Radiant Mind » Nondual Coaching 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 Nondual coaching with Dr Peter Fenner http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-coaching-with-dr-peter-fenner/ http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-coaching-with-dr-peter-fenner/#comments Sun, 27 Jan 2013 05:05:24 +0000 http://www.radiantmind.net/?p=14673 Nonduality in everyday life

Dr Peter Fenner coaches people who wish to become more familiar with the ultimate medicine of unconditioned awareness. 

Coaching sessions use awareness as the basis for opening to life’s challenges in a courageous and adventurous way.   We use the circumstances of your life as the ground for our conversations, and you learn how to journey the events of your life—your pain, anxiety, joy and celebration—into the vast and blissful ocean of pure awareness. 

Here is an extract from an article by Joel Agee which will give you the flavor of how a coaching session can unfold.


Not found, not lost

Extracted from Tricycle (Winter 2008) – Copyright © Joel Agee, 2008


Seven years ago I stumbled upon the website of an Australian university professor who offered telephone counseling informed by “Eastern Wisdom.” That offer held little appeal, but the professor’s name, Peter Fenner, sounded familiar. Then I remembered: He was the author of an astonishing essay I had read two years earlier with the odd sense, as I reached its conclusion, that the top of my head had been taken off like a lid. Excited though I was at the time, I had put the article on a shelf in the hallway, visible on top of various stray papers, where I suppose it addressed me subliminally, reminding me of its theme every time I glimpsed the cover of the magazine it was in. Now I read it again.

The practice in question was one of simply observing, steadily and without interference, the perpetual mobile of attraction and aversion that prompts most of our actions and supplies the fuel of practice itself. Exposed to the lucidity of simple awareness, practice dissolves into a practice of no practice (which is not the same thing as abandoning practice) where no one is doing or not doing anything, and natural freedom, no longer yearned for, naturally prevails. Something about this made me intensely curious.

I wrote Peter Fenner an email. I asked him if his impossible practice wasn’t essentially what the Dzogchen texts call “non-meditation.” Was he by any chance able to help me to experience rigpa, the nondual nature of mind? Vaguely, as I composed my message, I was asking myself: Would I fly to Melbourne for this? Should I risk a few thousand dollars for the unlikely chance of finding the jewel without price on the strength of this stranger’s assurances, if he gave them? The answer was yes.

I no longer have the response he sent me, but I remember one sentence: “I can show you this over the phone.” I was both skeptical and intrigued, attracted and averse. But the fee he proposed for an hour-long session was modest, and he would pay for the cost of the call. Why not? Maybe I would learn something.

Our conversation began with hello and how are you, do you hear me all right, followed by a brief exchange about the nature of my interest. I told him that I had been attracted to Buddhism for many years, that I believed I had experienced something like kensho a number of times, but found myself still searching, still convinced that something essential was eluding me.

“And what is that?” he asked.
A brief search for an answer: “I don’t know.”
“If you don’t know what it is, how do you know it’s eluding you?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that most of the time I’m living at less than my full capacity.”
“And now?”
“You mean right now?”
I didn’t know what to say about that.
“Take your time,” Peter said.
Take my time with what? I wondered. But I took my time. We were silent for a while.

What was his question? I no longer knew. What was going on? Were we meditating? Was this a test? Was there some insight I was supposed to have?

A flash of suspicion, hilarious on second thought: that I’d hooked myself up with a Buddhist con man. He’s selling emptiness. But that’s what I want, isn’t it?

Finally I spoke: “This is strange, being silent with someone on the phone. Especially someone I don’t know. I feel I should be telling you something.”
“I know what you mean. Maybe it helps if I tell you that I have no preference for speech over silence. I feel connected to you either way. We’re sharing the silence, after all.”

What a concept—sharing silence on the phone! I could do that. I listened. Then thoughts came, and I listened to those: If he has no preference for speech over silence, does the opposite hold true as well? Maybe I should talk. But why? I have only one question, and he knows what it is. And so forth. This mental gnawing and questing had been going on for so long that it had become automatic, like a tic or a compulsive worry. Now, in the stillness, I saw that, and felt myself drop into a deeper, steadier attention.

“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Okay. But I don’t understand what we’re doing.”
“We’re not doing anything. At least I’m not. Are you doing something?”
“Yes. I’m trying to understand.”
“Oh. There’s nothing to understand.”
“There’s nothing to work out either.”

I’m noticing now that this bare transcription (I took it down from memory shortly after the call) does not communicate the extraordinary delicacy of the exchange, or its radical difference from any conversation I had ever engaged in. That difference was partly due to its purpose—an inquiry into something that was by its nature not communicable through words. I knew that, and yet here we were on the phone, and he was letting me know at each moment—with and without words—that what I was listening for would not—because it could not—come to me by way of conceptual clarification.

My listening was, consequently, extremely alert—like the alertness one feels when the lights go out at night in an unfamiliar house. You don’t know where the next step will take you. There is no memory, or very little of it, to guide you, so the other senses, which were half asleep while the dominant sense of sight was in control, take over the unfamiliar task of navigation. But I was restricted to the single channel of hearing. The other senses were of little avail. And there was this pleasant voice advising me, in a tone of gentle precision and with an Australian accent, that my expectations were leading me astray.


Silence. The body was comfortably settled and stable, content. I could sit here forever, I thought. And then: It could be that I’ll never get this. And then, happily: It doesn’t matter. Maybe that was the turning point. The seeker came to rest, but without resignation.

What happened then… but when I say “happened,” it suggests an event, and there was no event. In a way, nothing happened. But this nothing that happened was a revelation. Unconditioned awareness, no longer sought as an object, shone in its own light, a luminous clarity without limit. I was looking out of my window. Trees, a wall, the sound of chimes stirred by a breeze, the humming stillness in the receiver, the man in Australia who had guided me into this miracle—everything was made of the same subtle substance. What was it? Just this—silent, self-knowing awareness. The walls in my room stood as solid as ever but seemed immaterial, as if painted on air. Thoughts came and went. They too were made of awareness. So was the sound of an airplane as it etched a long curve into the stillness and vanished.

And where was I in this? Where indeed! Everything that I normally associated with the sense of “me”—sensations, thoughts, feelings, the body as a whole—was emptied of “me”-ness. The sense of self, still palpably present, was indistinguishable, as was everything else, from this vast, clear, open space. 

Epiphanies are beautiful. Like fairy tales, they suggest the possibility of an “ever after.” The day after that call, I looked around for at least a residue of the bliss I had experienced. It was gone. It seemed I was again at the beck and call of the dualistic mind, believing its judgments, controlled by its fears. But in the course of several more telephone sessions with Peter I realized that something irreversible had occurred. The seeker had disappeared. He had never existed in the first place, but now it was obvious. For forty years I had been searching, never realizing that what I was looking for was this which was looking, and that this which was looking could neither be lost nor found.


Copyright © Joel Agee 2008







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Nondual Ecology http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-ecology-interview-of-peter-fenner/ http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-ecology-interview-of-peter-fenner/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2011 19:25:45 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=2389 Unstructured, contentless and ineffable – Part 1

An Interview of Peter Fenner, Ph.D. by Alex Dijk for BewustZijn magazine

The Australian Peter Fenner (1949) lived nine years as a Tibetan monk, and then taught in the academic world. He is now regarded as an expert in applying and adapting Asian nondual wisdom through his programs, the “Radiant Mind Course” and the “Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training.”

“I am very fortunate in that what I do now with my life is essentially what I hope to be doing until I die. I try to live my life so that I suffer less at a personal level. I hope that this then increases my capacity to support other people. My path has been one of discovering, first, to take care of ‘me’ so that I’m less preoccupied with myself, and then having done that, freeing up my time and energy to begin to contribute to others.

I’ve been involved with Buddhist teachings for quite a long time. Buddhism captured my attention 40 years ago because the idea that our needs and preferences are the source of our suffering made immediate sense to me at an intellectual level. Having what we don’t want, and not having what we do want, is the recipe for all our pain, upset and dissatisfaction. If we can free ourselves from the ‘need’ for things to be different, or to stay the same, we have discovered a state of unconditional freedom. This is what is meant by the term ‘nirvana.’ It is the state where nothing needs to be different. So the path consists of gradually reducing our needs and loosening the restrictions of our preferences.”

Big demands

“More recently I’ve seen how this teaching and path offers the most efficient way for addressing the ecological imperatives which become more obvious day-by-day. The work of reducing the demands we place on external sources of pleasure and satisfaction is entirely relevant to the environmental discourse of today. It is the demands we make on planet earth that are rapidly degrading the quality of our environment, which in turn compound existing social and geopolitical pressures.

There are really two sets of demands that we make on the external world. There are the demands we make of other people, and the demands we make on the biosphere. The demands we make on others are the source of our interpersonal problems and conflicts: in couples, within families, within societies, between countries, races and religions. When we make demands, we place requirements on other people to be a particular way, and not be so in other ways.

Similarly we make tremendous demands on the environment because we believe that we need all sorts of things in order to be fulfilled. We are relatively incapable of ‘just being with ourselves,’ simply sitting and enjoying our connection and relationship with awareness itself. Instead we need to be entertained, amused, distracted or unconscious. The external resources that are required to keep us just marginally content are truly phenomenal. Just look at the funds involved in producing sporting events, luxury cars, technological gadgets, feature films, etc. If we decreased our demands on the external world by 10%, we would be living in a different world. It would be unrecognizable. Physically, tangibly, the world would be a different place.

Similarly, our relationships would transform if the source of our fulfilment was coming from within. The wonderful thing is we can make this change. We can train ourselves to rest peacefully in the nature of our own being, without needing to look outside for emotional pleasures and sensory stimulation. The greatest pleasure and peace comes from just being able to be completely fulfilled with things exactly as they are.”

Sustainable thinking

“We also set standards for our physical wellbeing that place a huge cost on the environment. We spend enormous amounts of money on our appearance: wearing the right clothes, trying to look young and attractive. In some weird way we want to be in optimum health, right up until the moment of our death! Globally, we expend vast amounts of energy and spend huge sums of money trying to retard the aging process and prolong life.

What a great asset it would be if we could just let ourselves age, for example, without holding on to some notion of agelessness or immortality. No one really believes that we can remain young forever, and still the illusion motivates us to spend enormous resources on trying to forestall the aging process.

The ecological alternative here is to discover how we already have everything that’s needed to be fulfilled in the most comprehensive way possible. This isn’t just a fanciful idea. There are hundreds of thousands of great spiritual masters throughout the ages that have shown us that this is possible. There are sages who lived in ‘great bliss’ in severe environments without any heating or air-conditioning, without the latest gadgets, and without the security of knowing that quality medical care was close at hand.

The ultimate benchmark that these sages offer us is the possibility of making the journey through aging and dying without losing a connection with the supernal bliss of unconditioned awareness. For these sages, death itself was a non-event. As the 16th Karmapa of Tibet said on his deathbed in 1981, ‘nothing happens.’”


But more significantly, we can make our own experiment right now. Here we are. We’ve come together in this moment. How do we discover, first-hand, the very same reality that allowed the sages of the past and present to remain unperturbed in the face of the very same experiences that throw us into confusion, obsession, anger or fear.

The remarkable news is that nothing is needed in order to make this discovery. We don’t need ‘more time,’ to be somewhere else, to receive a superior teaching, or engage in a special practice. All that’s required is to see that we can be—that we are, in fact—already fulfilled. In this moment we don’t need anything more. We don’t need more money, a different body, a different partner—not in this very instant.

This moment—right now—is giving us everything we need just to be here; unassumingly, effortlessly, being ‘no one’ in particular, and with no need to be anywhere else. That’s the magic of this moment. This moment is perfect. Why? Because don’t need anything more. Here we are—you and me—in this tight, quite unique, perhaps slightly weird, but effortless conversation. We started with my observations about Buddhism and it’s relevance to ecology, and here we are, not asking for anything more. This moment is giving us everything we need just to be here, in the simplest way possible. We don’t need to be entertained, right now—enough is happening. We don’t need a flashy car—we’re not in it! In this moment, we don’t need a different standard of living, or a better return on our investments—we are clothed, fed and comfortable. We have everything we need, in order to rest with ‘what is.’

The beauty of this moment is that it’s effortless and uncontrived. The magic of this moment is that it’s ungraspable and ineffable. We can’t say what ‘this’ moment is. It leaves without a trace or history. In the very same moment that it arises, it disappears. We can’t say where it comes from, or where it goes. We can’t even say ‘where’ this is, except that ‘this’ is where it is: where ever that is! We can’t think about ‘this’ because there is nothing to think about. This is exactly what the sages mean when they say that ‘this’ is ineffable.

And now we can also see that if we are ‘here’ at the moment of our death, we have no fear. If we were to remain in this state, our death would be uneventful. The process of dying is nothing more than a continual letting go of everything at the conditioned level: our body, our friends, our possessions, our memories—in fact, the entire known world. At our death we say goodbye forever, to everything that we know and we never return. If we are here—resting in unconditioned awareness—everything can drop away with no grasping or attachment.”

Practicing no-practice

“So, how do we go about this? How do we stay connected with ‘present awareness,’ not just now but going into the future? How do we cultivate this way of being? In one way that’s simple, just by being ‘here,’ whenever we can. Right now we have an opportunity, and we are using it. We’re still in this conversation together, and it has taken us into ‘present-moment-awareness.’ And these opportunities will return, again and again.

Visiting this place, resting here, enables ‘this’ to come into the foreground. Over time this might even become the baseline state. But we should be reminded that there is no practice involved in doing this. You haven’t been practicing these last few minutes. Neither have I. We’ve come together in a resonant field that allows the quality of this present moment to emerge like bubbles floating to the surface of water. This is a matter of recognition rather than practice. We recognize when it’s possible to be ‘here,’ and then we recognize ‘this.’

And yes, our capacity to recognize this opportunity does produce a change in our objectives. Our objective swings away from being preoccupied with our body, our finances and our relationships. We see that in this moment, we don’t need more zeros to our investment account. The objective right now is to continue to be ‘here.’ Not here as a physical location, but here as a state of consciousness that simply precludes the possibility of feeling that anything is missing, or wrong, or even that things could be better.

Over time, the contrast becomes clear. If we had the option of resting ‘here’ for the rest of our lives, or accumulating more assets, or keeping ourselves young and beautiful, the choice is obvious. It’s a choice between unconditional contentment and the ups and downs of chasing after fleeting experiences.”

Nondual Ecology – Part 2

Peter Fenner, Ph.D.

Copyright © Peter Fenner, 2011


Peter Fenner, Ph.D. is a spiritual leader in the adaption and transmission of Asian nondual wisdom. Pioneer in the development of nondual therapy, he created the Radiant Mind Course® and the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training. Peter runs courses, trainings, retreats and satsang telecalls and offers individual coaching sessions. His students and clients include Buddhist psychotherapists, psychologists, coaches, Zen masters, Sufi masters, Vipassana and Mindfulness teachers, Yoga teachers, psychiatrists, medical doctors, hospice workers, students of Tibetan Buddhism, followers of Advaita, artists and spiritual seekers worldwide.

Peter was a celibate monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for 9 years and has a Ph.D. in the philosophical psychology of Mahayana Buddhism. Over a period of 40 years Peter Fenner has distilled the essence of traditions like Zen, Dzogchen and the Buddhist Middle Way, and adapted them to suit creatively our post-modern culture. He is the Director of Education of Timeless Wisdom.

The Radiant Mind Course (www.radiantmind.net) is taught in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as the Natural Awakening Training, (www.nondualtraining.com.) Peter also offers retreats on 5 continents. He has presented his work at leading universities and institutions including Columbia, Stanford, CIIS and Naropa.

Peter Fenner has written extensively on Buddhist nondual traditions. His books and CDs include:

Stay in touch with Peter Fenner


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Nondual Ecology – Part 2 http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-ecology_part-2_by_peter-fenner/ http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-ecology_part-2_by_peter-fenner/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2011 17:48:29 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=2394 Unstructured, contentless and ineffable – Part 2

An Interview of Peter Fenner, Ph.D. by Alex Dijk for BewustZijn magazine

[…] Click here to read Nondual Ecology – Part 1

A shared experience

“The place we are exploring now is where we always are. It’s never a different place. We’re not talking about me sitting here in Amsterdam being interviewed, and you, wherever you are, reading this. It’s here where we meet, in a space where we access a state of consciousness that goes beyond our individual conditions, yet doesn’t deny them either. This is a transcendental state of consciousness, but not transcendental in a way that disconnects us from the reality of our lives. We are fully present, totally present to each other in this moment. At the same time, we are accessing a state of consciousness that has nothing to do with us that is timeless, that isn’t limited by our physical location.

This is the same state of consciousness that the great sages were familiar with and lived their lives from. And we’re here, touching it, learning how to connect with it, learning how to expand it. There have been people who have lived their entire lives from this place, but even if we’re unable to do that in this lifetime, still, just connecting this once, to know that this is possible, is the greatest blessing that can happen. Why? Because this gives us a new frame of reference that can really change our lives. We say: ‘Aha! So it’s not just about my career! It’s not just about getting the right partner! It’s not just about bringing up the right children, and being the perfect parent!’ Some of those things might be part of our lives, but living is also knowing how to access unconditioned, timeless awareness that is beyond cultures, beyond you and me.

This is the only state that we can truly share with each other, in which we both know exactly where the ‘other’ is. There’s no scope for misinterpretation here. I don’t have to ask you what you mean by ‘this.’ You don’t have to ask me what I mean – we know this is beyond our personal interpretations.”

What are we talking about?

“As a reader you now have two options. Either you are in the groove of where we’re moving, or you might be quite lost. It’s easy to get lost in this at some point, because that’s what happens when we’re still trying to ‘understand’ what ‘this’ is. The need to know, the need to understand, is sometimes like a mountain that we have to climb over or move through before we can rest here. We have a habit of needing to know and thinking that if we can’t know what this is, then we have no means of relating to it.

One of my guiding principles is to do whatever needs to be done in order to rest in this space, in order to be here. That’s not the same as doing nothing. If we do nothing, if we’re inactive, the world just demands our attention anyway, doesn’t it? It forces its way into our lives in the form of broken relationships, medical problems, financial difficulties, and so on. Things go wrong if we don’t take care of our career, our responsibilities to our parents, our children, our body and so on.

Our presencing of pure awareness make us more finely attuned to what’s happening at the conditioned level. It shows us how to do no more and no less than what’s required at the level of environment, body, money, and relationships in order to spend more time in this ultimate state, called buddhamind.”


“Within the unconditioned state itself, there’s no activity. And yet, right now there’s also quite a lot of action. A lot is happening in our conversation while we’re resting in awareness. This is also highly creative because I don’t know what I’ll be saying from one minute to the next. I don’t know how you will be responding to me and vice versa, so it’s a dynamic state, but at the same time ‘nothing’ is happening at all. Communication and the silence of unperturbed awareness are happening at the same time. There are two dimensions to tune into. There’s the dimension of movement and activity, of words coming out of my mouth: the conditioned state. That’s obvious. And we also tune into the ‘field’ of awareness within which this is all happening.

This awareness is like a mirror: it reflects what’s happening, but isn’t changed by the activities themselves. The only hesitancy I have in using a word like ‘field,’ or any word really, is that it has associations for people. And so the ideal in pointing to the unconditioned dimension of this moment is to use words that have minimal associations. If the words we use have associations, they give us something to think about. This is why some traditions simply refer to this as ‘suchness’ or ‘this-ness.’ A word like ‘suchness’ is great because it points to ‘this’ without saying anything else.

This state has no structure. It’s completely unstructured; it’s contentless. That means we can never understand awareness. It’s not an object of knowledge. What we can understand, what we can study, what we can theorise about and write about are the objects of awareness: sense phenomena, thoughts and feelings. We can develop physical and psychological theories about the nature of reality at the objective level, which is the level of the objects of awareness, but awareness itself can not be known.”


“Something unique is happening in this conversation. It’s moving differently than most conversations. We can feel how our minds are functioning differently. We can feel the energy moving in our bodies. We are aware of the different phenomena, the transformations that are happening at the conditioned level, the mental, emotional and physical impact this has on us. Exploring awareness in the way that we are can produce all sorts of wonderful feelings, including a sense of wonder and excitement. This is great. You can just let that happen. But we can also recognize that the excitement has nothing to do with ‘this.’ Excitement comes and goes. You can let it be here long as it is, know that at some point it will disappear. As the excitement matures, we can really tune into how this is different, because it can’t be lost. There is ‘nothing’ to lose. Here we are again, pointing to a dimension of reality that is generally inaccessible to most people.

Why are we doing this? We’re not doing anything. This transcendent dimension of being is just here again. It’s not a ‘thing,’ but still it’s here, and we are pointing at it, because we can. Most people miss this, because it’s invisible. We can’t hear it, we can’t touch it, or even think about it, so it’s very easy to miss. And still, nothing could be simpler than this. Nothing needs to change. We don’t have to do anything different. There’s no more work to be done.

When we read the writings from the great sages of thousands of years ago, we know that they knew ‘this.’ They were here, in this exact same space. This is what they were pointing to in their writings and teachings. They use different names like primordial awareness and the awakened mind. In Sanskrit, it’s called prajñāpāramitā which means ‘transcendental wisdom.’

If you look at it, everything we do is ultimately aimed at being here, because this is where the path stops. There’s no more path, and nowhere further to go. The work is over, the work is done. We’ve gained the ultimate state. We’re resting in the state that’s the ultimate goal of all human endeavours in every field. From conducting wars, to entering into relationship, to trying to make a billion dollars, whatever it is, it is all aimed at being here. It’s all aimed at getting to the point where the game is over, where we can truly and deeply say that everything has been accomplished. And here we are at that point, at least in this moment. We’re at the top of the mountain. There is nowhere further to go. And what’s so incredible is that it’s not even an accomplishment. We can say what it is, but we don’t need to.”


“But at some point we won’t believe this. At some point we’ll think: ‘No, hang on, there are these other important things that need to happen.’ We’ll forget this, and there will be projects and things that we think we will have to put our effort and energy into. We’ll think that we’ve lost this state, when in fact there’s nothing to lose. This is beyond loss and gain, we haven’t gained any thing. We have and we haven’t. That’s the paradox.

There’s nothing to perpetuate, nothing to hang on to. If we get into the mindset of trying to perpetuate ‘this,’ it’s no longer ‘this,’ it’s something else. All we need to do right now is appreciate how this is happening by itself. If we think we need to do something to ‘stay here,’ we immediately see that there’s nothing to perpetuate. And that’s how this continues, by seeing that there’s nothing to perpetuate!

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share this time and space with you.”

Copyright © Peter Fenner, 2011


Peter Fenner, Ph.D. is a spiritual leader in the adaption and transmission of Asian nondual wisdom. Pioneer in the development of nondual therapy, he created the Radiant Mind Course® and the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training. Peter runs courses, trainings, retreats and satsang telecalls and offers individual coaching sessions. His students and clients include Buddhist psychotherapists, psychologists, coaches, Zen masters, Sufi masters, Vipassana and Mindfulness teachers, Yoga teachers, psychiatrists, medical doctors, hospice workers, students of Tibetan Buddhism, followers of Advaita, artists and spiritual seekers worldwide.

Peter was a celibate monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for 9 years and has a Ph.D. in the philosophical psychology of Mahayana Buddhism. Over a period of 40 years Peter Fenner has distilled the essence of traditions like Zen, Dzogchen and the Buddhist Middle Way, and adapted them to suit creatively our post-modern culture. He is the Director of Education of Timeless Wisdom.

The Radiant Mind Course (www.radiantmind.net) is taught in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as the Natural Awakening Training, (www.nondualtraining.com.) Peter also offers retreats on 5 continents. He has presented his work at leading universities and institutions including Columbia, Stanford, CIIS and Naropa.

Peter Fenner has written extensively on Buddhist nondual traditions. His books and CDs include:

Stay in touch with Peter Fenner


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Nondual Therapy and Nondual Coaching http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-therapy-and-nondual-coaching-some-distinctions/ http://www.radiantmind.net/nondual-therapy-and-nondual-coaching-some-distinctions/#comments Tue, 10 May 2011 01:00:48 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=1601 Nondual Therapy and Nondual Coaching – Some Distinctions

Question: What is the difference between nondual therapy and nondual coaching?

Peter Fenner: Nondual therapy has emerged from within the field of psychotherapy. Nondual therapists are credentialed psychologists or psychotherapists who have easy access to nondual awareness, who recognize this as the ultimate state of being and are skillful in supporting their clients in resting as awareness when this can arise naturally and appropriately. They have received training within one or several therapeutic modalities such as transpersonal, humanistic, existential, eclectic, cognitive-behavioral or depth psychology. Nonetheless, nondual awareness sits in the foreground as an ever-present possibility in each clinical encounter.

The therapeutic context means that clients tend to approach a therapist feeling that some event or events in their life history negatively impact the quality of their present and future life. With this assumption, entry into the nondual is often preceded by the release of somatically embedded emotions and detachment from personal narratives prior to engaging with questions such as; “Who thinks that?” or, “Where are those feelings being received?”

In nondual therapy, nondual awareness itself is also used as an agent for clearing past traumas and for seeing that less work—or even no work—needs to be done in terms of processing the past in order to be totally complete and fully integrated with the present moment. Awareness is used as the ultimate healer. For the most part, nondual therapy augments other forms of therapy. Ultimately there’s no such thing as “nondual” therapy since there is “no one” in need of anything.

These days, many informed spiritual people specifically decide to work with therapists who have access to the nondual and can integrate this into their therapy. People recognize a need to work with their obsessions, fears, traumatic memories, shadow side, but want to do this in a way that doesn’t fortify the energy of their limitations, or conflict in any way with ever-present awareness.

Nondual coaching differs from nondual therapy in at least two ways. Firstly, nondual coaching can be a “stand alone” offer. People approach nondual coaches with the specific intention of discovering nondual awareness and learning how to become more and more familiar with this state. In contrast, people tend to engage nondual therapists with the dual objective of improving their emotional wellbeing and exploring pure awareness. The tacit or explicit agreement when people work with a nondual coach is that the coach will “speak from, and relate from, the space of awareness itself.”

This means that skilled coaches can operate more consistently at a “results level” in which there is little deviation into the stories and interpretation we have about our life and conditioned experience. The function of the coach is to continually reveal centerless awareness in ways that allow their clients to become more and more familiar with this space. When clients identify with their personal experience or begin to construct that they are resting or not resting in awareness, the coach observes this deviation into the dualistic mind.

I know many therapists who work with the nondual, who weave the nondual into their therapy in a very skillful way, but this is different from unfolding a session at the 100% results or acausal level. In fact, very few coaches unfold their sessions at a purely acausal level because no matter what people say, this isn’t what they want. In the same way that we say we don’t want to suffer, but nonetheless continue year after year with energizing the very experience that we complain about. It’s demanding on a client to function purely at the results level. When therapists and coaches sense that “coming purely from the nondual” is too much for their clients they shift into a causal paradigm and begin to look into their client’s personal stories. Sometimes this shift is a skillful means, but it can also come from a fear of losing clients.

Another significant difference between nondual therapy and nondual coaching is that therapists (and this includes nondual therapists) have a professional obligation to help people who come to them in need of support, even if this means referring people to other mental health professionals. From a nondual perspective “picking and choosing” clients can’t happen. The process of engaging with a nondual teacher arises through a self-selecting mechanism that goes beyond personal preferences or professional obligations.


Question: From what you are saying, from the nondual perspective, it is better to work with a nondual coach?

Peter: I haven’t said that. In the course of any session with a therapist or coach, most people can only rest in awareness for a few minutes at a time. The advantage of working with a licensed psychotherapist is that they have received many years of training and supervision in the art of caring for people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Nondual therapists pace their introduction to centerless awareness to the intrinsic capacities of their clients. They also aren’t newcomers to the block. Many have spent 20, 30 or 40 years exploring nondual awareness. And there is an essential guarantee that psychotherapists treat their clients respectfully and practice in a way that clients needn’t be concerned about any relational intrusions or ethical transgressions. This is important to most people.

Coaching as a professional intervention is much younger than psychotherapy. While there are professional associations that aim to uphold the standards of their members, no professional training or license is needed to set up shop as a coach. In general, coaching focuses on the future, on creating and leveraging opportunities and on achieving specified outcomes.

It is misleading to think of nondual coaching as a specific form, for instance, of life coaching. Nondual awareness can be integrated into life coaching, career coaching, sports coaching, health or even financial counseling. Within this framework the coach takes on the future orientation of their clients, but also shows how none of our planning for a better future is needed if we rest in nondual awareness in the present moment. They may also show that the best thing to do to “secure the best future” is to presence awareness whenever this is possible. Nonetheless, a life coach who is using the nondual will continue to return to their clients’ agendas.

Nowadays, the term “nondual coaching” refers to the specific action of introducing people to the nature of mind. At its essence, nondual coaching is the same as “mind-to-mind” transmission in Zen or pointing out instructions in Mahamudra or Dzogchen. People work with a nondual coach with the very specific intention of discovering, resting and acting from centerless awareness. Of course, we know that this intention presupposes that presencing awareness isn’t happening in this moment. And this is precisely the type of assumption that a coach points out.

In the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training we don’t explicitly differentiate between nondual therapy and nondual coaching. We offer a process that’s equally applicable to both; that can be used by both coaches and therapists. If, for example, someone feels that a particular life event—a trauma or their upbringing—is an obstacle to presencing awareness, then the initial tack may seem to be therapeutic. On the other hand, if someone is seeking to improve their living circumstances—their financial wellbeing, finding a career that’s more consistent with their values, etc.—the initial conversation may look like life coaching. But very quickly the conversation will transform into an inquiry into what’s missing in the here and now.

Nondual coaching and nondual therapy share a focus on “working in the here and now,” and both approaches use nondual dialogue, or unfindability inquiry to dissolve our constructions that anything is wrong or missing in the present moment. Whether the approach is more like therapy or coaching is determined, in part, by where people are coming from in terms of being located in a past or future concern, and whether the perceived obstacles to fulfillment are emotional or situational.

The outcomes of both nondual therapy and nondual coaching are the same. The endpoint can’t be different because the result—the embodied presencing of nondual awareness—goes beyond dualistic ideas of sameness and difference.


Question: So what would you recommend for a beginner?

Peter: For a real beginner I’d recommend gaining more familiarity with nondual awareness itself. At some point a particular direction will come to you, or it may not.


Question: I’m at the point where I’m familiar with this state. I rest here often, and I’m beginning to support others in terms of discovering how to be “here.” What would you recommend to me in terms of perhaps training as a psychologist, or beginning to tell people that I’m a nondual coach?

Peter: You don’t need to think about that right now. That question just gives you something to think about. The question of a direction will become obvious. This isn’t about becoming a therapist, a coach, or anything else. This is about being here, complete in this moment, and sharing this space through whatever structures and labels present themselves in the moment.

If you are to become a nondual coach, you don’t need to tell anyone about who you are. It will become obvious to other people that you can contribute to them in this way. People will start to talk about you as a nondual coach. If there is anything you “need” to do from your side, you won’t be doing nondual coaching or nondual therapy.

Copyright © Peter Fenner, 2011


Peter Fenner, Ph.D. is a spiritual leader in the adaption and transmission of Asian nondual wisdom. Pioneer in the development of nondual therapy, he created the Radiant Mind Course® and the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training. Peter runs courses, trainings, retreats and satsang telecalls and offers individual coaching sessions. His students and clients include Buddhist psychotherapists, psychologists, coaches, Zen masters, Sufi masters, Vipassana and Mindfulness teachers, Yoga teachers, psychiatrists, medical doctors, hospice workers, students of Tibetan Buddhism, followers of Advaita, artists and spiritual seekers worldwide.

Peter was a celibate monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for 9 years and has a Ph.D. in the philosophical psychology of Mahayana Buddhism. Over a period of 40 years Peter Fenner has distilled the essence of traditions like Zen, Dzogchen and the Buddhist Middle Way, and adapted them to suit creatively our post-modern culture. He is the Director of Education of Timeless Wisdom.

The Radiant Mind Course (www.radiantmind.net) is taught in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as the Natural Awakening Training, (www.nondualtraining.com.) Peter also offers retreats on 5 continents. He has presented his work at leading universities and institutions including Columbia, Stanford, CIIS and Naropa.

Peter Fenner has written extensively on Buddhist nondual traditions. His books and CDs include:

Stay in touch with Peter Fenner


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Transmitting Nonduality, the Ultimate Medicine http://www.radiantmind.net/transmitting-nonduality-sharing-the-ultimate-medicine/ http://www.radiantmind.net/transmitting-nonduality-sharing-the-ultimate-medicine/#comments Mon, 09 May 2011 09:41:15 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=1613 Nondual transmission, sharing the Ultimate Medicine

Nondual awareness—what is also called “buddhamind,” “suchness,” “just this,” “original wisdom” and many other names—is the most precious space that a person can realize. To rest and live in this space is the ultimate medicine because here there is no sense of lack or deficiency. No matter how things are; no matter what sensations are arising in the body, no matter what is being thought, or where we are in terms of health or material resources, nothing more is needed . We live from a space that can’t be enhanced or improved because “here” no one needs anything.

Nondual awareness is the most precious resource available to every human being and for humanity at large; especially as we negotiate our way through this critical phase of human history. There’s no question that the most efficient way to demand less from our delicate environment is to discover the space of authentic self-sufficiency, and live more thoroughly from a place where we’re nourished and fulfilled by awareness itself.

Every day, some people awake in a selfless recognition of their fundamental nature — a sphere of awareness through which life moves—without this being shown to them by a teacher. There are innumerable cases of spontaneous realization throughout human history. But in the majority of cases people come to this recognition through a connection with an Advaita master, Zen practice, the instructions of a Dzogchen lama, working with Western non-aligned teachers, nondual therapists, or timeless texts that directly point to awareness itself.

But don’t I need to be realized before sharing nondual awareness?

Some people feel that it’s impossible to learn how to cultivate and transmit nondual awareness. They hold that it arises without any causes. At one level this is true. Nothing can bring “this” into being, because “nothing” is being created. “This” is always, already here. Still, the wisdom of the “pristine self-sufficient purity of this moment” has also been consciously transmitted, at least from the time when the Buddha held up a flower and the great Kashyapa received a direct transmission of a contentless wisdom revealing the nature of consciousness itself.

Nondual awareness has been consciously revealed in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people through self inquiry, koans, clear seeing or vipashyana, pointing out events, and visionary meetings (darshan). These methods first entered the West 50 years or so ago. Today, half a century later, a significant number of Westerners are maturing as authentic agents for nondual transmission.

While the mind-to-mind transmission of pure awareness goes beyond all agency and contrivance, it’s possible to see how transmission happens, and use a broad palette of tools and sensitivities to awaken this in others. If someone has a clear recognition of the centerless space of nondual awareness and a natural impulse to share at this level, it’s definitely possible to refine the capacity for nondual transmission and extend the reach of the field in which this happens.

Many forms of nondual inquiry

There are many forms of nondual inquiry. Indian Mahayana, Zen, Advaita and Dzogchen all have their preferred methods. Some approaches are confrontational, others are gentle. Some are incremental, others are sudden. Some methods lend themselves to group entrainment, others are more suited to a one-on-one, dokusan-type of exchange. Some approaches build on a foundation of contemplative serenity, others cut through intellectualization in swift, robust dialogues.

Bringing your first-hand experience to the Nondual Training

The Nondual Training brings together a community of new and seasoned teachers, therapists or coaches who have a breadth and wealth of experience in nondual transmission and psychospiritual expertise, that is unparalleled. Together we share and explore the ins and outs of nondual inquiry and transmission. As a group we draw on more than 500 years of first-hand practical experience and accumulated wisdom derived from a very wide range of nondual lineages.

I know that some teachers strongly caution against stepping outside of a particular lineage of transmission, fearing that sharing the path with practitioners from other traditions, can dilute the integrity and authenticity of their teaching. My experience is quite the opposite. People who are clear and confident in presencing nondual awareness know that nothing can threaten this space because there’s nothing here: no beliefs, practices or values that can be distorted or destroyed.

In this case exposure to a variety of ways of sharing nonduality only serves to enrich, empower and bring clarity to our own unique way of embodying and sharing the nondual.

Demystifying transmission

The process of sharing our skills and expertise reveals the structures of effective transmission. We demystify events such as pointing-out instructions and Zen dokusan. The framework of the Training introduces a language and set of subtle distinctions through which participants share and understand the function and relevance of different ways for delivering the same contentless wisdom. These distinctions continues to be enriched as the Training unfolds. A set of core distinctions is offered in a comprehensive Manual that’s been specially written for the Training.

See a detailed description of the structure of the Natural Awakening Nondual Training


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Introduction to the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training http://www.radiantmind.net/introd-to-the-nondual-training-audio/ http://www.radiantmind.net/introd-to-the-nondual-training-audio/#comments Fri, 04 Mar 2011 21:29:27 +0000 http://www.nondualtraining.com/?p=1648 Recording of a conference call with Peter Fenner, November 2009

Applying the Advanced Nondual Training to Therapeutic Settings
In this 12 minute clip, Peter describes how the Advanced Nondual Training can be used in a therapeutic setting. He also describes the structure of the three workshops in detail.

Information about the Natural Awakening: Advanced Nondual Training
In this 5 minute clip, Peter introduces the Advanced Nondual Training.


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