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TOPIC: Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner?

Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 08:19 #19273

Back to Peter Fenner... I really liked the book

ESSENTIAL WISDOM TEACHINGS
Fenner, Peter; Fenner, Penny; Penny
Published by Nicolas-Hays (2001-04)
ISBN 10: 0892540532 / ISBN 13: 9780892540532

I read it about 20 years ago and it offered a very good "algorithm" for relating to experience, which ranged from a disassociated state, a conflicted state,... leading up to "presence". It was a really good psychological framework and helped me a lot in diagnosing my own psychological armor and patterns of interior talk that kept me locked into different psychological states of relating to experience.

However, this teaching seemed to go only so far and then kinda hit a wall. It's the wall that you get when you try to apply dzogchen or other teachings way to soon, I suspect.

I wanted to double check this idea and so listened to Radiant Mind CD series. I've only gotten to disk 3 and I need to stop. Something just seems wrong.... there is a lot of talk about unconditioned awareness, but he's talking about it almost in an intellectual sense. His CD is full of truisms about uncondition-ness, but it mostly is a bunch of talk round having a relaxed present experience. No formal practice except that.

Here's Buddhists Geeks interview... I was wondering if other folks could give this a read and see if the same kind of warning bells go off for you as they did for me. Seems like his years as a monk where concurrent with earning a PhD and after nine years he found Buddhism was inadequate. It just seems to me like he had a shallow experience, and went into the world of intellectual non-dualism and therapy --- which is fine, but only as far as it goes.

Any thoughts?

www.buddhistgeeks.com/2009/07/bg-128-pet...-natural-meditation/
Last Edit: 17 Apr 2014 08:20 by shargrol.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 08:46 #19274

Is the issue that what he is saying seems to easy, too trite?
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 09:54 #19276

Yes, verging on truism. In other words, not wrong, but not quite helpful. Ripe for possibilities of spiritual bypassing and surficial understanding.

Thinking out loud... maybe the teaching/investigation/understanding of dependent origination (or whatever one wants to call it) is critically important for actual illuminating suffering and its cause.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 10:17 #19278

There has been a little rash of "BS generators" going around the web lately, and under the influence of those-- generalities about spirituality, or practice, are sounding ludicrously vapid. Both my own and others'. So I really can't say whether Fenner is egregious or has something useful to say, at the moment.

Although I have to admit a prejudice against 1) EST/Landmark; and 2) spirituality as a consumer product.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 11:14 #19279

... maybe the teaching/investigation/understanding of dependent origination (or whatever one wants to call it) is critically important for actual illuminating suffering and its cause.

I think there's something to this, yes. Even advanced practitioners from the Zen and Vajrayana traditions that I've been able to talk to in depth have an appreciation for the mind-generated experiences we usually accept as our reality. So whether an appreciation for dependent origination comes from a literal, detailed vipassana-like investigation or from encountering the process over time on the cushion in other ways, that appreciation seems to make a difference.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 12:25 #19282

Hi shargrol,

While reading some threads on this site, I came across your inquiry into Peter Fenner's Radiant Mind course, but I saw it a bit late.

I have the course, and, while I'm not sure I've ever experienced Radiant Mind, or Unconditioned Awareness, I have received some benefit from the course.

Maybe the stuff that resonates with me is just basic, beginner level teachings. But, for me, the way he talks about it is stripped of complication. Our attachment to suffering, our need to know, our need to construct meaning, observing fixations, & methods of avoiding reality have been great material for me to work with, and, I can say that some positive changes have resulted after listening & applying what he taught.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 13:08 #19283

Thanks Tina. Me too, for sure. But I did feel like I hit a wall with him. Any particular reason you're not still using his teaching?
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 13:53 #19285

If I gave the impression that I'm not still using his teaching, I apologize.

In fact, I do return to it periodically, to reinforce certain things that I'm trying to absorb into my practice. At times, I have been frustrated with the teachings on Unconditioned Awareness, but, I'm not faulting the teaching. I'm assuming that it's just something that I have not yet recognized at this time in my practice. I'm still pre-path, and, maybe with some time and at least getting stream entry, something might click.

Also, I've had similar frustration with other non-dual/Advaita approaches. I can never connect with the attempts to point out Awareness itself, so I tend to gravitate toward things I can relate to, like how I might fixate on ideas, attempt to know or explain certain things, etc. Those are more concrete for me, and so that's why the Radiant Mind program is helpful to me. Until I have a significant shift, the awareness teachings will sit on the back burner!
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 15:36 #19289

When I read the Fenner/BG interview I find nothing that disagrees with my experience. He's selling something, though, that reminds me of the Big Mind stuff that Genpo Roshi was pushing a few years ago. It's very commercial in its orientation, sold more like New Age self help than deep spirituality. It's Spirituality Lite, maybe, so it's off-putting to me. But, like I said, I can't argue with his descriptions of non-duality, awareness, etc. I think he knows it.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 16:21 #19291

I've really bounced back and forth on whether he knows it. Both you and Ron has said he knows it, so that says something.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 17:08 #19292

I can't be sure, shargrol. It would be better to spend time with him f2f, but he writes about it like he knows it.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 17 Apr 2014 18:10 #19294

I think it's the "materialist" language he uses. Unconditioned awareness, desirelessness, completeless, etc. are said as solid nouns, which really isn't how those things are experienced, at least to me. It's more like space or freedom or timelessness or free fall, but nothing that seems applicable to label . So talking about it in such material language makes it all feel superficial, commercial, heartless.

And ugh, the "therapist voice" thing is very tedious when he's saying truisms, as if that can make it profound or an insight. (Like right now, he's saying "if you weren't born when you were, then things would be different... you wouldn't be here, right now, in the way you are")

When those are taken together, it comes off as superficial and manipulative. Ah well. May it benefit others even if it doesn't benefit me at this time.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 19 Apr 2014 10:52 #19306

Very interesting... Now on CD 4 he's presenting the other side of it, balancing things out much better. At first, he was laying down the "the unconditioned mind cannot be obscured because it is unconditioned" so much that it became trite. Now he's talking about how resistance to reactivity obscures the unconditioned mind (i.e., not that that tonality of reactivity itself obscures the unconditioned mind, but rather the incomplete/resisted experience of those tones is a narrowing of experience so to speak.)

I suspect that what is occurring is, for the sake of a multi-CD presentation, the communication is a bit over extended and some filler bits were thrown in.

(As an aside, yesterday I was re-checking out another very commercialized site by someone who I think knows it, but who I think has gone off the deep end in presenting the material. There is the same pattern. Rather than take someone through a balanced exploration in one teaching/article/guided meditation, the person is taken through one side of the equation to an exaggerated extreme, and then is just given a hint of the balancing view. As a result, rather than leading someone more and more to the center, so to speak, they are given material that would tend to keep them spinning off to the periphery... until the teacher pulls them back to the center. Rather than trusting in the students own intelligence, it is more of an intentional manipulation to serve the teacher. Fenner is not that bad as the other person and like I said before, maybe the format of this multi-CD medium created a bit of a distortion in his presentation. I can hear the different cuts/splices of his audio takes, it's clear that it isn't quite a natural presentation for him.)
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 20 Apr 2014 20:35 #19322

It sounds like this is getting under your skin for some reason, and that may be a point to pursue. You are looking for reasons that have to do with him--what he's saying, how he's saying it. But why is this in particular bothering you now? What is going on with you now that makes this an issue?

I read the transcript of the interview and thought Vince did a good job of leaning on the question of whether people might think they had attained something they hadn't. There's a paradox inherent in trying to teach people skills that can help them access something that ultimately no one can control. I read the Gateless Gatecrashers book, in which people were repeatedly told to look for something that is the self, and finally are shown "getting it"-- did they really get it? Or were they responding to a high-pressure situation?
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 20 Apr 2014 21:15 #19325

Laurel Carrington wrote:
It sounds like this is getting under your skin for some reason, and that may be a point to pursue. You are looking for reasons that have to do with him--what he's saying, how he's saying it. But why is this in particular bothering you now? What is going on with you now that makes this an issue? ...

In my own life, this has always been at the heart of things. The "meta" level. The relationship to (whatever it is). What's the theme that's poking me? What button is being pushed? Why? It never fails to illuminate.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 05:41 #19329

Thanks Ona and Laurel... I really do agree, when something bothers me strongly I masochistically immerse myself in it.

Caveat: Unfortunately, sometimes I think there really is something like masochism, in other words, just because you don't like something, it doesn't mean there is something psychologically/meta there. I have to say this, because I remember one particularly bad spiral in my life where I was convinced that this masochism in itself >had< to be fruitful, that there was some pot of gold on the other side of that dwell in the being poked phenomenon. Sometimes it's good to know when to walk away. Sometimes a poke is a poke.

Now that said :D , it has been interesting to do this exercise... I think there are a few things it's pointing to (with still a couple of CDs to go, so it isn't over yet). The first is koan like riddle of "trying to teach" emptiness. Can it be done? This is quite a koan for me. It seems very interdependent and pretty impossible to force. Does it only make sense one on one? Is a CD bound to confuse?

In moments, I think that religion or spirituality seems to be the last refuge of a scoundral. Basically, I'm seeing in myself how meditation and spiritual/religious views are in a sense a way to try and get "outside" of a reality where we find ourselves, we try to step away from where everyone else is (you know, those heathens, non believers, non meditators, those never-to-be-awakened, those in a different sect, etc.). Religion is going inside, away from the outside, so to speak. Fenner's "unconditioned mind" talk started taking on this hue for a long while... The strong suggestion that there was somewhere else. Frankly, this consideration is taking me down a very strange path where I basically understand why the monk burned his books upon enlightenment.

And Laurel, you're pointing to the crux. Is there a possibility of missing something by taking the prescribed approach? Will people stop too soon? I suspect so, if only because Fenner's approach didn't work for me a long while ago. It gave me quite a bit of clarity, but no insight. So, now, will >I< lose something if I give up all practice right now? Or is indeed my practice binding me to an artificial flavor of suffering? Again, very koan like for me.
Last Edit: 21 Apr 2014 05:46 by shargrol.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 07:16 #19331

shargrol wrote:
...it has been interesting to do this exercise... I think there are a few things it's pointing to ... The first is koan like riddle of "trying to teach" emptiness. Can it be done? This is quite a koan for me. It seems very interdependent and pretty impossible to force. Does it only make sense one on one? Is a CD bound to confuse? ... I'm seeing in myself how meditation and spiritual/religious views are in a sense a way to try and get "outside" of a reality where we find ourselves...Is there a possibility of missing something by taking the prescribed approach? ... will >I< lose something if I give up all practice right now? Or is indeed my practice binding me to an artificial flavor of suffering? Again, very koan like for me.

I think it can be that simple, and not about a masochistic immersion necessarily. The questions above, to me, all seem to point to a frustration with not seeing something, not finding something, and wishing that Fenner (or someone else) could somehow give it to you, and yet seeing that clearly it doesn't really work like that: that seeing can't really be taught, and certainly can't be forced. So what's the point of trying? Is there any point in practice at all if even this (supposedly excellent) practice can't make me see? Maybe I should just burn this "book" too. Or would that guarantee that I never see? GAH! That sort of thing. Might not be on target (ETA: or overly restating the very obvious, sorry), but that's what jumped out at me.
Last Edit: 21 Apr 2014 08:45 by Ona Kiser.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 09:55 #19334

Yes, quite on target. Was that not obvious? :D

But seriously, all of that is fairly conscious in the forefront of my mind. (Maybe some aspect is so close I'm not seeing it?) The reason I call this masochistic is why is it bothering me that THIS particular CD is like that? I mean, I wish every teaching I read/hear would tip the scales, once and for all, yet I have no problem putting down other books/CDs...

I think it has something to do with domains of teaching... I sense a fracture line somewhere here, but it's unclear... or another metaphor, it's like sometimes teachings are like tapping on drywall and you feel the stud behind it, other times the sound is flatter and there is a suspicion that something isn't there... usually I can figure out what aspect is being missed/overlooked or where the shadow lies. This one I can't.

I mentioned earlier that I checked my reaction to other teacher. For what's worth, the guy is Arjuna Ardagh. He strikes me as a many many more time extreme version of the dynamic. Again, I can't quite say why, but I think it is using the language of unconditioned/non-dual in ways that seem overextended, but where that over extension is, I just haven't quite figured out.

To be continued, I guess. Thanks everyone for putting up with my little obsession here. And reactions welcomed, even those that tell me to go have a grilled cheese sandwich and forget the whole thing.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 10:52 #19337

Well, I took a look at the website just out of curiosity and was put off by it because the whole thing sounds like such hard work, and as anyone who has been keeping up with my thread is aware, I'm feeling lazy as hell these days. I'm thinking of a passage from the Tao Te Ching:

Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 12:57 #19340

Shargrol, you might want to ruminate/meditate on... why YOU are having trouble with this particular teacher's material. What's missing from the picture that YOU cannot see? Why would YOU be a part of this puzzle? What is keeping YOU from having this material just click? WHO is preventing this understanding?
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 18:19 #19346

I think I've got it...

Fenner's approach is to treat views AS methods. Basically trying to orient the person into the "proper" view and somehow not quite owning it that doing this is a method. That's his shadow. He suggests that other methodical practices create obstacles, but somehow his teachings aren't methodical practices and are they free of creating obstacles.

He admits that these approaches provide instructive glimpses of freedom, undefinedness, unconditionedness, etc. Yet he also acknowledges that we won't stay "here" in the unconditionedness. Although with repeated glimpses, it becomes more accessible, etc.

That's a method. That's cultivation. And that's like every other practice out there in the world.

And suggesting it is an effortless way to non-dual being... is a bit disingenuous to the reality of the effort that does go into method and cultivation.

That's it.

(Am I remembering correctly that Aroter folks have a saying "there are no views, only methods"? That expression was going through my head as I typed the above.)

Then the other problem is that somehow getting to a resting or dynamically equanimous states are the very same thing as non-dual, unconditioned, non-duality,etc. I could be wrong about this, because I don't have a final view of those things, but it just doesn't seem quite right to my intuition.

Now I suspect that in his heart of hearts, he knows all of the above and for sure there are elements of his teachings which balance out everything I've said above... but if he said, "pretend you are already completely enlightened and see what that is like", then that would be more straightforward. And --damn! just like Chris said -- pretty much the same thing as Big Mind (tm) practices.

All of this also suggests that investigation of the nature of experience/sensations really does seem to be a very important method, perhaps one that can't be avoided or bypassed.

Adding On: In this case, going through this masochism seemed worth it, but I had my doubts up until moments before this final post. Basically his last couple CD seem to be guided meditations, many of which basically put the person in resting states but he continues to label it as non-dual/unconditioned etc. That's when my thoughts gelled.
Last Edit: 21 Apr 2014 18:25 by shargrol.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 21 Apr 2014 20:30 #19348

Chris Marti wrote:
Why would YOU be a part of this puzzle? What is keeping YOU from having this material just click? WHO is preventing this understanding?
shargrol wrote:
I think I've got it...


Hmm... ;-)
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 22 Apr 2014 04:17 #19350

No, no. Not I've got the answer to Chris' question, but I've got the answer to my other concern.

Still working on Chris' questions... :D
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 22 Apr 2014 09:01 #19356

Fenner's approach is to treat views AS methods. Basically trying to orient the person into the "proper" view and somehow not quite owning it that doing this is a method. That's his shadow. He suggests that other methodical practices create obstacles, but somehow his teachings aren't methodical practices and are they free of creating obstacles.

I think you are turning this (accessing the non-dual) into an intellectual exercise. It is not that.

:)
Last Edit: 22 Apr 2014 09:01 by Chris Marti.
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Critique of Radiant Mind/Peter Fenner? 22 Apr 2014 09:42 #19360

No, I'm clear on the difference between the induction that is the intended purpose of the CD and this "investigative journalism thing" I'm doing, I swear.

I'm just spilling the messy contents of my brain onto these posts, which looks... messy.

Indeed, I began using the CDs for that induction, with an open mind... but at a certain point I think it's okay to say, this approach is not for me. I'm at that point. And I've done a little investigative journalism on why it is not for me, which I think cleared up some nagging confusion for me.

For the past week I've had a bunch of time for sitting practice, plus listening to Hokai's guided meditation from the BG conference -- that has been where the heart of my practice has gone, so to speak. That was going on also. In the spare moments of the day, I indulged in figuring out why I didn't think his teaching was effective for me.

(EDIT: and this WHO that has doubts and confusion and a need to investigate has indeed been looked for.)

Clearer?
Last Edit: 22 Apr 2014 09:45 by shargrol.
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