Jeff Foster – Falling in Love With Where You Are
The Study Centre, London, 24/01/15
The latest research published by the Institute of Education into the nation’s beliefs* tells us that 64% of women and 37% of men believe in life after death.
Whilst no-one has returned yet from the other side to corroborate this belief there is clearly an appetite for an afterlife – apparently a bigger appetite among women. When the entertainer Roy Castle announced he had terminal cancer he was asked if he was afraid of dying. “Well, millions have done it and there have been no complaints so far.”
Whether you are a believer or not and whether you are afraid of the Grim Reaper or not after you’ve listened to Jeff Foster on the subject you won’t be afraid of death or dying any longer. “The experience of death is not an experience for the one dying.” That’s a relief then. “You cannot be present at your own death.” It reminds me of Epicurus’ take on our final curtain call: “Death is nothing to us since, when we exist, death is not present to us and when death is present, we have no existence.” End of.
However, if you are grieving for the loss of a loved one or, as was the case for one woman in the afternoon open question session at Jeff’s recent meeting at The Study Centre in London, two loved ones (she lost both parents in the past two years) death has definitely not lost its sting.
“Death is the end of the illusion of the separate experiencer” Jeff confides. He unhurriedly and with quiet compassion, using the illustration of a wave breaking back into the ocean, leads the grieving one to a place where the pain of loss is allowed but is shared and in a deeply loving way, diffused. As Jeff puts it in one of his poems, “Your loved one did not ‘go’ anywhere, friend. They simply rested even more deeply in their own nature, which is your nature, which is presence.” When we “fall in love with where we are”, even if where we are is full of grief, we also fall into the vastness of our own presence which holds all. “Every thought a galaxy, every sensation a solar system.” Death is the ultimate awakening.
He’s a good listener is Jeff and he embodies the truth that to a hurting human being “alone in their enormous exertion”, as Kierkegaard puts it, to be heard is to be loved. David Augsburger says “being heard is so close to being loved they are almost indistinguishable.” Jeff collapses the distinction because you can tell he sees you and him as one and the same expression of the same divine spark glowing with common consciousness. One of my favourite words in Spanish is ‘una chispa’ … a spark. We are all ‘chispas del dios’. Divine sparks.
You very much get the feeling with Jeff that he knows what you’re going through because he’s been there himself. And he has. During his talk, ‘Falling in Love With Where You Are’, he gives us an insight into his journey. After studying Astrophysics at Cambridge University in his mid-twenties he encountered a long period of depression and illness, and as he tells it, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive quest for the ultimate truth of existence. In self-imposed house arrest at his parents he read every spiritual book he could lay his hands on until the seeking came crashing down and only a clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything remained with a deep acceptance of the present moment. No more seeking.
It is this ‘deep acceptance’, also the title of one of his books, which is the hallmark of Jeff’s teaching that is drawing increasing numbers of enquirers to his Facebook page and meetings like this one at The Study Centre in London on a sunny Saturday in January. He recalls the days when he was less popular. “When I held my first meeting here ten years ago it was in the basement with ten people. Now look!” A sell out audience of two hundred share his surprise. How come this slight, mild mannered and frankly unimposing English man appeals to such a broad audience? An audience which, I can’t help noticing, is comprised of as many men as women. What is his secret?
He brings no new teaching other than deep acceptance of where you are. He offers no special technique to get enlightened. Apart from his books he has no merchandise – no signed photographs like the ones I have of Mooji. As it says on his website “he belongs to no tradition or lineage, and makes his teaching accessible to all.” He’s like a bingo caller who tells you you’ve all got a full house but refuses to shout out the numbers. Not your usual guru. No method. No teacher. If you’re into Van Morrison you’ll love Jeff Foster.
Its interesting to compare how our modern day non-duality gurus present themselves. A platform. A chair. A table. A jug of water. A glass. So much is common. A vase of flowers is pretty much mandatory. Jeff started with marigolds from Londis which were surreptitiously upgraded to tulips from the local florist at coffee break – a bit of behind the scenes flower re-arranging. Mooji likes his blanket and a framed photograph of his teacher Papaji. Jeff has no such picture and does not appear to walk in the footsteps of any teacher. In fact, I have not heard him refer to any guru, teacher or even advaita tradition in his talks. No – that’s not strictly true. Twice I have heard him refer to his dad as his teacher and once to his cat. But there is no picture of his dad or his cat next to the flowers on the table on the platform. That would be cool.
His dad has Alzheimers and Jeff has had to learn to deal with a variety of raw emotions arising in relating to his father whom he clearly loves. “Disgust is an interesting one. You can learn a lot from disgust.” This is why we like Jeff – in his down to earth anecdotes there is no separation between his experience as a human being coping with his life and our experience coping with ours.
Yes – that’s why we like Jeff. With most gurus you meet you can feel the separation – they know something you don’t know … and they know they know. With Jeff there is no separation in more than one sense – he makes you feel we’re all in this together in “the vastness of our own presence which holds all.” That’s the kind of non duality we like. Other gurus point to ‘That’. Jeff points to his dad … and his cat.
For more information about Jeff and his upcoming events you can go to: http://www.lifewithoutacentre.com.
Love is stronger than death
Where does a loved one ‘go’ when they die?
Where does a wave ‘go’ when it crashes onto the shore?
Nowhere. No place.
The wave was never separate from the vastness of the ocean in the first place, so it cannot ‘return’ there. Water cannot leave water, nor return.
Nothing happens at all, from the perspective of our true nature.
Death is simply the deepest relaxation into unborn, undying presence.
Your loved one did not ‘go’ anywhere, friend. They simply rested even more deeply in their own nature, which is your nature, which is presence. Not two. Never two.
They are now where they always were – in your heart of hearts. And they can never leave.
You will carry them.
Love is stronger than death.
* “The mysteries of religion and the lifecourse“, by David Voas, published by the IOE’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies, January 2015.