How we began
I was introduced to nonduality in 1974 by the great Tibetan Lama Thubten Yeshe. I had been studying and practicing Hindu nonduality for two years before meeting Lama Yeshe and also been deeply immersed in the nondual philosophy of Nagarjuna, considered by many to be India’s greatest philosopher. When I discovered that Tibetan Buddhism was built on the positionless philosophy of Nagarjuna’s Middle Way, and that this was the wisdom dimension of Lama Yeshe’s own spiritual lineage, my fate was sealed.
In 1975, Lama Yeshe became my root lama and asked me to practice and teach dharma.
I have been working at that ever since. In the process of creating Radiant Mind, I explored nondual wisdom in many shapes and forms. The diagram above shows some of these influences. Principally, Radiant Mind is a contemporary expression of the Perfect Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) tradition of Mahayana. It isn’t a pastiche of different aspects of Mahayana. It’s a coherent and minimalist expression of the most powerful dimensions of Indian and Asian nonduality.
History is always inventive, so it’s a little arbitrary to say how the Radiant Mind 9-month Course began. Its origins really go back to around 1985 when I started offering workshops that combined Buddhist nondual wisdom and insights with processes drawn from Western psychotherapeutic traditions. The first workshops were experimental since there were no preexisting models for what I was doing.
The first workshops were offered in Australia. Shortly after that I was invited to teach in Hawaii. I also started to receive offers and invitations to present my work at institutions such as California Institute of Integral Studies, Saybrooke College, JFK University and Stanford University. Around this time, I also developed a longer 7-day course called “Intrinsic Freedom”, which I co-facilitated several times in Australia with Penny Fenner, and on the West Coast of the USA. In 1996, I was invited to teach in Paris and out of that came several invitations to teach in France, Switzerland, Germany and India. Slowly, I developed a network mainly based in the northern hemisphere. For several years, while still based in Melbourne and teaching Asian Philosophy at Deakin University. I made two round the world trips a year fitting in as many weekend and three day workshops as I could.
We’d like a longer course!
At some point around 2001, people started saying, “This is great having you come to us in Geneva, New York, San Francisco, Paris, wherever, and run workshops, but how can we stay engaged in this work throughout the year? For you it doesn’t seem to stop, how can we do the same? Can you create something that will give more continuity to the nondual work we are doing with you?” I said, “Yes, of course, without giving any thought to how it would be possible.” But, it was obvious to me that it could be done.
Letting it come to me
So I put out an offer to run a 9 month course in San Francisco in 2002. I was still living in Melbourne but couldn’t see that as being any problem. The next thing was to discover the structure for the course. As will most of creative things I do, I don’t “work out what to do.” I let the ideas, forms, distinctions come to me. The interesting thing is that as soon as you make a commitment, everything that’s needed begins to come into place. I didn’t think, “How many workshops do I need, and how many days should each be?” It was presented to me. The right number is three workshops of three days each. That simple. Now it’s a question of how to fill in the months in between. At this point I looked at what I was doing, both in terms of how and what I was teaching, and how I was living my life in order to effectively do two jobs at the same time, teaching full time at university and spending a number of months each year teaching around the world. From this holistic perspective, I started to tease out the different themes of my work including how it was integrated with my life commitments. Before long, I mean in a matter of a couple of hours, all the themes were there in front of me on one sheet of paper. Of course, I knew there was much more to it than that. But that was enough to know it was viable. From them on it was a question of expanding that one page into a workshop manual of 300 or so pages and designing explorations that would allow people to deeply engage with the embodiment of nondual awareness. I wish I could remember when and how the name “Radiant Mind” came to me but I can’t.
A myriad of opportunities
Still, more was needed than workshops and a manual because I know how easy it is for people to get caught up in life and disconnect with a course that’s based mainly on reading, reflection and individual practice. It was clear to me that the course needed to provide many opportunities each week for people to connect with other people in the course, even if they didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities. It was clear that I needed to build in regular teleconference calls that replicated the space of the 3 day workshops. One such teleconference every three weeks made sense given people’s other commitments. I also felt it was important to connect with people individually so I added an individual coaching session each month with each participant. Every three weeks people also received a project (essentially a chapter of the manual that I was writing as the first course unfolded). Each project included several “explorations” a number of which involved connecting with other people in the course.
The first teleconference call
This is how Radiant Mind came into being. I will always remember the first teleconference call because I had no idea what would happen. It was scheduled two weeks after the completion of the first workshop in San Francisco. I was in Melbourne and other people were joining from San Francisco, Boulder, New York, Canada and elsewhere. We came online, said “Hi” as we joined, exchanged a few words and then fell into an incredibly deep silence that lasted for about ten minutes. It was as though the essence of the workshop reconstituted, effortlessly and automatically. We dropped into a samadhi of profound unthinkability and deeply savoured being together in the space of boundless awareness. After ten minutes or so we engaged in dialogue and unfindability inquiry in the same way that happens in workshops. The dialogues would open into shared silence, some more inquiry would happen, all of it being guided by the “results level” approach that characterizes Radiant Mind.
The Boulder connection
In 2004, John Steiner and Margo King, from Boulder joined a San Francisco based Radiant Mind Course. Midway through the course they invited me out for dinner, during which they said, “Peter, if you’d like to transition out of university teaching into doing nondual work full time, we will make this possible for you.” It felt like a huge step at the time, but I had no doubt about my mission in life. With additional support from Melissa Stuart and Ginny Jordan both from Boulder, I left a tenured position in 2004 and threw myself totally into Radiant Mind and related projects such as the development of Natural Awakening which is a Teacher Training program.
Sounds True, Europe and Portland
In 2004, I moved to France, joining Marie Barincou. With Marie at my side, managing Timeless Wisdom, Radiant Mind moved forward in leaps and bounds growing way beyond my expectations. We offered Radiant Mind in France, Switzerland, and Germany many times. The support of Karl Beer and Liliane de Toledo has been invaluable.
In 2007, Tami Simons, the founder of Sounds True offered to publish a reworked version of the Radiant Mind Book together with a set of CDs. Tami’s trust in me and my work and placing Radiant Mind under the imprint of Sounds True has been invaluable.
In 2009, Marie and I moved to Seattle and at its peak we had four nine-month courses running simultaneously. This was only possible because of an incredible team of people, mainly from Portland, Oregon, who trained with Marie to be Radiant Mind coaches. We are particularly appreciative of the donations and dedication of Ron Stewart and his wife Geri. It’s seems totally fitting that the 20th Radiant Mind in 2014 will be run out of Portland supported by a full complement of Portland coaches.
Right now, Marie and I are back in Australia. I am exploring how to share Radiant Mind more widely using technologies such as video conferencing and other interactive media.
In brief, that’s how we began. Several years ago I started work on a history of Timeless Wisdom and how the different courses came into existence. It’s half finished. I have a draft of about 200 pages. If you’re interested in helping me bring this to fruition let’s have a conversation.