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Seeker Story

These are quotes from my z-quest into Sharon Salzberg’s book “Real Love: the Art of Mindful Connection”, the retelling Zandtaomed is now advising is called a Seeker Story - explained in this advice. For a Seeker Story to have meaning it could hurt, it could concern parts of your personal history – shadows etc that you have chosen to bury to maintain a personal balance that might be tenuous. Zandtaomed therefore recommends that this story be written under the guidance of an elder, a person who understands the path. This elder could be a meditation counsellor willing to work individually. At worst a personal close friend needs to be available – kalyana mitta. In the quotes zandtaomed has already mentioned what he considers an important personal requisite, a meditation approach that includes the ability to do inner work.

These 3 memes are a summary of Zandtaomed’s following of the path:-

They talk about path, vihara and faith (not belief), these are the foundation stones of life as a seeker – a “Seeker Story”. Here is a brief understanding of the path:-

In a sense the path is a consideration of conditioning and beyond, and what can take us beyond is awakening; conditioning and awakening are the two sections of a Seeker Story.

Recognition of conditioning is a constant throughout zandtao; for anatta reasons zandtao uses 3 selves - bill for life prior to zandtao's dedication to the path, zandtaomed as meditation elder, and zandtao the seeker (see this reflection). In our upbringing through our parents and education we build up an identity based on agreements. These agreements we make in the case of our parents through love, and they are not always agreements we want to choose; we accept that it is the way to do things out of love for our parents. By the time we reach adulthood we hopefully have an identity and self-esteem that has enabled us to reach adulthood and cope with the defiled world. This natural part of conditioning ends when we reach adulthood, nature’s intent is that as we mature into adulthood our conditioning falls away and we begin to follow our paths. But in practice this does not happen because in the defiled world there has developed societal conditioning that continues to create egos (attachments) that block us from following our paths. Seekers begin to let go of these blocks so they can follow their paths.

As zandtao's understanding of the path has increased, he has found himself going over significant events in his own Seeker Story again and again, each time seeing those events slightly differently – with greater understanding (hopefully). For example at one stage he might examine the intense shyness of his adolescence, and yet see that shyness completely differently when considering the Inner Child. Each time we write about events such as that shyness it helps unblock further attachments that have been built up – this revisiting is a good process.

So there are two parts to the Seeker Story, releasing conditioning and recognising awakening.

Part 1 Releasing Conditioning

Step 1 Overview

There are four areas to consider in your Seeker Story for releasing conditioning:-

My Childhood Family
My Relationships – Lovers and Partners
My Identity
My Societal Life – Career and Education

Start with each – you choose the order and write an overview of events that you consider significant in each of these. Write as little or as much detail as you want. Your Seeker Story will revisit each of the significant events that you record at a later stage.

Complete the 4 overviews before reading further.

In your Seeker Story you are going to go deeper into each of these, the deeper the better – depending on how much pain is released and how much pain you can cope with. Throughout you discuss this with your elder, meditation counsellor or the friend (kalyana mitta) who is working with you.

As before you choose the order you are working on. For each of the 4 sections you now have an overview:-

My Childhood Family
My Relationships – Lovers and Partners
My Identity
My Societal Life – Career and Education

Start with whichever of these story overviews you want – Step1 Overview Details finished.

My Childhood Family

Step 2 Details

So far your Step 1 overview is not likely to have caused you pain (depending how deep your overview went). However there is likely to be a sense of apprehension with the process - something impending. Describing your upbringing is something we often do – bill describes his own upbringing as middle-class conformity. As a superficial “social” description this hides much, but if we then attempt to delve deeper such descriptions begin to reveal far more. What is important about the Seeker Story is that what is hidden when revealed will become part of awareness. Reiterating - this can be painful, you need a support person to help you. A person might describe their background as being “difficult because I had an alcoholic mother”. This might sound as if the person has come to terms with their upbringing, but it might also be a blasé cover-all that hides much pain. The purpose of a Seeker Story is to feel that pain and release it. This can be hard and you need trustworthy support.

Now that we have an overview of our childhood family, the socially-acceptable version perhaps, we are going to go deeper. Look at your overview and pinpoint the details that you know need investigating. Perhaps do this in meditation so that your inner guide can help you – can tell you the areas that you have been avoiding. Avoidance is a form of delusion, one of the kilesa – defilements. Delusion (moha) is a defilement that is essential to our defiled world, a world in which generally we avoid seeing the truth of what is done in our name. On a personal level we avoid seeing what has happened in our personal history, often creating a rosy image around what has caused a deep hurt – delusion. Or if there was so much pain we have created a repressed ego that we have relegated to shadow so we don’t have to face it; sadly shadow usually only works temporarily as what has been repressed often comes back to bite us – often showing itself in unacceptable behaviour that is out-of-character. The purpose of your Seeker Story is to face those delusions, see them for what they are, release the attachments and integrate that history into you as a complete person.

Now that you have pinpointed your key events, look at each one in detail. As step 2 you write about each key event in detail trying to understand what happened. You will be looking at causes – father repressive?, mother overbearing?, sibling bullying? Take your time, look at each key event in detail, and write these details down – trying to understand them.

Complete these detailed key events before reading further.

Now look at the details you have written, and ask yourself – are there any patterns? If you see patterns, can you go deeper into those patterns and write about them?

Write as much about those patterns as you can before reading further.

Step 3 Father-Mother images

Now write a detailed description of your father and your mother but not as who they are, but your image of them during your childhood. As a child how did you think of your father? Go back to yourself as a child, and think of events involving your father – how did he feel to yourself then? What characteristics did he have then? Try not to temper your description of who he was then by what you know now – but of course that is difficult. You will then have some kind of biopic of your father-image. Similarly you build up a biopic of your mother-image. If sibling issues are important to you build up a similar biopic of your siblings. How did your father react to mother love – her love for you, her love for her children? How did your mother react to mother love?

Now look back at the patterns of behaviour that came out in step 2, do your father/mother/sibling images help explain this.

Write about connecting those patterns to your father/mother/sibling images before reading further.

Step 4 Inner Child

Now that you have opened up your memories to the possibilities of the conditioning causes that have led to your blocks you are going to go back to the source, the time source when these happened. You are going to “talk” to your inner child. That sounds a bit preposterous but if this is done well it can feel as if such conversations take place. It can feel as if the conversation is real, and the results of the conversation can have a great impact in understanding your life and its conditioning.

Ideally you will read this book – "Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child" by Thich Nhat Hanh, there is far greater wisdom and much more technique detail than zandtaomed is going to describe. Do you have an image of yourself as a young child? Recall that image, whatever image you think is important. Give the image a name, associate that name with the image, and in meditation try to start a conversation with that image – hi, little bill, are you there? It might not happen first time but with your Seeker Story you have already prepared the groundwork for this conversation. In meditation look again; find the image, say hello and start the conversation. Have you exhausted the conversation? Ask your inner guide, have you finished? If you think you have, ask your inner child about mother love – how did your parents react to mother love? Then try to talk to a younger you. Have your conversations. Finished? Go back to a younger you. Finished the conversations? Even go back to the womb or the time you just emerge, does your inner child have anything to say? Whatever conversations you have, take time to write them down in an “Inner Child Journal”.

Take time to complete your Inner Child Journal.

Step 5 Father-mother selves

Discussed in detail here we can use the spiritual understanding that at birth we comprise of a father-self and mother-self (not a completely different self). Through our upbringing these two selves interact with each other leading to the self of our self-esteem in early adulthood. This self-esteem is also balanced by the spirituality that are in our parents at birth. We can begin to see this fusing of two parent selves in our childhoods through our INNer Child work of step 4.

In this step we don't see the father-mother images of step 3 as separate, we recognise these selves are contained within our own selves - even as an adult. If there is a particular characteristic of father or mother that has troubled you in this part of the Seeker Story you must begin to see how much it plays out in your own lives. Look for these strong characteristics in father and mother, and write down when you feel you have behaved with these characteristics. It is hard to face that egos of parents can be your egos, especially the powerful ones, yet it is necessary to face them.

If we are spiritual we are not at the mercy of these parental egos. As we go beyond conditioning we let go of egos even the strongest. However what is important in the release of egos is their recognition. This family step 5 is very important in recognising egos that you have buried the deepest - work on that.

Take extra time to look for parental egos in yourself, it is hard but face this.

Step 6 Completion and Collation

Much of the work of the chapter about your Seeker Story about childhood family has been completed. Go back to the beginning and go through the writing about your childhood family Seeker Story, collate them, bring them all together so that you now have your family story of your conditioning – your Seeker Story.

My Relationships – Lovers and Partners

Internalised pain from a traumatic loving relationship was bill's real introduction to inner work. He called it Nyanga because that is where the release occurred. Bill fell in love and this led to the two years of his life that gave him the greatest pain. Typically he internalised this pain, and lived with it deep inside for maybe 7 or 8 years. Whilst he functioned reasonably well socially, he had been blocked internally by this pain. One night in a small hut in Nyanga, Zimbabwe, he looked inside for this pain, found it and saw it for what it was; he lived through the pain again and released it. What a deep and resounding relief! It was at night and he fell asleep early morning; inside there was a chasm of relief from where the pain had been released. Bill has used this Nyanga to lessening effect several times since – so beneficial. And eventually he learned to be grateful for that love that had so distressed him. It was a romantic love that ended his search for cosmic love and laid the foundation for spiritual love (real love) many years later. For this bill is grateful to his loved one, truly grateful.

Warning:– if you are in a current relationship – including marriage, it might be best to avoid consideration of this relationship as possibly causing trauma. Instead you could work with Sharon Salzberg in her book Real Love. Through metta meditation and more Sharon uses mindfulness to develop personal connection spiritually - discussed throughout the book. Discuss this with your support person.

Step 2 Describe your relationships

You have already completed step 1 – overview details. Now consider this overview and describe which relationships are important to you. Go into them in some detail.

Complete your relationship descriptions before reading further.

Step 3 Examining the hurt

How much have you internalised the pain of your relationships? Look at each of your important relationships, and examine the hurt and pain through writing about them. Try to avoid blaming the other. As a Seeker Story you are looking to heal yourself, blaming your partner – no matter how emotionally satisfying and even true – does not heal you. Look at yourself and how you accepted being hurt.

Take your time examining your relationships.

Step 4 Releasing the hurt internally

This is the equivalent of bill's Nyanga, and given that Nyanga has previously been explained you might have done this already. But if you have avoided looking for the internalised pain of your love, now is the time to end that avoidance. In meditation prepare yourself for pain and release, have your support person at the end of the phone. Go inside and look for your lover (L), bill found L buried deep in his stomach; s/he might also be buried in your joints. Look for L, look for the pain, live the pain of your love again, and finally release it. Is there more than one lover whose pain you are living, then release the pain of L1, L2, L3 etc.

Release the pain of each lover and journal that pain before reading further.

Step 5 SEEing your ex-lovers

Now that you have released your pain, you are in a position to SEE your lover. Now that there is no pain, look at your lover, and see them for who they are. Did you love the person they are or was s/he an image of who they are that you loved? Write down the differences between your lover’s image and who they actually are. Did you love them or the image?

Do this for each lover who has caused you pain?

Is it possible for you to have loved who they really are? For a lifetime?

Step 6 Recognise Real Love?

This is a step we will look at after considering your Seeker Story of awakening.


Step2 Delve deeper into identity

You have examined your identity as an overview in Step 1, perhaps it could be encapsulated in a blasé comment such as bill's own “upbringing of middle-class conformity” or the other example bill used – “I had a difficult childhood because I had an alcoholic mother”. Delving deeper, zandtaomed wants you to consider what were the key factors of this identity.

The main basis of your identity was established during your upbringing, at different times in your adult life recalling that identity helps you understand how you are coping with your adult life. At the time of bill's upheaval understanding identity as middle-class conformity was essential in helping him understand what was happening in his work life. When he was writing his dedication to bell hooks, understanding his MAWP identity was essential in making sense of the patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.

Examine key moments in your adult life in which your personal life interacted with your identity – even confronted it.

Step 3 Categorise your identity

When you consider your adult role in society then the characteristics of your identity are often clear, and can be broken down into the 3 characteristics of race, gender and sexuality, and class. It is important for seekers to recognise that the conditioning you have received in your upbringing are still a part of you as an adult, no matter how far along the path you have gone – or think you have gone.

When zandtao consider his own history with the path:-

he often thought he had gone beyond conditioning, but on closer examination of his personal history it became clear that conditioning had impacted on his life after upheaval yet he was not conscious that it was doing so. For a seeker being conscious of what impacts our lives are important, and the further along the path we go the more we want to be able to say “my conditioning has little impact on my life because of my mindfulness”. For this statement to be true we have to work on being sure that conditioning has been released, and that is a purpose of your Seeker Story.

Categorise yourself in terms of race, gender and class. Now write down other aspects of your identity that you feel are important.

Step 4 Recognise and release your identity

This is the step which is the nub of your work on identity. Unfortunately by nature zandtaomed cannot help many of you with this unless you are MAWPs. However as a seeker you are already likely to be equipped with the knowledge to deal with this as you will in some way be conscious of your identity, and as a seeker you are likely to have recognised your identity, and partially released the clinging to it by a younger you.

In bill's own case he has many times revisited his identity as a MAWP – Male, Arrogant, White and Privileged. As bill has already described myself as conforming middle-class, this is an identity description that sufficiently completes the categorisation of step 3. Looking at his upbringing and personal history with regards to this categorisation is deeply releasing. But you need something to measure that categorisation against. To begin with bill looked at his own understanding of the relationship between MAWPs and society – calling it “embracing the MAWP”, but he gained a great deal when I measured that MAWP against bell hooks that he called “Embracing the MAWP by engaging with bell hooks”. This identity process of my Seeker Story is very personal if the engagement is allowed to push the boundaries, so do be careful. Few people like to see the level that their identities are a product of conditioning even seekers, SEEing conditioning is essential to following the path.

The details of the z-quest where zandtao engaged with bell hooks are described in this blog, but where he personally went inside is not for public consumption – it is not just about you when it is identity and involves family. Please respect the privacy of others whether you consider they are following their paths or not. Choosing an elder who respects this privacy is important.

Choosing your identity z-quest:- Whilst this Seeker Story is part of a spiritual path, the book (media?) you choose to engage with in releasing your identity is not specifically spiritual. Identity is concerned with the wellness of the vehicle (vihara), and the lack of wellness arises from conditioning within society – the defiled world. Zandtao chose the book "The will to change, men, masculinity and love" because it was a book that addressed the patriarchal conditioning of this defiled world – the defiled world of imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. This book of course would not be suitable for different identities. Bell herself went through her own identity awareness when younger, an awareness that led to her feminism, perhaps people whose identity is black and female would choose to follow the awareness that came from the type of groups bell engaged in.

Beyond pointers zandtaomed cannot detail suitable choices for different identities (different to his own) because that choice needs to be experiential. Zandtaomed would welcome suggestions as to different choices that seekers have worked with on their z-quests and found useful.

To give the seeker an understanding of how the seeker can investigate their identity zandtaomed includes here details of "Embracing the MAWP with bell hooks" included in Shadow Process 2 of the chapter on integrating in the Pathtivism Manual:-

The practice of Embracing the MAWP with bell hooks

So we start with a safe space – a support group, counselling, meditation – a safe space. From his own journey, there were these inner themes:-

Inner Theme 1 – Family dynamics

a) Understand the patriarchal abuse in the family whether emotional or violent
b) How was the expression of love in your family? Mother love for the children? Father love for the children? Parents loving each other? Children loving parents?
c) Know the mother and father in you.

Inner Theme 2 – Accepting an abusive childhood

Examine the consequences of the abuse in your life as you were growing up - as an adult.

Inner Theme 3 – Relationships

a) Look at past relationships, see if there is a pattern based on what you inherited from an abusive childhood.
b) Look at the father in you (women – mothers), have you brought him into your relationships.
c) Examine the childhood abuse, are you bringing it into your relationships? Are you abusing your partner in the same way he abused your mother?
d) Are you loving? How much mutual respect do you show? Is control an issue?
e) Examine how you relate sexually. Are you a caring lover? How do you manage lust in your relationship? What is your relationship with masturbation/ejaculation? Is your sex life a substitute for patriarchal success? Does this substitute lead to exploitation of your partner?

Inner-theme 4 – Work

Examine your fulfilment in your work life, can it be improved? Is it based in wage-slavery?

Inner-Theme 5 – Masks with other men

a) Examine your mask. What is it you cannot say?
b) How does your mask relate to patriarchy?

Within bell’s Ch10 there were different issues that she raised that of course would be involved with such a feminist masculinity awareness (quotes are taken from Ch10):-

1) Something wrong

Bradshaw “The feeling that I have done something wrong, that I really don’t know what it is, that there’s something terribly wrong with my very being, leads to a sense of utter hopelessness. This hopelessness is the deepest cut of the mystified state. It means there is no possibility for me as I am; there is no way I can matter or be worthy of anyone’s love as long as I remain myself.” Training can then proceed to turn that feeling into understanding.

Feeling something is wrong with patriarchal conditioning is a good place for the feminist masculinity to start, it is a place where conditioning is beginning to be rejected. Feeling something is wrong is also a good place to start on the path.

2) Addiction

Suffering, caused by lack of integration and rage at the world leads to “alcoholism or substance abuse. Workaholism is the most common addiction in men because it is usually rewarded and not taken seriously as detrimental to their emotional well-being.” “At the moment when addictions stop keeping the pain at bay, many men sink into depression.”

3) Blaming feminism

Understanding feminism and patriarchy is essential to removing conditioning, so investigating if or how much feminism is blamed is part of integration. Are you an active feminist? If not, why not?

4) Pain, Rage and Grief

“many men seeking to be whole must first name the intensity of their rage and the pain it masks.” “Anger often hides depression and profound sorrow. Depression often masks the inability to grieve.” “To grow psychologically and spiritually, men need to mourn. The men who are doing the work of self-recovery testify that it is only when they are able to feel the pain that they can begin to heal.” This is very much the shadow process of Nyanga zandtao described in the Manual, it was not about death of a loved one but about the pain and suffering in love.

“Unable to acknowledge feelings, fathers often cover them up with rage, cruelly severing their own attachment to the son and refusing his love and admiration.” “Our myths and religious stories are full of narratives in which the son is depicted as the father’s enemy, ever poised to steal his power.” “Only the man who chooses a healthy model - wherein the father figure, the adult man of integrity, the guide who shelters, protects, and nurtures the son - can gracefully attend the assertion of his own son’s healthy autonomy.”

5) Control

“The patriarchal model that tells men that they must be in control at all times is at odds with cultivating the capacity to be responsible, which requires knowing when to control and when to surrender and let go.” “At the same time, constructive criticism works only when it is linked to a process of affirmation…. It is the highest realization of compassion and empathy with others.”

6) Willing to Change

“If a man is not willing to break patriarchal rules that say that he should never change — especially to satisfy someone else, particularly a female - then he will choose being right over being loved.”

Training Summary

“Critical analysis is useful when it promotes growth, but it is never enough. The work of affirmation is what brings us together. When men learn to affirm themselves and others, giving this soul care, then they are on the path to wholeness.” “No longer separate, no longer apart, they bring a wholeness that can be joined with the wholeness of others. This is interbeing.” “Men of integrity are not ashamed to serve. They are caretakers, guardians, keepers of the flame. They know joy.” “This is the true meaning of reunion, living the knowledge that the damage can be repaired, that we can be whole again. It is the ultimate fulfillment that comes when men dare to challenge and change patriarchy.”

It is the inner journey that brings such wholeness and integrity, it is a journey that is stronger and carries greater conviction than intellectual awareness. As seekers you rely on the inner Guide to decide on your progress. Bell noted that earlier in the feminist struggle supportive men slipped back because of the ongoing presence of patriarchal conditioning. With an inner journey grows conviction and an ability to withstand and resist the conditioning that tries to pull you back. This conviction grows as the inner journey continues. If feminist masculinity is ongoing then there will be a continuous process of enquiry of what patriarchy's conditioning throws at us; as with any form of conditioning it is our Inner Guide that defines our progress and decides where to lead. We trust our own conviction above what the system throws at us.

Ongoing Evaluation of Disidentification

In this process of developing the Seeker Story, the seeker is trying to release conditioning through disidentification. As we follow our path there is less and less identifying with egos that develop from conditioning. The more we recognise the prevailing tathata, the less we identify with conditioned egos and the more the process of disidentification leads to integration.

However the conditioning concerning identity is very powerful, and the seeker in following the path needs to be wise and discerning. Using the equanimity of love-wisdom the seeker continues to release conditioning through disidentification. The seeker lives in the conditioned world yet seeks to move beyond, but this state of equanimity is not separate from the conditioned world. Conditioning will always try to draw the seeker back into the quagmire of conditioned diversions, and if the seeker does not develop equanimity then attachment to identity questions will continue to develop conditioned egos.

For the MAWP zandtaomed addresses many identity questions because those questions are part of conditioning, and that conditioning is part of tathata that love-wisdom helps us see with our equanimity. This balance of equanimity allows us to see the tathata, the kilesa conditioning, the patriarchy in a way that does not draw us into developing new conditioned egos or draw us into attaching to old conditioned egos. Abiding in equanimity is part of the path for a seeker to avoid conditioning that can arise through attachment to ideals when considering patriarchy, causes when considering emotional attachment, and many such conditioned egos. In terms of embodiment the seeker is active in daily life but equanimity ensures that this activity does not develop conditioned egos. Enquiry is essential to develop this equanimity, and ongoing evaluation of disidentification is required.

Societal Life – Career and Education

The interaction between bill's path and his career and education was very significant at upheaval – firstgrace. So it is a section in his Seeker Story that was very significant - as you could imagine with his upbringing of middle-class conformity.

When you consider Fogle’s people, New Lives in the Wild, it is not unusual for the path to show itself in major changes in societal life. Zandtao loves watching and listening to the people Ben interviews, people who have left the rat race; leaving the rat race was also significant for the development of the Ascension people in 5 Gateways (see Seeker Story of Awakening). Not all of Fogle’s people have been aware of “following the path” or at least Ben never got to that in his interviewing.

Batgap is completely about people’s paths, and in the personal histories of those seekers conflict in societal life and ensuing suffering has been significant in their development. If conflict with societal life (career and education) has been significant in your personal history spend time with this section. For some it might not be appropriate.

Step 2 Highlight the suffering

So far in step 1 there is an overview of your societal life. In this step zandtaomed wants you to try to recall the details of the conflicts and suffering that were part of this overview. If like bill there was a break with your conditioning (in his case the job of middle-class conformity), examine the factors in your identity and in your path, look at the suffering you were experiencing that led to this break.

Examine in detail the suffering and the factors that were in conflict. How much of this suffering can be associated with the patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy (eg middle-class conformity and capitalism) - in your career?

Step 3 Path and career

At the time of bill's break, his personal upheaval, there came a big path decision. Because of what he learned during upheaval he knew there was writing in him. But at the same time compassion came to the forefront. With his path he chose compassion first becoming a houseparent and then a teacher. The writer in him says he took the easy ride having at least some secure finance, the compassion in him says he was too immature to have been a writer. Whatever, he is now a writer and his 30 years as a teacher has left him with a pension to live comfortably where he lives – not with enough money to live in the financial west where he was born (no regrets).

Because of his immaturity it was necessary to gain experience in a second childhood that lasted just over 30 years as he moved to an early retirement where the writing path came into being. Was his path teaching? Outwardly it was but in truth life as a teacher was more a question of compromising his compassion with the limitations of the so-called education system. In a sense it was an outer path, but whilst there were obvious times of inner journey (and solitude as discussed in Viveka-Zandtao) adult life was not as spiritual as it might have been; after all he was an alcoholic for 13 years.

Examine the key decisions in your career. What connection were those decisions with the emerging path?

Part 2 Awakening

As a seeker understanding our conditioning is only important because that conditioning is what creates the blocks to awakening. From birth our path is with us but it is blocked off. Initially that path is blocked off by nature as we develop a self or egos in our childhood to build self-esteem to help survive in adulthood. At some point during adulthood there is the possibility of an awakening where the path breaks through the blocks.

Awakening experiences are diverse. In Batgap Rick Archer interestingly investigates awakenings through conversations with “Ordinary” spiritually awakening people. Any seeker can listen to this to find similarities to their own Seeker Story.

There is a spiritual movie - 5 Gateways - that zandtao recommends people watch, he likes it because of the enthusiasm shown for the path; zandtao is not advocating Ascension as a path - your choice, he is not attracted by later movies from Open. He mentioned this movie to a friend, and he told me his girlfriend had cried as she recognised awakening in herself; sadly it appeared that the tears were because she had not developed this awakening (a perception). In our defiled world awakening can be ridiculed and is usually dismissed as it is not part of conditioning; seekers need to recognise and embrace their own awakenings. Paths are different, the awakening experiences can be so similar. Listening to the awakening experiences (through all 5 Gateways) can help the seeker recognise awakenings in themselves.

Despite the divine nature of awakening, awakenings that occur amongst the “ordinary” are often mocked. Instead of being celebrated as a sign of maturity, ridicule is common-place because for most people especially the establishment-famous (as opposed to creatively-famous) their conditioning has created so many blocks they are unlikely to ever access their paths; this egoic inability leads to blaming and ridicule (a survival response of ego). Because awakenings can be powerful and can often lead to a rejection of former conditioned lives, people undergoing awakening experiences can initially feel vulnerable when their conditioning is confronted. When there is ridicule the vulnerable stay quiet. It is difficult to assess but in zandtao's view many people undergo awakening experiences without being conscious that what they feel is awakening. Instead of these experiences being a platform for a happier life these experiences are shelved away as if they are shadows.

A seeker embraces awakenings, a seeker actively seeks awakenings in all their forms. In the Seeker Story the seeker records these awakenings. Recording their awakenings gives a sense of solidity to the awakening process that goes on in all of us; the path is always there, it is just blocked by our conditioned egos. Through this recording a seeker can begin to see a pattern as to when they arise.

For zandtao awakening is the path shining through but our conditioned egos block the shining light. In this Seeker Story zandtao is not asking for awakening to be seen as THE Enlightenment – zandtao doesn't know what that is, he is not asking for you to think of awakening as permanent perfect bliss. He is asking that you record all awakenings of whatever level of insight. Have you attended a public talk on the path and had a shared meditation experience? Above, zandtaomed described the path of compassion, insight and creativity. Were there great insights that affected your life? What about your creative process? What about ah-ha moments? Have you been out alone in nature and experienced unity – a moment of natural bliss? Have you looked at the sea watching the waves rolling in and thought that the sea is unity? Have you sat beneath a powerful tree and thought of the insignificance of your own ego? What about those poems and writings during your adolescence – the ones not done for school?

Have you had meditation moments? Zandtaomed is not specifically talking about those moments that come to daily meditators, but those moments that come to “ordinary people” (not as meditators), those moments when a deep silence or a deep stillness comes to you in a moment of solitude, a moment so unusual you run and hide amongst people. These are all moments connected to possible awakening. Record them, they are the real you. To help with unlocking your own brainstorming here is what zandtao wrote as his own awakening story at the time; it is not meant as a complete description of his awakening experiences as they are ongoing, it is meant only as a guide to help with your brainstorming. Zandtao digresses into non-awakening anecdotal details, you can do this in your story if it helps you to write so long as you know the purpose is recounting awakenings and not indulging sanna-khandha.

Step 1 Brainstorming

Record all awakenings, insights, creative moments, meditation moments; just record them as they come to you. Take a break taking your mind off awakenings. Now go back and see if there are any more awakenings to record.

Step 2 – Categorise your Awakenings

Nature – As in 5 Gateways awakenings often occur when we are away from our routines, in nature – on cliffs, up mountains, deserted beaches watching the sea. These awakenings don’t have to be full blown as described in 5 Gateways. Being in harmony with nature can be considered a form of awakening. Walking on coast paths away from towns bill would often feel alone but in unity with nature (no bells and banjoes). Record such feelings of harmony with nature.

Go back through your brainstorm, and list the times in nature when you have felt the harmony/unity. Any other times? What does being alone in nature mean to you?

Step 3 – Ah-ha moments

Ah-ha moments – insights – come from the path. In school-teaching bill would encourage an insight process. Homework – kids stuck on a maths problem. Try, leave it. Come back to it, no good? Leave it overnight waking up with the solution. Sometimes you can wake up in the middle of the night. Or you can have a Eureka moment.

Look at your brainstorm. Which of these are ah-ha moments? Can you think of others you haven’t recorded? Do you have techniques such as “sleeping on it” to develop insights?

Step 4 Occasional Grand Awakening Experiences

Bill talks of upheaval as firstgrace:-

Bill likes Eckhart’s idea of a firstgrace freebie, that at some point in your life the path breaks through and gives an earth-shattering experience. In his upheaval this experience was over an intense period of time – weeks/2 months. Many people on Batgap talk of personal moments of awakening. For some people awakening to become enlightened might be a reality, it is not this that bill talks about even as a Grander Awakening Experience. But there are powerful awakening experiences, powerful religious experiences that people have spoken of over time.

For zandtao upheaval was the nearest to such a grand experience, and in his seeker story would greatly detail what happened in this period of upheaval. But given that it was far short of awakening he never refers to it in this way. However because it so deeply changed his life he wished he had been journalling at the time, and recorded every detail. As it is there are disappointing gaps and lost papers. This can't be helped but might have been worthwhile in a Culture of Awakening. But the memory of that time is always with him - even 50 years later.

If you have had such an experience, record it in detail – minutiae from start to finish. Once you think you have recorded all the detail, leave it – do something else. Come back and see if there is more detail you can remember. Revisit this experience often, remember it, relive it, relive the details. It is the experience of your life.

Warning:- If you have been fortunate to have a Grander Awakening Experience even as firstgrace, be careful not to try and recreate it. Accept the grandness (the bells and banjoes) as a one-off experience. Awakenings will continue to arise if you are following your path, they do not arise because you recreate the circumstances where it has happened before. It is not the circumstances of the event that creates the awakening but whether you are following your path – after the freebie of firstgrace.

Step 5 Moving your Awakenings on

We have looked at details of awakening events. Based on the warning we are not looking to recreate the circumstances of those events because we have moved on. Our paths have developed so awakenings will happen as rewards for getting closer to our paths. Such rewards as awakening experiences can simply be affirmations that you are following your path. Awakening experiences as insights can be that path showing you how to learn – by putting flesh on the bones of an insight. Awakening experiences in nature can be telling you to get out and centre yourself more.

Celebrate your awakening experiences but remember they are not the path. Look at my descriptions of the path, what do you think of them? In light of conditioning? Of awakening?

Part 3 Ongoing

Hopefully you have gained from writing your Seeker Story, why not revisit and add to it from time to time.

Through your story of conditioning you have released the conditioned egos and developed a state of wellness towards your best vihara. Through your story of awakenings you have come to know the path and have faith in it, as you detach from conditioned egos so that faith can bring more awakenings.

Does your Seeker Story ever end – is there an end to seeking? Zandtaomed does not answer this question, as an elder his teaching is for ongoing seeking. But that state of seeking is pure – free from conditioning, free from attachment. It is this pure state of seeking that zandtaomed encourages, this is doing the best you can to be the best you can be – free from conditioning and attachment, a state of seeking that is pure and free from the angst of the intellectual better - the intellectual not enough.

With your understanding of the conditioning in your upbringing it will be easier to recognise any new conditioning that you have previously attached to. Understanding your own identity and the conditioning that has led to it means that you can leave those egos behind and follow your compassionate path. Understanding the egos that can arise through romantic love you can develop real love, the real spiritual love that comes from following the path.

Developing a Love-Wisdom balance

For many reasons our spiritual paths are focussed on wisdom and the removal of ignorance. This has to happen, but it has to happen in harmony with a development of spiritual love. But being aware of love as romantic love or spiritual love is not enough, it must be developed as part of our daily practice - we must grow our love - cultivate love.

Where is love currently in our lives? Do we have personal romantic love? Do we have spiritual love? Recognise this love in our lives, and within our practice look for ways to develop it. If your practice is MwB where in the 16 steps can you grow your love - romantic love or spiritual love?

Once you have recognised where love is in your daily life, recognise there is a need for balance:-

How has this balance been in the past? Has an academic past impacted on this balance? Has a spiritual path with too much focus on wisdom impacted on this balance? Has romantic love impacted on this balance? Is there sufficient spiritual love to balance a wisdom path? Develop this balance so that you can integrate and see the truth of tathata - feeling knowing and seeing the way it is.

Zandtao recognises love as a Dhamma comrade - mindfulness/sati, love/karuna, wisdom/panna, concentration/samadhi and embodiment/sampajanna, and through MwB this dhamma love can arise in the same way as the other comrades. At the same time we can be guided by Nicola Amadora to cultivate love by reconnecting with the Divine Mother. Once we have reconnected with the Divine Mother, then we can develop the tathata of feeling, knowing and seeing the way things are so that we can go back and release conditioning of this new awareness. What else is appropriate for moving towards the feminine?

With ongoing seeking there is a recognition that there is always conditioning but following the path we do not have to attach. Awakenings lose the power of “newness” as experienced in firstgrace; this pure state of ongoing seeking has increasing awakenings but because of this equanimous state there aren’t the “bells and banjoes”. With this ongoing pure seeking, maybe the seeker will revisit their Seeker Story, fine tune it and move on. Maybe the seeker’s meditation or inner journey will be sufficiently purifying for their own vihara that there will be no attachment to conditioning. Zandtaomed hopes this tool of the Seeker Story will benefit.

Zandtao Meditation page Advice from Zandtaomed

Books:- Viveka-Zandtao, Pathtivist Trilogy - Treatise, Manual and Companion, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.
Blogs:- Zandtao, Matriellez, Mandtao.