Sunday, December 10, 2017

Step 12, Buddha nature and Fire Buddhas


Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

“What is spiritual awakening?  It is waking to the flow of the moment and living in harmony with it.”  Rami Shapiro Recovery – the sacred art

Dale pointed out that the Big Book has a description of spiritual awakening: “We have ceased fighting anything or anyone…” P. 84




Koan: Since we all have Buddha nature, why do we practice?

The short answer, because we are human.  “Because I forget,” said Dale this evening.


PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION
— Hakuin Ekaku

All beings by nature are Buddha,
just as ice and water are the same;
apart from water there is no ice,
apart from beings no Buddha.

I read an article in one of the Buddhist magazines where the author mentioned Christianity’s doctrine of original sin and then wondered if Buddhism was about original good.  This notion has stuck with me ever since – for me it’s realizing that we all have Buddha nature.  It’s always available to us.  “Right now, it’s like this”…we’re buddhas, we’re awake, we’re alcoholics, we help others who are suffering, this is why we practice.

It reminded Dale of the book Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das. He said there’s God Eminent “out there” and God Immanent within myself – the way I view Buddha nature.

“Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”

My friends John and Rebecca lost their home to the October Tubbs Fire. Last week he had asked Bob C. to come over to the ashes and debris to haul some things away.  It was there that Bob noticed a scorched Buddha and Kwan Yin in the rubble.  “Don’t you want these” he asked? John said he could take them if he wanted.  When Bob first set eyes on these statues, he knew deep down they were special.

He sent me a photo of the statues and I agreed, they had a powerful effect on me, too.  Something about them resonated to my core – “Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”

“What shall I do with them,” he asked?  Let me just say they have found the perfect home.  When Roshi heard about these special statues, he immediately offered up his zendo as a home, where they can speak to us if we're open to it.

Another way to look at this, I draw from my (small “s”) source; from the things around me like the 12 Steps and meetings; and there’s also the (great “S”) SOURCE, where I seek God consciousness, my Higher Power within, my True Self, Buddha nature.

“Buddha nature:  The true, immutable, and eternal nature of all
beings.  Since all beings possess this Buddha nature, it is possible
for them to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha.”
Then there are those times when I feel disconnected and not a part of what is happening around me…and perhaps drop into a “poor me” state of mind.  The Big Book warns us of this, the consequences of self-centeredness.  Tapping into my Buddha nature brings me back to what is. Dale reminded me of this when he said, “I practice to transcend separateness -- we are all connected.”

"Until I understood and accepted my status as a human being, my effort toward seeking God was in vain."

Nanaimo, British Columbia, February 2003 ("My Name Is Gary and I'm a Human Being," from Spiritual Awakenings

 As Bill Wilson puts it, "When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone."  Buddha nature is my source.

Why do I practice?  So I can remember this.


Bill K.

[Koans] are “…doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”









Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Step Twelve and Buddha nature

...we'll be meeting on December 8th.  Here is what we'll be sitting with.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.


“What is spiritual awakening?  It is waking to the flow of the moment and living in harmony with it.”  Rami Shapiro, Recovery – the sacred art



Koan: Since we all have Buddha nature, why do we practice?



PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION — Hakuin Ekaku

All beings by nature are Buddha,
just as ice and water are the same;
apart from water there is no ice,
apart from beings no Buddha.

“Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”





Monday, November 13, 2017

Step 11 -- You may need to call for a plumber


Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Koan: “The answers will come if your own house is in order.“ Page 164 Big Book

We had to call a plumber the other day after my wife noticed water a puddle of water on top of the dryer. Something was amiss; our house was not in order.

Delving into the matter, I had to pay attention to what was happening. Paying attention – it’s the operative word for solving this plumbing problem, as well as how to go about integrating Step 11 into my daily life.

We started another load of laundry.  As the washer discharged water I could see water bubbling out of the drainpipe onto the dryer.  We have a plugged pipe somewhere, but where is the stoppage?

Opening the clean-out pipe outside the kitchen window I discovered that (1) water flowed freely from our kitchen sink into the outside pipe and (2) it flowed freely outside when I took a hose and ran water into the washer’s drainpipe.

The stoppage was somewhere between the kitchen and our sewer. I called our plumber.  His "roto-rooter" device reached its end, fifty feet and still had not reached the obstruction.  One more try, he went under the house and tapped on the pipe where the blockage was.   Luck was on our side, the trapped gunk broke free and "whooshed" down the pipe into the sewer line. He cleaned out the affected pipe; our house is in order (at least pipe wise).

At the end of our 11th Step meeting we read the St. Francis Prayer.  It begins with, “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace…”

There’s a company that used to be called Clear Channel.  The name "Clear Channel" came from AM broadcasting, referring to a channel (frequency) on which only one station transmits.  This meant no interference from any other channel.  That’s what I want in my mind with the 11th Step…no interference from distracting thoughts, a mind that is in order.

A clear channel, an open, unhindered flow between my Higher Power and me is Step 11 at its best.  This comes about by noticing, paying attention, and attending to what is present (reality). When something is obstructing this channel, my house is not in order.  Instead of calling a plumber, I’ll talk to a sober friend or call my sponsor, of course, who is more than happy to do some tapping on my behalf.

The subconscious topic of the evening seemed to entail “pipes”.  Daniel took us back to when he was new in the program.  One evening, after he came home he heard a hissing sound.  Walking around he eventually found himself under the house.  His home was on a hillside so it was easy to walk under part of his rented house.  There it was, a pipe hissing and spraying water.

There were pipes leading in every direction and multiple valves – the scene was overwhelming to him.  He didn’t know where to begin, so he went back inside thinking, “This isn’t my house, it’s the owner’s job to fix this…I’ll call him in the morning.”

I just don’t understand what to do, he thought. A little time passed.  He got up and went under the house thinking, “If there’s anything I can do, show me.” He turned the first valve, no change; then the second valve, no change; then the third valve, when he turned the handle, the hissing stopped.

This experience made an impression.  “This goofy prayer showed me something,” he said, “I learned something about prayer.”

In his case, the answer came, then his house was in order.





My mind finds orderliness when I practice the 11th Step on a regular basis.  Even just a little bit of order is all I need to find answers appearing in the form of being at peace with whatever is happening.


Bill K.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Step 11 and a Big Book Koan

We're back and looking forward to meeting together again... and ready for this month's Step and koan:

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Koan: "The answers will come if your own house is in order."
Page 164 Big Book

What does order look like for you?

Bill K.







Sunday, October 22, 2017

12 & Zen Cancelled As Santa Rosa Burned



A little change from the ordinary -- actually a large change.  For the first time I had to cancel our 12 & Zen gathering this month.  One of those out-of-my-control situations in the form of an outbreak of several wildfires burning nearby. Briefly, here is our story:


October 16, 2017



Dear Friends and Family,



As you well know, we’ve had several fires burning in Sonoma County  [which has turned out to be the most devastating fires in California’s history]. The fire that threatened our home was the Tubbs Fire. 



We are safe and all of the homes on our street have been untouched; but we have more than twenty friends who have lost everything.



Early last Monday, the 9th, I woke up around 2AM.  I could smell something and got up and looked around the house.  I couldn't identify what the smell was. Then I went outside and smelled the smoke. I climbed on top of the roof and this is what I saw, a red glow with the wind blowing from left to right.. 



The hillsides were hidden by the smoke.  We heard propane tanksexploding.




Walking down our street I met a neighbor who was evacuating.  We quickly collected some important papers, the computer’s external hard 
drive, clothes, photo albums and such and put 
them in our camper van.  We drove to nearby Oliver’s Market and waited until daylight.


At daybreak we returned home. I saw some neighbors on top of their roof and I joined them.



About 10AM we heard our area of town had been put on a mandatory evacuation order.  Time to leave.


The arrow shows where our home is.
Incredible how fast this fire spread from the town of Calistoga, 10 +/- miles away to Santa Rosa.  Even the freeway Highway 101 failed as a firebreak. The fire jumped the freeway and totally destroyed Coffee Park, hundreds of homes gone.



The winds, winds, winds.  The closest the fire came to our street was about a block away.  Into the van we went and drove to (son) Matt and Susan’s home in San Rafael.  It was so fortunate to have such a wonderful “evacuation center”. And there we stayed, eyes glued to the TV news and online maps and all.



 As I said, there were fires all over the County.  Upper left is the Tubbs Fire (map below) which affected us. Then two fires merged into one called the Nuns Fire. You can see how it has burned perhaps 2/3rds of Annadel State Park.  Since this picture it has expanded to include Sugarloaf Ridge SP and Hood Mountain Regional Park.  

 



The south part of Nuns Fire was threatening the town of Sonoma.



This fire to the right is the Atlas Fire in Napa County.  All-in-all I think these fires have burned somewhere around 150,000 acres and over 6000 homes lost.  About 40 people have died from these fires.



On Thursday we decided to drive up to see how things were in the neighborhood.  Matt kindly drove us up. 



We took advantage of this and retrieved our two other cars, parking my car in the Oliver’s Parking lot and driving Beth’s back down to San Rafael.



We also packed up some more clothes and grabbed some other photos and papers.  Getting back to Matt’s we would think of other items we forgot to grab.



The ferocity and losses from this wildfire have been matched by the generosity and selflessness of first responders and regular citizens countywide. Wonderful to witness this!                 

Bill (and Beth)


















Saturday, September 30, 2017

Step 10: Respectful and Insulting Words

In about two weeks (October 13th), some of us around here will be sitting together with Step 10 and this koan...


Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Koan: Both roots and branches must return to their origin, and so do respectful and insulting words. 

Shitou Xiiqian

I think I'll begin sitting with this today.

Bill K.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Step 8 Step 9 -- Wet Feet Dry Feet

Step 8:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 
 

Step 9:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


Koan: Step by step in the dark – if your foot’s not wet, it found the stone.

~ Shaku Soyen

Finding the stone seems to indicate we are moving on a path, a route, going somewhere to somewhere else ... moving from this stone to this stone to this stone -- from a wet stone to a dry stone. We are moving to an opposite condition.  We do this all the time, moving from:


·      Hot to cold

·      Danger to safety

·      Angst to relief

·      Sorrow to joy

·      Step 8 to Step 9



Writing down my 8th Step, the names of people I hurt, thinking what I did to them, it can feel like slogging in wet and muddy conditions, wondering when will this end.

In the 9th Step, the slogging disappears; through courage and an honest effort at making my amends, I realize my angst turned to relief -- my foot isn’t wet anymore (at least with this particular person).  The 9th Step is finding the stone.

Before taking any one of the 12 Steps, in a way we are in the dark; not knowing what to expect, not knowing if we can do this.  It could be fear, too.  This is perhaps especially true with Step 8.  The mere thought of contacting people we have harmed and making amends is a dark place full of what ifs.  So dark that one person this evening said she purposefully left some people off her list the first time she did the Steps so she wouldn’t have to include them in her Step 9.  This did not solve the problem.  “By leaving people off my list,” she said, “my foot stayed completely wet and I still felt miserable.”

The word “harm” stood out for another person.  In the Three Pure Vows or Precepts, the first is Do no harm. “When I was drinking, I harmed people in many ways.  Listing these people on my 8th Step, I was acknowledging to myself that I had not been following this precept.  By being willing to take action on this path, experientially moving from Step 8 to Step 9,  I was learning how to recognize the harm I caused --  to notice if my foot was wet or dry, to know when to make amends, to know when relief appears.”  After making an amends, he went onto say that if he still felt a resentment toward this person, “my foot is still wet.”

We are “Creatures of Pain and Joy…” writes James Ford in this blog posting:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind/2017/09/creatures-pain-joy-zen-meditation-zen-koan-reality-hunger.html

In this splendid article about working with koans, he writes, “There is no escape on the koan way. Our whole lives are explored, all facets of the real. And our experience of it, now every thing is holy, now no thing is holy.”

As humans, this pain and joy is something we can’t avoid.  We revert to our old ways and do harm to others, we find our feet wet again. Sooner or later we’ll remember how Steps 8, 9 AND 10 have worked for us in the past, then follow their direction.  We know they will lead us to the moment of discovery – “Hey, my feet aren’t wet anymore, I’ve found the stone!”


Bill K.