.
Do you and I fall in love? Or do ‘you’ and ‘I’ fall, in love? In love, ‘you’ and ‘I’ fall away, to reveal this ever-present love with no name. And so love is not something that ‘happens’ (in time) between two separate people, although it can seem that way – love is the falling-away of the very illusion of separation and twoness. For if there are not two, how can two become one? All human relationship can be seen an invitation to this deeper unconditional love, so infinitely creative that it dances as an entire universe.
It seems that what brings true freedom, ease and relaxation, is not just the intellectual realisation of awareness, or the mental conclusion ‘there is no person’, or a plethora of awakening experiences, events and spiritual insights over time, but the present-moment discovery of a deep, unconditional, uncompromising acceptance inherent in awareness itself, and its continued rediscovery in places you never dreamed of finding it. Freedom seems to be unlimited in this way. The richness and mystery and intimacy and sheer love of experience deepens and deepens over time, AND who you are never, ever changes, and is always already complete. It seems like a contradiction… but only when you think about it. “There is no me!”. Oh, dear seeker. Don’t limit yourself to clichés. Seeking doesn’t end with mental conclusions. It ends with a radical love that will tear your heart open.
We seek because we feel separate – from each other, from life itself, from The One we love. We feel separate, but are we actually separate? To whom does ‘the sense of being separate’ appear? Does anybody own this ‘sense of being separate’? Even ‘the sense of being separate’ is inseparable from what you are. It does not belong to you. It arises in total intimacy. What you are allows every sense, every feeling, every thought to arise and fall, in a vast open space that cannot be fathomed by mind. Freedom from separation within that very sense of separation. Stunning!
We are told that the Sun is a giant ball of burning gas, millions of miles from us. And that is true, relatively speaking – let’s not deny it. But what is also true – and this is the real miracle – is that the Sun is always right Here, in the intimacy of present experience. It is never ‘far away’ from experiencing. It is the warmth on the face. It is the heat of the skin. It is the glare in the eyes. Intimate. Present. Here. A dear old familiar friend, present even when absent. And just as a wave may seem far away from a particular part of the ocean, in reality the wave IS the ocean, and so the concept of distance, or lack of it, becomes meaningless in the intimate Sunshine of what you are. Ah, falling in love with the Sun… Yes, some may call it madness, but it’s a divine madness.
Just as the ocean ‘accepts’ every wave, so too has awareness already allowed and accepted what is already here. Acceptance has nothing to do with ‘you’.
The story is always old. The silence is always brand new.
Are you a person, a separate entity moving through a world? Or are you simply capacity? Capacity for thoughts, images, sensations, feelings, sounds…. And is the story of ‘your life’ really who are you? Or does the story of your past, your imagined future, your self-image, simply arise and dissolve in this vast, open, intimate space? Unimaginable freedom comes from the recognition that you are not who you think you are. As capacity, you are forever unbound, and already free. Bad news for the self-image. Bad news for the seeker. Bad news for the one who thinks they know, the one with something to prove. But miraculous news – and cosmic relief – for who you really are.
You can try to allow this moment, and you can fail to allow this moment. Or… you can stop pretending to be the one who allows or doesn’t allow, and notice that this moment is already allowed to be exactly as it is. What you are, life itself, has already said YES to these thoughts, these sensations, these feelings…. even to this pain or this fear or this confusion. What you are is an unconditional YES to what is, where even the ‘no’ is embraced. And then there is no more trying, no more succeeding or failing to allow, no more acceptance or rejection of this moment, there just what is, as it is, raw and alive and unbound….
Thoughts are ripples in the ocean of Being. They are fully allowed to ripple, but they will never touch the ocean’s depths.
The unconditional love that you are is so radically unconditional that it hurts to deny it – but even the pain of Self-denial, which we call ‘suffering’, is fiercely unconditional in its love, containing within it an invitation back to Itself. In other words, you can’t escape who you truly are, but you can die trying. So try, try, and succeed, and fail, and let the Beloved catch you there.
Rich and poor, black and white, Buddhist and Christian, amoeba and elephant and Milky Way and dog poop and that look in your elderly mother’s swollen eyes – consciousness expresses itself as all of this. Oneness manifests as astonishing diversity, and yet there are no separate ‘objects’ at all, not at all. How can this be? Consciousness does not ‘object’ to any appearance, just as the ocean does not ‘object’ to any wave, since all waves are none other than itself. Consciousness cannot object – it cannot ‘throw out’ (ob-ject) any appearance for it IS that too. And so, black or white, rich or poor, pain or fear or joy or refrigerator or oak tree or burning Sun, you are what I am, intimately so. Truly, we only ever meet ourselves, and this is love. To paraphrase Nisargadatta, nothing and everything are not-two.
In recognising that this moment is already allowed to be exactly as it is, the search for acceptance releases itself automatically. In recognising that who you are is already deeply at peace no matter what is happening, the search for peace dissolves naturally. In recognising the inseparability of who you are and life itself, the search for love burns itself to ashes. And all that’s left is an effortless ‘Yes’ to what is.
There’s no way of knowing that this moment has strayed from any kind of cosmic script. Consciousness doesn’t seem to make mistakes. It appears as everything, even seeming mistakes.
Perhaps standing in the midst of the debris of our own shattered illusions we are more able to fearlessly meet the ones we love as their illusions shatter. Love is just a mirror.
What if the wholeness that we seek is already right here, contained in and as this present experience? What if who you really are is not a separate person at all, but the vast, oceanic, open space of [awareness, consciousness, presence, or pick your favourite word….], already free, already deeply at peace? And what if that awareness-consciousness-presence is so vast, so loving, so all-encompassing, that it actually embraces every thought, every sensation, every sound, every feeling, without prejudice, as they spontaneously, choicelessly arise and fall away? What if thoughts and feelings, even the most intense and seemingly painful ones, are not enemies at all, but dear, intimate, friends, inseparable from the Capacity that you are? What if spiritual awakening has nothing to do with escaping present experience, and everything to do with discovering this deep and total and unconditional embrace of life itself? And what if this embrace has actually ALREADY happened, prior to the seeking of it? That would change everything… and leave everything perfectly unchanged.
The story of ‘my life’ doesn’t begin at conception, or even at the beginning of the universe or time itself – it begins with the concept. It begins not at conception, but at concept-ion.
Thought divides the indivisible wholeness of life into separate ‘things’. A cat. A tree. The sun. A body. Me. You. Pain. Joy. Past. Future. The world. And so on. A ‘thing’ is a thought – a ‘think’. Without thought, can there be separate ‘things’ at all? Without thought, do you have any way of knowing what any of this is? Without thought, is there not just…. mystery? Unknowing? And who knows that?
Can truth – the truth of who you are, the truth of this moment, the truth we really seek – be reached by thought? Is truth not already here, prior to all our conceptions of ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’? Is the truth of this moment not already shining brightly?
”The universe” originates and dissolves as a thought, appearing in the vast ocean of consciousness that you are, which is the true Universe (‘Uni-verse’ = turned into One). And so the Universe is no longer ‘outside’ of you, or even ‘inside’ of you, but it is now so very intimate with what you are. The wordless vastness of the Universe replaces ‘you’, and the search for home ends exactly where it began – here and now. Welcome home, cosmic explorer.
Out of a sense of lack, a sense of ‘something missing’, we seek fullness and fulfillment in the future. But what if the fullness we seek is already here? What if the emptiness we are trying to fill is already full? What if consciousness is always already full-filled with THIS, with everything that’s appearing right now? What if we are already LIVING fulfilment in the moment, and just don’t realise it? Ooh! That would turn the whole spiritual search on its head, wouldn’t it!?
Where there is an image, there is fragmentation. “I’m a Christian, you’re a Jew”. “I’m white, you’re black”. “I’m nondual, you’re dual”. “I’m nobody, you’re somebody”. “My God is real, yours is unreal.” “I’m awakened, you’re not”. “I have no ego, but you still do”. Beyond all this mind-made fragmentation and separation, who are you? The answer will not come in words…
Trying to fall in love is like trying to make your heart beat backwards. It can’t be done. When it’s discovered that I am already what you are, consciousness itself, no more ‘trying’ is necessary. And so we don’t fall in love; we simply notice that we are in love already, and always have been. We don’t fall in love; it is the ‘we’, the ‘me’ and the ‘you’ the appearance of the ‘inbetween’, that falls away in love, revealing the intimacy of our own absence. The illusion falls, in love. Yes, we are all so deeply, fundamentally in love that we just don’t realise it.
Words, concepts, thoughts, on the surface of the ocean – but in the ocean’s depths, there is silence, always.
I’ve never spoken to another person in my life. I speak to consciousness itself, cleverly disguised as a ‘you’. And so, ‘I’ don’t really speak to ‘you’ at all, although that’s a beautiful story to tell. For underneath all the words, underneath all the sounds, the stories, the agreements and disagreements, there is a love here with no name, a silence which cannot be disturbed, an intimacy that is ever-present, a peace that endures.
Your worst fears have never come true. And even if they have – you’re still here. Present. Alive. Breathing. In this moment, life is brand new. What you are cannot be destroyed.
There is natural, unforced, uncaused, effortless love, in the recognition that you are what I am – consciousness itself. Here, the ancient question “how to love?” dissolves….
We all become fun-da-mentalists (and life stops being fun) when we become lost in the mental story of ourselves as fundamentally separate beings. Fundamentalism ends – and true fun begins – in the discovery of who you fundamentally are, beyond all belief.
“All judgements are bad” is the biggest judgement of all! Judgements simply appear and disappear in awareness – they just aren’t who you really are. Who you really are allows all judgements to come and go, allows all thoughts to arise and fall, arrive and pass, like waves in the ocean, like flames in a fire, like clouds in a clear blue sky of consciousness.
This moment is already exactly as it is. These thoughts, these sensations, these sounds, are already ‘in’. These waves have already been ‘allowed’ in the ocean of consciousness that you are. Resistance is futile – and exhausting. (“Life, you can’t come in!” “But I’m already in!”)
We call each other ‘friends’, ‘lovers’, ‘husbands’, ‘wives’, ‘mothers’, ‘fathers’, ‘sisters’, ‘brothers’, ‘teachers’ and ‘students’. And yet beyond all of these stories, underneath all of these roles, what could possibly separate us?
Life has no beginning and end, only sentences do. So wake up from your ‘life sentence’, and discover the timeless freedom that you already are. It’s the most ingenious prison break imaginable, since who can escape from an illusory prison? Relax, sweet dreamer, your life sentence has already been dropped.
Awakening has no conclusion, only sentences do.
The ever-changing circumstances of your life are ongoing invitations to wake up to who you really are right now…. even if you believe you woke up yesterday.
It seems that the word ‘I’ is very much misunderstood. Some even reject or fear it, or mock those who use it. However, ‘I’ does not refer or point to a solid, separate, independently-existing ‘me’, but this vast open space of consciousness, this ocean that I Am, which embraces – and is – all the waves of life that appear. Then, ‘I’ is a beautiful word, a lovely sound, appearing and disappearing in this vastness. I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, …………………
A piece of music, a film, nature, a stunning work of art, heartfelt words from a dear friend, can move us to tears with their beauty. But then again, so can a pile of dog excrement, a broken coffee cup, or even intense pain. It’s all consciousness revealing itself – in and as everything. Welcome home to what you are.
The Enlightenment Club is now open. Membership is free. The only catch? You must no longer take any image of yourself seriously – including the image that you’re a member of the club. Oh, and the image that you’re free from all images. Who wants to join? (Oh, and one more thing. The moment ‘you’ join, ‘you’ are automatically kicked out. Still want to join?)
Life is so fiercely loving and compassionate it will destroy every image you have of yourself – including the image that you have no image – and will leave you naked as the day you were born, naked as a newborn baby. Naked, and fully present to this moment, radically open to all experience. Yes, the false image – the mind-made ‘me’ – is humiliated, and what is left is total humility in the face of THIS. Such cosmic, impersonal humility in the face of life is the end of suffering as you know it.
There is no such thing as a ‘negative’ thought or feeling. We call a thought or feeling ‘negative’ (or ‘disturbing’ or even ‘evil’) because we are secretly at war with it in the moment. Every thought and feeling is an invitation – not to war, not to a new storyline of ‘positive versus negative’, but to Deep Acceptance, the acceptance that you already are, the acceptance in which all thoughts and feelings are already totally embraced.
I’m not interested in the story of your incredible awakening. I’m not interested in how much you’ve read and learnt about enlightenment. I’m not interested in your spiritual attainments. No, no. I love you too much for that. I am deeply interested in who you really are, right now – before all stories. Even this one.
In the beginning, I strongly believed that there was something wrong with me. Later on, I acquired the spiritual concept that there was something wrong with being or having a ‘me’ in the first place! Double trouble! These days, I realise that there’s nothing wrong with me, AND nothing wrong with ‘me’. The ocean dances as the wave, in all its extraordinarily perfect imperfection. What freedom!
I confess, I’m officially a failure at speaking the unspeakable, at effing the uneffable. There. You got me. I’m a failed ineffable effabler. Yes, as ‘the one who knows’, as ‘the authority on life’, as ‘the one who has the answers’, I suck, big time. I may just pass as some kind of second-rate poet. But as a friend who loves you totally, without wanting anything from you in this moment, well, there I cannot fail. Nobody can. And so I meet you there, in that strange place beyond words, beyond worlds.
We say “I am afraid”. But are you really the one who is afraid? Are you really ‘the fearful one’? Or are you simply the capacity for fear, the vastness in which fear comes and goes? Sweet friend, don’t be afraid to admit who you really are.
To say “there is no separation” or “there is only Oneness” is easy. To believe “there is no self” or “the ‘I’ doesn’t exist” is easy. Anyone can mechanically repeat the words “there is nobody here” or “free will is an illusion”. But to deeply recognise what these koans are pointing to, rather than merely understanding them intellectually – well, that’s what this awakening adventure is really about.
Do you fear ‘losing control’ of your life? What if you were never really ‘in control’ in the first place? What if it was never really ‘your’ life?
True silence is not the opposite of noise. True silence, the silence that you are, the all-pervading stillness at the heart of life itself, is not at war with anything, just as the ocean is not at war with any of its waves.
In the story of time and personal identity, you’ve been breathing your whole life. But in reality, each breath is a brand new breath, the first breath, the miraculous breath of Life itself.
Spiritual awakening is the easy part. Realising there is no separate self, recognising who you really are, is just the beginning. Really LIVING that realisation, not losing it in the midst of the undeniable realities of human existence, in the midst of intimate human relationships, grief, physical pain, cancer, loss, in all the beauty and mess and wonder of everyday life; discovering acceptance in the parts of experience that previously seemed unacceptable; unravelling suffering that previously seemed impossible to unravel – that’s the ongoing adventure, for everyone. Nobody is immune from this never-ending grace. We can talk and talk and debate and argue about spiritual awakening all we want to. But going beyond mere mental understanding and really LIVING this, and truly discovering where suffering ends – that’s the never-ending adventure. Yes, here is the gorgeous paradox of spiritual awakening: nobody awakens, and yet this ever-unfolding awakening never ends. If you think awakening has finished – oh, my friend! – it’s only just begun.
I used to believe that I was enlightened (and others weren’t). I used to know that I was no-one, that I ‘had no self’ (while others still had a self). I used to be so certain that I had found the truth (and others were still lost in ignorance). And I was so certain that there was were no others. Can you see the delicious irony – and innocence – in this?
Without reference to the past, without quoting your favourite teachers or books or external authority, without words or language, without thought, without memory, in this moment, exactly where you are, what do you know for sure?
Thoughts about the past are present thoughts. Thoughts about the future are present thoughts. The past didn’t happen in the past – it happens now. The future doesn’t happen in the future – it happens now. Even the most convincing dreams of the past and future, happen here in this vast, open space which is never caught up in dreams. Beyond all past and future dreams, what you are is always deeply at rest.
The deeper message of the crucifixion: Pain, deeply accepted, breaks the heart wide open.
Are you ‘the one in pain’, ‘the hurt one’, the victim of this moment, trapped in the story of time, or are you the spacious capacity for pain, the vast and timeless clearing in which pain arises and dissolves?
Just to sit, without expectation, with someone who is in pain or grief or fear, without trying to ‘fix’ them, or manipulate their experience in any way; just to listen, without trying to make things better in the moment, without playing the role of ‘the one who knows'; just to be totally available to them – and then, on a practical level, to do what’s necessary and natural in the moment – this can be the most healing thing. It’s in the not-knowing, beyond our roles, unprotected, undefended, that we truly meet…
Bones can be broken, possessions can be lost, self-images can fall apart, stories can be forgotten – but what you are remains present, intact, complete, whole, always. This moment cannot die.
Stop trying to embrace this moment – and notice that true ‘embrace’ is really more effortless than anything you could possibly imagine. What you are naturally and effortlessly embraces all thoughts, images, sensations, sounds, as they come and go in you. Even pain, sadness and fear – even those poor, rejected, unloved, orphan waves in the ocean of consciousness – are allowed to freely move through. You are unprejudiced in that way. You are the home for the homeless – the love that knows no bounds. You are the unlimited capacity for all life
You don’t ‘have’ thoughts. You are not the ‘thinker’ of thoughts. You are the wide, clear and open sky of awareness in which all thought-clouds are continually allowed to appear and disappear. And the vastness of what you are remains, always.
There is a Knowing that goes beyond all knowledge. There is a Love that goes beyond all understanding. There is a Peace that cannot be disturbed. I’m not talking about a superhuman achievement. I’m talking about who and what you already are, in this very moment.
The discovery of who you really are brings peace in the midst of the storm of life. For what you are cannot fall apart, even when things fall apart. What you are cannot break or decay, even when the body breaks or decays. What you are is always Home, even when you’re far away from home.
What you are has no interest in becoming enlightened in the future, and no interest in telling a story about ‘my enlightenment’ (or lack of it!) in the past. For what you are is the light of life, ever-present, always ‘on’, forever en-lightening this moment, exactly as it is. Even in pain, even in boredom, even in grief, this en-lightenment is always here. It is – and excuse the poetic license – your most intimate friend.
Life doesn’t ask for your acceptance. In this moment life accepts you totally, exactly as you are, exactly as you are not, and asks nothing in return. This is unconditional love, beyond the speaking of it – and its discovery ends the search for love outside of yourself once and for all.
Life will wake you up from every dream, including the dream of your own awakening, for what you are is beyond all dreams…
We’re not seekers, we’re finders. We constantly find life, right in front of us, here and now, always. It’s simply a case of mistaken identity…
True Freedom has nothing to do with getting rid of our humanness and our humanity – it’s a total embrace of it. Your imperfections are so perfect, seen in the light of who you really are. You may be the ocean, but you are also a wave, a divinely unique, quirky, singular, never-to-be-repeated expression of that ocean. “Water that is too pure, has no fish”, as they say in Zen. So dance, baby, dance.
As two ‘somethings’, two stories of personal identity, we are separate, lost in our differences, fragmented by our concepts of deficiency, specialness, superiority and inferiority. But as nothing, as the no-thing that allows everything to appear, what could possibly separate us? As consciousness meeting itself, can we really ever be apart? In reality, can there be ‘two’ consciousnesses? Or is that just how it appears? Beyond the appearance, are we not in love, always?
What you are has already said YES to this moment as it is. YES to these thoughts, these sensations, sounds, feelings, however ‘unacceptable’ they seem right now. What seems unacceptable to ‘you’, has already been accepted by what you are. Life is the acceptance we seek. This Deep Acceptance, as I call it, is not something you do – it’s what you are.
What you are cannot resist any thought, sensation, sound, or feeling appearing now – however painful or intense. If it’s appearing, it’s already been ‘allowed in’, so to speak – it’s already been admitted. You’ll never find anything that is not allowed in what you are – after all, if you find it, it’s already here. Your acceptance or rejection, your allowing or disallowing, comes too late!
We try to cultivate qualities in ourselves such as love, peace, acceptance and non-attachment. We exhaust ourselves trying to love, trying to accept, trying to relax, and even trying to stop seeking. But in discovering who we really are, we come to recognise that these qualities are not the result of the effort of a separate person, but naturally present in who we are before identification as that person. Who we are is naturally loving, accepting, deeply relaxed and always at peace, never attached to any form or outcome – and has never been seeking anything. It is the ocean, always at rest even the midst of the storm of life, always already complete in itself.
All your problems are just thoughts – and thoughts are not a problem.
Are thoughts arising? Are sensations dancing? Are sounds appearing? Is breathing happening? Is the heart beating? Then the miracle has already happened.
We try so hard to accept life, to be ‘present’ or ‘conscious’ in the face of challenges, to be okay – yet the reality is that we often fail to accept, fail to allow, fail to feel okay. But there is an acceptance far deeper than anything the individual could ‘do’ – this is the deep acceptance of Life itself. As the ocean unconditionally ‘accepts’ every wave, so consciousness already ‘accepts’ everything that appears in consciousness, because it IS everything that appears. Consciousness is in love with (inseparable from) all of its appearances.
What you are cannot resist this moment. The sky cannot resist the clouds. The ocean cannot resist any wave. Awareness cannot resist anything that appears in awareness. Life is totally irresistible to who you really are. It’s a secret love affair… for no-one.
‘You’ cannot stop seeking. Simply, gently, effortlessly notice that what you are in this moment, as the wide open, intimate space in which all experience happens, is not, and never has been, seeking anything, since it IS all that appears now. It is always at rest, even in the midst of the storm of life.
This moment doesn’t need your permission to be as it is. Your acceptance or rejection of this moment is already too late!
Nisargadatta Maharaj made this beautiful statement: “Wisdom says I am nothing. Love says I am everything. Between the two my life flows.” As the vast ocean of Being, you are no thing in particular. You are not a ‘me’ or a ‘you’. What you are is the vast open space in which everything happens, and the recognition of that brings clarity and wisdom. But clarity and wisdom are not complete without their reflection, love. And love comes from the recognition that, as open space, as the ocean, what you are deeply accepts all of the waves that appear – all of the sights and sounds and smells and sensations appearing now. I find that many spiritual seekers get stuck in the “nothing” aspect of realisation, and are left with only an intellectual understanding of awakening, which does not bring total freedom. The true end of suffering comes from the recognition of this total intimacy with life itself – in other words, the deep acceptance of “everything” appearing in experience. In this deep acceptance, mind and heart are one. Nothing is everything – they were never two. Mental clarity and certainty give way to deep acceptance of this moment. And there, the war ends.
Seeking peace outside of present moment experience is where the war with life begins. What you are does not need to seek peace in the future, for it is already deeply at rest in this moment, even in the midst of struggle, just as the ocean’s silent depths are at rest even in the midst of a storm. Peace does not reject the storm – it is there IN the storm. This vibrantly alive peace is ever-present, and has no opposite.
What we call ‘suffering’ is not a curse, a punishment, an aberration, or a sign of your failure in any way. ‘Suffering’ is merely a word that points to life’s constant invitation – to discover that what’s happening in this moment is ultimately beyond ‘your’ control. It is an invitation to discover a deep acceptance of present experience – to discover that every thought, sensation, feeling, sound appearing presently has ALREADY been allowed in. The floodgates are already open – this moment is already as it is. Thy Will Be Done. Already, Done.
Stop trying to accept this moment and effortlessly notice that this moment has already been accepted as it is, because it IS as it is – and this ‘isness’ is the acceptance you’ve always been seeking. And notice that this deeper acceptance actually includes any non-acceptance, in this moment. Even non-acceptance is forgiven here. Stop trying to accept and simply relax into the acceptance that is already here, even in the midst of fear, frustration, pain, sadness. This is radical acceptance, right at the heart of all experience. Radical awakening, in the midst of an ordinary life. It is everyone’s birthright.
What does it mean to deeply accept the present moment as it is? It means to effortlessly notice that every thought, sensation, feeling, appearing now, has already been accepted into present awareness, otherwise it wouldn’t be appearing as it is. It’s not a doing, but a seeing – a simple recognition of what is true and present and alive. This deep acceptance does not mean that you become passive, powerless, inactive and disengaged from the realities of life. Quite the opposite. Deep acceptance is the source of all intelligent, creative action. Our of deep acceptance, ‘right action’ (as they say in Buddhism) flows naturally. This is life without a centre.
Simply noticing what is already present, here and now, is not a ‘doing’. It is effortless. It is prior to effort, since effort is noticed in it. It has no goal and there is no expectation in it, no seeking in it. Even the seeking can be noticed. One could say this noticing is what you are. Present, complete, always, even in the midst of discomfort. What awesome freedom you are in your essence. What deep peace you are, even in the midst of the noise of life. Always Home, even in homesickness. Always at rest, even in struggle.
This moment is the only possibility. There is no escape from it. And yet, anything is possible in this moment. It is the source of all creativity.
In the all-consuming fire of life, even our precious stories of ‘my awakening’ or ‘my enlightenment’ burn up. Every story about a past shrivels in the sheer wonder of this moment. Burn baby, burn!
Does the writer write? Does the singer sing? Does the painter paint? Does the dancer dance? Does the actor act? Does the listener listen? Does the speaker speak? Does the meditator meditate? Does the breather breathe?
Can this moment be accepted, just as it is? That question already comes too late! What you are has already accepted this moment, just as it is. It has already allowed this moment – these thoughts, these sensations, these feelings, these sounds – to be here. Not My Will, But Thy Will. This is acceptance beyond belief, and it is where the war with present experience ends. The end of violence is closer than we think.
Contained in every experience of loss is an invitation to discover that which cannot be lost.
Discovering who you are is the easy part. Discovering who you are in the midst of life’s challenges – pain, loss, relationship, addictions – is life’s constant invitation.
Everything that happens to you is an invitation to discover that nothing ever happens to ‘you’.
Beyond the time-bound story of ‘our relationship’, there is this timeless, fearless, intimate relating, here and now.
The end of suffering is always infinitely closer than you think.
What you are never suffers, even in the midst of pain, is never afraid, even in the midst of fear, and never wants more than what is, as it is. What you are has no interest in becoming enlightened, rich or successful, and has no story about itself as being unenlightened, poor, or a failure. All suffering is for an apparent ‘I’, all suffering is in the story of ‘me’, all suffering is essentially a fight against this moment. But what you are cannot fight in this way, for it IS all that appears, including all the stuff ‘you’ don’t want or like. And so this message does not deny human suffering, but points to the possibility of it ending where it begins – here and now.
Allowing is not a ‘doing’ – it is the simple but radical recognition that everything appearing in awareness right now – everything sound, every thought, every sensation, every feeling – is already allowed in. Life in its fullness has already been admitted. So stop trying to allow, and simply admit that what you are has already admitted this thought, this sensation, this feeling….
’My story’ is never complete. ‘You’ could always be more, or have more. ‘Better, faster, richer, bigger, more knowledgeable, more intelligent, more enlightened, more spiritually evolved, more free, more… something!’ – that is the dream of the story machine. It thrives on conflict, judgement and comparison. But what you are, as the vast ocean in which all waves of experience come and go, is always already complete in this moment. What you are needs nothing, for it is already everything that appears. It is simply beyond compare.
When all worldly riches and spiritual ‘highs’ have come and gone, what remains? That which is present then, is present now.
Even when things fall apart, who you really are cannot fall apart.
What you are is simply the ocean which allows every wave of experience to arise and fall. Waves of fear, grief, pain, weakness, frustration, helplessness, and even heartbreak are not a problem for what you are. It is all simply the ocean breathing in and out. In the ocean’s depths, there is a peace beyond understanding.
Thoughts appear and disappear, but who thinks them? Sounds come and go, but who hears them? Feelings arise and pass, but who feels them? Does the dancer dance? Does the actor act? Does the singer sing? Or is there simply intimacy with all experience?
My guru is this moment. My lineage is this moment. My spiritual path is this moment. And my home is this moment.
Life is non-stop meditation.
The meditator does not meditate. The image of the meditator (‘the one who meditates’) appears and disappears in meditation. Nobody ever meditates – meditation is not something that you do. It’s what you already are.
What you are, as the open space in which all thoughts, sensations, feelings appear, is always in meditation. It is meditation itself. Within this ever-present meditation, the idea ‘I’m meditating’ is allowed to appear and disappear. But what you are never stops meditating.
You cannot escape from what appears as present experience, for who would escape? We don’t escape TO freedom – the freedom is IN our total inability to escape. Who would escape from this moment exactly as it is (including any idea of the one who can or cannot escape)?
The love you seek is closer than breathing. When it’s recognised that, in this moment, any feeling of being unloved is deeply embraced in the open space that you are, who can be unloved? And who needs to seek love? Even the feeling of being unloved is loved here – this is love beyond understanding, love without an opposite.
In the beginning, I found myself lost in the ‘relative’ perspective (“I’m a separate person desperately trying to fix myself, to become perfect, pure, enlightened, whole.”). Later on, I got stuck in the ‘absolute’ perspective (“There’s no world, no time, no me… and no perspectives!”). These days, what’s seen is this: The absolute dances AS the relative. The ocean dances AS the waves. And so the words ‘absolute’ and ‘relative’ melt away…. And the dance goes on……
What I am is identical with this moment – perhaps that is the true meaning of ‘identity’
A simple investigation: Thoughts come and go. Are you the thoughts that come and go? Sensations appear and disappear. Are you those sensations? Sounds, feelings, smells, dance. Are you those sounds, feelings, smells? And keep looking: do you have any way of actually separating what you are from these thoughts, sensations, feelings? Is there any gap between what you are and all that appears? Or is there simply intimacy with all life? Don’t jump to ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Don’t look to the mind (thought) for answers – mind comes and goes. Look to what is actually happening.
When present experience is admitted fully, present experience is fully admitted. [‘To admit’ means both ‘to confess (the truth)’ and ‘to allow in’. What a neat word!]
Life is here to break your heart over and over again until you realise that heartbreak is life too. And then your heart can no longer be broken. Or fixed. And you stand naked in front of life, moment by moment, knowing that whatever happens is totally okay even in the midst of perfect devastation, which, of course, is devastating perfection. This is freedom beyond the speaking of it.
Homesick? You need look no further than present experience. Everything appearing here and now points back home – every thought, every sensation, every smell, every feeling – even pain, even sadness, even fear. Everything has its roots in presence, everything calls you back to the truth. The absence of a separate self is the presence of the world, and so the great search for home ends where it began.
The Ocean is not at war with its waves. No wave can threaten the totality of the Ocean. Light is not at war with darkness – darkness cannot threaten light. Consciousness is not at war with anything. It is not opposed to anything – it is not the opposite of anything – only thought sees opposites. All is allowed to arise and dissolve in the vast, oceanic, open space that you are, just as all waves are allowed to arise and fall in the Ocean, which remains undisturbed, always. The waves may rise and crash – but in the Ocean’s depths, there is silence. Silence, and knowing.
You do not, you cannot, exist as a separate entity for me. And that is precisely why I can love you so completely, so fearlessly, exactly as you are, without expectation. Whoever said love and death were two?
“I am enlightened” is an image. “I am not enlightened” is another image. “I am a teacher” is an image. “I am a student” is another image. “I am ugly” is an image. “I am beautiful” is another image. I know, I don’t know. I am happy, I am sad. I am right, I am wrong. I am a success, I am a failure. I am, I am not. I. I. I…. And what you are, as the wide open space that embraces all images as they come and go, cannot be defined by any image, not even this image! You are not the dream, nor the dreamer of the dream, but the vastness in which the appearance of dreamer and dream arise and fall. So goodnight, sweet non-existent dreamer
Can a thought-created story about who you are, really tell the truth about who you are?
‘Where is my true Home? When will my pain end?’, the homesick seeker asks. ‘You are already home’, answers Life, ‘even in the midst of your pain’. ‘But I cannot see that right now!’, replies the seeker. ‘Of course you can’t’, replies Life. ‘So forget trying to see it in the future. Simply rest in this present moment experience of being unable to see it. Discover that you are Home even in this present feeling of homesickness, even in this frustration, even in your failure to escape this moment. To whom is this all appearing right now?’
‘What is the end of seeking?’, the seeker asks. ‘Life as it already is’, answers Life, before the question is even asked.
When I do not recognise who I am, I look to the world (time, space, objects, substances, people) to complete something called a ‘me’, and I reject everything that I see as a threat to that completeness. In other words, I go to war with present experience in the hope of a future salvation. But in recognising myself as the vast open space that unconditionally embraces all form, I see that the world cannot complete me – and it can no longer make me incomplete either. And so I am finally free to fearlessly love the appearance of things for what they are, not what I hoped or wanted them to be – and I discover true completeness to be this moment, exactly as it is.
We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow. So can we meet here, beyond our story of time, beyond our plans and prayers, beyond all hope of a future salvation, and discover what is true and present NOW? If tomorrow never comes, and it may or may not, can THIS be enough? Do we really need time to be fully what we are? The death of seeking is the death of time, and we could call it ‘love’.
Breathing is holy. Raindrops are holy. Flowers are holy. Dog shit on the pavement is holy. Thoughts are holy. Pain is holy. All of life is wholly an expression of wholeness – the ‘sacred’ as much as the ‘profane’ – even if it doesn’t seem that way to the seeker, who, in their pursuit of a future wholeness, misses the holiness in all things.
What’s wrong with falling apart? Why not fall apart so completely that there’s nothing left? And then keep falling apart for the rest of your life – and recognise yourself as the wide open space that cannot fall apart, but allows all falling apart to play itself out. And then can you really call it ‘falling apart’ at all? Thoroughly fallen apart, thoroughly One.
Your imperfections are perfect. They are there to wake you up from your dream of perfection without imperfection. And beyond imperfection and perfection, what shines?
All thoughts, images, all ideas about yourself and the world, all judgements good and bad, all memories, come and go in the vast open space that you are, which itself is not a thought, image, idea, judgement or memory. What you are embraces all forms as they float here, and float away…..
How to accept life? Firstly, realise that you can’t. And then discover that life, appearing as this moment, is already accepted, as it is. This Deeper Acceptance goes beyond the dualistic opposites of acceptance and non-acceptance…
All ideas about yourself come and go. You think you’re enlightened, you think you’re unenlightened. Okay. You think you know everything, you think you know nothing. Okay. You think you’re a teacher, you think you’re a student. Okay. And all these ideas float by, like leaves in the wind, like clouds in the sky. What remains?
I have worked with many people who say “I am dying” – which simply means “I have lost all hope of a future”. But strip away future, all hope and hopelessness, and what is the difference between “living” and “dying”? Strip away time, and there is only THIS. And here, nobody lives and nobody dies. Those are still just stories. Beyond all stories, there is only what’s happening presently. Radical simplicity. Unknowable. Present.
Nobody gets healed. Nobody heals anybody else. Healing does not happen in time. Healing (wholeness) is already present, in the midst of everything you are trying to heal yourself from, just as the ocean is already present in and as every wave. A wave is healed even in its failed attempt to reach the ocean. Beyond the story, you are already healed. And you just forget, sometimes. Which is part of the healing too.
Love can take everything into itself and remain complete – it can take in heartbreak, pain, fear, anger, sadness, total devastation. It can be crucified over and over again, and still remain whole. It knows no opposite, no enemy, no other. Only itself. Eternally, timelessly, Now.
What you are seeking is there in every breath, every heartbeat, every thought, every sensation, just as the ocean is there in every wave….
If you want a future, go seek enlightenment.
Nothing is not ‘nothing’, not the absence of all things, but no-thing, the absence of the separation of all things, which is love. So this absence, this no-thing, is actually the perfect presence of everything. And so the search ends not in nihilism and detachment, in a dead state of ‘nobody here’ and ‘nothing to do’, but in wonder, in fascination, in the kind of gratitude that breaks your non-existent heart.
There are no negative thoughts. We call a thought ‘negative’ when we don’t like what it says about us – in other words, when we are defending an image.
We don’t have a future together. We only have right here, right now. This moment is all we have together. To the seeker, that’s incredibly depressing. But to recognise the utter preciousness of this moment liberates me from the need to complete myself in the future, and liberates you from having to provide that completion. In this timelessness, we truly meet. Love is the disappearance of time, the disappearance of the story of ‘relationship’, and true relationship is possible here.
Every thought, every sensation, every feeling, every story, every dream of past and future appears here, in this timeless, wide open space. Consciousness embraces all, as a mother embraces her newborn baby – it embraces all, and is all. Ordinary life is the vastness we seek – and so ordinary life ceases to be ordinary at all. All that’s left is to be here, totally. As if there were any other possibility…
You dream the perfect dream – it’s the dream you need to dream to wake yourself up.
At its root the word ‘home’ means ‘lie down’ or ‘rest’. Home is not a place, a thing, or a person – it is rest.
No two people have ever fallen in love. Love is the death of ‘two’.
When you are seeking something from someone – a lover, a friend, a guru, a teacher – you stop SEEING who and what is actually there.
We are encouraged to ‘be present’, and maybe that is a useful practice, for a while. But then you go deeper, and ask, ‘what is this ‘me’ that can be present, or not be present?’ – and you discover that you are that very presence – present in the midst of being present AND not being present. Give yourself the greatest present of all – the freedom to not be present – and discover presence even there.
You cannot ‘return home’ if you never left home in the first place. Enlightenment is nothing more than the discovery of the non-existence of the one seeking it. It is as simple as this moment, as obvious as breathing, as present as the sound of the bird singing – but nearly always ignored in our pursuit of ‘something more’.
Acceptance is not something that you ‘do’ – although it seems that way at first. It can only be discovered that every thought, every sensation, every feeling appearing now is already accepted by awareness – not because awareness chooses to ‘accept’ everything, but because every form that appears is inseparable from that very awareness. On the deepest level, you have already said YES to what’s appearing right now.
Separation never ‘disappears’ – how can something that isn’t here in the first place ‘disappear’? What you are has always been intimate with life – with every thought, sound, sensation, image. Awareness and contents of awareness were always one. This intimacy doesn’t come and go – though it may be apparently overlooked in our search for it. And yet it’s always here, appearing as this, this, this….
You are the perfect guru, and life is the perfect disciple – it follows you wherever you go, without conditions. You can try to shut yourself off from life, and life will still be there, in that very shutting off. The guru and disciple are inseparable – and that is enlightenment.
True compassion means to meet others beyond their story, and to see that there are no others.
Love can take everything into itself and remain complete – it can take in heartbreak, pain, fear, anger, sadness, total devastation. It can be crucified over and over again, and still remain whole. It knows no opposite, no enemy, no other. Only itself. Eternally, timelessly, Now.
We say “One day, one day…”. But there is only One Day. Today.
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. Translation: “Father forgive them – they don’t SEE. They think that killing me will bring them wholeness – but it won’t. Killing me a thousand times won’t bring them what they truly long for. What they truly long for… is what I am. And I am what they are. They are already whole but do not realise it. Maybe one day they will see…”
Nothing I say is the gospel truth. I am just a bird singing my song, for the sheer joy of it. That is my freedom. My song is neither ‘true’ nor ‘false’ – it is merely music. You are free to listen to this music, or walk away. To agree or disagree. To sing your song back to me, or not. Either way, this singing goes on until it doesn’t. The universe sings to itself. Tweet Tweet!
THIS – it’s what everyone is seeking, but nobody can find, because it’s everything and everywhere, the most ingenious place to hide!
The cat has no idea that she will die tomorrow. She sleeps soundly anyway.
Creation, destruction, the preciousness and fragility of life, the non-existence of the separate self, the illusion of time and space, the mystery of love and the mystery of death, the intimacy of human experience and the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. And all of this in a cup of tea! The miracle of the ordinary.
Love is all that’s left when all else has fallen away. It’s not a feeling, not a state, not a passing experience. It is the ground of all things, the open space that holds all forms as they arise and pass. It has no opposite – it holds all apparent opposites, allows them all to be. You can’t say what it is – you can’t say what it is not. In the end, you can’t say anything. And yet all words are held here too…
At first, I was lost in the ‘relative’ perspective (“I’m a person desperately trying to fix myself, to become perfect, pure, enlightened.”). Later, I was lost in the ‘absolute’ perspective (“There’s no me, no world, no time… and no perspectives!”). These days, what’s seen is this: The absolute dances AS the relative. And so the words ‘absolute’ and ‘relative’ dissolve… into silence.
‘Illusion’ simply means ‘deceptive appearance’ – not ‘non-existence’. The self, the ‘me’, is an illusion, not because it doesn’t exist, but because it doesn’t exist in the way we imagine it to. It seems to be solid and separate – there seems to be a wave separate from the ocean – but upon investigation, those assumptions crumble. The ‘illusion’ is seen through – the wave is inseparable from the ocean.
It’s easy to be ‘awakened’, to be blissed out, to speak convincingly about the non-existence of choice and individuality when life is going your way. And then a loved one drops dead, or you’re given three days to live, or you lose everything. Then you get to really find out what concepts and images you’re still holding onto. In the face of life itself, our precious beliefs turn to dust. THIS is the only authority.
Everything is holy – everything is wholeness appearing – just as every wave is inseparable from the ocean. Even the most extreme suffering is a perfect expression of wholeness, and also a call back to it. Life is a never-ending invitation to discover freedom in everything you’re running from. And then you can’t call suffering ‘suffering’ at all. Because, in this freedom, who suffers?
Trying to fall in love is like trying to make your heart beat backwards. It can’t be done. I am already what you are. And so we don’t fall in love; we simply notice that we are in love already, and always have been. We don’t fall in love; it is the ‘we’, the ‘me’ and the ‘you’, the ‘inbetween’, that falls away in love, revealing the intimacy of our own absence. We are all so deeply in love that we don’t realise it.
Every wave of experience (thought, feeling, emotion…) that we call ‘negative’, ‘sinful’ or ‘dark’ is simply a wave that’s not being recognised as being part of the ocean (light). In reality, there’s never any absence of light – even the ‘darkest’ wave is 100% ocean. Everything you’re running away from, everything you see as a block to freedom – in other words, your ‘shadow’ – is simply freedom in disguise.
Walking home, rain lashing down; strip away the story and the tears of a newborn baby are the tears of childbirth are the tears of a spiritual seeker discovering the miracle of existence are the tears of an old man on his deathbed. They are all the same tears – my tears, your tears – just as all the raindrops are rain, inescapably so. And the tears run into the gutter, and we walk home, alone, together…
I don’t know. I’ve never known. And in that not-knowing there is a knowing that cannot die.
“One day I’ll find what I’m looking for – love, success, enlightenment – and I’ll be complete”. We seek completeness in the future, and this gives other people and objects – money, lovers, gurus, alcohol – an apparent ‘power’ over us – the ‘power’ to complete us. But no person or drug has ‘power’ in the real sense of the word – the power to end seeking, which is what we truly long for. For the end of seeking is NOW.
We seek a particular state, a special feeling – happiness, success, peace, bliss – but all states and feelings are fleeting, and what we truly long for is not fleeting. What we truly long for is intimately here, always, in the midst of every passing experience. It is not something, some of the time – it is everything, all of the time. And so it cannot be lost.
Little waves of experience – thoughts, sensations, sounds, feelings – forever appearing and disappearing in this sea of silence. The sea is their home and their source, inseperable from what they are. See, sea, everything is collapsing into you, moment by precious moment…
Listen to life and you will hear it always – the gentle hum of mystery.
My mother once said to me, “Jeff, no matter how enlightened you are, you should still iron your shirts!”
‘For-give’ literally means ‘give completely’. See – this moment is forgiveness. Because, right here, right now, everything is given, completely.
My tip for today: Resist life as much as you can. Fight this moment. Exhaust yourself in trying to escape what is. And see where it gets you…
Suffering is the birth pains of freedom.
“Pain is an illusion” – easy words. But try saying this under torture, or as the cancer gnaws away at your lungs. The pain is not the illusion. The illusion is that, in THIS moment, the pain should not be happening. The illusion is that the pain is divided from what you are. Even the most painful pain dances in intimacy. Oneness ain’t just the ‘pleasant’ stuff – and here lies unbelievable freedom.
Life isn’t supposed to be ‘peaceful’ all of the time. Life isn’t supposed to be ‘pleasurable’ all of the time. Life isn’t supposed to be ‘perfect’ all of the time. Life isn’t supposed to be anything all of the time. ‘Supposed to’ and ‘all of the time’ are the biggest illusions of all. Right now things may not be peaceful, pleasureable, or perfect – but life is absolutely complete in itself. It knows what It’s doing.
You don’t need a GPS system. Life will bring you Home in any way it can.
Is there something to do or nothing to do? Well, life is already complete, no matter what you do – and the completeness appears as THIS. At the same time, every appearance is a little invitation to SEE this completeness – in the incompleteness. There’s nothing to do, but lots to see! And even when the completeness is not seen, life is still complete. Completeness in doing, completeness in not doing – what grace!
Life itself is the greatest act of unconditional love. It gives itself for free and asks nothing in return.
As I honour the play of duality (the astonishing variety of waves in the ocean) more and more in my talks and writings, some people are now saying that I’m a bad nonduality teacher – that I’m ‘less clear’ than I used to be, because I’m talking about duality, and duality is not real. But since when did the ocean separate itself from the waves? Can you see the joke here?
Suffering begins when the sacred is split from the profane, the spiritual is split from the material, the personal is split from the impersonal, the acceptable is split from the unacceptable… and you are split from me. Suffering ends where it begins – at the non existent core of these illusory divisions.
The ‘impersonal’ ocean expresses itself perfectly as the ‘personal’ wave – and the ocean doesn’t need to get rid of a wave in order to be the ocean! In other words, the impersonal dances in and as the appearance of this very personal experience of life. The impersonal IS the personal – and thus endeth the holy war.
What is a ‘negative thought’? It is always a thought which threatens an image you hold of yourself. For example, if you hold an image of yourself as successful (‘I’m a success’) the balancing thought ‘i’m a failure’ becomes a threat and is labelled ‘negative’ – and rejected. Defend any image of yourself and it will inevitably be threatened! When no image is being defended, all thoughts are allowed to be there.
In the beginning, I strongly believed that there was something wrong with me. Later on, I acquired the spiritual belief that there was something wrong with being or having a ‘me’ in the first place! Double trouble! These days, I realise that there’s nothing wrong with me, AND nothing wrong with ‘me’. The ocean dances as the wave, in its perfect imperfection. What freedom!!
We seek because we feel separate. We feel separate, but ARE we separate? To whom does ‘the feeling of being separate’ appear? Does anybody own ‘the feeling of being separate’? Even ‘the feeling of being separate’ is inseperable from what you are. Freedom from separation within the very experience of separation. Stunning!
I used to exhaust myself trying to ‘accept’ life… until I discovered that the acceptance that I sought WAS the very life I’d been trying to accept. Life itself is grace.
Death is not an experience within life. It is not something that ‘happens’ to you in time. Death is the absence of the separate experiencer – which is already, timelessly, the case. Already, there is no separate entity to be found here. Don’t believe me – Go, look, now, see if any gap can be found between you and the world. Who, then, dies?
I was a ‘nonduality teacher’ …. then I woke up from that dream. What a relief.
Life doesn’t need you to accept it. Life accepts you totally – including your non-acceptance of life, just as the ocean ‘accepts’ every wave. Stop trying to accept, and sink into the deep acceptance of life itself – which is what you are. The deepest acceptance has already been done.
Even the experience of total failure, total devastation, total helplessness – in other words total incompleteness – is a complete experience. Every experience is already complete in itself. Experience incompleteness completely in this moment – experience wholly your unholiness – and suffering dissolves. This is the completeness you seek.
We search for love out there in the world, only to discover that we never lacked love, and there is no ‘out there’.
I will never be able to put life into words. There are no words for this wordlessness, no sounds for the soundless. And yet, I do not value silence over noise. Both are equally life – true silence is there in the noise, too. I love attempting to share this in words – and I know that all of my words are lies. Loving, compassionate lies, perhaps – but lies all the same. Thankyou for listening to my lies.
In seeking love, success, or ‘spiritual enlightenment’ in the future, we miss what’s here right now. We stop seeing the grace and bittersweet beauty of life itself, the wonder of every sight, sound and smell. This moment becomes a means to an end, and we end up WAITING for life to complete itself. We miss life, which IS the completeness we seek. The mantra of the seeker is “Never enough, never enough…”
Understanding intellectually that “there is no me” or “suffering is an illusion” or “everything is Oneness” doesn’t necessarily help when a loved one suddenly dies in a car crash, or your partner walks out on you. Platitudes and easy answers are simply Band-Aids that life, in its infinite compassion, will peel off. Seeking that isn’t cut at its roots seems to return with a vengeance. Let’s explore those roots.
It’s true that I never had a formal teacher. I never sat in a guru’s ‘presence’, attended a satsang or retreat, or received a ‘transmission’. But it’s untrue to say that I never had a teacher. Life was my teacher. Every book I read, every relationship I had was my teacher. My cat was my teacher. Intense suffering was my teacher. And so my guru is Experience, and my lineage is Life. Forever and ever, Amen.
Life doesn’t give you anything you cannot handle – including the feeling of not being able to handle life. Because life is what you are.
You attend a ‘satsang’ and feel spacious, peaceful, high, for a while. The high wears off and sadness, grief, guilt, despair, re-appear. The real Satsang (literally, being with truth, being with what is) begins now. Satsang isn’t just in ‘satsang’…
If you seek completeness (love, success, enlightenment…) in the future, you experience yourself as incomplete now. You think that finding completeness will be the solution to the present ‘problem’ of incompleteness, but you don’t see that this search IS the very ‘problem’ of incompleteness that you experience! The search for a future wholeness is not the solution. And, in seeing this, there’s no problem.
Because the ocean IS every wave that appears, you could say that it ‘deeply accepts’ every wave. The appearance of a wave IS its acceptance. In the same way, consciousness already ‘deeply accepts’ every thought, every sensation, every feeling, because it IS That, already. Your attempt to accept, and your failure to accept, are also embraced in this radical, unconditional acceptance that this ‘you’ cannnot do…
Intimacy is the death of the one who is looking for it. The seeker is destroyed by love.
At the root of much of our suffering regarding bodily pain and illness is the idea that our bodies are somehow ‘against’ us. “My body has betrayed me” – but that is not possible, when you realise that you are not ‘in’ a body at all. The mass of ever-changing sensations we call ‘body’ simply appears in what you are, and cannot act against ‘you’.
Out of freedom we create a prison, and then spend our lives trying to escape that prison…. only to come to realise that there is no prison… and nobody to be imprisoned. The freedom that you are cannot be imprisoned.
‘Enlightenment’ is not a special state or experience reserved for special people, or a goal to be reached by spiritual high acheivers. It is simply life, as it is, lit up (en-lightened) by what you truly are – the light of awareness, the light of consciousness itself. Life goes on being life – but it is simply seen for what it is. ‘Nothing special’, as they say in Zen. And yet, utterly extraordinary at the same time.
I used to proclaim, “Suffering happens to no-one!” and secretly I’d still be suffering. “It’s just suffering happening!” I’d tell myself – and yes this was ultimately true, but it didn’t help to end the suffering! The end of suffering was only found through a radical embrace of all experience and Jeff’s resistance to it – the embrace of Consciousness itself. It’s not a doing, it’s a seeing that happens now, now…
What interests me these days is not ‘radical Advaita’ but a radically honest exploration of human experience – and the possibility of finding total freedom within that experience – even in the midst of what we call ‘suffering’. It’s not about fixing experience, it’s about exploring it in total honesty. And no matter what the experience, painful or blissful, the freedom that you are embraces it as it comes and goes.
It’s one thing to understand intellectually that ‘everything is One’, or that ‘there is no self’, or that ‘all suffering is a story’. It’s another thing to see this clearly in the midst of every experience. So let’s meet in the play, and dance there, together, until this freedom shines. And even if it doesn’t shine, it’s still there – so let’s dance together anyway.
The secret of spiritual awakening finally revealed: G.U.R.U. = “Gee, you are you!”
If I have you, I can lose you. If you can be mine, you can stop being mine. If you can give me love, you have the power to withdraw it. If I can feel loved, I can also feel unloved. If I feel unloved by you, I can also blame you for ‘withdrawing love’. But is love a commodity? Is it a ‘thing’ to be gained and lost? Or is it what you already are? – that which cannot be owned, withdrawn…. or lost. Ever.
True ‘therapy’ has nothing to do with ‘fixing yourself’. The word ‘therapy’ simply means ‘healing’, and ‘heal’ means ‘whole’. True therapy exposes the ways in which you are already trying – and failing – to fix yourself. In other words, it exposes the seeker. Then there is nothing left to fix, since that which remains is already healed (whole).
“I am walking down the street. WHO is walking? Upon direct observation, all that can be found is walking, and nobody doing it. Just walking happening. Feet tapping, pavement moving, and a story ‘I am walking’. Nobody walks. There is no walker, but walking is happening – and I am that. I am not the walker – I am the walking. I am walking. I *am* walking itself. I am walking down the street…”
“I’m here. I’m always here. Even when I’m ‘there’, I’m here. I can’t get away from here. Even when I try to escape here, I find myself here. Once I even managed to arrive ‘there’, but then I took a fresh look, and I was still here. Here follows me wherever I go. It’s just always here, wherever I am. Hmm. Perhaps I am here. I mean, perhaps I *am* here! Perhaps here is what I actually am. That’s why I’m always here…”
Love sees that the one who loves is identical with the one who is loved. Both are the one, so there is no ‘both’. One love, playing at being two.
Can I love you even though you disagree with what I say and how I say it? Can I really hear what you’re saying, even if I disagree? Can I understand why you say it that way and understand what you mean? Can I see my own position? Can I see what I’m defending? Can I see that you are what I am, beyond the story? Can it be okay for things to be as they are? Yes. Of course it can. It is already so.
My dear, sweet, seventy-nine-year-old father asks me for the fifth time where I live. It’s okay dad, no need to worry, I am what you are. I live here, now, with you, in this intimacy. This is my home, our home, beyond the story of ‘us’. And still, for the fifth time, I tell him where I live, and what I really mean is ‘I love you, dad’, and the conversation goes on.
If you have spiritual philosophy in your head – including the most advanced, refined, nondualistic philosophy – but no LOVE in your heart, your philosophy is worthless. You may respond “love is just a concept” or “there is only pure awareness” or “all words are dualistic” or “there is no me”, and there may be truth to be found in all these statements – but then, my goodness, you’re missing the point.
To see life as it actually is, beyond what I think it is or should be or should have been; to see others as innocent dreamers in this cosmic dream of separation; to know that Life is not separate from what I am, and what I am is total intimacy – this is the adventure, and this is the forgiveness.
I sing a love song to the divine, and the divine is in the ordinary, and the ordinary isn’t ordinary at all.
You cannot fall in love. It can be noticed, however, that ‘you’ have already fallen. The illusion of a separate ‘you’ has already fallen away (it was never really there), and all that’s left is Being. Being… in love!
What happens when ‘we’ fall in love? In love, ‘we’ fall away. Everything that apparently comes between us falls away (it was never really there). And all that’s left is love, way beyond the concept ‘love’. No separation. This is the love that never came, the love that never left. The love that IS. Falling in love is falling into life. Alone, together. FaILing in illusion, faLLing in love. Falling, endlessly.
“What is grace? Where is it? It is here. It is each and every moment, seen for what it is. It is not in the future – it is now. It is the gift of breathing, talking or not talking, watching a sunset or lying in bed in excruciating pain. All is life. All is given for free. All is grace. Never forget this. Even in the midst of your greatest suffering, never forget this.”
Hearts broken open, minds blown open, eyes open wide, we meet, face-to-face, space-to-space, here and now – and the search for love is always already over, before it’s even begun.
Anything that appears within awareness is already welcome, already accepted, already okay. No extra ‘acceptance’ needs to be attempted. And even if it is, your attempt to accept is already accepted, as is your failure to accept, and any non-acceptance or rejection which will inevitably appear in the play of opposites. All is radically embraced here.
‘Healing’ has nothing to do with fixing something that’s broken. ‘Healing’ is the rediscovery of wholeness (‘heal’ = ‘whole’) in the midst of the very experience of brokenness. Can anything in present experience be broken or incomplete? Can a sound be incomplete? Can a sensation be incomplete? Can a thought be broken? Can what you are be broken? In seeing that present experience is always complete, what needs fixing?
As an Advaita teacher, I used to mechanically repeat phrases like ‘there is no me’ (and I still phrase things like that, sometimes, but only in certain contexts.) These days, I’m far more likely to say ‘Take a look now, can you find a separate person…?’ It’s an invitation to explore present experience, not with hope of ‘fixing’ it, or becoming enlightened – it’s an exploration borne of fascination, curiosity, love.
Unconditional love embraces both pain and the image of the one who is trying – and failing – to escape it. This love is so fiercely unconditional that it even embraces ‘your’ resistance to life, and in that embrace, melts it. Nothing false survives this intimacy. We are already embraced by a love with no name…
The word ‘boring’ also means ‘drilling’ (as in drilling a hole). When you say ‘I am bored’, what is really happening? Life is ‘drilling’ through the facade of ‘you’, threatening to reveal the non-existence of the seeker. Even deathly boredom is an invitation to this freedom!
Bones can be broken. Life – what you are beyond your story- cannot.
Let your heart break into a million pieces today. Allow yourself to cry today. Be vulnerable today. Feel gratitude today for the smallest and most ‘insignificant’ things. A taste. A glance. A breath. On this day of all days – your first day, and your last day.
Life is absolutely dependable: it’s always exactly as it is, not always as you think it should be, and never as it isn’t.
Dear One, I don’t mind if you hold ‘satsangs’ or not. If you think of yourself as enlightened, or awakened, or fully present, or not. If you’ve written a book or not. If you talk about your experiences in public, or you keep quiet about it all, or something inbetween. If you think of yourself as ‘no-one’ or as ‘someone’ or as anything else. Those stories becomes totally irrelevant when we meet for the first time.
Nothing I say is the gospel truth. I am just a bird singing my song, for the sheer joy of it. That is my freedom. My song is neither ‘true’ nor ‘false’ – it is merely music. You are free to listen to this music, or walk away. To sing your song back to me, or not. That is your freedom. Either way, this singing goes on until it doesn’t. The universe sings to itself. Tweet Tweet!
The wave in the ocean, experiencing itself as broken and incomplete, seeks wholeness. Experiencing homesickness, it seeks home. And all the while, the wave is a perfect expression of the very wholeness it is seeking. There is no wave separate from the ocean. Already being home, we seek home. And the play goes on….
I’m not present enough, I’m not relaxed enough, I have too much ego, I don’t have an ego, I’m not clear enough, I’m too much in my story, I have too many thoughts, my mind should be quieter, I’m enlightened, I’ll never be enlightened, I don’t know, I know too much, I suffer too much, there is no ‘me’, there is still a ‘me’ – and on and on. And it’s still supremely, cosmos-shatteringly, breathtakingly okay.
I am unloved, I am loved. I am misunderstood, I am understood. I am unappreciated, I am appreciated. I’m successful, I am a failure. Either way, and in all cases, it’s always deeply, fundamentally, earth-shatteringly okay. What I am is prior to all stories, including this one.
We long for total intimacy as much as we fear it. We long to be stripped of our stories, our defences, all those projections which keep us (apparently) at a distance. And then to meet each other, to really meet, face to face, space to space, with nothing to fear anymore, and nothing to lose. That is love and that is death. And yet this longing is already fulfilled. You are its fulfilment. Now.
You are the dream of yourself. ‘Others’ are simply characters appearing in the dream. But this dream has no separate dreamer – the dreamer IS the dream. This is total intimacy, beyond the speaking of it. What an astonishing mystery, for nobody at all…
An Advaita teacher says to me: “You are not a person. There is only Oneness”. I find the truth in that. Somebody else says to me: “There is no Oneness. You ARE a person”. I find the truth in that, too. It’s so beautiful, finding the truth in every belief, and not having to believe in any of it.
Beyond the story, behind the mask, there is only intimacy. Beyond the story of your past, the story of your imagined future, the story of your frustrations, your sorrows, your fears – what is actually here? Beyond the dream of tomorrow, what shines today? This – LIFE – offering itself in all its fullness. Flowering as every thought, every sound, every sensation. Only one word: Gratitude.
I used to be so stuck in the “everything is perfect” trap. I’d suffer tremendously, and I’d say to myself “my suffering is perfect” (which WAS true in an absolute sense…) and do nothing – and then fight with anyone who suggested I could DO anything! I was blind to this total perfection which INCLUDES our ability to take a fresh look at what we experience (perfectly!) as suffering.
Everything is already perfect as it is. But this is not a call to passivity. Part of this unconditional perfection is that within our dream we appear to have the freedom to see what needs changing and change it. Seeing perfection, and moving to improve an already-perfect world, are not-two. You are the world – you cannot pretend it doesn’t exist.
This is the mystery. Whatever it is, it is appearing as this. That’s it. And it’s all inclusive, this mystery. It includes everything, that’s the beauty of it – like the simplicity of sitting on this chair, this thought, this breath…
“Jeff, your message is all about just being in the moment, sitting back from life, doing nothing and being totally passive.” No. That’s detachment. That’s somebody being detached. That’s separation. This message is about total intimacy, which is ‘your’ fundamental inseperablity from life. Detachment is only possible in the dream. Life itself is wide open.
Space to space, face to face – we are all ‘in love with’ (inseperable from) each other, but don’t realise it…
“Nobody here, nobody there” can sound so cold, empty and heartless. But ‘nobody here’ is the vastness in which the world arises. It is wide open to all phenomena, and is not separate from those phenomena. ‘Nobody here’ means intimacy. Space to space, face to face – this is the origin of real, heartbreaking compassion (“for no-one”, as they say….).
The recognition of nonduality is not the end of compassion. Compassion IS the recognition of nonduality. When it’s seen that there’s ‘nobody here’ – i.e. there is simply this open, intimate space in which everything appears, there’s enough room for everyone and everything, including ‘you’. I can no longer shut you out. This is why compassion is possible at all.
We are looking for what we already are. And that’s precisely why we’re looking.
“I love you, I miss you, I can’t live without you, you complete me, we are one, I am lost without you, don’t ever leave me, baby come back to me, I’ve been looking for you my whole life…” – sentimental, cheesy, superficial pop lyrics – or expressions of a primal longing to be whole again?
Instant Compassion: Others are not ‘others’ at all, they are what you are – only the stories differ. They are already home AND trying desperately to return home, not knowing how to get there, experiencing a primal homesickness, longing to rest. Their ‘wrong’ behaviour is perfectly ‘right’ in their dream. This isn’t to condone violence but to SEE it for what it is. Compassion begins here.
What you are is the answer. Then you start learning the questions…
Seeking is not a ‘mistake’ – it is inevitable, natural, ‘built in’. The newborn baby, ejected from the womb, is faced with the pre-verbal strangeness and overwhelmingness of life (the NOT OKAY) and seeks safety, the total embrace of the womb, externalised, at first, as ‘mother’ (the OKAY). We want wealth, power, success, popularity, enlightenment, perfect relationship – these become symbols of OKAY in our world.
Thought cannot comprehend what I Am, because what I Am is prior to thought, and therefore has no opposite. Desperately trying to capture this no-thing beyond no-thing, thought invents words like “Oneness”, “God”, “Spirit”, “Nonduality”, “Being”, even “Enlightenment” (and their corresponding opposites), and the search is on. A work of genius!
And so finally, the ‘world’ is a giant womb, in which we seek to return to the womb. There is only wholeness, and we seek wholeness. Only Oneness, and we seek Oneness. Only THIS, and we seek THAT. Life and death are absolutely one. What astonishing, mysterious, hilarious, tragic, beautiful creatures we are, and what absolute compassion for humanity this understanding brings. And what a wonderful story I’ve just told!
We seek Oneness – not the abstract concept ‘Oneness’, but the actual sense of Home-With-No-Opposite that we all ‘knew’ in the womb. Of course, we didn’t ‘know’ it, we WERE it. That’s the point! You were not IN the womb. You ARE the womb. Womb – Home – One. It’s so primal, thought cannot grasp it – thought came later. You are what you seek, not in some mystical shmystical way, but in actual, grounded, earthy reality.
Nobody was ‘in’ the womb – nobody was separate from the womb. In the womb, pre-thought, there was no threat of womb-absence. Only later, the story appeared ‘I was born – I came out of mother’s womb’. With the appearance of abstract thought you were now an entity that was born and could die. There was womb (safety, life), and womb-absence (abandonment, danger, death). And the game of opposites began….
Oneness – a vague remembrance of a pre-language, pre-sense (presence) state of being totally whole, embraced, safe, with no threat of absence (since thought had not yet split reality – there was no ‘experiencer’ yet). A ‘memory’ of the womb, so to speak. So primal. In a million different ways we try to return to that wholeness, through relationship, spiritual seeking, sex, drugs, meditation, nonduality teachings…
Freedom is not an experience – you can’t find it and can’t lose it. Why? Because freedom is in every experience – or, rather, every experience appears in freedom, no matter what the content, no matter what the story. And so every single experience IS freedom, AND an invitation to discover freedom.
Life is already complete – AND everything that appears is an invitation to recognise that completeness – in every thought, in every sensation, in every feeling. What we call ‘resistance’ is simply an invitation to let go and let in the experience being resisted. Everyone resists in different ways – what you resist is also your own ‘personal’ invitation to completeness – so to speak. Even your resistance is perfect!
Conditional love is really our search for unconditional love. Even conditional love, then, is seen to be unconditional in essence.
Unconditional love is so unconditional it even embraces our failure to love unconditionally.
We are already Home, AND everything that happens in the dream is an invitation to recognise that we are already Home. Whether or not the invitations are noticed, let alone accepted, we are still Home. And the invitations keep coming…
When you’re really living, when you’re really dancing, who cares if the world is ‘real’ or if it’s a ‘dream’? If the world is a dream, then I am a dream too, and so I and the world are not-two. If the world is real, then I am real too, and so I and the world are one. Either way, there is only intimacy. And the dance goes on….
We try so hard to be open to life, to open up to every experience, only to discover who we really are: Being, already fully open to life, already fully open to every experience. In a way, these four words summarise the entire spiritual search, and the end of that search: Being Open To Life
Intimacy – it is the death of the seeker, and we seem to long for it as much as we fear it. To be totally exposed and without defences in your eyes… is to see that your eyes are my eyes. Then there is nothing to fear because there is nothing to lose.
Throughout the day, all sorts of phenomena – thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds – appear spontaneously in this space. Can you ever find a division between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’? A sensation – does it happen ‘in the body’? Or does it simply appear spontaneously in this space, along with a thought that says “this sensation is happening within something called ‘my body'” …
Mystery is the only certainty. Beyond belief, beyond doubt. Mystery is not ignorance, nor is it naiveté. It is not confusion, nor is it ‘hedging one’s bets’. It is absolute groundedness, wonder, childlike simplicity. Mystery is indestructible. It is not knowing, and in that, knowing all you need to know.
If you are here to read this, you have survived. The simple, ordinary feeling of being here, now, is the miracle to end all miracles, and it still remains, even after everything else has been stripped away. Only one thing left to say: Thankyou.
No need to wait for grace. It’s already here: breathing, heart beating, sounds appearing, sensations… A spontaneous play of emptiness, a dance of the formless as form, and there’s nobody here separate from this Never-Ending Dance of Completeness. It’s the dance that you are, the dance that life is, and it all appears now, offering itself in its fullness, asking nothing in return. Do you see what you’ve been given?
We tend to be happy when things are going our way, and unhappy when things aren’t. It’s natural. But what we are pointing to here is a freedom that exists despite, not because of, circumstances. Freedom in the midst of pain, sadness, even devastation. Not freedom FROM, but freedom IN. Unconditionally so.
Awareness and its contents are inseparable. They are already ‘in love’, so to speak. And so our very nature calls us back to deep gratitude for this messy, beautiful, sometimes painful human existence – even when it seems impossible to love it, even like it – even when our best laid plans don’t work out at all. Freedom beyond the speaking of it lies hidden, unhidden, in THIS moment, in THIS place, and nowhere else.
Walking along Worthing seafront, cold cheeks, icy fingers, this is life in all its glory, this is grace beyond measure, this is all given for free, and there’s nobody here to accept or reject any of it. It simply IS. And it is always enough, even when it’s not, and it is always home, even when it doesn’t seem like home.
What is pain, before it is owned, before it becomes ‘my pain’? Who am I, prior to the arising of the thought ‘I am the one in pain’? Who, exactly, is ‘in’ the pain? Is there not just pain appearing ‘in’ this vast space of awareness, along with thoughts: ‘This is my pain’ ‘When will it go away?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ‘I can’t stand it much longer’, etc? There is a deep okayness right in the midst of pain…
There is a beautiful truth to the path of Advaita – it apparently takes time and effort to see through various aspects of human illusion. There is also a beautiful truth to the non-path of ‘neo-Advaita’ – there is no person here, no time and nothing to be done – life is exactly as it is right now. Do you see that these two ‘opposing viewpoints’ are really pointing to the same place? They aren’t ‘opposing’ at all.
Nothing I say about nonduality is true. All lies. Beautiful lies. The moment I take any of this seriously, I disappear up my own backside.
Sound of traffic. Thought about dinner. Shoulder pain. All appearing on the pristine screen of awareness. Yet ‘screen of awareness’ is really just another thought appearing in this… nameless space. THAT in which everything appears cannot be named by any of the ‘things’ that appear. In the end, we can’t speak of ‘awareness’ vs. ‘contents of awareness’. But it’s fun to talk, when talking and not talking are equal…
The artist doesn’t say “the only beauty in the world, is in my art”. The musician doesn’t say “my music is the only authentic music, the only true music”. The dancer doesn’t say “my dancing is the only dancing in the world that can move you to tears”. In true love, we don’t say “there is no love in the world except for mine”. So why does the guru, teacher or believer say “my path is the only path to freedom”?
We are already dead. Stone cold dead. The worst has already happened. Now we are free, and THIS is heaven. THIS – present sights, sounds, smells, feelings, all arising spontaneously in the vastness of Being, which was never born and cannot die. Yes, to be dead means to see what is really here, beyond past and future and the dream of yourself. Nothing to fear, sweet dreamer – you are already dead and cannot die again.
There is no evidence of a ‘self’ as a solid, independent entity that endures in time. That much is clear with a little honest investigation. But then, saying “there is no self” is just another belief – more dogma, more religion. What there appears to be is the simple activity of ‘selfing’ – the spontaneous arising and dissolving of thought within awareness. Who could deny that?
What is humility? Perhaps it is the recognition of one’s ultimate inability to control this moment – your ultimate powerlessness in the face of the rawness of existence. Your absence in the face of the presence of things, and ultimately, the inseparability of this absence and the world’s presence. You are the world, in the most intimate sense. Perhaps humility is another word for freedom. And another word for love.
I can’t say that I am enlightened. I can’t say that I am not. Why? Because I don’t find any solid, independent entity here that could ever be one or the other. All I find here is a wide open space in which the scenery of life plays out – a space inseparable from that very scenery. Any claim of enlightenment or its absence is wonderfully irrelevant, here in this already-enlightened vastness that belongs to no-one.
Without referring to the past, who are you? Without your mental conclusions (“I am the Self”, “I have no self”, “I am Spirit”, “I am not the body”, “I am no-one”, “I am pure awareness”, etc.), who are you? Without simply parroting your favourite teacher or guru’s answer, who are you? Without answering the question with another question (“Who asks?”), who are you? Without answering the question at all, who are you?
For a while, it seems that the hungry seeker is approaching something called ‘enlightenment’. But then the seeker himself is exposed as a fraud, a phantom, a thought bubble. No seeker has ever become enlightened, for the enlightenment of the phantom seeker (in other words, his exposure in the blinding light of truth) is the death of that very search, leaving only simplicity, and nobody to claim ‘enlightenment’.
The seeming paradox: You search for enlightenment, until it’s discovered that there’s no ‘you’ to find it… and therefore there is no ‘enlightenment’ outside of what’s presently happening. All that’s left is life, as it is. The way it’s always been – but now seen for what it is. Who discovers this? Who knows this? The non-existent answer will blow your absent mind.
All spiritual experiences – however ‘blissful’, ‘powerful’, or ‘life-changing’ – come and go. They have a beginning and an end. After each experience, thought says “I’ve got it now! It’s over! I’m finished! Now I know!”. But when all the dust has settled, when the drama has died down, there is still only THIS, which no time-bound experience could ever begin to touch. Life, as it is, in its brilliant simplicity.
Where is the entity called ‘mind’? Search for a million years, and you will never find it. There is no separate entity called ‘mind’. All you will ever find is presently-arising thought (which you can call ‘mind’, if you like!) Now, to WHOM is thought arising? Search for a million years and you will never find the thinker. The thinker is another thought, appearing in this wide open space, this vastness beyond time…
Many people are running around these days claiming that they are free from the ‘me’. Don’t they know that this very movement IS the ‘me’, badly disguised?
What is the sound of a bird singing before we call it birdsong? What is the world before it is named? What is this moment before time? Who am I before the question ‘Who am I?’. The answer is not of the mind.
Throughout the day, all sorts of thoughts, sounds, sensations arise in awareness. The whole of human experience – anything anyone has ever thought, heard, felt, experienced – is available right here. Yes, the world meets you in the intimacy that you are. The world is not ‘out there’ – it is here. And so no human experience is alien to you. This is the origin of heartbreaking compassion…
No path can take you to where you are. Wherever you think you are along your path, Being is already fully present – and paradoxically, this is the discovery which renders that very path obsolete. This is not a rejection of paths but a movement beyond them. Paths are helpful, perhaps necessary – until their root assumptions crumble, and life in all its raw glory reveals itself. Then there is no protection…
Sounds appear. But who hears them? Thoughts appear. But who thinks them? We say: “I hear the sounds. I think the thoughts.” But what is this I who hears and thinks? Are there really TWO things – ‘you’ and ‘life’? Or is there simply the unitary movement of Life, which has no opposite? Is there just the ONE thing, which is no-thing at all? Does Life have a centre – or was it all a dream?
Are ‘you’ responsible for becoming a ‘you’ in the first place? Or was the ‘original sin’ (separation) simply an innocent response to life? If nobody ‘does’ separation then there is no original sin, and your ‘guilt’ isn’t really yours.
I’ve been a ‘successful’ spiritual seeker, a desperate, failed spiritual seeker, an enlightened being, a transcendent ‘no-one’, a pure awareness, an arrogant nonduality teacher stuck in the (non-existent) ‘impersonal’ void… and now I’ve gone right back to being what I always was – a human being, engaged with life. What a fascinating trip it’s been. And what a relief to wind up back here, the Home I never left!!
Life is here to break your heart over and over again until you realise that heartbreak is life too… and then your heart can no longer be broken, or fixed. And you stand naked in front of life, moment by moment, knowing that whatever happens is totally okay even in the midst of perfect devastation, which, of course, is devastating perfection. This is freedom beyond the speaking of it.
Nothing matters. In other words, nothing takes form as matter. Nothing, no-thing, appears as everything. Emptiness dances as form. And beyond both these concepts, life is, beyond emptiness and form. Nothing matters…. yet everything matters, absolutely, because everything is all there is. This is why each breath, each sensation, each thought is so very intimate, and infinitely precious.
I’m interested in your stories. They fascinate me. But I have no interest in them. In other words, I have no interest in using them for my own advantage. Interest, and no interest, without contradiction.
“Nobody suffers! Everything is just a thought! Life is an illusion! Suffering is a dream!” – Easy words to memorise and repeat. Harder to say when your partner has just left you. Or your kids have just been given a few days to live. Or you are in extreme physical agony. Is Advaita merely a word game for you, a conveniently life-denying, detached philosophy? Don’t worry. No answer required. Life will show you.
What does the absence of suffering look like? It looks like whatever’s appearing. Suffering would be the attempt to escape what’s appearing. Who would you be, in your pain, without suffering? There would just be pain, felt totally. Suffering is the story of ‘my pain’, in time, and the story of someone trying to escape pain, in time. Suffering is the ownership of pain – which is the identity. All identity is thought.
Do you really believe that there is no self? That there is nothing you can do? That there is no doer? That everything is a concept? That there is only Absolute, Unchanging, Ever-Present Awareness and all else is dualistic? That there is no ‘you’? Then Advaita has become your new religion, your new belief system, your new ideology… and you have become blind to this. Sorry to point out the obvious.
The search for freedom from the prison of suffering creates the illusion of a prisoner trapped ‘inside’. When there is no attempt to escape (or even when there is), there is no prison, and no prisoner ‘inside’ – there is only what’s happening in the moment – be it pain, fear, or sadness. Not happening ‘to’ anyone – just arising in the vastness, complete in itself.
We seek because we feel separate. We feel separate, but are we separate? To whom does ‘the feeling of being separate’ appear? Does anybody own ‘the feeling of being separate’? Even ‘the feeling of being separate’ is not separate from what you are. Freedom from separation within the experience of separation. Stunning!
The end of seeking cannot be found by the seeker in the future. The end of seeking is seeing life as it is. It is the rediscovery (by no-one) of the absence of the seeker, which is identical to the present appearance of life. In that rediscovery, there is no ‘seeking’ to end, and no ‘seeker’ who disappears. It is not a special ‘experience’ or ‘event’. And here, language disintegrates… into simplicity and laughter.
Awareness and its contents are inseparable. They are intimate. They are in love. *Tweet tweet!* The sound of that bird singing – do you hear it? Or is it simply heard? Does hearing simply happen, effortlessly? Is that hearing separate from the bird singing? Are there two things? Or is there simply this boundless, unitary movement? Is there simply intimacy with the birdsong? Listen….
“For-giveness” means “given everything”. Has life not already given everything? Has it not already given itself completely? Is this present appearance not complete? Was there ever a ‘you’ separate from this completeness? In that case…. are ‘you’ not already forgiven? In other words, what is there to forgive? Even your lack of forgiveness is forgiven here…
The thought “something is missing” is not missing. The thought “I am seeking” is not itself seeking anything – it simply appears in the fullness of life. The thought “I am separate” cannot separate – it simply dances in boundless space. The “sense of I” is just a sense – what is the problem with a sense? Who takes it seriously? An experience of the absence of something (lack) happens presently – is anything lacking?
A popular spiritual teaching: “Stop thinking, and pure awareness will remain.” Beautiful. But I used to drive myself mad trying to stop thinking. I had many ‘no thought’ experiences. But I was subtly making thought into the enemy. What was eventually recognised is this: All thoughts are welcome here, in this awareness. The desire to ‘stop thinking’ fell away. What simplicity!
‘What is the end of seeking?’, the seeker asks. ‘Life as it already is’, answers Life, before the question is even asked.
Beyond any notion of nirvikalpa samādhi, there is only THIS, in all its simplicity: Sitting in a seaside cafe, drinking tea. Chinking of glasses, muffled conversations. Biscuit crumbs falling onto T-shirt. Milk’s a little off. Pain in the shoulder. And all Life is here. What unadulterated perfection… what stunning imperfection.
Who is waiting at the bus stop for the Enlightenment Bus? A non-existent bus that never arrives (and even if it does, it only brings you back to where you already are). Simply read the sign: “BUS NOT IN SERVICE”… and the waiting ends.
In the face of the miracle, your story simply melts. Faced with everything, you are the open space holding it all, lovingly, without question. What crushing humility. You thought you were so important – in fact you were equal to a chair. Sorry, no room for specialness here. All that’s left is gratitude for each and every single thing. In this dream, dreamt up by no-one at all. So goodnight, sweet dreamer.
In the end, you cannot talk about nonduality as separate from duality, so you cannot talk about nonduality at all.
The absence of the seeker appears as the seeker, seeking his own absence….
The duelling non-dualists: “YOU are stuck in identification!” “No, YOU are stuck in identification!”
Walking around the Imperial War Museum with my dear, elderly dad, and there is only this. Stories or no stories, past or no past, there is a love here that cannot be named. I am the open space, the vastness in which all of this appears, and all of this appears as that same vastness. Jesus said ‘I and the father are One’, and yes, yes, it’s true.
Many people are waiting for a future ‘energetic shift’ to end their seeking. But this very waiting IS the seeking that the ‘energetic shift’ is supposed to eventually destroy. The gap between ‘now’ and ‘the shift’ is time, which IS the seeker. In other words, the seeker waits for a ‘shift’ in order to stay alive. What an ingenious ploy, by no-one!
“I have no ego” – is this the ultimate claim of the ego?
“I love you”. What are you in love with? A conditioned, time-bound image of me? Sacrifice the image – discover a love that cannot die.
There is no such thing as a teaching free of hidden assumptions. Including this one.
Emptiness and form are not two. Everything melts into everything else. Everything melts into THIS. And THIS is Home. Forever, always, Home. Has there ever been anyone here separate from all of this? Was there ever a seeker? There is only the question, which melts away too…. leaving only….
It all ends here: Sitting, breathing, sounds happening, feelings in the body happening. Television buzzing. Cat screeching outside. Just the simple, present appearance of life itself. Just life, as it is. Yes, here is where it ends. And here is where it all begins. The ending IS the beginning, the beginning IS the ending.
And so in the end, all there is, is simplicity, friendship, and laughter. And even that is saying too much. So it all fades back into the silence….
Am I a teacher? Perhaps, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter in the end. In the end, I can only be a friend, reminding you of what you already know. I am what you are. This – this is you, reminding yourself, as if you needed to be reminded, of what you already are. Beyond the teacher-student and guru-disciple dream roles and relationships, there is only unconditional love, beyond the concept of it – and You Are That.
When speaking of THIS, all language is temporary. Words appear to be needed until it’s seen that words are not needed…. and were never needed. This is the dance….
In the falling-away of time and effort, which is the seeing-through of time and effort, the timeless and effortless presence that you are in your essence reveals itself – and in that revelation, what is seen is that THIS was never for one moment absent. What is present is always present.
Unconditional love cannot be reached through time and effort… it is simply there at the foundation of what you call your ‘experience’, waiting to be uncovered, discovered, met by nobody.
Life is a bonfire, burning up all concepts about life. Nothing can be said about this burning, because even the attempt to talk about the burning burns up in this! And yet, words continue to come, and life continues to unfold, and it’s quite clear that we are not in control of this astonishing dream world, and that we are constantly being embraced by Oneness, in each and every moment…
What you are (beyond the story) is identical with what life is (beyond the story). They are not two separate movements. There is only One…
Unconditional love is so radically unconditional, it – ultimately – even embraces what we call conditional love…