The integrated path of compassion, insight and creativity - the struggle for GAIA.

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Dedicated to bell hooks

(long blogpost 5000 words about a z-quest of 80000 words)

I saw a brief obit (pic) on Trevor’s show of 15 December, and there was a great sadness – and a huge crit of Trevor, such a short obit for such a great woman:-

At her passing I sent out a fb post “Sad - bell hooks died last week, she was a writer you can trust. In memory read and engage with one of her books?”; I decided on my own dedication, a z-quest on the book “The will to change, men, masculinity and love”. When I , I engage fully with what is written (describing a ; bell hooks was such a true writer that engaging with her always disturbed me. This was no exception; meditation was disturbed by sankhara-khandha analysing sanna-khandha raising vedana-khandha - then meditation stopped, and in daily life at the beginning I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with what I wanted to say. Here is my blog about my dedication.

The real engagement of this Z-quest process is how much of an inner journey you go on. It was not about completely believing bell’s opinions but looking at what bell said and applying it to my own life. For me that meant going back and looking at family extending the inner work I did on reconciling the inner child using Thay’s book “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child” in my centring summer. It involved looking at family dynamics, back to being a teenager at school, a young man at uni, and the conditioned man prior to upheaval.

Upheaval is the term I use for the partial awakening that occurred when I was 23. In this description of the path:-

we are looking at going beyond conditioning – patriarchal conditioning. Because of upheaval much of the conditioning was gone – not all. So I thought that this process might not be long but it took over a month, I journaled throughout and wrote 81711 words because of the genuine engagement. This was about family dynamics and embarrassing behaviour when young and is not for online. But when you look at this stuff deeply you can see the patriarchal behaviour bell points at – the impact of the conditioning. Because of patriarchal conditioning we do not discuss these things but even in the privilege of middle-class suburbia the patriarchy has its negative effect. Depending on your level of privilege your conditioned behaviour does not have all the aspects that bell describes - different cultures have different conditionings, but through my inner journey I recognised her truth has so much application within my life. Start by accepting what bell says is true, embrace it as truth until you can be sure that aspects can be rejected. Your first reaction whoever you are will be “the patriarchy does not have this impact on my family, my upbringing”, but it does. It is not IF her description of imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy is true, but HOW MUCH? How much was her truth in your life?

As Zandtaomed I have stopped using bell’s terminology because of reactions to the terminology itself, for the same reason I have stopped using 1%-satrapy – not because the terminology is not accurate but because people have been conditioned to react to the words themselves. The purpose of this is to go in and understand, I don’t want that stopped because of a conditioned response to trigger words. For the purpose of this inner work accept that these words have been turned into a barrier, an emotional reaction, to prevent us from understanding. The conditioning nature gives us is about survival, and through our upbringing we survive with an identity (self/multiple egos). Our collective identities have led to a defiled world that conditions us. Bell accurately describes the full extent of this conditioning but depending on our privilege we do not feel the full impact of all that she describes even though the conditioning is the same. Be clear about this.

It is also important to be very clear as to how bell uses the terminology because we are likely to emotionally react unless we are mindful with our clarity. For bell patriarchy was the system of imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Patriarchy is about the conditioning by imperialism, white-supremacy and capitalism, how all of these conditionings have come together and favoured men in some ways (privilege) as well as harming them in others. This harm shows itself in chauvinism in individuals – chauvinist violence and abuse and chauvinist sexploitation, as well as leaving men themselves abused emotionally. As all men we need to examine how the conditioning of patriarchy creates this privilege and harm through us, and as women how this conditioning affects us with our collusion. I mention women here because patriarchy does not just affect the conditioning of men but also the conditioning of women, whilst women are often victims of the conditioning of men through violence and sexploitation they can also be conditioned to collude with patriarchy; men need to know this and for women it is their journey that I do not discuss. All men need to consider this conditioning, and I specifically mention monks here. Monks are brought up with patriarchal conditioning, and whilst they can be good men who have mostly gone beyond conditioning, the fact that there are chauvinist issues within their institutions is a recognition that conditioning is still affecting them – see perpetuating patriarchy. This process is about how, not if – no matter how good men we are there will still be an impact deep somewhere, the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy affects us, and is an inner journey that would benefit all men. In Ch 10 of the Manual I discussed as a shadow process “embracing the MAWP”, now I have added this Z-quest on bell’s book “The will to change, men, masculinity and love” to that process – “embracing the MAWP by engaging with bell hooks”.

To begin understanding conditioning it is perhaps easier to understand the term agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements” – Toltec wisdom, because quite simply conditioning is not imposed. In describing the wisdom of agreement Toltecs see it starting with upbringing; basically upbringing means that as children we grow up to agree with whatever society requires of us to live together without excessive conflict. As children we grow up making one agreement after another until we are adults. In the home there will be a certain level of patriarchy young boys will be expected to agree with, in the schools whether taught or from peers there will be a certain level of patriarchy that young boys will be expected to agree with, and from media including social media there will be a certain level of patriarchy young boys will be expected to agree with. No matter how much young boys want to grow up being fair to women, by the time they are young men they will have reached many agreements with the patriarchy that will have made them sexist to varying levels. How this can be changed to be fair to women is difficult, it is not a matter of agreeing that we live in a patriarchy – these are just agreements that have been made since birth, not a matter of choice. This is not meant as apologising for behaviour, it is not meant as a justification for sexist behaviour; it is just a fact of life. Young boys are conditioned to be sexist at some level, as all people are conditioned to be racist at some level.

As a Buddhist I look at these agreements in a different way, and that is the conditioning of paticcasamuppada, the law of dependent origination:-

This law is complex especially if we are going to use it to release our conditioning. What is described is how egos are formed, the birth of an ego in 10; with egos the “mass of suffering arises” including patriarchy (and racism). However conditioning also propagates itself. The first conditioning children meet is that of instinct, nature had decided that in order for us to survive we develop instincts that protect us; by the time we have reached young adulthood the identity that instincts create has developed various levels of patriarchy. Buddhism recognises this law, but not all Buddhists take it further - into social understanding. Once conditioning has created society, that society through media, education and others procreates that conditioning so that in adulthood people have to work hard to overcome conditioning at all levels - the conditioning that people already have from childhood and the further conditioning that society imposes on us as adults. It is amazing that with this level of conditioning anything ever gets changed even if there is a will to change.

bell recognised that the patriarchy does not exist in isolation, she used the absolutely wonderful and accurate term “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY?” (see why here p8). Whilst to me this is accurate and explains the interaction between the economic system, racism and patriarchy, for more than 99% of people this term would be too much and at least half would turn off at the very use of the term – or start to water it down. For me however these words are accurate, but because of the triggering is not a term that I now use – except in this dedication. The term I use for it is simply conditioning. Our conditioning is instinctive - the way nature intended from birth, followed by social reinforcement that accurately bell called imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy - sadly now a divisive term. To change patriarchy systemically we need to change the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Is that possible?

In my view recognising this level, the totality, of conditioning is the first step to actually coming to an approach to “solve” the problem of patriarchy. Patriarchy cannot be “solved” without “solving” all aspects of the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy – without “solving” this conditioning.

I associate the discussion of revolutionary vs reformist feminism with bell hooks. When a female CEO wants to be paid the same as a male, this is reform because as CEO this woman is a representative of the 1% in the 1%-satrapy – my political term for the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. By revolutionary feminist I take it to mean the need to overthrow the capitalist system before (or at the same time as) overthrowing imperialism,patriarchy and racism. Whilst non-violent revolutionary is the nearest to overthrowing conditioning it is still a reaction to conditioning as is reformism, the way to “solve” conditioning is to go beyond it.

In Zanshadtao I began looking at siladhamma and it is where I described the patriarchy of borderline-abuse, and how spiritual teachers can get sucked into this abuse because of the prevailing conditioning. In writing siladhamma in Zanshadtao I had thoughts of my own abusing flying around but I did not face them. It is part of the MAWP integration discussed Ch10 in the Manual, M is male, M must mean looking at male abuse - Arrogant White and Privileged.

So far I have described pathtivism as an approach to end the patriarchy but whilst this is the single most important approach to patriarchy and conditioning in general, it is not really a solution because so few people are attempting to follow their path. This next, siladhamma, is little better as a solution because it is all-encompassing, individuals can follow their paths and this might lead to siladhamma being society’s model. Institutions, families and wider, can accept siladhamma as their model/way of life within the patriarchy, but for society to become a siladhamma is perhaps less likely than the impact of pathtivism where sufficient people are following their paths to correct the current imbalances. What is possible however is that the 1%-satrapy, bell’s imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, will be seen by sufficient people to be the problem that they might seek an alternative, and siladhamma is such an alternative. Can feminism be a complete alternative despite being for everyone?

For me siladhamma was a term used by Buddhadasa that I picked up on after initially developing #NatureCompassionDecency in Viveka-Zandtao. #NatureCompassionDecency was initially developed as a means of coping with the that was taking young seekers without the discipline for monasteries into cults. How can we possibly live together when we cannot be compassionate and decent to each other? And how can we possibly survive if we cannot live in harmony with nature? When our behaviour is being conditioned, we can turn around and say that we cannot behave in this way because we accept that in our lives we live by siladhamma. This can work on a micro as well as a macro level; it can work in relationships and families.

I never did this but it could be a way of starting relationships by agreeing to live by siladhamma. In monasteries there is the Vinaya, a code for Buddhist monks, and a hierarchy based on time lived in a monastery. Why not have a code in relationships? Siladhamma. In all relationships agreements are made, why not make these arrangements siladhamma?

However, can siladhamma ever become society’s conditioning? It can be within individual families, and people who live by siladhamma are often respected but this respect is a respect that they present with a caveat – they cannot be compassionate or they need money not compassion. Siladhamma as a way of life would spread when people see it can work and they then see how it makes people happy.

Patriarchal conditioning would be negated if we practised siladhamma in relationships – if siladhamma became the way we lived in the home. It would end the coercion of borderline-abuse. It would ensure that the sexual act was based on compassion (or love) whilst at the same time recognising nature within that act.

This consideration of nature leads to an important aspect of sexuality within a relationship and within society – understanding the needs of another in the relationship. Firstly those needs have to be discussed in order to be recognised. In patriarchal coercion the needs of the short-term sexual gratification of the male is tacitly recognised and sadly expected, in relationships how much attention is given to the sexual needs of the woman? That attention varies in different relationships but what is important is that the attention needs to be equitable, how often is it?

What about other relationship needs? What about the home and security? Presumably in a loving relationship such discussions would arise within the context of love, a context in which both people love each other yet are free to fulfil themselves by following their paths – if that is possible here is Thich Nhat Hanh on romantic love. Thay brings into question the possibility that love can truly flourish in relationship, maybe this issue will arise in this dedication because for me love means spiritual love – discussed in Zanshadtao.

Returning to home and security, in some cultures tradition states that men provide the finance for the woman to look after the home. What about the male stereotype of the provider? On the question of home and security, are there different innate needs for women and men or do the various expressed needs for men and women come from conditioning? Whilst there are clear physical differences between women and men, are there character differences that come from nature?

But how natural are differences between women and men? That is such a difficult question, and it is a question that rigid adherence to the dogmatic position of equality alienates many people, women and men alike. When we consider what is “natural” it is necessary to begin to consider what is naturalness for women and men. This brings us back to the path, and considerations of what the path means. MwB helps with this. Through MwB ("Mindfulness with Breathing" by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu) we develop the vihara – roughly equivalent to the first three tetrads so that we can use our faith to reconnect with the Dhamma – the 4th tetrad. It would not be unreasonable to consider a boundary of conditioning to be that of the 3rd and 4th tetrad, the vihara is the vehicle of conditioning, the vehicle of the 5 khandhas; through transcendence faith provides the force that reconnects to the Dhamma. Beyond conditioning what is natural is the Dhamma, a question that is of little relevance when considering different genders.

But is there a “natural” difference concerning the khandhas? Kaya – body – definitely, vedana, sanna and sankhara – I don’t know. I suspect vedana will be naturally different as vedana is closer to kaya. Asking if there is a natural difference in characteristics might just boil down to whether there is a difference in the way women and men have feelings. Would that include feelings about home?

By observation we can see various commonalities across cultures in which men are providers (“hunters”) and women look after the homes, whilst this tends to suggest that this is a naturalness it could also be that patriarchy has latched onto this perception to exploit it. Of course it could be a natural difference, and that the problem lies in patriarchy that places higher value to the work of the provider than the home. And what about people who put the home as a priority? Personally from the outside I value the home higher, and see the need for a greater focus on the home as being a fundamental problem in society. This emphasis on the home came up in my education evaluation of Matriellez, because of all the home problems children carry with them and because of the lack of integration between school, home and society. But when you consider nature, natural characteristics, home and roles, there can be no answer. It is nature vs nurture, what arises during conditioning? What arises during the patriarchy? There are some obvious attributes of patriarchy, the violence, the legal framework that attempts to defend short-term gratification at the expense of a woman’s autonomy over her own body, but is there a natural difference?

With this understanding of path conditioning and siladhamma I started using bell’s book as a guide through an inner journey of patriarchy. Because I embraced the process and investigated dubious aspects of my past, examined family, my relationships with women, lust and violence this process has taught me a great deal; much arises in a journal of 80000 words. I found the question of nature is not possible to conclude – when does conditioning end? Typically there are even different views on kaya, the sex urge in men and conditioning, is it different in each man? Different for a woman? At the same time there are identity questions that divide us, so I avoided the questions around divine feminine and masculine - it causes no problems of understanding to avoid. The deeper your journey goes the better, the more you consider embarrassing moments in your life the greater you will understand patriarchy, the more you examine family issues the greater you will understand patriarchy, the better you do this inner journey the less able you are to share the details.

After 80000 words

I went deeper and deeper until I reached Ch10 of bell’s book on integration – integration of fragmented patriarchal egos, and by then path siladhamma conditioning and bell’s feminist masculinity came together – amusing coincidence it is Ch 10 in the Manual where I discussed integration. There is no magic wand that can instantly end patriarchy, would that there were. What we can do is break individual conditioning down one person at a time, it is the journey to do that that I have just been on, and it is that journey I strongly recommend for others as part of their path.

Feminist masculinity can be part of your path – the path has many ways, that is why bell’s integration in Ch10 and the path come together. Feminist masculinity can become an awareness programme for men. Back in the day I ran racism awareness, it was beneficial. Awareness of feminist masculinity can also be beneficial. To begin with there needs to be a safe space, for men to feel free to express their intimate struggles there needs to be absolute trust – I do not believe that any inner journey for a man will not bring shame if shared in a hostile place; issues of lust abuse and violence can be deeply shaming. That is not the purpose – investigate, understand and let go.

So we start with a safe space – a support group, counselling, meditation – a safe space. From my 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. (Discussed in Manual Ch10LINK).

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 I 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. 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. We trust our own conviction above what the system throws at us.

And this inner journey can be taken further through techniques such as meditation where there is still the ongoing enquiry that negates conditioning and there is still the strengh of conviction that is the beginning of the path.

This is of course a theoretical training course that has arisen out of my feminist masculinity awareness inner journey through “embracing the MAWP by engaging with bell hooks”. It needs practice and tuning. As Zandtaomed, if such a situation were to arise I would be prepared to run such a feminist masculinity awareness course as the daily emails are effectively journaling, and meditation would be a good way of helping someone go inwards – deeply. As elder I would attempt to enable such a man to develop the awareness and strength that comes from taking the inner journey to understand patriarchy, enable him to consolidate that strength, and develop the autonomy that can give him the conviction to withstand patriarchal conditioning throughout his life. bell recognised throughout that there was a need for a systemic change, but how does that come about? In the Pathtivism Manual I discussed activism. My conclusion - pathtivism - path activism. Pathtivism is the struggle for people to follow their paths, and when they follow their paths they look at how much of their life is actrivism. Can the system be changed through non-violent revolution? Working with individuals through pathtivism helps change the system and provides the strength and conviction to withstand patriarchy, let your autonomy decide for you.

Wow, what a journey! After my centring summer I did not think there was stuff like this to uncover. This took over my life for a month of 80000 words, time to get back to the more spiritual Zanshadtao that has almost been forgotten. The journey was not emotionally draining, because I have done so much work like this before. If you are going to do such inner work, please make sure you have someone with you or at the other end of the phone, a safe person and a safe space - any work that looks properly into family dynamics must bring out "demons".

Whilst I was not too drained I had let myself go. Early on in the month I had stopped meditation. I was sleeping and then immediately getting up and journaling this dedication, it had gripped me that much. This morning I got up the same way and started reflecting in my chair I was too immersed in conditioning. I couldn't meditate. I had to force myself to meditate. There was no reconnection with sunnata. Why not? Sanna - I was immersed in egos of memories and perceptions that were blocking sunnata. I felt a glimpse at the end after I collapsed on the bed. This is not good. I must meditate and get back to where I was. This does not disturb me as the inner work was beneficial, balance will come back.

It became clear where the imbalance was that gave rise to the "letting go". It was about vihara without faith, conditioning the vihara in the sanna-khandha letting go of the vedana-khandha of upbringing, but what did not happen was maintaining the reconnection with the Dhamma because I was not trying to do that through meditation. This was not so much a problem with my centring summer because the released faith reconnected. With this dedication to bell hooks there was greater depth and understanding but no new powerful shadows that would help with reconnection. However the quality of the dedication has been the development of the programme, this would help me as a meditation elder - and maybe feed into other work?

Whoever you are - even Good Men, learn about your feminist masculinity. This is not an easy journey especially if you have not done inner work before – make sure you have a safe person and a safe space. The more privileged you are (more benefits from the patriarchy) the less likely you are to accept what is required for this journey. Accept bell’s opinions of the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, and try to understand how the patriarchy has impacted your life. Remember conditioning will have made agreements to reject bell’s terminology. Don’t reject; ask how not if, go deep and ask how. Remember we are talking about conditioning that has been made in our upbringing – in our families; coming to terms with family dynamics is hard, difficult and requires a safe person/space. As we let go of our conditioning we begin to follow our paths; and if we can, we follow our paths in spaces of siladhamma.

Embrace your MAWP by engaging with bell hooks. My dedication.

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