Radiant Mind » Interviews http://www.radiantmind.net Buddhist psychology and nondual therapy | Peter Fenner Ph.D. | buddhism, nondualism Fri, 13 Nov 2015 01:33:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.12 Radiant Mind, centerless being http://www.radiantmind.net/radiant-mind-centerless-being/ http://www.radiantmind.net/radiant-mind-centerless-being/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 10:42:20 +0000 http://fenner.tk/radiantmind.net/?p=14340 An interview of Peter Fenner by Leo Drioli and Enza Vita from InnerSelf

You spent 9 years as a Buddhist monk, how was that and why did you decide to become a lay teacher?

I became a monk when I was 26 because I needed the security of an ethical commitment. Within Buddhism it is generally thought that one can reach a state of freedom (nirvana) more quickly if you are a monk or a nun. The idea is that you create more positive karma, and potentially more negative karma too, if you are ordained. My adolescence, until around 23 years of age, was very confusing and quite experimental. I felt a need to charge up my positive karma and I didn’t want to waste time. Becoming a monk was an imperative for me. The first years were very helpful and creative. I developed some confidence in my path and spiritual practice. At the same time I was also doing my Ph.D. After about 5 years my ordination seemed to become stale. Even though I kept my vows I felt like a clandestine monk. Many people didn’t know I was a celibate monk. When I started teaching philosophy at the university I kept my private life more hidden. After 9 years as a monk I gave back my ordination to the Tibetan abbot who ordained me.

Have you always been a spiritual seeker? And what made you that?

Yes, I first felt something different was living inside me when I was 4 or 5. I was quite reflective at that age and have always been since. There was no specific experience that made me become like that. I had spiritual experiences when I was around 7 and 8. Spiritual seeking, per se! I would say it began around 14 years when I avidly read the Christian mystics.

You teach two main courses, Radiant Mind Course and Natural Awakening Training. How did these trainings develop and what can people attending expect to receive from them?

I’ve been a teacher in some capacity since I was 25, beginning as a tutor in Asian philosophy. I didn’t decide to become a lay teacher. I started teaching experientially, first in Australia and then overseas, because I felt I had something to offer that was deeper than a merely intellectual grasp of Asian philosophy. I wanted to share the transformative potential of Buddhism. In 1984 I started offering workshops that explored therapeutic applications of Buddhist wisdom. Around 2000 people started asking me if I could create a program that would support their spiritual development in between the bi-annual workshops I offered in the USA and Europe. In response to these requests, I created the 9 month Radiant Mind Course. About 5 years ago several people who had completed the Radiant Mind Course ask if I could create another program that would teach them how to offer the same style of transmission that I have developed. Shortly after, I created the 10 month Natural Awakening Training which is a more advanced course for therapists, coaches, and teachers.

Both the Radiant Mind Course and the Natural Awakening Training come from the same Mahayana lineage going back to the Perfect Wisdom or Prajnaparamita tradition. The foundations are identical. The differences are that Radiant Mind is for the direct benefit of the people participating in the course. It supports people in integrating nondual awareness into their daily lives. They join a great learning community, learn how to be more spacious, and discover how to rest in awareness, at workshops, at home, and with others. Participants work together throughout the course by doing nondual meditation in person and over the phone. The Advanced Training is more like a professional training. It trains people in how to offer the nondual dimension to other people in a variety of settings. I lift the curtain and show people how to facilitate nondual work. People can then bring this into their professional as well as personal lives.

What is the difference between your approach and traditional nondual teachings such as Advaita in Hinduism and Dzogchen in Buddhism?

My approach has been shaped by my immersion in different nondual traditions in Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism and a need to really taste the reality that these traditions talk about. I wasn’t concerned about the words they used such as selflessness and pure awareness. I was concerned with discovering this reality for myself. Nonduality is the cornerstone and foundation for everything we do in Radiant Mind. Ideally we do nothing more, and nothing less, than what is needed to abide in nondual awareness. This is the basic principle. My own approach works at the “results level.” That means we discover (or rediscover) pure awareness. When we are here, we see what we have done to arrive in this place. We have engaged in quiet, respectful dialogue, and looked for the self, awareness, and suffering with the wisdom eye of nondual inquiry, and found ourselves unable to locate them. We then rest in the state of profound yet potent tranquility, deep inside and within beautiful relationships with others. In order to abide in Radiant Mind we also need to take care of our lives at the conditioned level. If we totally ignore the needs of our body, our material circumstances and our relationship responsibilities, we create a mass of confusion and level of self-preoccupation that, at some point, makes it impossible to rest in the carefree space of pure awareness. Radiant Mind lays out some simple principles and guideposts for living our lives so that the connection with the nondual becomes easier and more automatic.

What is it that informs and inspires the nondual approach to awakening?

The nondual approach is inspired by the direct experience that we don’t need to do any more work to be free. When we see how simple it is to be here, no effort is needed. We see clearly that suffering isn’t possible here. The words “suffering,” “discomfort,” “agony,” and “torment” no longer hold meaning. The experiences we have struggled to avoid can’t happen when we are no longer looking for things to be different. In fact, in this space we can’t find any suffering. Nothing is happening that we want to displace.

What is the aim of nondual teaching?

Nondual teachings present the possibility of going beyond suffering without needing to change the conditions of our life. The nondual perspective shows how we can be free with things “just as they are.” Most psychological systems and spiritual paths offer people conditional forms of freedom. We need to change our inner and outer worlds in order to be free. Actually, we try to change reality so that it conforms to our preferences. Any sense of freedom that arises is conditional and very fragile. Nondual awareness offers us the possibility of being completely free while being conditioned within our body-mind and life’s circumstances.

In Radiant Mind you talk about being “complete” and being “incomplete.” Can you describe the difference between the two?

We are complete when there is no impulse to change what is happening in the moment, or any need to maintain the state we are in. We are also complete in the sense that there is nowhere further to go. We are no longer on a path, seeking. In my work I also talk about being complete in our actions in the world. By this I mean that we learn to function in a way that we don’t leave traces behind us. We do what is here to be done, and don’t do what doesn’t need doing. This way we don’t need to process the past. Our way of being is clean and tidy. We don’t produce feelings of guilt and resentment. We don’t need to go back and fix things up because we have been careless or lazy. We do what needs to be done in order to be open to the present moment, rather than being thrown, without any control, into replaying the past, or excessively processing the future.

You teach how to hold a conversation about “nothing” as part of “deconstructing fixations.” This may sound pointless to many people but can you explain why and how to talk about “nothing” … and can you do it right now?

Of course we can do that right now. I simply start by talking about “this” and clarify that when I say “this” I’m not talking about the visual sensations taken in by your eyes, any ambient sounds, anything you are sensing in your body, or what you may be thinking in this moment. The “this” I am talking about isn’t a thing. It’s not an object of thought. I can’t think about “it” because there is nothing to thinking about. I can’t talk about “it” because there is nothing to talk about! That’s what I’m talking about! I am talking but there is no subject, nothing I am talking about. This is contentless communication. I do this when I’m teaching as a way of opening into the unconditioned dimensions. I use words to go beyond the mind.

For many people, our natural state is unrealized and a complete mystery … totally oblivious to its reality, they suffer through their lives in ignorance … can the Radiant Mind teachings make a difference in their lives?

I wouldn’t put people in a box thinking that they are unrealized, because this can make our shared, primordial state into something solid. We think that some people are realized and that others are not. I don’t see myself as being different from other people. I don’t have more insight than others. I wouldn’t say that people who haven’t recognized “this” are living in ignorance. It’s too heavy a label. But I do acknowledge that some people recognize the unconditioned dimension, and others haven’t yet seen this. The Radiant Mind teachings show people the unconditioned dimension, the ground of being, as it were. The course helps people to integrate this recognition into their lives so they can rest more consistently in the space of imperturbable awareness.

In your book Radiant Mind you say that “conventional psycho-spiritual paths assume that the release of intense emotions involves work and effort, deep cognitive insight, cathartic release, or some combination of these. Such paths are built on the principles of discipline and transformation: we change our behavior, purify our minds, and transform our perceptions”. Do these paths have a place for those seeking complete liberation?

Nothing is needed to be free, but often it’s not simple to be that “no thing” – to recognize and rest in the ground of being. We feel we need to change our conditioning and get rid of memories from the past, bad habits or dysfunctional patterns we’ve inherited from our parents. It’s easy to think that we are impure and need to go through a process of mental and emotional cleansing before we can recognize pure awareness. If we can’t see in the moment that awareness is by its nature pure, we might need to do some type of work in order to get here. But once we are here we see that “this” is “acausal.” It isn’t a product of anything, any type of process of practice. We see, as is often pointed out in Zen, that we didn’t need to do what we thought we needed to do, but we wouldn’t have seen this without doing what we didn’t need to do.

What is the best thing one can do to help someone who is locked into a mind state that’s causing them harm … I have a friend that recently tried to kill himself. He’d been on his chosen path for many years but found himself in a very dark place, and couldn’t see any other way out.

The best thing we can ever do is abide in our natural state as open awareness, available and receiving everything and everyone exactly as they are. From here we see that other people are parts of our self. It’s possible that your friend’s behavior threatened your own integrity, your own need to be helpful, and fundamentally your need for self-preservation. If we feel threatened we contract, maybe into our minds or our explanations, and we can’t be fully open to others. The opportunity is to deepen the presencing of awareness to the point that we can receive and creatively embrace everyone, beyond any need for personal protection, because we are awareness itself, which can’t be hurt or harmed. We may not be there, but it is great to see the scope ahead for our development.

What are the main obstacles to experiencing unconditional awareness, our true nature?

There are no obstacles to presencing our true nature as unconditioned awareness because nothing can get in the way of “this.” Primordial awareness isn’t a phenomenon, it’s not a belief system, it’s not a particular feeling, and it’s not an experience, as such. Nothing can obscure “this” because there is nothing to be obscured. However, it’s also easy not to recognize the unconditioned dimension of reality because it is invisible; it’s not a sensory or mental reality. It goes beyond all dualistic notions, including labels of “being” and “not being.” It is paradoxical. It’s completely different from our conditioned experience which changes moment to moment. On the other hand, it’s inseparable from each distinct moment because it doesn’t exist apart from everything else.

What is your definition of enlightenment and what is it that gets enlightened?

I rarely use the word enlightenment because it carries a lot of fanciful projections for some people. I prefer words like our ultimate state, centerless awareness, natural freedom, or the ground of being. Once people know what these words refer to we can talk about this state as “just this,” or “this.” Then things are really simply. This is how Buddhism often talks about enlightenment, as “just this.” All of these terms refer to the state in which there is no suffering of any kind. In this state suffering simply isn’t possible. We have no reference for this experience. What is more radical is that we can’t even say what isn’t happening. In this state we’re unconditionally free because we don’t need anything to change or stay the same. This can sound dull if people haven’t tasted it firsthand. But in reality, it’s a state that’s highly potent. It can change in its expression from the deepest stillness to dynamic joyful interchange in a few seconds. In this space we are free because nothing needs to change in order to be at this point where we are beyond dualistic notions of better and worse. As to how achieve this state, on the one hand no one does because there is no experiencer. But this is the same for all experience. If we look for the experiencer we can’t find one. I can’t find the person answering this question. And I’m sure if you look for who is reading these words right now, you won’t find the being who’s experiencing this. You can’t say where the impressions of the words you are reading are being received. Still, there is a me writing this, in Seattle at the moment, and there is a you reading this.

What would you say is the most important requirement for someone to practice nonduality? In particular, does one need to be of any particular faith or spiritual mindset?

There is no single most important requirement to practice nonduality. Nothing needs to happen before we arrive here, in nondual awareness. There is no practice actually. There is nothing more to do because nothing is missing. However, we create a predisposition to resting here, in nondual awareness, whenever there is an opportunity, such as there is right now. This recognition of our constant base state as awareness is essential. The deepening and integration of this realization takes time. It takes whatever time it takes. We can’t rush the process. If we try to speed up the process it only creates resistance and delay. In order to be here in this way we need to live our lives so that these types of opportunities come to the foreground. If we are stressed-out, consistently overwhelmed, in constant pain or emotional turmoil, or hold very rigid beliefs, then it’s difficult to look at the nature of awareness itself. We are wrapped up in our experience and can’t see beyond them into the boundless space of the mind itself. Immersion in the field, perhaps through being part of an informal, nondual community, can also be a great asset.

How would you introduce these teachings to someone who may be relatively new to spirituality?

Mainly through the idea of taking a break from our usual, pressured way of living life. We always have things to do, projects to complete, and responsibilities to assume and fulfill. We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to do nothing, to accomplish nothing for a given amount of time. We are all on a path of some sort and we are all looking to arrive at the end of the path, the place where no more work needs to be done. This includes giving our mind a break from needing to understand. I often open up a workshop by saying, “We could spend a lot of time on the path during this workshop – we will anyway, thinking there is something to do and something to understand. The other option is to be at the end right from the beginning. This way we spend more time being together in the free-form play of pure awareness. So let’s do that. I am sure we can do that for 5 minutes.” We do it for 5 minutes, and then it extends to 20 minutes, just like that. We get to spend a few days together enjoying the different manifestations of abiding in pure awareness. We enjoy moments of incredibly deep stillness where thoughts just dissolve in on themselves before they form, leaving us surfing the tip of huge samadhi wave of imperturbable serenity. We play at the edges of silence and we watch as stillness morphs into dynamic dialogues where we dance in the delightful paradoxes that emerge at the boundary between thought and the unconditioned.

Do you see, as some other teachers do, that this is an extraordinary time, a time when ordinary people are waking up?

It is quite wonderful how many people in the modern world, on all continents, are realizing how we all share the same basic ground of being as expressions of an awareness that goes beyond all divisions and borders – the personal, national, political and religious. Many more people are ready for these super simple pointing-out teachings that reveal the nature of consciousness itself. It is wonderful to come together with people all over the world on a teleconference calls or videoconference calls and share an identical space together, knowing that all boundaries and differences are somewhat incidental.

Have you discovered who or what you are?

The process of discovering who we are at the level of being a human living in time is a never-ending process. We might discover a little bit over the decades of our life, but I think we are infinitely complex. Each one of us is like a universe. If you are asking if I have discovered that I can’t find an “I” then yes, I come by that and rest in it from time to time. Isn’t that paradox delightful: I can’t find myself!

Is the realization constant and lasting? And if yes, what was it that turned it all around for you?

The realisation of being a centerless universe isn’t constant. It matures and deepens over time.

And if there’s one thing you would say to our readers today to assist them in seeking Truth, what would that be?

Just that it is extremely simple to be really satisfied. All we need to do is to connect with this moment – yes, this moment right now – and see that we don’t need anything more than what is happening right now. Whatever we think we will need in the future may or may not happen. But right now we don’t need it. We are complete. And, in fact, every moment takes care of itself, and us, in this way.



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Interview with Gary Smith of Evolutus PR – June 2009 http://www.radiantmind.net/interview-with-gary-smith-of-evolutus-pr-june-2009/ http://www.radiantmind.net/interview-with-gary-smith-of-evolutus-pr-june-2009/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 19:04:32 +0000 http://fenner.tk/radiantmind.net/?p=13792 Gary: How would you define surrender? Who or what is one surrendering to in your opinion? God, Universe, Self, Soul, What Is, present moment…?

Peter: Generally, the way that I see things, such as the notion of surrender, is inspired by the nondual traditions and approaches to spirituality. Essentially these come out of Buddhism and Hinduism. We find them in India, Tibet, China and Japan.

A term that makes more sense to me than ‘surrender’ is ‘receptivity’. Surrender can easily sound as if there is someone doing it. Someone is surrendering. I feel that real surrender is receiving and being touched by everything that is. No effort is needed to do this: to be in this state of pure receptivity. We are not trying to manipulate or change the environment at all, either what is happening inside of us or outside of us.

Our natural state is the state we find ourselves in when we are not struggling to be different. The cause of struggle is a fundamental lack of acceptance of who we are. We have a lot of judgments about who we are. We are in conflict a lot of the time. We are either invested in who we are, or invested in our potential. We’d like other people to notice who we are, appreciate our existence, or we are trying to escape who we are. We are trying to be someone else or perhaps even prefer not to exist at all.

The nondual approach says okay, we do have a finite existence. We are individuals. There is no denial of our individuality. We accept that. We do not feel deficient in some way just because we are finite and have a particular history. At the same time as that, we are finite, we are conscious.

And when we look at the nature of consciousness, at the nature of awareness, we discover that awareness is the same for everyone. Awareness dissolves all barriers. We are different at the finite level, but at the level of awareness, pure consciousness, we can’t distinguish between each other. Why? Because awareness is not a thing. Awareness doesn’t have any structure to it. Then there is a profound connection between us because we realize that fundamentally, by virtue of being a conscious being, we share something identical with everyone else.

When we are engaged in spiritual seeking, the seeking creates distance. Seeking stops us from realizing what we are looking for. So long as we are looking for something to happen in the future, we can’t be fulfilled in this moment. The state we are looking for is the state where there is nothing more that we need. The only way to be in this space is to abide as awareness. Abiding as centerless awareness, is a more profound state than even the highest spiritual ecstasy. Why? Because spiritual ecstasy comes and goes. Awareness does not come and go. It is ever present.

There is nothing to fear in this, because abiding as awareness allows us to fully, deeply and profoundly appreciate the totality of our existence. It allows us to be present to the history of who we are, present to the anticipation of how the future might unfold, without any judgments. It acknowledges our shared humanity, which is God consciousness. The Eastern traditions say, “Thou art that.” We are the divine. There is no difference.

Gary: Is there a practice or methodology to surrender that one can follow that does not cause suffering? For example, some paths try to create madness so that the ego surrenders. Is there a joyful methodology?

Peter: It is not necessary for anything to happen in order to abide and rest as pure, imperturbable awareness. Nothing needs to happen for us to be here in the pure, complete simplicity of this moment. At the moment we do suffer. It is important to acknowledge that and accept that. As long as we have preferences—things that we like and don’t like—we are compelled to suffer. It is important to see that.

On the other hand, there is no path or process that we need to move through in order to be totally at ease in the moment, without asking anything more from ourselves or others. We are here right now in fact. It is easy to think that we need to suffer and struggle in order to arrive at the end of all searching and achieve union with divine, unsullied, awareness. But look at what is happening now. We are here. We cannot say where here is, but this is the sublime state of total rest and relaxation.

If we think we need to suffer, before we can be here, then we need to do that. Millions of people will suffer before they see that it is our need to be free from suffering that causes our suffering. But right now we don’t need anything. We are aware and this is enough. This is everything in fact.

We are so used to suffering, it is such a familiar way of being that even though we say we want it to stop, we just don’t know how to do it. We have got into this bad habit of really believing that things can be different from how they are arising. It’s really quite frightening to suffer less. When we begin to suffer less, it often creates an initial disorientation. Now what is going on? Now who am I? What’s the meaning of my existence? The friction of our lives confirms our reality. If there is no friction, no problems, obstacles or worries, who are we? Now what will we do? It’s simple, we go back to our suffering because it is familiar; we exist and know roughly what is going on.

Gary: What happens when you surrender?

Peter: I prefer to look at surrender not as an action or something we do. We surrender to this moment. “This” is how it is. There is no sense of giving in or giving up here. We are not surrendering to the necessity to surrender. We surrender the habit of needing things to be different or better. What we discover is that in this moment, right now, we do not need anything. This moment, and every moment, in fact, takes care of itself. We might be quiet or active, talking as we are now, but everything takes care of itself.

Gary: What is the Ego or mind? What’s holding on?

Peter: It is the mind that is always dissatisfied, we think, “I like this. I hope this continues.” Or, we think, I cannot handle this, it is too much, I need to get out of here. I want this to change.” But this is all mental chatter. It is wasted energy. It is impossible to hold on to this moment, or push it away. Is there some way for me to fast forward what is happening or put it into slow motion? No. It is impossible.

We also think that we can control things, or that we can’t. We think that there is someone inside of us who chooses and controls, or finds themselves out of control, a victim of circumstances. But if we try to find the “I”, myself, Peter, for example, I cannot find anyone in here, who can control this moment, or be controlled by it. We can find the “I” thought because we are thinking it thousands of times a day. It’s the most common thought we have. But who is thinking the “I” thought? The “I” thought is an object of awareness. Who or what is aware of that? This expands awareness because we can’t find a thinker or perciever.

We cannot understand this logically. We cannot think about it coherently. It is weird. Even though we can’t find ourselves, we still exist as a finite being, at the functional, human level. The two things exist in parallel. Infinite awareness that is outside of time, and being here, the two of us, in our bodies, in this unique moment of existence, that will never be repeated again. It is amazing. And what is even more amazing is that these two, the infinite and the finite, are inseparable. They are not two different things. We cannot separate awareness from what we are aware of, because awareness is not a thing.

Gary: Is there a practice or methodology you follow that would create surrender? If so, please share!

Peter: There is nothing we have to do to be here. Simple things often work the best. Simple contemplation, simple meditation, being with what is, meditating and connecting with space, feeling the space of our existence. In simple contemplation, we take a break from the routine activity of daily life and bring awareness into the foreground. We can ask questions like “Who is aware? Who is doing this?” This creates openness into this place that is infinite, that has no center, that which allows everything to be as it is. It can be done just as well with eyes open as with eyes closed.

We can also pray to that which has no source. We can extend the prayer, and not know who or what we are praying to. Listening can also be profound. Not listening for anything in particular, but being in a state of total receptivity. Just listening. Listening to the silence of pure being.

Thank you very much for your questions Gary, and the opportunity to share this time with you.

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Radiant Mind – SENTIENT TIMES Feb/March 2008 http://www.radiantmind.net/radiant-mind-sentient-times-febmarch-2008/ http://www.radiantmind.net/radiant-mind-sentient-times-febmarch-2008/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 19:04:14 +0000 http://fenner.tk/radiantmind.net/?p=13790 Radiant Mind
Interview with author Peter Fenner
By Carrie Grossman

Whether it is called enlightenment, pure awareness, or the “unconditioned mind,” there exists an awakened state of pure liberation that is at the heart of every contemplative tradition. Peter Fenner, who studied as a monk for nine years with many notable Buddhist lamas, including Thubten Yeshe, Zopa Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche, believes this experience of boundless consciousness does not have to exist separately from our day-to-day “conditioned” existence. He teaches that we can learn to exist as unique individuals at the same time as we rest in a unified expanse of oneness with all existence in a state he calls “Radiant Mind.” Students in the West often feel frustrated in trying to follow the Eastern path to awakening, confused by seemingly vague or counter-intuitive teachings. Peter Fenner created the Radiant Mind practice to help us break through the obstacles that are often challenging for practitioners in our culture.

Carrie Grossman – What is “radiant mind” and how can we access it?

Peter Fenner – Radiant mind is the experience of being fully at home and comfortable with the totality of our conditioned experience—our minds, feelings, body and environment at the same time that we are infused with the liberating experience of unconditioned awareness. Radiant mind arises when the luminosity of pure awareness or buddha-mind radiates throughout our embodied existence bringing harmony, peace and coherence to everything we do. Everything we do and say reflexively invites others into the state of primordial completion.

CG – Why is the experience of “radiant mind” important?

PF – The experience of radiant mind is important because it gives us everything we want. When we abide in radiant mind, we are totally fulfilled with things exactly as they are, nothing needs to be added to or taken away from our experience. We’re able to integrate everything that happens, including our own death, without any upset or disturbance.

CG – What are “nondual” teachings?

PF – “Nondual teaching” are spiritual teachings that directly reveal that we are totally complete, right now, without anything needing to change. Nondual liberation doesn’t exist in another place or at another time. Nondual freedom isn’t freedom in the dualistic sense. We’re free because we don’t need to be free. We’re free because we don’t need anything. Things can change on the inside or outside it doesn’t make any difference. This is unconditioned liberation. A nondual teaching is anything that reveals this state. Nondual teachings often take the form of questions, koans, or poetic metaphors that invite us to directly experience that liberation and bondage are just constructions, and that ultimately there is no one, no self or person who can be free or limited in any way. Dualistic paths, on the other hand, lead to conditioned forms of freedom, because freedom depends on the presence or absence of particular conditions, such as feeling satisfied or being free of suffering. In the nondual state there is no suffering, but it’s so unconditioned we can’t even say that we are free of suffering. We can’t say anything. Dualistic forms of freedom can come and go. Nondual freedom neither comes nor goes because it isn’t an experience.

CG – How can nondual teachings such as those you offer in Radiant Mind, and psychotherapeutic methods inform each other?

PF – Nondual teachings and psychotherapy complement each other. The nondual approach is very radical, too radical some of the time because it’s just too simple. It’s inconceivable, unbelievable that we can be free while still carrying with us the psychological and somatic memories of past traumas or when we’re severely challenged by the circumstances of our present life. If people are troubled – heavily identified with their suffering, experiencing difficult emotions or struggling with their external circumstances, their health, material needs, etc. they need something that makes sense to them, something they can connect to. A strictly nondual approach at this point is irrelevant, even absurd or ridiculous because it’s too far out. This is where psychotherapy, spiritual practices, life-skills coaching, etc. come into the picture. They offer methods that are relevant and which can bring people to the nondual by helping them to change things at the conditioned level so they are more comfortable and peaceful in their lives. When people begin to relax and feel okay with themselves, it’s possible to ask such questions as: Who is suffering? Who wants to be free? And so on.
For a nondual perspective, psychotherapy can be helpful so long as we realize that it’s a bridge, that it’s a provisional path. From the nondual point of view a lot of psychotherapy is limited because it’s essentially focused on making us feel better about ourselves. In contrast, the nondual state is not about feeling good. When people begin to integrate the nondual experience in their lives, they invariably feel more serene, more open and more accepting, but these are by-products.

CG – What holds us back from the experience of radiant mind and what is a simple exercise that can be done to help awaken this awareness?

PF – In an ultimate sense, nothing can hold us back from the experience of radiant mind. Nothing can obstruct the experience because it isn’t anything. What gets in the way is thinking that radiant mind is something we can obtain and hold onto. If we relate to it like this we keep on reifying or consolidating the idea the there’s someone to get something. If we think that radiant mind is going to save us or shield us from the possibility of pain and suffering it becomes an objective, a goal. Radiant mind has nothing to do with the future. It never exists in the future, it never exists in the past, it doesn’t even exist in the present. It exists because it doesn’t exist.

So the way through the idea that something can stop us from experiencing radiant mind is to see that there’s nothing to get through, we don’t have to do anything. There’s no one to get through anything and nothing to obtain. The exercise, the practice as it were, is to really see that radiant mind is this, just this, the ineffable display of phenomena that’s indistinguishable from contentless awareness.

CG – When people speak about the nondual teachings, one major criticism is that the nondual view is an invitation to ignore our neuroses and conditioning. Can you briefly explain how it is possible to rest in unconditioned awareness without escaping our psychological and emotional issues, or “spiritual bypassing”?

PF – People do talk like this, but it’s quite misleading. Contentless awareness is simply incapable of suppressing or obscuring anything. How can nothing distort something? It can’t. It’s impossible. Nondual awareness lets everything be exactly as it is. Nondual awareness doesn’t let us avoid anything. If we’re trying to run away from anything—unpleasant feelings, people we don’t like, worldly responsibilities—if we’re putting any energy whatsoever into avoiding or denying what’s happening in our lives, it’s impossible to presence nondual awareness. In fact nondual awareness guarantees that we experience whatever’s there, in our minds, bodies and the outer world. Why? Because when we’re presencing nondual awareness nothing threatens us.

CG – Is it necessary to engage in “formal” spiritual practice in order to experience radiant mind? Can it be experienced without prior contemplative training?

PF – That depends on what we believe and how strongly we believe it. If we believe we have to practice then we have to do something because if we don’t do anything we’ll think that we’re wasting our time. Our “not practicing” will consist of just drifting along in life because we haven’t had a clear experience of “not needing to do anything.” Quite a lot of people cop-out by confusing the practice of doing nothing really purely (in other words, resting in emptiness) with giving up and drifting along aimlessly and loosely. These are completely different.

Prior contemplative practice can cut two ways. Contemplative practice helps people to be present to intense emotions, frustration, anger, elation, ecstasy, hope and fear without having to escape these feelings or act them out. That can be very useful when it comes to deepening the experience of nondual awareness. The downside of spiritual practice is that is also very easy to condition the belief that we need to practice in order to achieve the particular result we’re looking for. It’s quite difficult to practice without having any expectations. Why would we be practicing? But even the slightest expectation—of making progress on the path, becoming more peaceful, achieving nirvana—throws us into time and stops us from being totally complete right now, in this moment, without having to do anything. Spiritual practice can become an obstacle to realizing the unconditioned. When we realize nondual awareness we realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with spiritual practice, past, present or future. As some traditions say, it’s a-casual.

So the trick is to find a practice that efficiently shows us that there’s no thing to get, that it’s here, this is it, not as thing, but as a no thing, and so we don’t need to be practicing anything. This of course is the intention of things like Zen koan practice. We continue practicing until we realize that we don’t have to do what we thought we had to do! When we’re resting in nondual awareness it doesn’t matter if we’re practicing or not. It doesn’t make any difference. The experience can’t be enhanced or maintained so there is no reason for any practice. But there’s no reason not to practice either. It’s possible to keep practicing, it’s just that we’re not getting anything out of it. We don’t need to because we’re in the ultimate state. Whether we look like we’re practicing or not, is just a question of how we’ve conditioned ourselves.

CG – You speak of the importance of integration of unconditioned awareness into the conditioned body-mind. How can we experience this kind of integration?

PF – Yes, it’s important to integrate nondual awareness into the conditioned body-mind, because this is where we live! There is not much point in having occasional glimpses of emptiness only to return to a body that we’ve let go to rack and ruin, or a relationship that become so toxic that we can’t stand being in our own home. The way to integrate the nondual into our lives is to simply rest in this state when it’s possible. It’s as simple as that. When opportunities present themselves—at home, at work, on retreat, sharing with friends, meditating, in the bath—we begin to find ourselves slowing down, stopping for a few moments, half an hour, half a day. Perhaps we pick up a book that can bring us to the unconditioned. Or we do our own reflecting: “What’s all this about? What’s the best thing I can be doing right now? Is it different from this, or the same as this? If it’s different, I’ve got a problem. It means I have to do something. Who thinks they have to do something? I do. Who’s that? I don’t know.” We gently work our way back into unconditioned awareness. In the Radiant Mind course we have created many opportunities each week for people to explore the nondual in the midst of their daily activities.
We don’t need to think about how to integrate the nondual. It happens automatically. The simple fact that we spend time resting in unconditioned awareness predisposes our mind to return to this experience again and again. It’s like a gravitational pull, or a homing instinct. At a deep level, beyond beliefs and even priorities, we recognize the value of this experience. Having tasted it we know that it gives us everything we want. Deep down we know what’s good for us, what works, what lets us stop and rest and be complete with what is.

Without thinking about it we begin to restructure our lives in order to open up opportunities to be in our effortless, natural, uncontrived state. At a certain point radiant mind develops its own impulsion and we simply can’t stop the process of evolution and awakening. Our desires and preferences no longer get in the way.

CG – In the Mahayana Buddhist perspective the importance of cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for all beings is stressed. However, in the nondual perspective suffering is seen to be an illusion. How can we reconcile these two views and offer compassion with the understanding that what we see is not real?

PF – From the Mahayana perspective, suffering is neither real nor unreal. The famous Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna says the same thing. To think that suffering is an illusion is only half the picture. This is a very important point. The Mahayana saints knew exactly what they were saying. They were being very careful and precise with their words because they wanted to be true to the nondual experience and they also wanted to make sure that people didn’t misinterpret the state of nondual emptiness.

So yes, from within the state of nondual awareness there’s no suffering. That’s clear. We just need to look at it. But that’s not to say that suffering is an illusion—there’s just no suffering. Because, as we see, the Mahayana goes onto say that there is absence of suffering. It would be an illusion if there was suffering and it was unreal. But in samsara there is suffering. From the nondual point of view, if we are trying to avoid suffering we are pushing in the wrong direction—we’re going away from unconditioned awareness. We are seeking a state that’s free of suffering, so we’re not directly opening into the unconditioned. We may need our suffering to reduce it’s intensity in order to see through it. That’s a judgment call that practitioners and teachers continually make.
So, nondual awareness doesn’t tell us that suffering is an illusion. The bodhimind doesn’t stop the perception of suffering. We can’t extract that from the experience. If nonduality meant that there was no suffering it would be a conditioned experience. Nondual awareness could only be presenced if suffering was unreal. Nondual wisdom says that it’s neither real nor unreal. People get confused with this and think that Mahayana says that suffering is unreal. But, as I said, this is only half of the picture.

CG – How are we to understand the teaching that Bodhisattva (and nondual therapists) work to alleviate the suffering of others?

PF – The Bodhisattva knows that suffering is unreal. But we can ask, “How does that help the crystallized identity who is suffering?” Bodhisattvas don’t help in a dualistic fashion. The Bodhisattva doesn’t see her or himself as helping someone. When people enter into a Bodhisattva’s field of awareness and influence and begin to interact with the being that we call a Bodhisattva, their suffering can’t be sustained. It dissolves into a space where there is neither suffering nor its absence or at least the suffering is ameliorated. Most people don’t get the full nondual realization but the Bodhisattva’s awareness creates a transformational field or vortex that gently or abruptly, but irrevocably moves people towards radiant awareness.

The Bodhisattva (or bodhimind) totally receives all that is. Everything comes through in a completely unfiltered and undistorted form because they are unbounded. And this boundary-less awareness isn’t captivated or seduced by the idea of a state that’s free of suffering. They know that it’s impossible to find a state that’s free of suffering. And at the same time, and in the same way, and at the same level, the bodhimind sees that there are no samsaras (no states of suffering). They know that nothing can be found—samsara (suffering) and nirvana (its absence) are always unfindable. This is what the bodhimind brings to the world.

This is the inseparable union of compassion (the absolute knowledge that freedom from suffering doesn’t ultimately exist and wisdom (the knowledge that ultimately there is no suffering). Within the bodhisattvas wisdom eye there is neither suffering nor freedom from suffering.

So how do we get inside this? How do we get inside the mind of the Bodhisattva? Actually, we don’t have to get inside the mind of the Bodhisattva. All we have to do is enter radiant mind, and see what’s happening. Radiant mind is the mind of the Bodhisattva.

Suffering is like a perturbation in the field or expanse of awareness. This perturbation is known and experienced as suffering by a crystallized identity (a person) who has particular needs and preferences. So it’s completely consistent for identities (like me) to crystallize within the expanse of awareness and for us to suffer in the myriad of ways that we do—through illness, fear, madness, death, etc. And at the same time the bodhimind sees that none of this is happening. There’s no illness, no fear, no such thing as madness, and no death! In a sense the bodhisattva brings to this perturbation (someone’s suffering) the reflexive awareness that suffering is unfindable, and that freedom from suffering equally cannot be found. This is brought forth by the way the bodhimind brings the vision of nothingness to everything that’s experienced.

CG – How can we invite intimacy into our lives (assuming that intimacy involves a subject and an object) and at the same time embrace a nondual view?

PF – From within the bodhimind, I am just a clearing—a centerless space—through which a universe moves. I am me, not because there is a unique me somewhere in here, but because the space I am reveals a unique and distinctive universe. Even though it seems I’m at the center of this I’m not in here, and there is no center. This means that everyone who enters into the clearing that I am is as intimately related to me as my thoughts and bodily feelings. There’s no difference.
In the nondual state there no inside or outside. There is no me in here who exists separate from everything else. It’s impossible to locate where I stop and you begin. It’s not just impossible to do this, there is no point where I stop and you begin. There’s just this, which is everything. This is real intimacy. From within the nondual experience we don’t invite anything into our life. Everything is already here. We don’t push anything away and we don’t hold onto anything. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the structure of our relationships takes the same form with everyone. Of course not. The people with whom we live, work, practice have a central role in our lives. Nonetheless, there is nothing artificial or contrived about our relationships.
In the nondual realm intimacy isn’t a particular set of feelings, such as feelings really close or connected to someone, or feeling deeply committed or concerned about someone else’s well being. Nondual intimacy doesn’t carve out a particular relationship with one, or a few other people. Nondual intimacy is all encompassing and all embracing. Nothing is excluded. Everything in our known universe is in touch with equal sensitivity and compassion. It’s the experience of total interpenetration of our being to the point where the no one who we are expands to include everything.

Peter Fenner, Ph.D. is the director of the Radiant Mind program (www.radiantmind.net) and the author of numerous books including Essential Wisdom Teachings and The Edge of Certainty. He has taught workshops at Stanford Medical School, Columbia University, and elsewhere. His new book and 7CD set called Radiant Mind is available from Sounds True Publishing (http://www.soundstrue.com).

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Unconditioned Awareness: Exploring the end of all seeking http://www.radiantmind.net/unconditioned-awareness-exploring-the-end-of-all-seeking/ http://www.radiantmind.net/unconditioned-awareness-exploring-the-end-of-all-seeking/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 19:03:44 +0000 http://fenner.tk/radiantmind.net/?p=13788 Excerpts from a dialogue with Peter Fenner at the Omega Institute
July 2006

Peter Fenner: My understanding of being, in the way that it’s understood in eastern traditions like Buddhism and Hinduism, is that being doesn’t exclude anything, because it’s unconditioned. If, in order to be, we have to, for example, be still, or be silent, or be meditating, then that would be a conditioned way of being. Whereas we’re exploring unconditioned being.

So there’s no condition, there’s nothing that stops us being. This kind of being is such that we can’t actually stop it happening, as though it is ever-present. It’s like we can tune into it, and it’s there. It’s not there in the sense that it’s located somewhere, but it’s ever -present.

And if we’re beginning to taste this space, to feel our way into this, we can feel that it’s really quite interesting, quite amazing. Because it’s a state that we can have individually, but which has nothing to do with us as an individual. It’s not ours, it’s not like something we can own. We can participate in it, we can join it, we can enjoy it, we can be suffused by it, we can live in, but it has nothing to do with us as an individual. This is why it is sometimes spoken about as pure consciousness, or universal consciousness. So if we’re tuning into this, we’re tuning into the same space.

From my point of view, we’re doing it now, tapping into a possibility, a potentiality, that’s there all the time. We’re just undoing things, in a way, so we can tune in together to the unconditioned dimension of being, at the same time that we’re connected with ourselves in a very ordinary way. It’s not as though we have to transform ourselves radically in order to participate in this space. In fact, we don’t have to change anything. For me, it’s an experience that runs in parallel with the experience of being human in the way that I am. So I can know it through who I am, and you can know it through who you are.

It’s simply awareness in contrast to what we’re aware of, like the objects of awareness. The main thing to appreciate about the experience is that when we connect with it, there’s nothing more that we need. In a fundamental way, everything we do is designed to bring us to a point where there’s nothing more we have to do—we’re complete. And it’s possible for us to taste that now, to be that.

Member of the audience: It’s always here.

Yes. It’s always here.


Yes. Then we can begin to relax.

But if you’re in a physical body, you can’t stay there.

Where? It’s not anywhere, so we don’t have to be somewhere in particular to be participating in this experience. It’s paradoxical.

But as soon as you start to talk, then you bring yourself out of it, because you’re thinking about something.

It depends upon the way we’re thinking. It’s subtle. Because it’s an unconditioned experience, it really doesn’t matter what we’re thinking. It’s not affected by out thoughts, by what we’re thinking. You can perhaps feel that.

At the same time that we’re involved in our lives, that we’re finite, that we’re thinking what we’re thinking, that we’re involved in our activities – we’re here and you’re there, I’m here and we’re different – there’s at the same time, a universal experience that’s impersonal, that we can both be experiencing, that all of us can be experiencing.

Experiencing the oneness?

Yes. We can say that. Even though you’re there and I’m here, we can know that we’re really sharing something. We can know that we’re in the same place. So this is a real experience of oneness, real intimacy and connection, because you know exactly what I’m experiencing at that level. You can fully enter my experience, and I can fully enter yours at this level of universal consciousness.

Can it be defined as “is-ness” or “such-ness”?

Yes. In Buddhism it is spoken about as “is-ness”, “such-ness”, “thus-ness”. I personally like those words, because there’s not a lot the mind can do with them. I think it is a great way to identify what were talking about, what we’re sharing.

It’s getting rid of all the restrictions in us, what bogs us down, so we can open a space?

Yes. It’s going beyond simply me, my existence : “What is important for me?” “What are my preferences?” “Is this working for me?” It’s going beyond that, going beyond a preoccupation with ourselves.

Can you describe it as unconditional love?

Yes. I think unconditional love comes out of this, because this is a non-manipulative experience. If we’re in this state, it’s not possible to manipulate ourselves or anyone else. So for me, this is what unconditional love comes out of. It comes out of being fully open without any barrier, and not having any manipulative energy within us. Also allowing people to come both into, and go out of, our energy field, into our mandala. Move into and out of it in a way that is consistent for who they are.

It seems the way to regularly tap into it would be just to notice the judging mind?

Yes. Becoming more attuned, more sensitive, to how that’s happening. But then not judging that—not judging the judging mind. If we’re not judging the judging mind, then it takes the energy out of the judging. And then they’re simply thoughts that are simply moving through our consciousness.

Would it be a place without perspective? It feels like there’s no filters.

Yes. Because it is going beyond our opinions. In the state, we don’t have opinions about anything. And this can be a difficulty, because we’re expected to have opinions about things. Part of the fabric of our social network is that we have ideas and opinions about things. So not to have opinions can be a challenge. I’ve experienced this. People say, “So what do you think about such and such?” and I say, “I don’t. I haven’t. I don’t think about that.” And people find that strange. So we have to accept whatever people are going to make of us, whatever opinions people will have about us, without being bothered by that.

So really, the very fact that you are running workshops is counter to what this is?

No. It’s completely consistent. Because what I’m doing at essence in the workshops is nothing. That’s what I’m trying to do as best I can.

It’s like flying. We go for a journey, for a ride, together. So we join within the assumption that there’s somewhere to go, somewhere to get to. We go on this journey together and arrive at this point where we realize that it’s arrived, it’s already here, and in a way, it already always was. And that we didn’t need to do what we have just done. But if we didn’t do that, it wouldn’t be happening.

There is no other way to tap into it, other than through dialogue?

Yes, there are other ways to do it. For me, this works well. I’ve been exploring for thirty years what, for me, is the most efficient way to do it. I find that dialogue, along the style that we’re doing it now, accelerates the process, accelerates the induction, accelerates entering into the space.

Even for you, though you’ve been doing it for thirty years?


And the mental activity can obscure it?

Yes, it generally does. Most mental activity, ninety-nine percent of mental activity, does obscure it. It requires a particular type of enquiry, dialogue, along the lines of what we’re doing tonight, to reveal it.

Why would mental activity obscure it, if it’s all inclusive?

Again, it’s paradoxical. There’s nothing to obscure, but what happens is that we can easily become identified with our interpretations. This keeps us locked into the conditioned mind in a way that doesn’t allow that expansion to happen.

So now that we’re here, we can come back here, because we know where “here” is.

Yes. And when you do, there’ll be like a recognition, a re-remembering, like : “Ah, I’m back there”, which is not localized.


Thank you so much. It has been a great pleasure to be with you tonight.

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The Wizard talks with Peter Fenner http://www.radiantmind.net/the-wizard-talks-peter-fenner-2/ http://www.radiantmind.net/the-wizard-talks-peter-fenner-2/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2013 06:56:34 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=3451 WIZARD: Peter is a living Arunachala.


So Peter, of all those we’ve met thus far, I feel you’re unequalled in your capacity to demystify the mysterious changes that take place in a person who’s called upon to extricate him/herself from the suffering of conditioned awareness, what we might call ordinary consciousness so that they might abide more consistently in unconditioned awareness. I think that’s your great skill.

PETER FENNER: Okay, thank you.

TRIP: Now I have a few more compliments for you because I feel moved, and then we’ll get right into it. I want to say that your teaching is practical, clean, and accessible, very much so. When I first met you there was something different about you, I couldn’t put my finger on it, and now I realize it’s the quality of your listening. Your listening is uncluttered by an active mind making judgments. I see something there that could be really valuable to me going forward. Your perception of yourself as an ordinary person is both accurate and refreshing, you have a special gift for making what seems like inscrutable Eastern mysticism accessible to linear and logical Western minds like mine. There’s a lack of artifice in what you say and how you act, and your work appears to me as a creation of a framework of understanding to be embraced for a while and then discarded.

So getting right into your work, you say that your intention is identical to that of the, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing this right, the Dzogchen tradition. Would you share what that is?

PETER FENNER: The Dzogchen tradition emerged in North West India and then went to Tibet, it’s a tradition that’s very minimalist and aesthetic. What I appreciate about it is that it comes from what I call the “result level.” It is effectively saying, “Hey, maybe we need to do much less in order to be at the state that all of these traditions are talking about, maybe we can just experiment with being here at the culmination of the path.” We open to the possibility that we can be here right Now in a way that doesn’t require us to do any more work. We ask ourselves, “Where am I Now?” and we find that we can’t even really say where we are. We ask, “Can I do more of this? Can I enhance the state of consciousness that I’m in?” When we’re resting in pure awareness, we find that there is nothing to be enhanced. We’re already in pure awareness.

TRIP: Indeed. I’ve got eight pages of stuff here to go through with you, so I do not want to ask you anything in particular because I don’t want to miss anything here. But let’s just start. In addition to your Radiant Mind work, you conduct nondual training for a variety of teachers and therapists. I have a family member in that line of work, he’s a psychotherapist, and I’m wondering what are the outcomes for a psychotherapist, let’s just say, of the nondual training that they receive?

PETER FENNER: Psychotherapists who join the Natural Awakening Training learn how to take their clients on a journey that is essentially constructed in language and sometimes blended into silence. They take their clients on a journey in language by constructing a conversation that reveals how everything is taken care of. Clients come in with some problem that they’re working with and psychotherapists take them on a journey into this moment right Now by making a shift in their state of consciousness so that they embrace or open to the unconditioned dimension of awareness. When we’re resting here we no longer have the presenting problem, and in fact it’s impossible to reconstruct it. If the therapist asks the client, “What’s happening Now?” the client may say, “Well, right Now I feel fine.” If they were to ask, I don’t necessarily recommend that they do, but if they were to ask the client, “Can you reconstruct that problem, can you bring that back?” the client won’t be able to do it. The energy, our conscious energy, can’t be deployed in creating suffering. This is the journey that’s possible for a therapist to take with their client. It’s repeated again and again and started at different points. As clients become more and more familiar with the journey it starts to become automatic and it doesn’t require a lot of input to make the journey back to awareness itself.

TRIP: Very nice. Your work helps people realize how they move out of unconditioned awareness by making it into something, anything, which can be lost or gained, or even by trying to figure out what it is. Can you elaborate on that?

PETER FENNER: Yes. In a way it’s a subtle process because even right Now, talking to you and to our listeners, it’s easy to talk about resting in awareness as something that hasn’t yet happened, as something that may happen in the future. But I’m talking about what’s happening Now at the same time that we’re talking to each other and sharing ideas, perspectives, questions, and answers. At the same time, there’s this no-thing, there’s nothing, unstructured awareness, content-less awareness that’s arising. Well, it’s not even arising, it’s not even dissipating, it’s beyond being and not being, we can’t say it is, or it isn’t. This is the awareness that can never be lost, because it’s not a thing that can go out of existence; it’s nondual, beyond existing and non-existing. It’s also something that we don’t gain; it’s quite different from a specific experience that can arise in meditation, such as a powerful insight or even a spiritual realization. We’re talking about pure simplicity of awareness itself. We can rest in this awareness Now.

TRIP: You ask folks questions that help them determine if they’re resting in a structured or unstructured state, can you give us some examples of some of the questions you might ask someone?

PETER FENNER: Yes. First of all we move in the general direction of resting in awareness, which means we become less preoccupied with ourselves. This reduction in preoccupation with our own existence – with me, mine, what I have and what I don’t have – arises when we use self-inquiry to look for the “I”. I’m sure your other presenters have skillfully led your listeners to use forms of inquiry that reveal that if we try to find who is experiencing this moment, we can’t find the experiencer, the experiencer can never be found. This opens up center-less awareness; we can’t find a self, a perceiver inside looking out, or a thinker of thoughts.

That’s how we can open up into the processing of awareness. Then we can ask what I call checking questions, such as, “Can I do more of this?” When we are here – which is not a location, because we’re just in boundless consciousness – when we are here and we ask, “Can I do more of this?” the response is, “No I can’t, there’s nothing that is being done. I’m not doing anything, there’s no ‘I,’ and there’s no ‘me’ doing anything. There’s no agency. This is just happening as it is. I can’t do more of this because there’s no this, and I can’t do less of it.” In a way that means we’re here together, just resting here, just being here in a totally effortless state because there’s nothing we need to know, nothing to be known, and nothing to do.

WIZARD: Beautiful.

TRIP: Yes. You say there are all kinds of wonderful interesting stuff in your book, I love your book, it really did a lot for me. And one of the things you say is that the Western mind is embarrassed and confused by paradox, but not the Eastern mind. I thought that was interesting.

PETER FENNER: Yes, I think that we want things to hang together in a logical way. When we move into the nondual, when we’re at the intersection of the conceptual mind and the dualistic mind, we are connecting with awareness itself. At that junction the mind is still thinking, and still producing some interpretation of that which is objectless, content-less, and has no structure, and paradoxes naturally come forth. As I said before, this is and it isn’t. We can’t say that this is because we don’t know what we’re talking about. We can’t say that this isn’t because it’s not a non-thing either. This type of talking comes through naturally, because when we’re here it can’t be said differently. When we’re resting here truth is often expressed paradoxically. It’s wonderful because these paradoxes function as keys that open the space, or in fact they don’t even open it because it’s already open, there’s no process of opening a space. The paradoxes can help us rest here.

TRIP: One of the things I like about your work is that you diminish this feeling that people have who are on a spiritual path that there’s either Buddhahood or nothing, or that where they’re at is somehow insufficient, or that they should not feel really happy about what they are. And I think that your work helps people to feel good about where they are because it creates a logical series of phases that people tend to go through, and obviously nobody fits these phases perfectly, but they go through these and it ultimately leads to abiding in content-less awareness. And so I know we’re not going to have time to go through them all, but people start with disconnection, and then there’s conflict and codependence, can you speak about that framework that you’ve created to help people understand where they’re at in their evolution there?

PETER FENNER: A little bit, but we also can recognize that from this “result level” perspective there’s nothing we need to do before we can be at the culmination of the path. As soon as we begin to talk about different states it’s really easy for people to lock into trying to discover where they are, what they have to go through next, and how they have to evolve and transform. Again from the nondual, nothing needs to happen, there’s no action, experience, insight, teaching, or realization that’s needed before we can be in and rest in our natural state.

Having said that, I do notice that we have different relationships to our experiences that can obstruct this natural resting. The main ones are attraction and aversion. In the conditioned state of mind we’re assessing whatever we’re experiencing in terms of whether we like it or we don’t like it. Either I like this, I want this, I want more of this, I want this to last, or, I don’t like this, I want this to go away, I don’t want to be here, I’d like this to diminish. For as long as we’re in that reactive state, nondual awareness doesn’t present itself to us, because the energy is wrapped up in either trying to maintain what’s happening or in trying to escape from some mentally constructed prison.

TRIP: I’ve got lots more things to talk about, but is there anything that you came today wanting to share with us?

PETER FENNER: What we’re sharing, this is beautiful for me, right on.

TRIP: All right, well then let’s just keep on going. This is real meditation for us. The Buddha said, “Don’t keep searching for the Truth, just let go of your opinions.” I really liked that, that was a nice one that you had in your book. But one of the things that really appeals to me and that I think you do in a beautiful way, in a way that I maybe haven’t ever encountered before, is this pure listening that you do.


TRIP: That is a powerful, powerful thing that you do, because when you are listening to someone they get the feeling that they have your absolute attention, and that they’re not being judged by you. So you create this space of incredible intimacy between yourself and the person that you’re listening to, and I think if people could master that their relationships would go off the chart. I mean, I know that mine would with my significant other, if I gave her that attention in my listening, she’d be just thrilled. Can you talk about that?

PETER FENNER: Yes, for sure. There are a lot of things happening in the Radiant Mind book and the nine-month Radiant Mind course, and people often ask if there is one thing that I can point them to that would be really helpful. I always come back to pure listening, because pure listening is something that everyone can do, it’s not a particularly difficult or tricky process or way of listening. What I do here is I just distinguish between positive listening, negative listening, and pure listening. It’s really quite simple.

Positive listening is when we’re positively assessing whatever we’re hearing. We’re giving energy to it, we think it’s interesting, we think it’s great. By listening in this way we’re overtly encouraging the person to whom we’re listening to engage in their construction, in their story, and in their description of what’s happening for them. Negative listening is the opposite. It happens when we’re listening to someone and we get bored, we wish that we weren’t where we were, we’re looking for an escape route, and we’re trying to figure out how to bring a particular conversation to a quick closure so that we can engage in something more interesting. Pure listening is listening from pure awareness, listening from no mind. When we are listening in this way it can look like there’s close attention, but it’s effortless, there’s no concentration or attention involved, it’s listening beyond judgment, it is pure hearing. We listen without validation or invalidation. As we listen to whatever is being said in this way, it just dissolves in our awareness. This transforms what other people are thinking and saying and provides an invitation for people to move beyond the creation of meaning.

An easy way to think about it is we listen in a way that goes beyond agreement and disagreement because we’re not adding mental commentary.

TRIP: One aspect of that… I’m sorry to interrupt you.

PETER FENNER: We hear everything that someone is saying, we can give feedback, we can relate to them, but at the same time we’re connected with the nothing, the pure awareness that’s always present in the midst of everything.

TRIP: One thing that I watched, and I watched you listening, and I’ve listened to your interviews and watched your interviews, this little piece about the not validating is huge, because we have been trained that it is our responsibility when we listen to someone to nod our head and go, yes, got you, got you, yes, uh huh, constantly getting sucked into identifying whatever the thought form is in a positive way. And I watch you, you don’t do that, you are open, and clean, and attentive, and you have a smile on your face, but you don’t do that, you don’t nod your head and say, yes, or whatever. That’s a very unique way that you do that, and that’s a really powerful way of being.

WIZARD: There is no mental movement in that process.


TRIP: Okay. Then you also, and I think it’s worth spending the time on this, you talk about pure speaking as well, I think that’s very powerful as well.

PETER FENNER: Yes, there are different types of pure speaking, but pure speaking for me relates to a concept that I write about and teach about called “ongoing completion” – being complete moment by moment, and not creating residues. In our speaking it’s easy to say things that are not necessary for us to say which can lead to future regrets. For instance, we wish that we hadn’t said things and then we have to get involved in either processing it internally, or what I call “remedial communication” – going back and fixing things up, saying, “Hey, that’s not exactly what I meant, I’m sorry to have said that, I see that you’re offended.” We have to get involved in conversations that take us back in time and preclude us from continuing to be in this fresh moment, to be in the Now.

It relates to how to be continuously complete, so we don’t say what we don’t need to say. We learn how to listen to the internal impact of what we’re saying in our own minds. Ideally we don’t have to ever think about what we’ve said, we just continue to be in the moment, and we don’t have to go into the past and process what we’ve said. So that’s one aspect of pure speaking.

The other aspect is how to talk from awareness itself. How can our speaking act like a form of an induction? How can we use what we’re saying to lead people into this state of complete perfection where nothing is missing?

TRIP: You have quite an amazing background, various traditions. You’ve researched, I’m sure, many others, and you talk about the special conversation that is talking about nothing. You see this nondual conversation as a penultimate conversation. I think that’s a beautiful thing, and I think that we in the nondual area feel that way strongly, it is a special conversation. Could you talk about that?

PETER FENNER: It is, it’s a different conversation because in every other conversation we’re talking about something: we’re talking about what’s happening in the world which is sensory phenomena; we’re sharing the content of our feelings, our emotions, our moods, and the energies in our body; or we’re sharing through concepts by talking about our thinking and our interpretations.

Talking about nothing is quite different because there’s nothing, nothing that we are sharing. There’s no object of awareness, it’s what I call “content-less transmission.” So when this is happening in a group or in a one-on-one interaction, we learn how to point to this by saying, for example, that there’s no this, or that the this that I am pointing to can’t be known. I can even say something like, “What I am talking about is unrelated to the words I am using. I’m talking about something right now, but what I am talking about is unrelated to the words that I’m using because there’s nothing for the words to stick to.”

TRIP: You gently, gently gore a few sacred cows in your book, and one of them that I really love is one which governs my own sense of who the biggest and best Trip could be, and it’s this idea of unconditional love. I mean, I’d always thought that one’s capacity to love unconditionally spoke to the state that one had arrived in, and if one could love unconditionally then one was an amazing human being. But you speak about the intimacy of embracing everything versus unconditional love. I think that’s a very important distinction.

WIZARD: Is unconditional love something we “do”, or is it…

TRIP: It’s something that we do, yes. I mean, that’s what I-thought.

WIZARD: We think we do.

TRIP: Yes, we think we do it. Yes [Laughs].

PETER FENNER: I feel that unconditional love is the space that we’re in when we’re resting as or resting in pure awareness because there’s no manipulation. In this space I, we, don’t need anything and nothing needs to be different because we’re fulfilled in the moment. Therefore we don’t need people to be different and we’re not asking or demanding anything from anyone else. We’re not trying to keep people within our sphere of influence thinking that they are a source for our happiness and enjoyment, nor are we trying to push people out of our sphere of experience. It completely allows people to be where they are and brings forth the beauty of people’s existence because we know that everyone has access to this state of effortless being, of resting as awareness.

WIZARD: Acceptance.

TRIP: Another way that you say that in your book is you say, “If I hold to your suffering as unreal, it negates the compassion, if I hold to it as real, it negates the wisdom. In order to really experience this union of love and wisdom I have to let go of the struggle to understand.”


TRIP: Beautiful.

PETER FENNER: Yes, it’s a subtle point that you’re bringing to our attention. This goes immediately back to pure listening. In pure listening we don’t reify, consolidate or concretize what people are sharing with us. Someone is sharing how something is not working for them, how they’re challenged in some way, and as we listen we don’t make it real or project a reality onto them. We also do not communicate that it’s unreal or trivialize someone’s experience. We walk the bridge between neither energizing people’s constructions, particularly those around suffering, nor trying to de-energize constructions. Being in that space beyond validation and invalidation allows for a natural release, perhaps the quickest release, of difficult suffering situations.

TRIP: In my own journey, a critical tipping point in my own personal affirmation was the point at which my mind let go of its need to understand, do you see that to be the case for others as well? That is a critical aspect of the whole thing, isn’t it?

PETER FENNER: Yes, it’s a big one for sure. When I’m working with a group of people it sometimes feels like there are two mountain ranges to go over before we are just resting together silently in deep contemplative appreciation of the nondual. There’s no particular order. One mountain range is the need to know – needing to know what you’re saying, needing to understand what this is, how it works, what your life is, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. This mountain range is the need for a reference point in knowledge. The second mountain range is the need to do. What have I got to do? How do I do this? Am I doing it right? Do I have to do more of this? In the nondual, especially when we come at it from the results level, there is nothing to do, no doer, the work’s been done, it’s finished. Now we’re here, no one going nowhere, wow!

WIZARD: Peaceful.

TRIP: Hey, I’m going to play a little parlor game with you [Laughs]. I’m going to put you on the spot, okay, but this is for fun, because I think you’re going to be able to do this.

WIZARD: Trip’s a rascal.

TRIP: I’m a rascal. But it is a trick parlor game that I just created for you, alright. Okay, so we’ve got this friend, his name is Ganesan, and he once told me a story that really, really, really, rocked me, because it was my first glimpse into what someone who is walking in unconditioned awareness experiences, right, versus the ordinary consciousness that I was walking around with. Okay, so he tells this story and he told it from the perspective of the ordinary person and then the sage. I’m going to tell the ordinary person’s perspective, and then I’m going to start with the sage’s and I’m going to let you finish you. All right.

PETER FENNER: [Laughs] Okay.

TRIP: Yes, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Okay. So the ordinary person, he’s walking down this path, and up in front there’s a shiny object on the ground. So there’s an immediate perception, wow, shiny object, a nanosecond after that perception he’s thinking, “Oh, that could be a piece of gold that someone dropped on the ground.” So there’s an immediate differentiation that goes down. Then a nanosecond following on that is the idea, “Wow that could be worth something, I think I’ll go over there and check it out.” So the person walks over there and they reach down and they pick it up, and they look it up, and they saw it’s just a gum wrapper, and they go, ah, just a piece of junk, and they toss it on the ground.” Okay. Now there’s an encapsulation of the traditional thought forms that go through a human being’s mind with almost every experience that they undertake. Now the sage walks down the path, and there’s the perception of a shiny object, now what?

PETER FENNER: Wow. Well you could walk closer to it, that’s a possibility, but equally that shiny object could recede from our field of awareness, because we’re not being driven or captivated by what looks good or what looks interesting or uninteresting. For me, it’s this idea of not knowing what is going to happen next. The sage does not know and does not need to know what will be happening moment by moment. It’s this notion of the ever-fresh presence of awareness.

TRIP: Exactly.

WIZARD: The Mystery.

TRIP: Exactly. The sage doesn’t do anything [Laughs]. Just shiny object and that’s it, no let me go over there and pick that thing up and see if it’s a piece of gold, and then I’m going to have some more money, none of that.


TRIP: It was lovely, that was my first taste. I love that. One of the things that you mention several times in your book is this concept of broadening the river of life.

PETER FENNER: Yes. Well I think that broadening naturally happens when we rest more in awareness and we become less involved with the particular events of our lives. There’s an enhanced capacity to receive whatever is arising, particularly in terms of pleasure and pain. It’s possible to experience pain without freaking out, without thinking that it shouldn’t be happening, without thinking, “Hey, what have I got to do, what’s wrong, what do I do to alleviate this?” So we have an increased capacity to just receive the sensations that can be produced by our mind and nervous system without needing to close down. Similarly, it is possible to enhance the refinements of pleasure and bliss so that we can receive them without fearing that this isn’t good for us, without listening to some historical story in our mind, or without feeling that it’s dangerous to experience this much pleasure. That’s what I mean by broadening and expanding the river the life.

TRIP: All right, I cannot find anything in your work that I want to pick a bone with, but I worked hard to find something and even this I can’t pick a bone with. But, okay, let’s just talk about meditation for a second. You say we practice in order to deeply realize that we don’t need to practice, but without this practice we don’t see that we don’t need to practice.

PETER FENNER: Because again we’re looking to arrive at the point where the fruition of meditation is happening without needing to meditate. If our meditation is a function of a need that we have then there’s a meditator looking for a particular result. If looking for a particular result is what’s behind the meditation, then it’s not producing the intended result, which is to let us be where we are, totally fulfilled with nothing missing.

WIZARD: Meditation without doership.

PETER FENNER: No one needing anything.

TRIP: So here’s my little tiny bone, and just for the fun of it, but now Urja Shanti says and I think the Wizard feels this way, and I do too, that he says that he sits but he never sits because he tells himself to sit, he only sits when it seems to want to happen, where it’s just comfortably happening. But I see that in your work you do recommend that people actively create the space to sit, that’s a little bit oppositional to just letting it happen of its own volition.

PETER FENNER: Yes, I think that the way that you’re doing it is great because the invitation is there and you just find yourself meditating without needing to know if it will be for five minutes or two hours. But the point here is that this is considered meditation when it’s being defined by our body, particularly the placement of our body in a certain position. What we’re really looking for is how to support natural meditation, the place where the meditation is happening on its own. In other words, we discover a place where we’re meditating without doing it. We find that we don’t need to meditate because meditation doesn’t impact the quality of the state we’re presencing. We’re already in a state that can’t be enhanced, can’t be prolonged by an action of meditation, and can’t be refined any further. That’s what we’re looking for, how to discover what in the Dzogchen tradition is called the “meditation of non-meditation” – the place where meditation is just happening.

WIZARD: When there’s no doer?

PETER FENNER: Yes, there’s no doer, there’s no one looking for any outcome.

TRIP: Way more beautifully said than I could ever hope to. I would say, just to add to that, that the Wizard and I both concur in that accepting our true nature and in both of our cases, he’s a rascal and I’m another rascal, accepting that nature for us trumps practice, and so we both feel that the pages of life is where our true practice lies. You probably feel the same way, right?

PETER FENNER: Yes, for sure. In considering the path, people often think, “I’ve got to find my path,” or , “What is the best path for me?” And then people think, “Am I on the path? I got off the path. I got lost. I got waylaid. I’ve got to get on the path again.” If you look at it, we’re always on the path, aren’t we? The path is life, the path is exactly what is happening Now, there’s no being on it, or being off it.

TRIP: I have a number of friends who are actfully engaged in the ripening of their spiritual lives, and I’ve had numerous occasions where people have reported to me where they’ve lost it and I’m sure you have too, where people talk about how they’ve lost that feeling of centerness or whatever. And I’ve looked inside myself and I’ve asked myself what does it mean for me when I lose it, and for me it’s always a shift of my attention away from awareness without thought into anything else, and it happens a lot. I mean, I have to admit that my attention being shifted away from awareness into everything else is pretty much a predominant factor in my life now, but I don’t care because my attention always comes back to awareness. So even though obviously I’m not a realized sage, I do feel a possibility of relaxing into what wants to happen, because I know that awareness is going to come back again. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what losing it is really? When people express that feeling they’ve lost it, what’s really going on?

PETER FENNER: Yes. That’s an important question because people often have that experience. If we’re authentically resting in awareness itself, we’re not resting in anything, there’s no one resting in anything, and there is nothing to lose. But when we’re resting in awareness it’s often accompanied by nice feelings and sensations. They can often be feelings of tranquility because our mind can slow down and there’s less energy involved in that whole enterprise of trying to understand, and trying to create meaning. The mind slows down and becomes more or less tranquil. When we go inside, we can experience incredible states of bliss, sometimes sensate states of bliss, and we can say where the bliss is coming from. At other times, it’s unconditioned bliss and we can’t say from where it’s arising, it’s this amazing infusion of bliss energy throughout awareness. What happens is that people begin to identify nondual awareness with these beautiful experiences of less thinking, deep tranquility, and bliss. These are conditioned experiences that are happening. Take tranquility as an example, tranquility is an experience, whereas resting in awareness is not.

WIZARD: Beautiful.

PETER FENNER: So we can lose the experience of tranquility if something changes. This is one of the checking questions: can this change? If we say, “Yes, this can change,” it means we’re identifying with a conditioned aspect of this. At some point the of tranquility will change and it’s easy for people to think, “Ah, I’ve lost it.” But they haven’t lost nondual awareness, they’ve lost something beautiful that was accompanying it.

WIZARD: The side effects.

TRIP: You’re an amazing teacher, and I think you have a stable of teachers perhaps that are involved in the Training of the trainers, but it appears that people can actually engage you if they want to, is that correct?

PETER FENNER: To some extent, yes. A lot of my time is now involved in teaching teachers and therapists here in the US and in Europe, and running the Radiant Mind program, but I have some time for working with people individually.

TRIP: Well I think that’s amazing, that you create that time, and the Radiant Mind program sounds fantastic. Did you want to talk about it at all so that folks who are listening who haven’t heard of it might find it something they want to do? Or is there anything you’d like to say?

PETER FENNER: Just a little about how it came into existence. I taught workshops around the world and people would ask how they could continue this work over a longer period of time. This led me to come up with the nine-month Radiant Mind course. One of the great things about it is that over a nine-month period real things happen in people’s life, like losing their job, forming a new relationship, or getting some serious illness. These things can be integrated and are integrated and worked with within the context of Radiant Mind, which makes it different from a short-term workshop.

TRIP: Okay. And what’s the Center for Timeless Wisdom about?

PETER FENNER: Center for Timeless Wisdom is the center that I founded and that I direct. It’s a California non-profit that organizes, delivers and manages the nondual trainings, programs, and retreats that I do. Its overarching mission is to adapt Eastern nondual teachings, particularly from Mahayana Buddhism, and make them relevant and easily accessible in the West.

TRIP: I can keep asking questions [Laughs]. Are you going to do the nondual conference again next year? Do you know yet?

PETER FENNER: By that you mean the Science and Nonduality?

TRIP: Yes, are you going to do that again?

PETER FENNER: Yes, I’ll be participating in that in San Francisco. It’s a fun event.

TRIP: I’m wondering you’ve probably been around a lot; you’ve definitely been around the block many more times than I have. I heard about a thing called Spirit Fest in Bali, that’s the only other thing I’ve ever heard of, but what are some of the conferences that you have participated in that you think are really good?

PETER FENNER: I’ve been involved in conferences for many years. I’ve been involved in the annual Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy Conference since its beginning in 2000. This is a professional conference that is mainly intended for mental health professionals. I don’t do a lot of conferencing myself mainly because I love the trainings that I offer – and they’re a little conference in their own right. We had close to 30 people in the Advanced Nondual Training this year in both the states and in Amsterdam. The trainings are really much more rewarding for me than conferences which can tend to be a little bit intellectual.

TRIP: Yes. All right, well one last question for you. You’ve got the trainings, and the book, and the exercises, and it’s all excellent material. You also confess that there must be a network of support for people that engage in this. So from your point of view, what is the ideal looking network of support, what might it include for somebody?

PETER FENNER: Well, it’s really just a community of people who, or for whom, the nondual has become central in their lives. In our training we create a sense of community – we have an online community, and people also do a lot of one-on-one and group work with each other by telephone. Through these connections we have even begun to create bridges between our students in Europe and those in North America. Timeless Wisdom is just one umbrella for bringing students together and students’ practice can be powerfully informed and supported by working with other people. We have people meditating together by telephone, people call each other, say hi, and then they just begin. They’re here together. It brings a different quality to their contemplation just knowing that someone else is online doing this, this that can’t be found, this that’s not an action. They know someone is, or a few other people are, doing this with them at the same time. It’s like they create their own mini induction field.

WIZARD: We aspire to be a part of that community in affirming that with our listeners and audience, and I really appreciate that.

TRIP: We only have a couple more minutes, but I had one last question for you. You’ve been blessed with a level of mastery, and it’s quite apparent to me that it is beautiful and you’re now able to help so many others. But I’m just curious. Before you became a celibate monk, was there a time in your life where you were a numb skull like me, where you were a little chippy, or you didn’t really, get it, or you’re confused, or whatever, and then, I don’t know, can you reflect on that life journey, was there a time when things weren’t so sublime?

PETER FENNER: Yes, I could, but I notice that it may not be necessary to describe yourself in the way you just did. It’s so easy for us to put ourselves in a box and think, “Wow, I don’t have what’s needed, I don’t have the history.” It’s important to realize that no history is needed to be here in the purest and most ultimate way possible. We don’t have to have traveled a path, we don’t have to have suffered X amount, and we don’t have to have followed certain teachings. We’re just talking about being in our natural state in this moment, free of concerns about the past and the future.

TRIP: Well thank you for that, but if I want to really lay myself down on the couch, this is what I’ll say, and maybe you can… my own self perception is perhaps negatively conditioned by an idea that because I don’t abide in unconditioned awareness with nearly the consistency that you do, that this somehow then creates a hierarchical relationship in my mind between power and relative peace.

PETER FENNER: Yes, but this is not a competition or a need to find a way to get more out of it. Because you can’t rest here, we can’t be here, if we’re thinking about it in those terms. It’s just a slow process of reconditioning our minds so that we can rest here more frequently and we can make the journey back here when we feel that we’ve lost it, even though that we haven’t. We can make the journey back here more easily, with less effort, and more automatically. It’s just a slow process of cultivation over the years. In five years time, you realize, “Wow, I do have more access, this is really wonderful, the river of life has broadened for me. I do spend more time in my natural state, just resting as awareness, and interacting with others from this state.” In 10 years, we say, “Wow, and now it’s developing further.” So that’s the timeframe that I invite people to look at in their lives when they’re working with this nondual material, when they’re integrating this into their lives.

TRIP: Peter, you’re a beautiful, wonderful and gracious man [Laughs]. Thank you so much for joining us for this hour.

WIZARD: And thank you for sharing.

PETER FENNER: A really great pleasure. I loved being with you.

WIZARD: I was curious before this show as to whether that rock of silence and stillness would be accessible on the radio… It is.



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