Nondual Zen Teacher Biographies

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About Kathleen and Chris - Nondual Zen Teacher Biographies

Kathleen Sutherland and Christopher Warnock are the teachers at Nondual Zen.

Here are Kathleen's Story and Chris' Story.

Kathleen's Story

I was born in 1962, grew up in Iowa City, and attended law school at the University of Michigan, where I met my husband, Chris Warnock.

We lived in Washington, DC from 1990 to 2007. As well as practicing law along with Chris, I taught yoga. In 2008, we returned to Iowa City, where we currently reside.

My spiritual seeking began in earnest with the death of my father when I was 23. I instinctively knew he wasn't gone, and I wanted to know where he was. I explored the usual avenues of Eastern mysticism and modern Western teachers.


But throughout my 20’s and 30’s, much of my searching was undermined by a struggle with addiction (primarily to alcohol and food). Addressing this issue itself was a critical component of my spiritual work and path for many years.

After moving to Iowa City in 2008, I became involved with Zen Buddhism. I received a lay ordination in January, 2011. But I eventually found that the emphasis on meditation alone was insufficient to lead me to awakening. In 2014, I began working online with the nondual teacher, Fred Davis, who guided me to a profound awakening experience.

Since then, I have continued to deepen and assimilate my understanding of Truth. Although we are all always perfectly awake in the here and now, the exploration of that truth unfolds in myriad ways, moment by moment. I have found the integrated teachings of Zen and nonduality to be especially powerful in this process, and so through this site Chris and I hope to effectively share our path and insights with any and all who are similarly drawn to direct pointing to True Nature.


Chris' Story

I was born in 1963 in Wisconsin, and grew up in Michigan. The first step in breaking from samsara was going to college in Scotland, where I graduated from the University of St. Andrews in 1986. Here I first experienced life outside the closeted suburban reality of my youth.

I met Kathleen in law school and began our mutual journey, living in Washington, DC and then in Iowa City, her hometown. I became a conscious spiritual seeker in DC where I was initiated into the Dhu'r-Riyasatayn branch of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order in 1991.

In DC I was also tutored in Islamic logic and the existentialist philosophy of Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) by Ayatollah Mehdi Ha'iri Yazdi, who had the unique distinction of being a master (mujtahid) of traditional Iranian philosophy as well as having received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toronto.


In Iowa I began a serious Zen practice sitting daily zazen (sitting meditation). I was initiated in the Soto Zen lineage of Dainin Katagiri by undergoing the jukai lay ordination and receiving the Bodhisattva precepts from the Rev. Shoken Winecoff, Abbot of Ryumonji Monastery on October 23, 2011. In October of 2013, I went on pilgrimage to Japan and visited Koyasan, the headquarters of the Shingon School of Japanese tantric Buddhism. There I underwent jukai in the Shingon School and received the kechien kanjo, a mikkyo or esoteric Buddhist tantric initiation.

While I found zazen, sutra chanting and other traditional practices of Soto Zen very useful, I was not awake nor was I in contact with awakened beings. I found it unlikely that enlightenment only took place in the past and began seeking direct enlightenment.


Kensho was experienced with my non-dual teacher Fred Davis, though "I" was not present. In fact, Chris has never woken up. The realization has dawned that awakening is not just a real possibility, but is omnipresent.