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heartlandPAINTING THE SIDEWALK WITH WATER
Talks and Dialogs about Nonduality

(published in 2010)

These lively talks and dialogs are about seeing through the illusion of separation and waking up to the boundless wholeness that is all there is. They take on perennial questions such as: Who am I? Is there a way out of personal and global suffering? Can we choose to stop addictive and destructive patterns? What does it mean to be awake? What is enlightenment? Does waking up take effort, vigilance and practice, or is it effortlessly and unavoidably always already the case? What happens when we die? Joan questions all attempts to conceptually grasp and frame the movement of life, and she points to what remains when everything that can be doubted drops away. She talks about seeing through the stories and beliefs that create our human suffering and waking up to the simplicity of what is, as it is -- the ever-present, ever-changing seamlessness of being. Joan’s approach is open and explorative, not methodical or dogmatic. For those struggling to reconcile the emphasis on "being here now" in some teachings with the uncompromising "this is it, just as it is" message of radical nonduality, Joan brings them together beautifully. With subtlety and humor, these talks reveal the perfection in apparent imperfection, the extraordinary in what appears most ordinary, and the freedom of being what you can't not be.

Read two sample chapters here and here.

Praise for Painting the Sidewalk with Water

This is a wise, humorous and heartfelt book. It's also an important step in the process of creating a straightforward and human expression of nonduality for our times. Reading Painting the Sidewalk with Water is like relaxing with a cup of tea next to the fireplace with Joan—there is no dogma or extra baggage, just a continual return to the truth that we fundamentally are. One of the things I love most about this book is that it dissolves the seeming dichotomy between what's often called "radical nonduality" and traditions that emphasize more structured, intentional practice. As nonduality matures here in the West, it's time we left this illusory dichotomy behind. Ultimately, as Joan points out so clearly, it is fixed views and beliefs—including beliefs about whether we should or shouldn't be doing so-called practices—that are the greatest obstacles to spiritual fruition.
-- Jon Bernie, Ordinary Freedom

This book is a wonderful brew of non-dual considerations, investigations, and excavations. Its detailed descriptions of life's certainty and doubt, its ups and downs, and the myriad worlds that inhabit a split second, are remarkable. In those passages, it's possible to feel the absurd, mysterious, unformed, dance that existence is. The honesty of this account, and its open salute to all that life offers, typifies what it means to be liberated. For those still chasing some fantasy of perfection or “enlightenment“, this could offer a taste of freedom.
--Darryl Bailey, Dismantling the Fantasy

This expression of the inexpressible mystery of being cannot be labeled. It is Zen, yet it is not. It is radical non-dualism and yet it is not. It has its own distinct flavor. It is always direct and honest. It is a message from beyond the daily ups and downs of life, and yet it is firmly rooted in ordinary everyday experience. While pointing out the dreamlike nature of this world, Joan does not close her heart and eyes to its beauty and suffering.
--Leo Hartong, Awakening to the Dream

Joan's latest book is wise, honest, down-to-earth and brave. Through a wider-than-average variety of dialog questions, it offers fascinating insights into the interplay between the absolute and the relative, the sublime and the everyday. As though to illustrate this, the book even contains a dialog about liberation that's briefly interrupted by a car crash! And the book touches on several topics not often discussed in nondual circles, such as the benefits of various teaching styles, enlightenment and addiction, and enlightenment and one's own humanity. What I like most about the book is the lack of dogmatism. Joan dances everywhere but lands nowhere.
--Greg Goode, Standing As Awareness

Painting the Sidewalk with Water is a brilliant compilation of Joan Tollifson's recent talks and dialogues. This book is delightfully human, entirely accessible and very enlightening. Using her ability to clearly explain the inexplicable, the Author points directly to the Truth of who you really are. Rich, revealing and readable. Highly recommended.
--Chuck Hillig, Enlightenment for Beginners, The Way IT Is, and Looking for God: Seeing the Whole in One

Painting the Sidewalk with Water is a gently relentless tour-de-force saying, in many captivating ways, that it is not necessary for life to be anything other than what it is. Unlike many writers on the subject of nonduality, she doesn't dismiss the relative nature of ordinary day-to-day life, but rather puts it in its place as being the ever-changing face of the absolute. With crystal clarity, each question posed by the attendees of her meetings is met with the answer that each problem is conceptual and there is no problem prior to thought. Incisive reading and highly recommended.
--Suzanne Foxton, Nothing Exists, Despite Appearances blog

I count Joan, along with Leo Hartong and Nathan Gill, as one of the inspirations for establishing Non-Duality Press; her writing was part of what appeared to be the first flush of authors and speakers who were exploring and writing about nonduality in an honest and exciting way. The dialogues, email correspondence and conversations included in this new book have all the intelligence and lightness of touch that so impressed me in Awake in the Heartland.
--Julian Noyce, publisher

Painting the Sidewalk is a dense inciteful gem of a book, packed with Joan Tollifson’s characteristic honesty and clear-sighted prose. This is an uncompromising Advaita classic.
--Piers Moore Ede, All Kinds of Magic and the Ongoing Moment Advaita blog

Joan's teachings feel like splashes of cool and fresh water. This book elicits a rare intimacy.
--Jerry Katz, owner/editor of nonduality.com

Joan Tollifson brings her wit and wisdom to critical questions of living. Her gentleness encourages the reader to challenge the tacit parameters of identity, and her confidence and compassion provide support as the assumptions of what is called "experience" softly drop away. What remains is a direct perception of reality here and now. Joan's writing is holistic in the best sense; each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph work together and provide a cohesive totality that points to truth…If you have ever attended one of Joan's meetings, you will recognize the same intimate interactions translated onto the page. This book is a good companion on the journey to the place we never leave, and to which we need not strive to return.
--Kenneth W. James, Review on Amazon

Incredibly rich and satisfying. I particularly like the Q and A aspect of the book. I find Joan's writing and dialoguing to be some of the most down to earth, clarifying and practically helpful pointing relaying of the non-dual message out there these days. I recommend Joan's writing to everyone I talk to who is confused about non-duality and needs a good shot of clarity.
--Patrick Dorsey on Facebook


In this her third book, Joan again brings her generosity and her unique honesty to our anguish and confusion. Coming from an open heart, her words show us what is right here, right now, whatever appears to be happening. You may find it hard to decide whether this new book of Joan's talks and dialogs should go on your bookshelf with your Buddhist books, Advaita books, the humor section, or somewhere else. Actually, if you've let it do it's work with you, that problem along with all your others will have already evaporated like Joan's water paintings on the sidewalk.
--D Allen, a reader in California

Hearing these teachings from Joan gradually changed my life. I highly recommend them…Clearly and humorously presented. Extremely direct. No nonsense here.
--Reviewer from Michigan on Amazon

Love this book! I find the dialogs and talks to be very clarifying of many concerns and questions that have come up since I started questioning the nature of self and thought. I've read lots of books by zen, advaita, and nondual communicators, and I find Joan's writing to be so insightful and easy to grok.
--David Paransky on Facebook


Joan has a clarity and a subtlety of insight into the mind that is quite rare. For people who struggle with emotional darkness -- depression, addiction, self-hatred, a story of failure and worthlessness, Joan can be especially helpful because she knows this territory firsthand. She shows you that there is nothing that is not the Holy Reality. Again and again, she directs your attention away from the tangles of thought and back to the utter simplicity of what is. I love her unpretentious candor, her courageous honesty and her enlightening sense of humor.
--a reader in the Midwest

Few topics are more ineffable then Nondualism. Yet in these talks Joan points with startling clarity to the undeniable aliveness of the present moment as the key to cutting through the mental gymnastics that obscure our realization of the Truth.
--Judith Cope, a reader in Oregon

Single copies of Joan's books, inside the US only, can be ordered directly from Joan (signed on request) -- email Joan for details.

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