Jeff Foster on meditation, yoga and non-duality

We asked Jeff Foster, our newest guest teacher, some questions on meditation, non-duality and its connection to yoga and we introduce his series of talks on EkhartYoga.

meditation and yoga

What is meditation?

Meditation is all about coming alive, right now! In meditation, we invite our attention to come out of the drama and complexity of our lives, out of the already-lived past and the uncertain future, and to return to this precious moment, the only moment there is. It鈥檚 about being in contact with life as it happens; with breathing, with the heart beating, with all the sounds and smells and sensations of this unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable instant of our lives.

Meditation has nothing to do with trying to fix ourselves, change ourselves, attain spiritual states or have special experiences. All kinds of states, experiences, thoughts and feelings may come and go during meditation, of course, but they are not the goal. There is no goal 鈥 that鈥檚 the beauty of it! Just an invitation to be the space in which all thoughts, all feelings, all urges, even uncomfortable ones, can come and go, arise and fall freely. Meditation has nothing to do with trying to get there, wherever we think there is. It鈥檚 all about being here; allowing ourselves to be exactly as we are, curious about the present scene in the movie of our lives.

Meditation has nothing to do with trying to get there, wherever we think ‘there’ is. It鈥檚 all about being here; allowing ourselves to be exactly as we are, curious about the present scene in the movie of our lives.

Some people call you a non-duality teacher. How would you explain non-duality to a complete beginner?

Well, non-duality is a very complicated word for something very simple! It鈥檚 something we all know very deeply in our hearts: we are all One, all made of the same 鈥榮tuff鈥, and separation is the greatest illusion of all.

I don鈥檛 think non-duality is something you can actually understand with your mind; but you know it with your heart. You鈥檝e always known it, actually. It鈥檚 like when you look out at the ocean, you see hundreds, thousands of waves, of all shapes and sizes, which seem to be very separate from each other. We are like the waves. Every person, every animal, every tree, every drop of rain, every planet. We appear to be separate beings, but actually, we are all expressions of the One Life, the ocean of Consciousness; no wave is actually separate from the ocean at all.

We are like the waves. Every person, every animal, every tree, every drop of rain, every planet. We appear to be separate beings, but actually, we are all expressions of the One Life, the ocean of Consciousness.
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In our deepest essence, beyond all our thoughts about who we are, our life dramas, our past and future, all our feelings, beyond our joys and our sorrows, our successes and our failures, we are life itself, consciousness itself. We look in each other鈥檚 eyes and see ourselves. The billionaire and the homeless person, the Buddhist and the Christian, the saint and the sinner, the enlightened guru and the disciple, the lover and the beloved; all expressions of the very same life, despite our very different appearances, perspectives and life stories.

So non-duality is not a state, or an experience, or a place to reach in the future. It鈥檚 not something some people have and others don鈥檛; it鈥檚 our nature, exactly as we are. It can鈥檛 be reached, but it can be remembered. We don鈥檛 have to become perfect and enlightened, we don鈥檛 need all the answers, we don鈥檛 even need to be 鈥榳orthy鈥; we are embraced by life even in our pain and doubts, even in our sorrow and longings, we are beloved children of the universe. Non-duality is really a very complicated word pointing to something very simple: unconditional love.  

How are yoga and non-duality connected?

Well, yoga, at its heart, is about remembering who we are; the ever-shining light of non-dual awareness. In yoga, we shine our light on all the ever-changing physical sensations of the body. We allow ourselves to become curious about this very alive dance that we call the 鈥榖ody鈥, all the tingly, pulsating, vibrating fluttery, sharp, soft, warm, living sensations.

In yoga, we are not thinking about the body conceptually, or remembering the body with our minds, we are being present with the living body of this moment, making contact! We are not judging bodily sensations, or trying to get rid of them, or trying to create new sensations, but we are allowing all kinds of sensations to rise and fall, appear and disappear in the warm embrace of an open and receptive, loving non-dual awareness.

In yoga, we are not thinking about the body conceptually, or remembering the body with our minds, we are being present with the living body of this moment, making contact!
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Yoga, at its heart, is not a competition, then, a path towards perfection, trying to pull off the most difficult and fanciest postures, trying to be the 鈥榖est鈥 yoga student, or trying to have the most perfectly toned and shaped body. It is a much deeper exploration than that. What we call the 鈥榖ody鈥 is not a thing, not an object, not a solid unchanging lump, but a present, alive, ever-changing amorphous mass of sensations, never the same from moment to moment. Like the breath, like waves in the ocean, like the sun itself during a day, bodily sensations rise and fall, always moving and changing. Like the breath, the body is such a wonderful anchor to the present moment. Thoughts live in the past and future, the body is alive only now. And in yoga, we get in touch with that aliveness; it鈥檚 all a wonderful invitation to be present. 

Tell us a little about what happens in your meetings?

I see myself not as a spiritual teacher, some kind of expert or authority on life, but more like a friend, gently pointing people back to the present moment, the home they never left.

EkhartYoga

 In many different ways, I invite people to come out of the drama of their lives, their seeking, their suffering, their attempts to run away from where they are, their resistance to 鈥榳hat is鈥.

And I invite them back to their breath, to the sensations in their bodies, to what is alive in them, to touch the untouchable, to dignify every part of themselves with life. Inviting them to honour themselves exactly as they are. No longer trying to 鈥榝it in鈥 or be 鈥榩erfect鈥, but to see the sacredness in their present experience, even if it is uncomfortable. To remind them that they don鈥檛 have to become anything other than what they are, they don鈥檛 have to have all the answers, they don鈥檛 have to fix themselves, because they were never broken. And even their doubts, their fears, their sorrows, their deepest longings are holy, worthy of love.

They are consciousness itself, unlimited in nature, vast enough to hold the most profound joy and the deepest sorrow, certainty and doubt, excitement and boredom. They can鈥檛 become enlightened, because they are already light; they are already what they seek. They are the light that illuminates every thought, sensation, feeling. They are already complete, even when they feel incomplete; perfect, even when they feel completely imperfect. It鈥檚 not something to understand with the mind, or take on authority, it鈥檚 something to see for yourself. It鈥檚 about accepting yourself exactly as you are, and even accepting your non-acceptance, even accepting your inability to accept yourself right now. Saying YES to the present scene in the movie of your life, even if it鈥檚 not the scene you planned!

Jeff’s series on EkhartYoga

Ekhart Yoga members can follow聽Jeff Foster’s series of talks聽on our program page. In this series of 9 videos, Jeff answers questions on meditation, creativity, acceptance and more. He invites us to stop trying to fix, change, heal or perfect ourselves. His series is appropriately named聽Falling in love with where you are.

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Jeff Foster
Jeff FosterJeff Foster is a spiritual teacher and author. Jeff presently holds meetings, retreats and private one-to-one sessions around the world, gently but directly pointing people back to the deep acceptance inherent in the present moment.