Life is already complete, radically complete, here and now. There is nothing wrong with you – even in your imperfection, you are perfect exactly as you are. Life has already completed itself in and as this moment, and this is the beautiful ultimate truth of existence. And yet, equally, that completeness continues to express itself as a never-ending invitation to rediscover completeness in the midst of this embodied, personal, deeply human experience, here and now. – Jeff Foster
Put on your SCUBA – “Self-Conscious Underwater Breathing Awareness” – and prepare to dive in deeper as Jeff guides us through an in-depth exploration of the ocean of our consciousness.
This ocean of consciousness is Life itself, which flows in each and every one of us, in everything. We are like its waves, taking different waveforms but having the same essence – we are all water.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop,” as Rumi expressed in his poem.
This ocean (Life) allows every wave as it appears and disappears – thoughts, feelings, sensations, experiences – the “good” and the “bad.” All of it. This allowing is what Jeff calls “The Deepest Acceptance.”
Simply put, whether we like it or not, Life already allowed, and always allows what is happening in our experience, here and now in this moment.
The Deepest Acceptance is what we’re all seeking. And paradoxically, all seeking ends with it too. From this place of acceptance, we begin to fully engage with life – dancing and swimming in its aliveness.
Waves in the Ocean
We are like waves in the ocean, longing to return to the ocean that we never left. A wave experiences itself as separate from the ocean and, from that place of primal misidentification, begins to seek the ocean, in a million different ways. It is seeking itself and doesn’t realize it. Its longing for home is its longing for itself. This is the human condition.
What is the human condition? Separation.
How does it manifest in our experience? It’s the feeling that something is missing in our lives. It’s the feeling of incompleteness, like there’s a hole we need to fill up.
This sense of incompleteness leads us into searching for what will complete us. Thus, we search for a future completeness.
Jeff says that this search for something in the future – enlightenment, wealth, success, love – is deeply rooted in our resistance to the present moment. We resist the present incompleteness. This is where all suffering and seeking begin. And a deep acceptance of the present is where it can end.
Reminds me of Lao Tzu’s teaching, “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Experiencing ourselves as separate wave, we don’t recognize that we are the ocean. We seek the ocean that we already are. We seek a home that we never left.
The End of Seeking
When you see what you are seeking, and when you see that what you are trying to escape is deeply okay – that recognition, in itself, is the end of seeking. Seeing is the end of seeking. And there is no next step.
Helplessness, powerlessness, weakness, insecurity, and uncertainty. Jeff says our suffering comes mostly from these deeply unaccepted feelings. We think these feelings are not okay and so we avoid them at all costs.
If we point to the root of all these, we will find that they all boil down to this:
“I want to control this moment, but I cannot.”
In that moment, what we’re truly seeking is a deep acceptance of feeling helpless. We suffer not because of the helplessness we feel, but because we don’t allow ourselves to feel helpless.
Jeff points out that if we can see that we’re trying to escape from helplessness, we’ll also see that there’s no need to run away from it – that it was okay to feel helpless.
Is there’s something you’re not allowing yourself to fully experience? A feeling you’re trying to escape from? See it as an invitation to deeply accept this moment.
If we can allow those “not okay” feelings to appear and disappear, to allow ourselves to feel and experience them, then we will be free of suffering.
A Movie Screen
As the open space in which all the waves appear, you cannot actually be defined by any of the waves that appear. Anger, fear, sadness, boredom, joy – these waves simply appear and disappear in what you are. And what you are remains untouched, in the same way that no matter what is projected onto a movie screen, the screen remains pristine.
Jeff shares a wonderful analogy: You are the movie screen that no movie can ever stick to. The movie screen that allows all stories to play, and yet you are not the stories.
Anger can appear and disappear in what you are, but there is no angry person. There is fear, but no fearful person. There is sadness, but no sad person.
In other words, you are only feeling something, not being something. You can feel like a failure, but you cannot be a failure. Same goes with success.
Stories of success and failure appear in what you are, but what you are remains untouched. You are not made less by feelings or stories of failure, neither are you made complete by feelings or stories of success.
When you discover who you really are – the wide-open space that holds everything – you discover that failure, illness, ugliness, helplessness, uncertainty, and weaknesses are there to be embraced, not avoided. All waves – including the ones we fear the most, including the ones that seem most threatening to who we are – are already embraced by life’s ocean. What you are is not an image, and it cannot be threatened by any wave. Only an image can be threatened.
Using the concept of the movie screen, images are projected onto you. You know that a violent movie doesn’t make the screen (what you are) violent.
Remember, no image can stick to you. Suffering begins when you become attached to the images; when you start holding up an image of yourself.
To hold up an image of a positive person, you resist negative thoughts and feelings. To hold up an image of a successful person, you resist thoughts and feelings of failure. You get the picture.
The moment we hold up any image of ourselves, we will be in conflict with thoughts. We will be at war with ourselves. We go to war in defense of images.
Jeff echoes the core teaching of A Course in Miracles: “Nothing real can be threatened.”
Only images can be threatened. When we discover who really are, that we are beyond images, we’ll realize there is nothing to defend. Therein lies our freedom and peace.
We believe that healing is the absence of pain, illness, discomfort. But true healing has nothing to do with escaping these waves of experience. The healing you really long for is the deepest acceptance of pain, the end of all illusions. The healing you really long for is the healing from your identity as the victim of pain. We don’t really want to be free from pain, we want to be free from the image of ourselves as “the one who is in pain.” We don’t really want freedom from pain; we want the deepest acceptance in the pain.
What word comes to your mind when you hear the word “freedom”? Out? In the context of true healing, it’s quite the opposite: IN. Freedom is when we deeply accept ourselves in pain, illness, or whatever we experience.
True healing is not about escaping suffering and reaching wholeness in the future. It’s about having compassion for yourself, openly seeing the wholeness, here and now, in the heart of suffering.
Always in Love
Nobody has ever found love – as if love were something you could lose in the first place! You didn’t really find what you were looking for. What really happened was that, for a moment, your search for love fell away. The seeker didn’t find love – the seeker disappeared! The search came to rest. You briefly stopped looking for love, and the love that was always there revealed itself.
After all this time, love has always been there! We are always in love.
We might think love comes from outside of us, from another person. But the feeling and the experience of love always happens within us.
Jeff explains that “I” don’t fall in love with “you.” It’s the illusion of “I” and “you” that falls away. We call it “falling in love” because the illusion of separation falls, and what remains is the love that has always been there. Always was. Always will.
The love that we seek from another is the deepest acceptance of the love that we already are.
Our love is vast enough to hold any amount of hurt, any intensity of pain. And so we continue to relate, to stay together, even in the presence of hurt.
Yes, here is the key to breaking through all relationship conflict: if I want to stay connected with you in this moment, I must deeply allow any hurt that appears.
Jeff suggests that conflict in relationships begins when hurt is not deeply accepted. When there’s a story that separates “you” and “I.” When there’s an image of “you” as “the hurt one” and “I” as “the one who hurt you.”
When hurt is not allowed in our experience, there is separation. When I shut off from the hurt, I shut off from me and I shut off from you. I shut off from love itself.
If I want to love you, unconditionally (deepest acceptance), I must find the place where I can love the hurt as well, where hurt is already loved. I must find the place where you are hurting and meet you there.
The Only One Addiction
We aren’t really addicted to objects or people; we’re addicted to the release they seem to bring.
In fact, there’s only one addiction: the seeker’s addiction to release… every addiction object serves the same purpose: it seems to take away the discomfort of this moment as it is.
The only addiction: the addiction to release – release from pain, from incompleteness, from separation. The seeker is addicted to release from seeking.
We somehow find that release, even for a while, in the objects of that addiction – only one addiction but manifesting in many forms.
For example, there’s nothing wrong with chocolate, or alcohol in themselves. It’s when we use these objects to take away the pain or the incompleteness when the trouble begins.
It’s seeking through them that’s the problem.
Chocolate + seeking = addiction
Alcohol + seeking = addiction
Deepest acceptance of what we’re seeking release from ends seeking itself, and therefore also ends addiction.
The Deepest Fear
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 in the here and now, of being unprotected in the face of the raw and wild energy that is life itself.
What does really living means? It means being truly alive and opening up ourselves to all of life – the “good” and the “bad” stuff.
It means opening up to death – the death of who you thought you were, the death of the image you have for yourself, and waking up to who you really are – that who you really are is so vast and unconditional and free that it cannot help but allow everything in.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with being so strong that you are able to accept all the waves. It’s not about controlling the waves in any way. It’s not about holding up an image of yourself as an enlightened person and proving how spiritual, blissed-out, and peaceful you are all the time. It’s about discovering who you are – which is so radically open, so vulnerable, so unprotected, so weak, in a sense, that it becomes more and more impossible for you to escape the waves appearing now. And this weakness isn’t really weakness at all, for in this weakness is the greatest strength. It is the deepest acceptance of life.
“Conquer fear.” “Fight evil.” “Resist darkness.”
We mistakenly thought fear, evil, or darkness as threats to life, to wholeness. We didn’t see them for what they are – the rejected waves. They are the unloved waves. Waves that are also part of the wholeness of the ocean. They are the waves that simply long to come home to the ocean but are not being allowed in.
Let those waves come crashing down on you. In that moment of allowing, they might make you weak because maybe, weakness is the only way they know back home.
And maybe in that weakness comes the realization that there is really nothing to conquer, nothing to fight, nothing to resist, and only everything to accept.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JEFF FOSTER writes and speaks from his own awakened experience to help show the way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. He 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.
Jeff was voted #59 in Watkins Mind Body Spirit’s 2014 list of the world’s 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People.