Jeff Foster is al jaren een belangrijke bron van inspiratie voor me. Hij is een jonge, Britse spiritueel leraar, die heel snel een grote groep enthousiaste volgers kreeg toen hij, na jaren zwaar depressief geweest te zijn, ging schrijven en praten over hetgeen hem geholpen heeft weer blij en enthousiast te worden. Ik lees zijn boeken, volg hem op social media en woonde één van zijn stilte weken bij. Zijn woorden zijn zowel rauw als romantisch, hoopgevend en ontnuchterend. Zijn woorden raken mij steeds weer. De eerlijke nuchterheid spreekt me aan. De laag ego slagroom die vaak over spiritualiteit ligt weet hij als geen ander weg te vegen. En wat dan tevoorschijn komt is vaak zo mooi, puur en ontroerend. Ik voel me gezien en gehoord als ik hem lees of naar hem luister. Hij is niet bang om te laten zien dat iets hem raakt. Hij is menselijk. Daar hou ik van. “YES to the MESS” is een favoriete uitspraak van hem die ik niet vaak genoeg kan citeren. Hieronder een tekst die me zeer na aan het hart ligt .
SPIRITUAL TEACHERS, WAKE UP!
“I am Pure Awareness. The Unmoving Subject of experience. That which never changes. I am Consciousness itself”.
It may be true, on an absolute level. But try saying that to your partner, when he or she stands in front of you, demanding your human heart, your truth, your vulnerability, your brokenness and your courage, your fire, your sorrow, your fear, your rawness and your awkward authenticity.
I have seen too many spiritual teachers attempting to avoid deep human connection and intimacy using spiritual concepts, non-dual language and brilliant verbal gymnastics.
I have been guilty of this “spiritual bypassing” in my time too, as I have written about. (I once argued with my mother for hours about the non-existence of the tree she was pointing to. Oops.)
Once, a teacher of Advaita literally said to me, “Jeff, this teaching of non-duality has NOTHING to do with relationship”.
Oh, I respectfully and profoundly disagree, sir. This teaching has everything to do with relationship. Relationship with our deepest self, with the fucking ground, with our genitals and our guts and our feet, with hearts calling out to other hearts, with the loneliness and longing of a billion billion beings, with the One in front of us, begging for connection.
Awareness cannot detach itself from all that arises. The many is the One. We are air but we are also fire.
Yes – on some unspeakable and mysterious level we are all the same Awareness.
But – we are also gorgeously messy human beings, imperfect, unfinished, traumatised to the extent that we are traumatised. Realizing that we are Awareness does not change this fact. In fact, realization only makes us more acutely aware of the subtleties of our humanness than ever. More willing to be raw, vulnerable, naked. To admit that we do not know, to admit our mistakes, to admit that we are forever learning. To cry, to shake, to speak our terrifying human truth, to reveal our mess.
When there is less to defend, we can connect more deeply than ever.
When teachings of Awareness become detached from healthy shame – that is, our human imperfections, our vulnerability, our awe and our wonder, our fallibility, our not knowing and our tender hearts – they only become teachings of violence, toxic teachings taught by toxic teachers who are trying to avoid their own pain, shame and trauma.
I speak not to judge individuals, but to illuminate a collective misunderstanding.
I once saw a “nondual” teacher approached by a courageous woman who was going through a profound life transition.
She said, “I have deep anxiety in my belly”.
He replied, without compassion, “You are still attached to your body, still identified with the separate self”.
In his drive to be an expert, he missed her heart – and belly – completely.
She was crushed after this interaction, even more anxious and disconnected than before. I gave her a big hug and let her tell her story. She wept, her anxiety diminished, and she felt whole again. Love is not difficult. Vulnerability is not shameful – it can heal us.
I saw the terrible dogma of Advaita. The vilification of the “separate self”. The denial and shaming of human pain and trauma. I saw how teachings of Awareness can be used – by the most brilliant of minds – to crush our humanity, numb our vulnerability, silence our sweet doubt and annihilate our exquisite fear.
This is why I quit as a “nonduality teacher” many years ago. Truth cannot be found in any dogma, and for many, sadly, nonduality has become just another dogma. I have written extensively about this.
Personally, I am deeply in love with this yummy mess of humanity. I am in profound relationship – yes, relationship – with shaky hearts, fluttery bellies, yearning and confusion and anxiety too. I see none of it as separate from nonduality, none of it as some “sign” that we are failing, or not yet “fully realized”. I see all of it as deeply sacred; I believe it is deep in this ordinary sacredness that we find our true freedom.
– Jeff Foster