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Prajna Z-Quest on a Secular Path

A Culture of Awakening

Ch16 Are we ready for freedom?

48 years on from bill’s upheaval zandtao can look at Jac’s teaching on awakening and embodiment. He is ready, After writing the intro to Jac, an intro that brought together the confusion in his writing since Nicola, all he could think of is “being ready” – not for himself but for seekers in general. Nicola and Jac have been through stuff, taken on the world and more and come out at the other end with a grasp of freedom and a feminine way (in Jac’s case as well?). What would have happened to bill if he had attempted to understand this? Look at the intervening years since upheaval. 30 years of teaching including romantic love and pain. Since mid-life review studying Buddhism and Buddhadasa through meditation and blogging until he crossed the threshold of autonomy and began to shed the raft of Buddhist teachings – but not the Buddha’s awakening. Now through the prajna portal zandtao is considering Jac’s teaching as part of a love-wisdom balance:-


When he thinks of Jac’s embodiment meditation that could be something he could encourage seekers to use especially in harmony with wisdom development. But is awakening and embodiment too far? What harm can be done by raising awakening and embodiment with a resistant ego? Egos can pretend to seek but this pretence can be a delusion, a delusion that teachers want to foster by talking of “fearless freedom”. Does the seeker’s fear simply reinforce the ego when they are opened to such freedom prematurely – when they are not ready. When seekers go to institutions, in bill’s case theosophy, spiritual eclecticism and then Buddhism, the emphasis is on practice, and not on the development of premature(?) awakening and embodiment. When a seeker is not ready there is spiritual delusion, a delusion where the seeker has ditthupadana clinging to the teaching. And any teaching is a dogma when it is clung to rather than being experienced. Institutions can prepare the seeker through their form of practice until the seeker’s autonomy rejects the institution in favour of genuine freedom through awakening and embodiment.

So the first question that has come to zandtao concerns ahimsa – can the teaching cause ahimsa if the seeker is not ready?

“This book helps you define and honor what you know to be authentic and true within you. I spent years honoring what I believed was authentic and true only to discover that I was supporting my own conditioned beliefs—sophisticated beliefs, but still just beliefs all the same. How do we get beyond beliefs so that you can access what is not an idea from your conditioned mind? How can you discern for yourself what is authentic and true? That’s our journey. There is a place inside you that is deeper than the stream of thoughts produced by the conditioned mind. As you get more familiar with that place, it comes to feel like you. A place, no, it’s not a place. But the word “place,” clumsy as it is, must suffice to express something that is outside time and space, outside and beyond personal consciousness. Yet we know it intuitively once we are oriented in its direction.”

Zandtao can begin here by looking at what is authentic and what is beyond conditioning in his life. And that has to begin with upheaval, that was the first time there was any kind of experience that was authentic – except for mother-love. One question is not whether upheaval was authentic but how much of it was concerned with what is authentic? Another question is whether bill was ready to be authentic.

Bill found a place, he called it path; this path was his authentic place. This path was a place of truth, he could rely on this path and let it direct his life. There were times when he could just let path guide his life. But these times were only rare glimpses, mainly on holiday when he was out walking; walking on those walking paths led bill to centre onto his own path – or return to some extent to that place that was authentic bill. When writing as Wai Zandtao bill was touching his essential Muse – again an authentic place.

At the time of upheaval the compassion that arose was authentic but once in the institutions of houseparenting and education that compassion was lost – perhaps a deep guide but never was he living in that authentic place. In this world of conditioning how could he ever have lived that authentic compassion? In those institutions such guiding compassion could be a deep motivator but in daily life living is compromise. So what does living an authentic life actually mean?

When zandtao considers his current life of solitude and writing he can see more authenticity. Z-quests take zandtao towards that authenticity, an authenticity that because of age can legitimately be limited to the website and prajna portal and occasional eldering of the kalyana mitta. This is authentic because he feels close to his path. In upheaval he was unconsciously close, closeness arose with the upheaval, but now conscious development is taking zandtao to his current path – it has a greater measure of authentic. It does however feel limited because of his age – and time wasted? But was it wasted or a necessary way to gain experience that is at the basis of the consciousness of his current path?

What happened to bill’s conditioning in upheaval? At the time it felt as if he had thrown off a huge yoke. There was a freedom in which he could learn about the world. This freedom developed relatively slowly through the foggy time that was upheaval. That sounds contradictory – upheaval yet foggy. There was still the fog of conditioning but with occasional vision, the first being outside the Manchester pub where he knew that Xmas party enjoyment could never now be his – not that he couldn’t have joy but not that enjoyment. But Manchester and the family home just put off awakening as his upbringing had brought him to the job/alcohol breakdown, it was only back in London when he connected with the Arts people that he could express the partial awakening. Without shackling conditioning that came with upbringing he could learn, and he turned to writing as his tool of learning. Through the writing and jhana experiences there was touching of the genuine; the Arts people enabled his connection with authenticity. In the Belgian cottage his original z-questing brought out new expressions of his vision, through the writing he was seeing for gthe first time. But that seeing was limited because he had no experience. There was no childhood self that had gained experience as he had not invested in the conforming process. There could only be limited seeing without experience. Returning to the UK he continued his compassion motivation with houseparenting but that was tainted with drink. The following year he had some money and was going to experience the world. He reached Saint Valery-en-Caux, lost his money, and didn’t have the courage to get work and experience the world; he returned to the UK and trained to be a teacher.

At upheaval he lost the conditioning of his upbringing but he was immature and in his 2nd childhood he conditioned himself. Whilst underlying his teaching was compassion the daily practice was mostly a complete compromise with patriarchy - what Matriellez called corporate paradigm. Addiction to drink took over, wasted his energy and the path became more and more submerged until it was released with the writing about of the M Ed and the inner journey of his mid-life review.

During 2nd childhood bill accepted conditioning as he gained experience. Underneath there was path but he deluded himself that what he doing during this 2nd childhood was path-driven whereas it was mostly accepting conditioning that has compassion at its core. His mid-life review exposed his conditioned delusion, and he turned to Buddhism. Whilst there had been examples of spiritual eclecticism throughout this 2nd childhood, what was important about the acceptance of Buddhism was the development of a practice. And with the practice of meditation and the practice of writing came the autonomy of the prajna portal – the embodying of awakening (limited by age).

Is zandtao in his authentic place now? At times, yes. For much of the day zandtao lets go, and his body takes him to resting places of meaningless entertainment. But his writing is authentic, it comes out of an authentic place and is concerned with connecting to that authentic place. His practice connects him to authenticity.

Is Buddhism the authentic place? No. Buddhism can provide the raft of teaching, can help the seeker develop the practice, that can take the seeker to their authenticity. Can other religions? Zandtao does not know other religions but does not see why other religions cannot provide the raft and cannot develop a practice with the core components:-


But all religions have their own institutionalism, and that restricts freedom and autonomy. How can there be authentic freedom inside an institution that compromises with patriarchy? Within monasteries there are good seekers and teachers, perhaps these monasteries are the homes the monks say they are. But always there is the question, can such seekers be their true selves within a compromised institution?

“There is freedom when you are able to live your life each day in alignment with your own authentic, true nature. …. This book addresses how to end the conflict between your inner spiritual nature and how you think and act in life. Our goal is to attune your mind to your spiritual nature and to free up your actions so that you are honest and true to the core of your being. You are not done until you can walk and talk your deepest wisdom.” “Walk and talk your deepest wisdom” is what zandtao understands as embodying your awakening, only now zandtao would say - walk and talk your deepest wisdom and love. And he would add as Jac adds “Even then, ongoing growth and development continue. The spiritual path has no ultimate destination.” As far as zandtao understands it; for zandtao there is no end, there is no final enlightenment to attain – no target no end point. For other people, the Buddha, zandtao cannot say but do the best you can:-


“This book addresses how to end the conflict between your inner spiritual nature and how you think and act in life.” How you do this is difficult, and zandtao is not sure it can be done. There is a fundamental conflict between love and patriarchy, patriarchy restricts love. In prajna love-wisdom is the path and practice, so as we build our practice we build a conflict with patriarchy. Zandtao accepts that this conflict exists, and it is part of his daily life to promote love; in promoting love zandtao effectively works towards ending patriarchy and this is conflict in daily life. However there is a paradox, accepting that there is conflict between love and patriarchy means your inner spiritual nature is at peace. This acceptance recognises that conflict will arise, and wisdom will deal with that conflict as part of that acceptance. This acceptance recognises that conditioning and patriarchy are the same at this moment in time, and that it is part of the path to go beyond conditioning. On our paths we go beyond conditioning, this brings our love in conflict with patriarchy – systemic conditioning, and we use our embodied wisdom to discern our daily actions. Through acceptance paradoxically there is conflict and yet there isn’t. As part of our freedom we accept the paradox that love and patriarchy are in conflict and wisdom guides us through that conflict. At present the institutional compromise between wisdom and patriarchy means that love is not expressed, and this love and compassion is the motivation that ends war and poverty for accumulation.

“How can I find out what is authentic and not conditioned in me?”

“As I became suspicious of directions that came from others, I began to push against the rules. …. The rebel in me that pushed against external rules became a spiritual rebel. Pushing against my own thought processes, beliefs, values, and comfort zones was a methodology that made sense to me if I wanted to find anything truly authentic. Breaking my own rules, testing the validity of what I had taken to be true, and being a spiritual rebel smashed my way through to clarity, love, and freedom.”

Rules are our conditioning, and breaking rules is still part of our conditioning; accepting or rejecting conditioning means that we are still within the stream of conditioning. In breaking the rules Jac “learnt from her actions in a conscious way”, and the “reorientation was empowering”. Then Jac realised that “some version of the outside world was inside her” – conditioning. She broke her own rules leading to spiritual breakthrough. For zandtao this is intense. Breaking all your own rules is the same as breaking all that is self. Are we all capable of breaking all our rules to evaluate them? Can we evaluate self in this way by breaking the conditioning that gave us our self and self-esteem?

Zandtao has not done this systematically ie breaking and evaluating all rules, and he certainly has not done it as a strategy. But breaking rules was second nature after upheaval. Prior to upheaval bill had not invested in the middle-class conformity of education, jobs and family to repeat. Through his education he did enough to get through until his degree when he tried hard on revision in his final term; this investment gave him a degree and postgrad entry. Following the postgrad year he got a good job that he failed in, and this failure eventually led to upheaval. After upheaval there were no rules only his path, his path had to accept any new rules. Unfortunately in accepting new rules he also accepted some conditioning so that when he retired early he had conditioning to unlearn, and some rules to break. As he let go of more and more of the conditioning he had accepted in his 2nd childhood, he got closer and closer to following his path – to his authenticity.

“Are you ready to be guided by your spiritual nature? When you allow your inner spiritual nature to guide your life, it shows up as a humble willingness to be open to life. You are open, vulnerable, and honest in the absence of your usual protective strategies. Your inner nature informs and modifies your personality. Let’s find out what your inner nature feels, tastes, and looks like, and let’s explore how you can trust it to navigate you through your life. Our goal is to have your personality serve your inner nature. …. When you can do this, you are in perfect alignment, fully human and fully divine, without conflict. That is freedom.” Zandtao does agree this is freedom but notes that love and patriarchy are in conflict. There is fearless freedom but patriarchy does restrict.

“What if your belief in all of your habitual thinking processes fell away? Can you imagine how you would experience every moment if you no longer believed your thoughts?” This is very powerful, changes your life, but what if you are not ready to embrace it? Then it can be dangerous. This is the danger of asking for all. What if you haven’t reconnected with sunnata, not found your inner guide, and yet reject the self conditioning gave you with all its “incessant commenting, complaining, nitpicking, reactionary, uncreative, incessantly dissatisfied mind”? The seeker needs to be ready to accept the inner guide, to have the conviction of the path, and not to be afraid of having no conditioning to fall back on. We are conditioned to be addicted to our conditioned selves, and rejecting that self without replacing it with an inner guide leaves the seeker vulnerable. (As far I can ascertain it is this process that Keith Ranieri exploited in NXIVM replacing the conditioned self with himself by intentionally making his seekers vulnerable).

It is necessary for the seeker’s practice to build autonomy by following their path so that they have the strength and conviction to cope with patriarchy. Disidentification through “incessant commenting, complaining, nitpicking, reactionary, uncreative, incessantly dissatisfied mind” is not enough, there needs to be a process of integration. Zandtao is putting out a warning, and is not suggesting that if a seeker follows Jac this will happen. The concerns are if the seeker is unable to fully embrace Jac’s teachings where will they be left? How would a seeker survive without self nor path – if such a state can exist?

Jac herself gives such a warning. “Be honest with yourself. Are you reading this book to stimulate your intellect? Are you willing and available to let transformation happen? I didn’t write this book to produce some nice inspirational quotes for you to hang on your wall. It’s a journey.” Let zandtao be clear. The fearless freedom that Jac offers brings with it great joy, and a better way to live. But that fearless freedom needs to be embraced fully. That means letting go of the conditioning that our society has insisted you make agreements with. Are you ready to let go of that conditioning? Are you ready to end those agreements and replace them with the freedom of making your own?

When seekers are fearless they are ready. But what if seekers delude themselves they are ready, partially following these teachings can leave the seeker vulnerable. Institutions err on safety focussing on the practice. Practice can begin to do what Jac says without leaving the seeker vulnerable. Would that we could all develop Jac’s fearless freedom, we need to be ready.

“Freedom itself is not a state of mind. It is rather how you experience your human nature in alignment with your spiritual nature. In my own experience fearless freedom is like a light-beam that shines when my personality is in alignment and in service to my spiritual nature.” Freedom – the alignment of personality in service to spiritual nature. This alignment zandtao experienced as being close to the path. At upheaval this closeness was unconsciously forced on zandtao as upheaval rejected the conditioning of middle-class conformity – rejected the limited self his upbringing had given him. At the beginning this closeness was something real and tangible and something he worked for.

But bill was not ready so instead of continually working on this alignment he escaped through alcohol, when drunk his mind did not have to work on this alignment. Over the years he developed centring processes, mostly through walking in nature. And a by-product of connecting with the Muse with the scifi was centring. After the mid-life review there began a process of rejecting the conditioning of the 2nd childhood, a process that was hastened by becoming Buddhist and developing a practice. After retiring early this practice further developed and he became more and more dedicated to the path as his practice became more and more his life. Is this alignment when practice is your life? Zandtao now feels closer to his path than at any time in his life but it is not 24/7, with his age can he be 24/7? Could he have been so aligned when younger? Certainly not as a teacher as teaching is controlled by patriarchy. Zandtao is grateful the way his life went because during his 2nd childhood he was gaining experience and his compassion still maintained an interest in teaching so he built up the finances for his work in early retirement. There are teachers like Jac, Eckhart able to survive on teachings – perhaps more people are prepared to pay for teaching now. But outside of spiritual teaching how do we follow our paths when patriarchy is so powerful? What has making a profit for the 1% to accumulate got to do with being spiritual? Despite the McMindfulness Google peddles!! What kind of sickness is there in patriarchy when compassionate nurses are forced to go to food banks? When nurses are forced to strike this is a strong indication that defilement is running society, that we are not free.

“One of my students, Ellen, asked me, “What about my children if my personality takes direction from within? I feel I will stop reacting and responding. That’s unfamiliar to me. My kids need a stable and consistent parent!” Jac gave a positive answer encouraging Ellen to develop fearless freedom. Zandtao is far more cautious. Ellen’s duty is her children. When zandtao considers bill’s upheaval there is no possibility that he could have taken proper care of children at that time. Before and later as an alcoholic could he have taken care? Duty is spiritual, parents have a duty to their children and the path of fearless freedom is not appropriate. For Ellen developing a practice that enables spiritual development whilst at the same time coping with her duty is necessary. But trust in the path, such a spiritual development is possible.

Yet there is sense in Jac’s answer. “What will your children do if you don’t answer this call to inner authenticity, if you continue to obey the dictates of the mind, operating from fear, subject to the command of your thoughts … How will this serve your children? The mind thinks small. It knows itself by the limitations it has learned and created. Is this the legacy you want to give your children?” If Ellen accepts conditioning and then contributes to conditioning her children then the children will suffer. Here freedom lies in accepting the compromise of duty and fulfilling that duty whilst following her path. Have faith in the path that it will provide the balance. Zandtao questions whether Ellen should seek fearless freedom but following a path that develops herself, that releases conditioning whilst maintaining the love and duty of care for her children can actually make Ellen free. Only Ellen can know how to handle this so for Ellen zandtao sees an emphasis on practice that develops love and wisdom. The path is not urgent, and the path is compassionate. Ideals such as fearless freedom, enlightenment or whatever are delusions; for Ellen her path is practice, duty and development on her path. After the children Ellen could be ready to develop a life 100% dedicated to fearless freedom without carrying any burden of guilt that might arise if she did not consider she had fulfilled her duty.

“If you are beckoned by freedom itself, there is no place to hide.” Whilst this is true, it needs to be understood that duty is also part of this freedom. It would be egoic to act in a way that was harmful to the children. Such seekers need to find the balance because they have their love and duty. This does not exclude freedom but it means looking at the path and let practice decide how best to act. Freedom can mean being free to accept responsibilities. Zandtao has concerns about the idealism of putting fearless freedom first. Zandtao’s faith in the path would mean that Ellen could find a way of fulfilling her duty and following her path – and that way starts with practice and not accepting idealisms per se. Whilst Jac’s answer to Ellen contains fearlessness, she later says “Only the inner pull to freedom, the knowing that something greater is beckoning, can guide you onward. Anything else is a mind game. Faith, trust, honesty, and discernment are your best tools now. Your spiritual nature lies within you.” Ellen needs to find faith in her path that will include her love and duty of care, that comes from practice, a practice that can see the delusion of idealism. “When you respond to this inner beckoning, you will still function and participate in life. Trust that this is so.” Could Jac have included this in her answer to Ellen?

Zandtao is reminded of the effusive people of Openhand TV, when he wants to be effusive about the path he references this 5 Gateways clip/movie. Zandtao is not Ascension but the movie helps with the path. Jac is also effusive, and zandtao then balances with caution. Apart from Jac’s obvious charisma and wisdom, would zandtao as elder be recommending different? This apparent contrariness is perhaps a problem of the z-quest process. Zandtao likes the “I don’t do fear” practice. When it comes to Ellen’s dilemma, society adds pressures to her duty and it would be easy for her not to follow her path – the practice of not doing fear would counter this and would help her release conditioning.

The seeker needs courage to be ready. “Are you reading this book in the hope that the words alone are enough to change your life? I hope not, because it would be a pity if you were to join ranks with the many spiritual aspirants who are well-read and meditate regularly, yet have no interest in getting down and dirty with their beliefs and thinking habits. A spiritual lifestyle alone doesn’t lead to freedom; an internal and personal shakeup is necessary. You will need courage if you want to be a spiritual rebel and live your life in fearless freedom. Change has to happen.” Despite caution shown above zandtao fully supports this call for courage. “Courage shows up in the ability to challenge your own belief system. Courage is present when you can honestly challenge your perception of the world as you have set it up in your mind. Courage is an ability to take action in spite of anxiety or fear.” But the path has love, wisdom and clarity so courage is not in isolation. Courage is needed to overcome habit and sloth. We are surrounded by fear and conditioning, and for so many people they do not act based on love, wisdom and clarity – they act through the inertia of their conditioning. Courage can overcome this inertia but it is courage that is backed by prajna. This is the courage to step out of conformity and conditioning but that courage is built on prajna. It is not courage for courage’s sake - not courage in isolation.

The path requires courage but if there is a need for courage is that arising out of fear? One of the 5 Dhamma comrades is sampajanna which zandtao is now calling embodiment; previously he had called it wisdom-in-action. What he saw sampajanna as is that once there was wisdom that should automatically mean it was part of practice in daily life. Initially fear might trump wisdom’s call for action, and perhaps initially courage might be required. This fear arises from conditioning, we know the fear is conditioning, and in that wisdom we learn to practice what we know – sampajanna. To begin with it might need courage but practice means ending the recognition of fear, ending the need for courage, and simply putting it into practice – sampajanna. This arises from good meditation where there is not a need for courage but simply putting love and wisdom into practice – prajna.

“Courage shows up in the ability to challenge your own belief system. Courage is present when you can honestly challenge your perception of the world as you have set it up in your mind.” Wise enquiry leads to the end of belief systems and conditioning, we do not attach to perceptions (sanna-khandha), with wise enquiry and sampajanna there is simply right action. Is a focus on courage an attachment? Is fearless freedom and courage an avoidance of wisdom and embodiment? Fear and courage are reactions to conditioning, and the path is beyond conditioning; embodiment does.

Is the path concerned with fear and courage?


Zandtao Meditation page Advice from Zandtaomed

Books:- Real Love/Viveka-Zandtao/Treatise, Pathtivism Manual, Pathtivism Companion/ Wai Zandtao Scifi/ Matriellez Education.
Blogs:- Zandtao, Matriellez, Mandtao.