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Peter Fenner: Radiant Mind

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The healing power of unconditioned awareness

In Buddhism, the experience of unconditioned awareness is called the “ultimate medicine.” Other types of medicine—that is, other types of healing—have limitations. They work for some people and not for others, and even then, only some of the time. Universally, the ultimate medicine is healing. Every mind touched by the experience of its unconditioned nature moves closer to the experience of genuine freedom, which is, after all, the ultimate healing.

Unconditioned awareness heals in different ways. When we rest in unconditioned awareness, we’re already healed, in the sense that we’re incapable of worrying about our problems, no matter how apparently serious. This doesn’t mean that we don’t take appropriate action to cure an illness or resolve a financial difficulty. But when we rest in unconditioned awareness, we’re free of the habitual tendency to construe that something is wrong or missing. We’re satisfied with the way things are. Rather than needing our circumstances to be different to feel happy and fulfilled, we’re already happy and fulfilled in this moment. At this level, unconditioned awareness acts as a healing force, because it penetrates and dissolves the basis of all illness, namely, the story that we’re ill. We may still have a diseased body or bad credit, but we’re no longer battling our condition. No matter what our physical and mental conditions might be, we can no longer experience ourselves as damaged or limited in any way. We’re not in a state of denial; if anything, we’re more aware of our circumstances. But we don’t relate to them as if they shouldn’t be happening. When we rest in unconditioned awareness, we’re at home with ourselves and our world in an effortless and uncontrived way.

In nondual work, people arrive at a point where there’s nothing left to do—not because they’ve reached the limit of their teacher’s competence or exhausted the capacity of a therapeutic method, but simply because they find it impossible to construct a problem. They have no energy or interest in creating limitation or deficiency. Even the belief that they may suffer in the future has no meaning, because, in nondual awareness, future suffering is simply experienced for what it is—a thought.

The experience of unconditioned awareness also heals by percolating through the layers of our habitual conditioning and changing its structure, dissolving fixations and attachments, and possibly even producing a radical reorientation of our experience of reality. We become clearer, more open, and less reactive and defensive—and hence better able to release our fears and insecurities.

The Yoga tradition of Buddhism describes this process as the “transformation (paravrtti) of the structural foundations of our being (asraya).” Through contact with the pure, unconditioned dimension of existence, the energies and mechanisms that condition our life lose their power to distort our experience and cause us suffering. Other nondual traditions describe how the experience of unconditioned awareness infuses the conditioned mind like a sweet perfume or a soothing breeze.

We can’t predict in advance how this deconditioning will unfold. It occurs at its own pace and rhythm. Sometimes it’s smooth and gentle; at other times, rough or abrupt. At times we may even have the impression that we’re moving backward to an earlier stage of our development that we thought we had completed. Each of us is infinitely complex, and our path to full evolution is unique and often mysterious.


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