Interview by Paula Marvelly

Dialogue On Non Duality With Jeff Foster – Interview by Paula Marvelly

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  • Paula Marvelly: Whilst you were studying Physics at Cambridge University, you said you were an atheist. I only know a little about Quantum Mechanics but the concepts put forward by Niels Bohr (complementarity) and David Bohm (holomovement and Wholeness and Implicate Order) all point to the fact that there is a substratum of energy or Consciousness pervading everything. So when you say you were an atheist, was that because you weren’t religious or that the nondual model of the universe hadn’t clicked for you at that time?
    Jeff Foster: It hadn’t clicked. I hadn’t even begun to ask these sorts of questions when I was at Cambridge, actually. I was such an intellectual back then – trapped in the intellect, in fact. Life was all about thinking, thinking, thinking. It was only when I had my breakdown in London when I was 24 that I even began to ask these questions like, Who am I? What is Life?
    Looking back now, I see that nonduality was always there – even in Quantum Physics. Stephen Hawking in his new book, The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life, talking about the creation of the universe, says that we can discard all of our creation myths and concludes that something can come out of so-called nothing. Physics taken to its end point is now telling us what the mystics have always known.
  • PM: Do you think the Quantum Mechanics model is actually proving nonduality or do think it is only an attempt to latch one idea onto another?
    I think it is pointing to this but I don’t think you could ever prove it. What the human knowledge quest seems to be pointing to more and more is the fact that ultimately we can’t know what life is in its essence. Whenever we try and measure, we get in the way. It’s all pointing more and more to the inseparability of the observer and the observed.
    The Scientific Method itself has now come totally into question. But I wonder what they will then do with that. The physicist is confronted with the non-existence of the physicist, the non-existence of himself. What can a physicist do with inseparability? What can we do with the knowledge our own absence?
    If arguably the world’s greatest physicist is making the statement that something came out of nothing… well, what can we do with something like that?
  • PM: Isaac Newton said that there must be a cause, that systems are closed.
    Yes, it’s the very foundation on which the Scientific Method is built. But any system taken to its end point is going to end up exposing its own assumptions. And then you wonder where can they go from there.
    They find smaller and smaller particles and they say that this one is the fundamental building block of the universe and then a few years later, it’s something smaller, something more strange, more obscure and unprovable; so in fact it’s all becoming even less provable somehow, more mysterious.
  • PM: So it’s an ever-receding goal.
    Yes, it’s like religion, looking for the fundamental truth, looking for  the way in which the universe was created. The scientist does it in their way, the religious person does it in their way; maybe it’s all the same kind of seeking – the same search taking all these different forms. An artist does it in their own way, a musician in theirs, a writer in theirs. Perhaps everyone seeks wholeness, Oneness, completeness in their own way.
  • PM: I’d like to ask you about where you stand in relation to the Advaita teachings. You are classified as a ‘Neo Advaita’ teacher…
    The way I talk about this message has changed a lot over the past few years. It has evolved. When I first started writing, I was very much emphasizing the ultimate message: ‘there is no one here’, ‘there is nothing you can do’, ‘this is it’. It was all coming out of a clear seeing that life itself is already complete. They were the only words I had back then. That was before I began to really talk in a human way with people about what I’d seen.
    I remember very clearly the first edition of my first book, Life Without A Centre, which is now out of print, in which there were photographs of a concentration camp and I was saying things like ‘this is it, this is liberation’. There was a photo of my cat – ‘this is liberation’; there was a photo of me parachuting out of a plane – ‘this is liberation’; a photo of a nuclear bomb going off – ‘this is liberation’. The writing was emanating from a clear seeing that this is life, and life includes everything, even the stuff we don’t like or don’t want. Life is already beyond the individual.
    Prior to that, my idea of enlightenment, of liberation, was very much ‘out there’, somehow divorced from the world, from what really happens. But now the expression was coming from the realization that it’s all radically inclusive; it includes the nice stuff and the not so nice stuff; it includes walking in the park; having a nice cup of tea; and it includes concentrations camps. Of course, I wasn’t saying that I condoned the existence of concentration camps, that I approved of them, not at all. Looking back, I see that it was an immature way of saying that life is all-inclusive.
    What’s happened over the past few years has been quite interesting. It’s one thing seeing this; it’s another talking about it with other human beings. It’s a dangerous thing to say that genocide is liberation. If you don’t see exactly where that is coming from, it’s open to huge misinterpretation and abuse. Then you get into denial, denial of genocide, denial of war, denial of the holocaust and that’s when all of this simply becomes another religion, the ‘denial’ religion. And so that’s not what I meant at all. But I hadn’t found a suitable language with which to talk about it yet.
    What people use the label ‘Neo Advaita’, well, I kind of understand now what they are saying. Nonduality: it’s one thing to see it, but it’s another thing to say it….
  • PM: I think the problem is mixing up levels of reality, that’s what the problem is. What nonduality is pointing to, at the very baseline, is all there is, is this. At another level – the wave function collapse, the transactional level – there’s stuff, appearance, the dream, mAyA. If I knock my head against the wall, it’s going to hurt, because it’s phenomenal experience. In Sanskrit there is the word, mithyA – something is real but it doesn’t have an independent existence, which is the best term I have come across to convey this idea. The trouble with the Neo argument is that you are only given the final truth, the final point of reference – I don’t exist, there’s no me, no you, no time, no space – which is fine at the noumenal level. Meanwhile, at the phenomenal level, we’re having a conversation.
    Yes, and the only way we can this conversation is because of the appearance. On an ultimate level, this is nobody talking to nobody. No time, no space, no conversation. Nothing is happening. And yet, there appears to be two people here having a conversation! It’s true on a relative level, you could say, though in the end, of course, there are not really ‘two levels’ – that’s just a way oftalking about something that’s beyond language because it’s beyond the illusory dualistic split in our experience.
    For the past few years I’ve been doing talks around the world. Until I started doing the meetings, I hadn’t realized that there was this whole Neo-Advaita ‘culture’ out there, since I had never been to any meetings, been with a teacher in the past, nothing. So people would turn up my meetings and what I would see is that they had taken that ‘ultimate truth’ – there’s no me, there’s no you – as abelief. So then there would be an individual believing that there’s no individual. So for these people it had become denial, denial of the appearance. The ultimate truth of existence had been taken on by the individual as a new belief, and that belief was being used to deny aspects of their relative existence. What a trap.
    So gradually, over the years, I realized that in the end you can’t really make ‘ultimate statements’ about this; you have to be very careful indeed when communicating this message! Sometimes, I’ll still say things like there’s no me, there’s no you, and so on, but only in a certain context, at certain times, with a certain person, because at the same time, there’s still the appearance, and that cannot be denied. Who would deny it? It’s the old image of the ocean appearing as the wave. The ocean doesn’t have a problem with any of the waves appearing. So it’s not about getting rid of the waves. The waves do not need to be denied. Only a wave would deny a wave, anyway. That’s why the Neo-Advaita position crumbles in the end, as all positions do.
    As a spiritual seeker, my mission in life was to get rid of the wave, to get rid of the self, the me. To lose my person and become no one. In fact, it became a matter of life or death; I was totally obsessed with getting rid of Jeff! And that’s what some of these Neo teachers seem to be saying – get rid of the me, wait for the me to fall away, wait for the energetic shift, then there’ll be life, thenthere’ll be oneness. “Damn, there’s still a me! I’m obviously not liberated yet; I’m not enlightened yet!”
    Over the past few years, what I have realized clearly is that when you open your mouth to speak about this, there’s a real responsibility, especially when people are paying money to see you, and see you as some sort of guide or authority. Not that you are, but people may still see you that way, until they don’t, until their projections drop. Ultimately there’s nobody to be responsible to or for, I know, that’s the Neo argument, but still, on a ‘relative level’, there is still the appearance of someone talking to someone else, and so there is the awareness that what you say might be misheard, misinterpreted, mistaken and even abused. So if you just sit there and make these absolute statements like there are no starving children in Africa, in the end it’s ridiculous. There’s no Africa but there appears to be. Africa does exist – in the appearance, and in the end the appearance is no less important than that which is beyond the appearance. The appearance of Africa is equal to its absence. In this total intimacy, the appearance of Africa and the starving children is acknowledged, seen for what it is, and not denied. And then there can be movement to help, or not. Anyway, these days, if I made a statement like that, I would never leave it dangling. It would be balanced by its opposite. No denial is necessary. That, I feel, is a full message – reflecting the wholeness that is being pointed to. The Neo Advaita message is true, and totally untrue when it is not balanced by its reflection, in the dream.
    ‘There is no Africa’ – not true, unless there is an Africa. ‘There is an Africa’ – now it’s complete. With this stuff, so easily you end up falling into the denial religion, or you go completely the other way and get sucked back into the stories and the dream. It’s a fine line. And I think as a nonduality speaker there’s a responsibility to see that line – and out of that seeing, the correct response is able to play itself out. That’s true response-ability.
    Yes, there is a fine line when talking about this – it’s not indulging the story but it’s not denying the story either. That’s why I like the word ‘seeing’ – it cuts through the middle; there is no me and yet there is the appearance of me, and there is no contradiction here whatsoever. The ocean dances as the wave. There is a wave – there is no wave – equal.
  • PM: Ramana Maharshi talks about the fact that the level of the student has to be taken into consideration. This is why people find Traditional Advaita much more helpful because it is very rare for someone to get it ‘straight off the street’. So that’s why Traditional Advaita doesn’t accept the Neo approach because most people do not believe they are unlimited. Moreover, Self-enquiry is not about discovering who you are; it’s purpose is to exhaust the mind because there is no answer to Who am I? Seeking is essentially the result of a restless mind; it is not necessarily the pursuit of knowledge. It’s intense frustration and anxiety channelled into seeking.
    Yes, I find that a lot of people who come to my meetings are exhausted from seeking. Personally, I’ve never been through the Traditional Advaita route, I didn’t study the ancient texts for twenty, thirty years. In my story, well I just stumbled into this ‘nonduality’ thing – the traditional route was never part of my world. So I can’t look someone in the eye and tell them that it isn’t necessary. I’ve never said don’t do it.
    My first book was compiled from random writings I’d made over two or three years during the period after the seeking ended – I guess that’s one way of saying it. The book was published by Non-Duality Press; I was never going to talk about its contents, in public anyway. I wasn’t interested in trying to ‘awaken’ people. I wasn’t interested in becoming a missionary. I wasn’t interested in being a teacher – I didn’t feel I had anything to teach. Then one day, out of the blue, I was invited to talk and for some reason I found myself saying yes. I’d been saying no for a long time, now it was yes. The yes was surprising, but I followed it. Speaking about this was just about sharing this, sharing what had been seen here. I thought, no one is going to listen to me, I really did.
    I was shocked that people turned up to my first public meeting, I really was. And I still have that sense, since the first meeting, when only eight showed up. I still have a sense of wonder when people turn up to the meetings. Where do they come from? What do they expect to hear? It’s mysterious, what attracts people to hear of their own absence. What do I have to tell them? I don’t know. And then words come.
  • PM: A skeptic would say that the very fact you put yourself in a position as a someone who talks about this, and the fact that you have been published, you are still buying into the seeker experience. A skeptic would ask is this coming from ego or a genuine need to help people?
    In the end, I just enjoy it. It’s nothing mystical or spiritual. I enjoy meeting people and sharing this. Strip away the mystification, and it’s just that – sharing with friends who are open to listening, nothing more. There was never a burning desire to talk about this. I really genuinely feel it could fall away tomorrow, I really do. But until it falls away, it’s happening, and it’s enjoyable and often very intimate, and people may have the experience that they have been helped by it, or not.
    The moment you get attached to it, being a teacher I mean, being a saviour of mankind, it becomes just like any other career – it can even be a form of seeking. “I need students to maintain my identity as a teacher”. Nothing wrong with that, of course – it’s just what happens, if it happens.
    When I first started doing these talks, all these things were going through my mind. Was I a teacher? Was I simply fuelling the seekers’ seeking by holding meetings and talking about the end of seeking? People were turning up who had been to see other Advaita teachers, and so they were coming with all their own expectations, with all their Advaita concepts, and then they started calling me an Advaita teacher, or a Neo-Advaita teacher, which I didn’t really relate to, but I understood where it was all coming from.
  • PM: You don’t exist, but then you leave your very real ten pound note on the table on the way out. It’s all semantics, really.
    Yes. The way I see it though, is that the meetings are all about shedding light on all these subtle mind games, traps. It’s not about fuelling the seeking, it’s about exposing the seeking. It’s also not about denying the seeker – of course, there is the appearance of a seeker. If there’s no one talking, no one listening, then how can you do a meeting? If there’s nothing to say, then why the hell are you speaking? Ultimately it’s nobody talking to nobody, but lots of nobodies are paying ten pounds to see another nobody talk! What is going on?
    Do the meetings fuel the seeking? In catering to the seeker, do they actually maintain and strengthen the seeker’s identity? No, not necessarily. The problem begins when you confuse levels. That’s what’s become clear over the past few years. It’s like this: you honour the appearance of the seeker, you do not deny it (that would just be more of the same), and then, during the meeting, through constant exposure of the dynamics of that very seeking, what may be discovered is that there is nothing to find, that in reality there is no ‘seeker’ because there is nobody there separate from the wholeness of life itself. But first you have to acknowledge the appearance for that discovery to be possible. Otherwise it’s not possible to hold a meeting, or to even speak about this. The moment you hold a meeting, you acknowledge the appearance. You cannot get around this. If there is no appearance, no meetings are possible. This is so simple.
    So, there is no seeker, but at the same time, the appearance of the seeker is honoured. This is honouring humanity. This is total intimacy and authenticity. True freedom has nothing to do with detachment or denial; it’s just living this, seeing it as the appearance as Paula and Jeff. The appearances are welcome here in the same way all appearances of the ocean are automatically welcome as waves.
    Similarly, in an ultimate sense, there is no past, because the past is just a thought appearing in this space we call life. But if you were to ask me what I did yesterday, I can talk about yesterday as if there were a yesterday. It’s not saying “there’s no yesterday, you are still lost in the dream because there is no yesterday.” That’s just the Neo Advaita perspective, and it can be so life-denying and detached. And false. It’s nihilism masquerading as freedom.
  • PM: This is maturity of seeing, isn’t it – first there’s a mountain, then there’s no mountain, then there’s a mountain again. In Traditional Advaita, you would say neti neti, ‘not this, not this’, meaning total deconstruction, until aham brahmasmi, ‘I am all this’. Or just like when T.S. Eliot talks about arriving at the same place as if for the first time.
    Yes, there is that sense that everything comes full-circle somehow. It ends where it begins. It’s like there’s an incompleteness to the Neo Advaita stuff, which is ironic considering the Neo message is that there is only completeness.
    And there is an incompleteness to the Traditional Advaita teaching as well, I think. Practise, practise, practise, one day you’ll get there. You are incomplete now, but one day, maybe, if you’re lucky, and work hard enough, just maybe….
  • PM: And you need to learn Sanskrit…
    Well I didn’t know a word of Sanskrit and it didn’t make any difference in the end. Why should it? It’s simply a language. Why should freedom have to look like anything in particular? Why should freedom take a particular form, or be spoken in a particular language? Freedom can be anything, can look like anything, can sound like anything. A true musician never says ‘my music and my music alone will move you to tears’…
    I often get criticized because in my meetings I am not offering a set path – you must do this or you must do that, you need to follow these rules or learn this language or worship this guru in order to be free, etc. How can I teach that if it never worked for me? How can I share that in all honesty and all authenticity with another human being, if it wasn’t true in my experience?
    I’m not saying all practices don’t work. I’m saying they appear to work for as long as they appear to work. I’m saying practise for as long and as hard as you feel you need to practise.
    But in the end, what was recognized here was that I was doing all those practices in order get somewhere, to reach something. I was practicing in order to reach an imaginary goal.
    What was seen, was that this – nonduality, life itself – wasn’t a result of Jeff’s practice; and then the assumptions at the roots of my practices was shattered. I couldn’t go back to traditional practice after that. Life isn’t the result of Jeff’s practicing! Life isn’t the result of a cause. How arrogant, in a way, to think that Jeff made this happen! That was the fundamental realization: that Jeff was just a story appearing in life. That’s why Jeff couldn’t reach life – because Jeff was just the story of a seeker appearing in life.
    Then there was total compassion for the appearance of the seeker. It was fundamentally seen that this recognition has nothing to do with any teaching. In the end, this cannot be taught, this cannot be given – it can only be shared.
  • PM: I think teachings can be manipulated to justify all manner of behaviours, even seeking. In The Matrix, there’s a scene towards the end of the film where Morpheus is being tortured by Agent Smith, who tells him that in the beginning, the machines created a perfect world within the Matrix where there was no suffering and everyone had what they wanted – it was a complete disaster. They had to remake the Matrix and create suffering to give people some sort of meaning to their lives. This is a very profound insight in the film, I think – it is as if human beings need suffering as something to push against.
    When I was driving here, I had the thought, why can’t this moment be enough? Sitting here, driving to Jeff’s house…
    But that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t even have to be enough. Your thinking that ‘I should be feeling that this moment is enough and I’m not’ then goes back into the ‘I’m not enlightened enough’, ‘not awakened enough’ story. That’s what was fundamentally seen here – that oneness, life, whatever you want to call it, is really all-inclusive, so it even includes any feeling of pain or sadness or fear or ‘this is not enough’! It is always enough, and within that, there is enough room for everything, even the feeling that this is not enough. Even (the feeling of) lack is allowed in this abundance. Outside of that, where is the lack?
    I know firsthand how easily this nonduality stuff can be used to deny what’s actually there. Years ago, I had this whole thing going on where I thought I was ‘no one’, and I looked out at the world and everyone was still a ‘someone’. I thought that I had lost my identity, but of course my new identity had become ‘I am no one’, but I couldn’t see it back then. I thought I was liberated, but I was more blind than ever, actually. Blinded by all the second-hand spiritual nonsense I’d taken on. Blinded by spiritual arrogance.
    I would get angry and then I would say ‘no one’s angry’! ‘There’s no me, there’s no anger’. When of course, in reality, there was a lot of anger, and there was someone there pretending that there was no anger. That’s denial, and denial by any other name is suffering. I thought I was free, I thought I was liberated, I thought I was no one, and actually I was suffering a lot.
    So although back then I would say ‘there’s no suffering, there’s no one here to suffer’, actually there was a lot of suffering and I couldn’t see it. No, denial of any sort can’t be the answer.
    I think that goes on in the Advaita world quite a bit. I see it a lot and it gets very subtle, the denial I mean, and that doesn’t interest me anymore. What’s left here now is this total respect for life and whatever appears, and in what appears nothing is denied. Not even denial itself. So all these misleading ideas about enlightenment and awakening and a perfect state where anger never appears, sadness never appears – that is so dead to me, because it just sounds so conceptual, so immature in a way. Those are the ideas of a desperate seeker hoping for a future salvation, and they are of no interest anymore.
    You see, thought, the mind, creates duality, indeed it is duality. It creates the opposites: anger and no anger, fear and no fear. And we run away from fear and try to move towards no fear. We run away from anger and try to move towards no anger. In various ways we run away from what’s happening – from this livingness, from life as it is. There are subtle, intricate, ingenious ways of running away from what is arising now, from what I am feeling now, from what actually is. The seeker is ingenious, in a way.
    You know, ‘suffering’ is an interesting word – the true meaning of ‘to suffer’ means to undergo something. The sense is, if you suffer, something is happening to you personally, something bad. So the experience of suffering is the experience of something bad happening – to ‘me’.
    The difference between pain and suffering is simple; pain in itself is a physical manifestation. Suffering is when the pain is happening to me, so it is my problem, it is my suffering, it is me who suffers with pain. Suffering is the ownership of pain. The identity, ‘I am the one who is in pain’, is the problem, the illusion, the suffering. Pain itself is impersonal, but we move to own pain, to possess it, and out of that comes identity, and seeking…
    The end of seeking is not really the end of anything – it is the beginning of something else; it’s the beginning of living, it’s the beginning of the real adventure. I had to start from the very beginning again; I had completely forgotten how to live because I had become so lost in my search for enlightenment. I had to start again, from the basics.
    Simple human conversations had become impossible for me. At one point I couldn’t even bring myself to say hello to someone because I thought there was no one there to say hello to!
    So it was like starting from the beginning again, being able to say, ‘hello, how are you, how was your day?’, that’s what I had to learn again, in a way.
    This is the freedom to live and to feel. Ultimately there is no one feeling but I don’t even have to say that anymore, it’s just known. The beauty is being able to use ordinary language and to be able to use the word ‘I’ – saying ‘I am hungry’ rather than ‘hunger is arising’ or some other such nonsense.
  • PM: So is it that the two contradictory states can be true in both cases – I don’t exist and yet here I am, I do exist. They are true at both levels?
    But there are not even two levels, that’s the beauty of it. It’s only the mind that has split it in two. It’s only in language, in thought, that there appear to be two levels. The ocean is the wave – the absolute is the relative. Absence is presence. There are no levels in this.
  • PM: But like with a paradox, it’s saying all things are possible simultaneously; it’s not saying either/or, nothing/everything, it’s everything and nothing; either and or.
    We only call something a paradox when we are wrestling with two different things, contradictory things that appear to be true at the same time. But there are not really two different ‘things’ being true at the same time, so it’s not really a paradox, there’s nothing to resolve. Thought creates two opposing ‘things’ and then tries to put them back together, and it’s hopeless, and then it calls this a ‘paradox’. Prior to the original split, there is no paradox.
    It’s just the mystery. Whatever it is, it is appearing as this. That’s it. That could include anything, that’s the beauty of it, like the simplicity of sitting on a chair.
    That’s why I talk about the difference between freedom from and freedom in. What everyone is looking for is freedom from pain, freedom from sadness, and we create some fancy name for it – enlightenment. That’s the seeker; the seeker wants freedom from pain. Why? They don’t like pain, pain is uncomfortable. We want to be comfortable.
    Or the mind creates a place called ‘no fear’. So there’s someone who is afraid and through seeking, one day, there’ll be someone who isn’t afraid. Now you have a purpose, you have meaning, you have time, because it’s going to take time to move from fear to no fear, you see. You’re a fearful person on a mission to no longer be a fearful person, and it will take time. This is seeking.
    Seeking can take so many subtle forms. The search for wholeness manifests not only as the search for enlightenment, it can also appear as the search for the end of the feeling of anxiety, for example. Once I get enlightened, or once I get free of my anxiety, then I’ll be whole, then I’ll be complete. So the voice of the seeker is freedom from, which is the illusion. Freedom from is the movement away from life, and yet there is only ever life. You cannot move away from life. That’s why freedom from isn’t true freedom.
    True freedom isn’t freedom from because that’s a conditional freedom; it’s a fragile freedom. True freedom is unconditional; it’s not freedom from pain, but freedom in the pain, freedom in the anxiety. It’s the last place we ever want to look.
    The only question worth asking is what are you running away from? That’s what I saw, that fundamentally, there can’t actually be a problem here. I’m not talking about telling yourself that there is no problem, because that’s denial. I’m saying, can freedom be discovered within the pain, within the anxiety?
    True freedom includes the freedom to be whatever you are in the moment; it’s the freedom to be anxious, to be afraid, to be in pain, to be pissed off.
    My big thing used to be anger. You know, when you are a spiritual person, you are not allowed to get angry – that’s a sure sign of ego, the worst! But then I just realized, my goodness, it’s in the anger as well! It was so liberating to see this. Anger is just aliveness in the body, energy. But my whole life I hadn’t known what anger was, I was just running away from my concept of anger. Most people never really experience anger – or pain, or fear, or sadness –  in its raw form, they experience their ideas about anger, they experience their own attempts to deny or escape anger, or anxiety…
  • PM: Yes, anxiety is the same feeling as being excited, for example. If I am going to a party, it’s excitement; if I am going to give a speech to 200 people, it’s anxiety. But it’s still a rush of energy, and it’s the not feeling comfortable with that, which is the problem. Not feeling comfortable with this restlessness within me, and I have an idea that spiritual seeking will bring the end of this uncomfortable feeling.
    That is the voice of the seeker. ‘Spiritual seeking will take me to the end of this feeling’. That’s the problem, that’s not the solution; we think that seeking the end of anxiety, is the solution to the problem of anxiety. What we don’t see is that it is the very search for the end of anxiety that is the problem – and it keeps you trapped in your identity as an anxious person. I mean, what’s wrong with anxiety, if it’s appearing? And what is anxiety before it is labelled as such? It’s just energy appearing, as you said. More waves in the ocean, which is already at rest, even in the midst of the anxious waves.
    You know, you spend your life fighting anxiety and all the fighting does is make you more anxious. So obviously the war doesn’t work. Similarly, the attempt to get rid of fear makes you more afraid, you become afraid of fear. Or anger – you become even angrier.
    The seeker is ingenious at keeping itself alive.
  • PM: It’s totally narcissistic, actually. It’s not being congruent or authentic with oneself.
    Right. The real freedom is in saying, oh my goodness, I could be anxious, and it doesn’t matter. The strange thing is that when it is deeply okay to be anxious, what you find is that it somehow doesn’t stick, it doesn’t coagulate into a problem, it doesn’t turn into suffering.
    Everyone knows this deep down: that there’s only life. You can deny it all you want to, you can convince yourself of anything, but it’s all concepts in the end, appearing in that which is beyond all concepts. All the teachings of the world burn up in the presence of the actual reality of this existence. That’s it.
    Me, no me, self, no self, time, no time; in the end somehow it doesn’t matter any more.
    Even in the most ‘enlightened’ teacher gets up in the morning and takes a shit. Life is happening, and that’s beautiful. There’s living, chopping wood and carrying water…
  • PM: The irony here is that in the search for Self-knowledge, you become totally dependent on a teaching that could deny any sense of self worth. I saw the film, Inception, recently and upon leaving the film, I had an overwhelming sense that I could actually live my life in any way I choose, rather than being trapped in some form of narcissistic angst-ridden existence. I can be anyone I want to be, right now. So why not just be grateful that I am healthy and alive and just get on with my life, in whatever way that transpires.
    Right. Yes to life, not hiding away in your spiritual concepts, including your concept that you are going to become enlightened one day. The end of that is when life really begins. You get this world to play in; it was never about your becoming enlightened. Life never said to you that you have to do anything like that. You do that because you think that’s what life needs from you. There’s arrogance in that – and innocence, of course.
    I used to think that I knew everything about this life – and now I realise that I know nothing. You have to stop being a student; to let go of that identity. You say to your teacher ‘I don’t need you any more.’ A lot of people can’t say that because they are still psychologically dependent on their teacher, who they think has all the answers. They think their teacher will lead them towards enlightenment. But a true teacher will only lead you back to where you are, and so they cannot really ‘lead’ you anywhere, and would never promise to be able to do that.
    So when you are no longer looking for the answer, then you are free to let go of the teacher and the teachings, and, lo and behold, I am it. I am life. I am the authority – not in an ego way, not because I have all the answers, but because I am life, and life in the end is the only authority. I am life, I am equal to a chair, to a bird singing. It is total trust, a trust that you don’t have to ‘do’. The authority is there when you know nothing, because nothing cannot be doubted. It is beyond certainty and beyond doubt. Then, what need is there for any external authority?
    All my spiritual seeking was about getting rid of Jeff; Jeff is bad, Jeff is broken, Jeff is not complete, and that in the end led to total failure and despair. I used to think that ‘Jeff’ was a mistake. But life doesn’t make mistakes, it can’t be a mistake that Jeff appears. Jeff is an appearance of life so in the end the attempt to get rid of Jeff failed miserably. So what’s left but to fall in love with Jeff? The ocean celebrates itself as the waves. Wholeness celebrates itself as the appearance of the character Jeff.
    Love is non-separation. In falling in love, something falls away, and what falls away is the me, the you, all that apparently comes between us. So the separation falls away and what is left is already ‘in love’. What you are, is already ‘in love’ with life, because it is life. And in this intimacy, none of these language games really matter anymore, and  still I can play and explore this incredible world without having to deny it, pretend it’s just a dream, or that it doesn’t exist or it’s just an illusion of mind. That may be true in an ultimate sense, but at the end of the day, who cares? When you’re really living, when you’re really alive, when you’re really dancing, who cares if it’s all real or if it’s a dream? If it’s all a dream, then I am a dream too, and so I and the world are one. If it’s all real, then I am real too, and I and the world are one. Either way, there is only intimacy…
  • Interview conducted Autumn 2010