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Advice from Zandtaomed
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Zanshadtao - Z-quest

Ch 1 Path, me and my shadow

Shadow develops from conditioning so we must first understand conditioning. The cause and effect of conditioning happens continuously throughout our lives – the Buddhist law of paticcasamuppada. By this law we can see how egos arise through attachment or clinging, and it also shows us how to avoid such egos arising. Shadow is part of the conditioning that arises, shadow is conditioned egos. But why are these egos shadow? Because we cannot live with accepting those egos as part of who we are so we repress them to shadow so that we are not conscious of them.

These conditioned egos initially arise as part of nature. Nature gives us instincts to survive, and as we grow up we cling to these survival instincts so that as an adult we have survived with a baggage of egos. We are born with these instincts, grow up with protective egos and as a mature adult following our paths we let those egos go. But within our defiled society there is conditioning that encourages us to continue to attach to these egos as kilesa, upadanas and khandhas. But at the same time we have likely developed shadow because of egos that we cannot accept.

As mature adults we can learn to release egos by letting them arise and fall away, and so we can live in this defiled world without forming new egos and by releasing egos that have already formed either in childhood as conditioning or as a result of the ongoing conditioning in the defiled world. Letting go of egos is not easy with “usual” conditioning but when the egos are repressed in shadow such release becomes harder as those egos have become entrenched - if not far worse as in trauma.

From birth we are conditioned, and because we have the instinct that loves our parents much of our young conditioning comes from our parents. If what our parents want of us is difficult for us to be conscious with then we repress it to shadow. So for many people shadow revolves around parenting. There is a tendency to blame parents, and I wish to mitigate that. Parents also have the instinct of procreation so to criticise parents for choosing to have us is unreasonable. This procreation is reinforced by society who expect young people to marry and have children; are those young people sufficiently mature to have released childhood egos and shadow? At the same time most parents are subjected to conditioning and so are often simply conduits for societal conditioning.

My parents were middle-class so I was repressed and pushed into an academic way of life. These were the dominant themes of my childhood brought up repressed but academically qualified. In terms of shadow I grew up with the ability to repress, I even gave it a generous word – internalise; I was quick to internalise especially emotions. I did not grow up expressing myself, and that need for expression often exploded immaturely. There was a deep anger that showed itself in angry and petulant behaviour, and I associate this anger with repression. I reached uni a year early, and this immaturity turned to alcohol. But my focus was on the conditioned need for educational success, and that need took over prior to exams – not for the rest of the year – when I would become focussed on revision. At no stage did I consider what I studied of value, I was conditioned to be there and pass. As a result in my view I underachieved, but succeeded sufficiently to be accepted on a postgraduate course that got me entry into my first job.

Beyond the need for academic success and entry into a profession middle-class upbringing was lacking. So in the job I had no discipline and none of the hidden career requirements to “climb the ladder”. The only interest I had in the job was occasional academic interest – in statistics I did joint maths and stats – and the drinking in the West End where the office was situated. Within a year they wanted me to leave, in a sense sad as it was a good entry job. My anger at being pushed out sent me to a far worse job in sleepy Kent suburbia. I did not focus at all on this job, and my life was focussed on trips up to London. It all soon exploded as I got more and more drunk with less and less sleep. I was extremely drunk at work, got the sack and ran home to my parents. All of this was about the path but there was no conscious awareness.

My parents’ home was the source of my repression so in a sense it was the last place I should have been. I was there just over three weeks in this middle-class suburb of Manchester, and remember only one event when walking in Manchester and I passed a pub where there was an office do. Recalling my own office doa year earlier, I just said to myself I would like to be enjoying myself but this lifestyle has nothing to do with me. Early in the New Year I returned to London with a vague notion that I wanted a job in a non-careerist office – a kind of office family. I had no money – my parents likely gave me something, got on the coach, got off and walked into an employment bureau. This level of disorganised daring was way out of my comfort zone – it was not who I was. The bureau saw my qualifications and forced me into a computing office job in Hounslow. I stayed overnight in a B&B in Hounslow, and the next day was parked in an open plan cubical with a Cobol manual and the specs for the software the company used. That might I found a bedsit in Chiswick, and I was setup for my upheaval – my partial awakening. Up until this point in my life everything was done on automatic – on conditioning, being repressed there was very little conscious awareness in what I was doing. About the only thing I had gained was an acceptance of solitude, as a teenager I walked for hours around my suburb to this day I am not sure why – maybe just escaping the repression of the childhood home.

There was no physical abuse in the home, the only violence was my bullying of my younger brother. I was not a violent person probably because I was too weak, but that violence when young is always with me. Given the situations I was in as an adult, I know that violence was a consequence of the repression; I am aware now of how different conditioning can make someone – I have empathy for the problems of the socially-deprived as better conditions would end such problems.

In that Chiswick bedsit my life truly began – more accurately my path began but retrospectively it feels like my life. Jhanas just started to happen – I called them bells and banjos; I don’t recall how it first happened, nor when it first happened. I only remember wanting to get back to the bedsit and immediately this meditative state would come to me, and I felt happy for the first time; I had never experienced such joy so once it happened I wanted it to happen again, again and again. There was an awakening, and my life was beginning.

Again I don’t know how this happened. A lady I had worked with at my first job took me to an Arts Centre; I don’t know how I reconnected with her. But the people in this Arts Centre including this lady saved my life. They gave meaning to this awakening. Such an awakening was not part of the repressed middle-class upbringing but I could talk about bells and banjos. At work I just did what was required, I had made a decision when at my parents that I would hold down a job so I was fulfilling job requirements – for the first time in my life outside exam cramming I had some personal discipline. But my colleagues were not people to discuss bells and banjoes with.

Presumably encouraged by the Arts people I began writing. It was Martin Smoothchatter, derision about the office way of life. My scifi as Morphon started at some stage serialised in the Arts Centre magazine – maybe started at Chiswick maybe later. But Chiswick set me up because of the joy of the jhanas, a joy I had never known - the term jhanas I never knew until 40 years later. And a joy that was connected to creativity. Life had begun for me, joy in the Chiswick loft, being accepted as a person (not the lads/boys) for the first time by the Arts people, and walking up-and-down Chiswick High Road.

Out of all this experience grew compassion. Saturday mornings I joined a group who took disadvantaged children to the park, but not for many weeks as I decided to become a houseparent – my middle-class repressed-defined degree opening this door for some reason. I worked in Manor Park and remember my life being work with the kids at Manor Park, being with the Arts people at the Elephant or endless talking in Tooting – not a word remembered, buses from the Elephant or long walks along Whitechapel Road or Commercial Road out to Manor Park.

Dissatisfied with the couple that ran this home, I moved on - whilst still heavily involved with the Arts people I had become dedicated to the kids in Manor Park, the dissatisfaction being a result of the dedication. An Arts friend through family connected me to a trip to Belgium. Once there I broke contact with the family but there were two key connections. They took me to a cottage in the Ardennes. I was reading Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan (I am not a Casteneda fan now and don’t recommend his other books). I decided to get lost in the forest. I walked for hours – just walking, then turned round. After a number of hours I met a road and followed it knowing it would get me to the cottage; later I found out that the road was an hour and I was 15 mins from the cottage! The whole day was a lesson for trusting myself but it is not to be recommended. Maybe 30 years later I was in China up in their mountains. After a long bus ride, I needed to stretch my legs. I walked out of town and a short way up the side of the mountain repeatedly keeing an eye on the landscape and where the town and my hotel were. Mist came down and I couldn’t see a thing. I retraced my steps down the side of the mountain. But I had walked too far, why hadn’t I met the road? I was getting hot, and tied my very warm Rab jacket around my waste – I thought if I get stuck that will keep me warm enough overnight if necessary. Then …. I looked down, it had got snagged and was gone; I looked for it – a waste of time. I was beginning to panic. I couldn’t speak with the people on the bus, no-one knew where I was, and I was unprotected. I continued to walk – still going down the mountain; down was safer? Eventually I reached an empty road, and turning left should mean I go back up to the town and hotel. I went left and found myself going down and down – it made no sense. The town was an isolated ski-ing town, from what I recall there was nothing else around; so I went against my direction logic turned to go up the mountain and reached my hotel just as night fell – dark and cold. To this day I have no idea how I got so turned around, but it was death-scary; no-one ever knew. Doing this kind of thing is dangerous.

Back to Belgium and the real learning started when I was staying in a small tenement cottage the family owned. By this time my manner had separated me from the Art’s friend family, I partly regret my behaviour because his generosity helped me on my journey. Yet at the same time I was on my own, and needed to be. For the first time in my life I really got into myself. I borrowed books from the British Council library, read a bit and wrote tons. Every little word or phrase seemed to spark a whole torrent of writing as I lived within the joy of jhanas – within the bells and banjos. I just ate and wrote with an occasional trip to Brussels an hour away by bus to meet a friend. Apart from walking the only other time I left the cottage was to walk to a supermarket an hour’s walk away, and carry weekly tins in my rucksack. I think I was there a month when I returned to the contact, thanked him and told him I was off to Paris. This first trip to Paris and I fell in live with the air. I was there maybe a couple of days, no money, and returned to London – I never found the air again.

Back in London I moved onto another home in Ealing. With the cottage writing I had consolidated, the joy of jhanas began to wane, but my life had started. I took the same Manor Park dedication to Ealing, but by then the Arts Centre had folded because of corruption. My connection with the Arts people was now barely there, I had chosen compassion and caring over creativity. And most importantly I was incredibly immature – I had had an awakening but was incredibly immature. From then on I describe my life as second childhood, meaning a time when I would gain experience and together with the partial awakening this would lead to the maturity of the path. I took early retirement after being worn out by the profiteering and careerism in education. This was perhaps my best life decision. I arrived at this decision through my holidays because during holidays I was able to get back to my path; the distance between me on my path and me working just kept growing until I found I had sufficient money to retire early in Thailand and study Buddhism. Through this study and meditation the partial awakening led to a full awakening on the path – and the Zandtao site.

Where is the shadow in this? And the answer quite simply is that it has not been encountered yet. My repressive childhood led to some shadow, but basically my childhood was physically privileged and whilst there is some shadow discussed later it was conscious repression that I had to deal with. And almost as soon as I started work the path broke through the conditioning of repression leading to the partial awakening. At the partial awakening (that I have called upheaval in the Pathtivism Trilogy) there was no clinging to the egos of upbringing, no clinging to the egos of conformity that we usually develop during upbringing; there was just sufficient ego to get relative exam success and once with that there was nothing to cling to the job with – no careerism, no discipline, no salary greed, no desire for family – the love and conformity that usually enslaves us to our jobs. Over the next 40 years I gained experience during the second childhood until I matured onto the path in retirement. Because of the nature of my awakening I realise that the path coped with life even when shadow arose, I was following my path since the awakening and to a more or less extent the path coped with life. Having such an early awakening gave me such luck because of this coping, but it did not mean I didn’t experience hardship and even shadow. But the big lesson it taught me was that following the path can cope with what life throws at you. I was not worldly, I was not mature – had limited understanding of daily life, so path at that stage had limited wisdom. In the introduction to the "Power of Now"

, Eckhart describes his awakening, with his level of awakening together with the studies he did enabled him to be a teacher. I come to path-teaching much later after gaining life experience in my second childhood.

In terms of Zanshadtao, what I know for certain is that the path can cope. Whilst there is some childhood shadow to talk about I only discovered that much later in life, my first and most important shadow came from a relationship that I always call Peyton Place. During the relationship was a tumultuous time in my life and I buried all the pain – internalised it – created a shadow because I did not deal with the relationship. I loved Peyton but I could not cope with the pain that brought, so I internalised it. In the end the pain did not end with the relationship as I carried debts with me for years. But it was the pain of losing the person I loved, together with all the hardship, that built up the shadow I could not cope with. For 4 years I had no relationships, and then began teaching in Africa where there were relationships with their own issues yet thankfully I released the shadow pain and was able to love again – even that love brought some pain.

In Southern Africa life was teaching, relationship and game parks. I was touring the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe and stopped in some bungalows in Nyanga. Unconsciously I had been building up to this night. I had begun a mid-life review and was reflecting on my life thus far. I was conscious of my awakening, Peyton Place and the shadow – the pain I had internalised – repressed. As part of the mid-life review I had done some meditation but although the review was an internal process I did not have a good meditation practice. But that Nyanga night I knew I had to go deep and release the pain – the shadow. I lay on the bed in foetal position and searched inside my digestive system for Peyton – I knew she was in there and I knew she was causing me pain. I found her and relived some of the pain that was there – that had been caused in our relationship. And that reliving brought teras and pain but I still continued until the reliving had exhausted all that pain that had been internalised. I even went in again and found a little concerning my parents but other than noting it I could leave it. But I had released the shadow that had been left during Peyton Place.

I fell asleep in the middle of the night and woke up feeling both drained and refreshed after the shadow work – I did not know it was called shadow then. It was a relief not to be carrying that burden. I have used that process of the Nyanga night, of reliving the pain so releasing the consciousness attached to it, several times since, but never to the same effect as I never internalised so much pain after that, both because such pain never happened in my life like that again and because I was aware enough not to let such shadow to be built up again.

Perhaps the next most significant shadow experience happened just a few years ago in my centring summer. During this Summer several techniques came together as part of a completion process – I have discussed them in the Manual. It is worth considering what completion or integration means and how it relates to shadow. For me it is the fourth tetrad of MwB, the fourth foundation of mindfulness. With this meditation technique we examine the 3 tetrads of body – kaya, emotion – vedana, and mind – citta. In the fourth tetrad we release all attachment (consciousness) to body, energy and mind, and transcend to reconnect with the Dhamma. Another way of seeing this is to release all attachments to body, energy and mind, integrate body, energy and mind to become free and reconnect with consciousness. Essentially we gather together consciousness that has been attached, free it up reconnecting with consciousness. The same process as this Buddhadasa called “removing I and mine from the 5 khandhas”, very similar in description. The 5 khandhas are body, emotion, perception and memory, mental processes – sankhara, and the consciousness attached to them. Removing I and mine means recognising that there is no I, and that by describing any of these aggregates as mine is attachment that we release. During this centring summer several processes came together to help me reconnect with consciousness.

The Nyanga process was one such process – already explained. Another process worked that I call “Embracing the MAWP”. MAWP is an acronym I use for Male Arrogant White and Privileged. As a white man I have been subject to conditioning all my life to build up the conditioned ego that I here call MAWP. Because we live in a racist and sexist society white men must be subject to such conditioning. For some MAWPish behaviour is inherited from parents; but if you are fortunate enough that your parents are not particularly racist or sexist, there is still the media and other racist and sexist members of society that you meet and might cause such conditioning. The level of your MAWPish behaviour depends on whether you have released the MAWP ego from your upbringing and whether you have prevented new conditioning of a MAWP ego from living in the defiled society we live in. Recognising the reality of our defiled society means that we know we are subject to MAWP conditioning, we embrace this as who we are and we let go of the conditioning.

The next process I call “finding the chakras by the bootstraps”. Chakras are one of those “mystical” things that various spiritual people talk about. When you start to examine different traditions we can see that different chakra techniques define different positions or colours for chakras. I started from the basis that chakras exist, ask you to study the different chakra techniques and find which technique suits you the best. Fundamental to this is that chakras exist, and you have to learn how to use them to benefit you. For me this is a shadow technique because it is about balance. When you balance the chakras you can release buried shadow but even if you don’t it helps balance your consciousness naturally and is therefor beneficial to completion. Details of what I recommend is in Ch 9 of the Manual.

Now the final shadow technique I used is described by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book "Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child" by Thich Nhat Hanh, this is an excellent book describing how to connect with the Inner Child and rather than describing aspects of the book I would ask you to practice it completely – and take from it what you need. I had been conscious since my upheaval that there were issues with my parents. For many years I only saw them at a perfunctory Xmas. As a reverse of the stereotype my mother was not good at answering my letters so that didn’t help, our lives were separate. When I went to work in Africa, I was given a return flight as part of the contract. Now the contract was not lucrative and living in the UK would have been a major expense. My parents dutifully told me I could stay with them, and the first contract break was a real tester. I resolved that issues that had previously arisen I would not allow to affect me. I did not notice any changes in the behaviour of my parents that gave rise to these issues, but because I would not allow them to affect me it meant that there was a liveable détente that eventually grew into their looking forward to my visits. When later I had more lucrative contracts and could afford to stay elsewhere, I chose to stay with them. Relations were fine until they died. My mother died first, I returned to the UK to look after my father but he died a few months later.

Now I have been careful in my choice of language to avoid any characterisation of either of my parents, but there were difficulties. In other words there was work to be done with my Inner Child, and I did this during my Centring Summer. Through conversations with my Inner Child I understood the relationship between my father and mother and how it affected me. There was an understanding that explained so much about the relationship and what happened in our lives. So even though there was no significant trauma, there was a shadow there that the conversations threw light on. Through my contract visits later in their lives we had a living relationship, and through the Inner Child work I later understood what had been happening on our lives. This was freeing.

I have just briefly looked back over the personal journals of my Centring Summer. I went deep – I had forgotten how deep and wonderful it was. How much of a release! It was so releasing I had forgotten what I went through and how important going through it was. I do recommend you keep a journal of your shadow work, it can be illuminating during and afterwards.

Was my path a shadow before my partial awakening? There is a spiritual law that we have the parents we needed, I can see that law in my parents. My mother was spiritual although never properly expressed, as a child deep down I would have known that. But there was middle-class repression, as far as I recall there was no expression on my part. Creativity as a form of expression as part of my path was not expressed but despite the writing I have done creativity was only a part of my path. It is not clear to me how path is meant to come out in childhood, if Piagetian development is anything to go by awareness of the path is only likely to occur after the formal operational stage – after adolescence to adulthood. But I can see general repression as repressing the path, if parents were spiritual they would encourage any form of spiritual expression; in my case such expression would have been repressed – although spiritual awareness would have been there for me because of my mother.

As soon as I needed discipline in the world of work my path expressed itself through the partial awakening; university for me was still a playground of learning but with the beginnings of the freedom to express – although drink took a lot of that. I think it fair to say that my path was shadow as a child, but how meaningful is that? What was key to my path was the repression itself, a repression that directly and quickly led to the partial awakening just before I was 23. At my partial awakening I understood conditioning, moved beyond that conditioning, but only partially. There was still conditioning that I was not aware of, and I was still subject to the building of new conditioned egos because I was so immature. There was shadow there that I became aware of only through Inner Child work, but that shadow was mostly concerned with family relationships. It was the immaturity that was my greatest drawback but that could only be overcome through experience and living my life awakened to some extent on the path. Because of the partial awakening it was not a shadow that would come out and bite me, a usual characteristic of shadow.

Because of this partial awakening I was always equipped to deal with shadow – there was no question that I would allow shadow to affect my daily life. The pain that came from Peyton Place restricted my expression of love in personal relationships for a number of years, when I started relationships in Africa they were concerned with comfort and sex drive – even though I did briefly love. It was only in retirement that I became truly grateful for the love of Peyton Place, and understood how that love was the precursor of spiritual love that came from maturely following my path in retirement. There might be shadow in that, ego was certainly there during my second childhood preventing me from connecting with the Dhamma – with sunnata. It is difficult to decide between ego and shadow; their source is the same – conditioning, and it was only during the time of maturing in retirement that I began to try to release all conditioning. My partial awakening released a level of conditioning throughout my life, and this I mostly associated as closeness to the path - something I considered for most of my adult life post-awakening.

My path gives me ability to recognise and work with shadow through meditation. I am not psychiatrically-trained so am wary of trauma – shadow as trauma. Trauma will arise through MwB – I have seen that with my seekers. Whether we can handle that trauma together depends on the situation and is something as elder I must be conscious of. I am certain that a psychiatrist has years of training and experience that can help with trauma, but such training and experience is not particularly spiritual. An objective of the psychiatrist might well be working with a patient to release trauma, this is far different from following the path. Do psychiatrists always recognise the spiritual? It is not a course requirement.
br> Because of how I have lived with my path, what I am absolutely convinced of is that the path can integrate shadow, and truly following your path will integrate any shadow. Those who intentionally bypass shadow have not yet reached the stage of integration, and it is not surprising that shadow affects some spiritual teachers who try to repress it – not integrate it. But the path is mysterious – Eckhart’s first mystery of consciousness. There is no objective assessment of this bypassing and shadow, if there is spiritual malpractice then that is an objective measure that there is not integration and maybe that is caused by shadow. If a spiritual teacher exhibits such behaviour then they have not integrated, and I would recommend changing your teacher; they might have the words but they are not following the path. Choose teachers who are following their paths.

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