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nothing to graspNOTHING TO GRASP
(published in 2012)

This book points to what is most obvious and impossible to avoid: the ever-present, ever-changing, nonconceptual actuality of the present moment that is effortlessly presenting itself right now. This is a book about what is happening, not what “should” happen or “might” happen or “could” happen, “if only.” This book is about waking up from our imaginary bondage and our story of lack and also from the imaginary “somebody” who seems to be at the center of all our suffering and confusion. Waking up isn’t about picking up a comforting philosophy or belief, but rather it’s about letting all the answers go and relaxing into the openness of Here / Now. As always, Joan shares examples from her own life with ruthless honesty and brings what often feels abstract, mystifying and unattainable down to earth. She says:

"Last year, a friend challenged me to write a short, concise book that would express what I most want to express as simply and clearly as possible. In a very short time, Nothing to Grasp poured out in response to that challenge. I spent several months fine-tuning it, and I am very pleased with the end result. I try in this new book to address and clarify things that people often seem to be confused about, for example: What is meant by "no self" or "not taking my life personally"? Am I the body? Is there a practice, and if there is, what is it?  Who or what is in charge of "my life"? What is awareness, and why do some teachers say it is ever-present while others speak of cultivating it? What is enlightenment? How is it possible to reconcile such seemingly different expressions of nonduality as Eckhart Tolle and Karl Renz, Shunryu Suzuki and Krishnamurti, Dogen and Nisargadatta Maharaj? What this book points to is this inescapable present happening, just exactly as it is. I hope the book will invite the reader to explore their actual present moment experiencing, to see through the stories of lack and the mirage of future attainment, and to discover the freedom that is Here / Now, the freedom for everything to be just as it is."

Praise for Nothing to Grasp

I haven't been this excited about a nonduality book in a long time. It's really wonderful, and so well written! You have a remarkable ability to avoid common conceptual confusions, and to explain why we often fall into them. You write like someone who is not just tossing in all the usual recipes, but who understands and appreciates the active ingredients. It's a bit like reading a cookbook by a chef who lovingly understands the recipes and can talk me through mistakes and substitutions, (like what if I don't have any flowering basil & I burned the polenta), vs. reading a cookbook that is just a list of exciting, complicated recipes that are poorly understood by the author and best suited to non-humans who have way better kitchens than I do.
–J Matthews, Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just As You Are

The world of non-duality writing is so often filled with all the same tired, formulaic maxims that instead of pointing the reader to awakening, they really act to induce sleep! This book is so different. Joan writes from her own direct experience. She uses language that is consistently clear, alive, passionate, down-to-earth, and, ultimately, "eye" opening. It is her dedication to sincerity that powers this book to being a classic of philosophic, spiritual exploration. I cannot urge you to read this book strongly enough. For me, it is, already, a classic.
–Eric Gross, Trust in Liberation and Liberation from the Lie

This is one hot book. It's honed, toned, bare bones, allowing no rest for the seeker.
–Nathan Gill, Already Awake and Being: The Bottomline


This is an exquisite work of radical non duality. Unlike so much in that category, its also immediate, grounded, sensory and right HERE. A wonderful evocation of living, breathing, immediate presence. Loved it, just finished reading it for the first time and will go straight back to the first page and reread it for the sheer joy of THIS that every page points to!
–Shane M. Keher, review on Amazon


In her fourth book, Nothing to Grasp, Joan Tollifson describes openly about her spiritual search as well as how she had to cope with personal issues in her life such as addiction to alcohol and drugs. She is not speaking to us from a throne, she talks to us as a dear friend who doesn’t pretend to be better or more spiritual than her readers. I like that. And at the same time, you can sense via her writing she has a full understanding of what all the Zen and Advaita masters are pointing to. The advantage of Joan’s book is that she uses simple language to point to the Here/Now which is never absent. Joan writes: “true freedom is the willingness for life to be as it is, no matter how it appears. Paradoxically, in completely accepting everything just as it is, there is space for something truly new and creative to enter the picture. And this space is never not here. There is simply this present moment, as it is.” Her words are clear and down-to-earth. Truly a great read.
–Jan Kersschot, author of Beyond: Dialogues about Aware Beingness

This book speaks straight to my heart. Your words are dynamite that blow up the concrete-encased assumptions that underpin the edifice of suffering. The book crackles with the energy of clarity on every page. Thank you, thank you more than words can say for writing this book.
–Colleen Loehr, MD, Psychiatrist

Thank you for your new book. I really appreciate your sharing your life, especially your experiences with addictions to alcohol, smoking, and finger biting. What you write helps me enormously with my own pain around certain of my behaviors. May your wonderful work reach thousands and thousands of people!
–Rev. Joyce Liechenstein, Ph.D., Assoc. Director, One Spirit Learning Alliance and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, NYC

Clear, clean, crisp!  I really enjoyed this book, and have read all of Joan's books. The perspective offered in this writing is direct and clear. Nothing to grasp. Perfect.
–Joseph Forsyth, review on Amazon


This is an amazingly clear and direct book about a topic that can't be expressed in words. It effectively points to a direct experience by doing away with flowery language, and focusing on simplicity and ease of understanding. Its easy to think that what is being said at certain points is so obvious that it needn't be written, and then its realized that its the writing that allows it to be experienced as obvious. This book is not a spiritual text, but a brutally clear and direct expression of the nature of reality. I would recommend this to anyone I know that has an open mind and general interest in understanding their own experience, regardless of 'spiritual' background.
–Michael Siegel, review on Amazon

This is a clear honest, non-dual teaching. I deeply appreciated it, and will reread this book more than once! I liked how Tollifson brought in her personal experience. This always makes teachings more accessible for me.
–Skye Blaine, review on Amazon

All of Joan Tollifson's books are excellent but this one is as crystal clear as it gets. Without a doubt the best book on the non duality experience I have ever read. Destined to become a classic.
M. Roeder, review on Amazon


I appreciate the depth of your honesty in the book and how you share the total acceptance of your experience (which allows me to have that same acceptance with my experience). I'm currently working with the 12 Steps and I'm finding your work to be a wonderful addition to help with my understanding of the Steps. Coming to the nondual teachings and your work has been such a desperately needed breath of fresh air.
–email from
Don, a reader

What a fine, fine book! So sharp and true and real. I can't think of a better book to recommend to the person who's ready for the move from the dream of complexity to the truth of simplicity. It shoots to the top of my list for the apparently-not-yet-awakened crowd.
Fred Davis, Awakening Clarity blog


A delicious treat....I find myself touched deeply again and again by the clarity, simplicity, and specificity of each chapter....so descriptive, so provocative, so enlightening.
Sharry Teague, review on Amazon


Available from Amazon and New Harbinger

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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