Saturday, September 29, 2018

October, Step 10 and this koan...

Dear Friends,

Here is the Step and koan we'll be sitting with in October.

Bill K.

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


Koan:  Shortened version from Shangu’s Sweet-Olive Blossoms, #18, Entangling Vines

One day the poet Shangu was visiting Huitang Zuxin.  Huitang said, “You know the passage in which Confucius says, ‘My friends, do you think I’m hiding things from you?  In fact, I am hiding nothing from you.’ It’s just the same with the Great Matter of Zen.  Do you understand this?”

“I don’t understand,” Shangru replied.”

Later, Huitang and Shangu were walking in the mountains where the air was filled with the scent of the sweet-olive blossoms.  Huitang asked, “ Do you smell the fragrance of the blossoms?”

Shangu said, “I do.”

Huitang said, “You see, I’m hiding nothing from you.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

Steps 8 and 9: My actions are my only true belongings...



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.


From the Sutra: The Five Remembrances:

Koan:
 

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


My actions – I can’t shake them, hide them, bury them, give them away, pawn them off, or bequeath them.  There are past actions I’d just as soon forget, but I can’t. They are mine to keep, my only true belongings.

We recite The Five Remembrances every Monday evening, and every day on retreats.  This particular Remembrance jumped off the page for me since it strikes and the core of what we are doing when we take the 12 Steps. It puts my actions into ultimate focus, perspective and importance.  Everything I have done and everything that was done to me is what I carry into the future. Only I can take responsibility for my actions today AND the Steps, especially Steps 4,5,6,7,8,9, and 10, help me deal with my past actions.

Roger talked about Steps 8 and 9 as repairing steps –they are about repairing connections we have with others.  “My connection with other people is a sacred thing,” he said, “as it repairs my wholeness.” Repairing are my actions, something I can stand on.

Susan talked about consequences, to her, are negative connotations; and the ground upon which we stand a positive connotation, coming from skillful means and unselfish actions. It’s our missteps that make the ground firmer through right action.

In the brilliance of the 12 Steps we have found a way to identify our negative actions and use our past experiences to help others. They make it so I can live with my past. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” (BB Page 83). The writers of the Big Book knew the importance of taking ownership for our actions (true belongings).

Chris gave the Monday evening talk at CityZen a few weeks ago. He’s also the minister of the local Unitarian Universalist church and is familiar with the 12 Steps. He knows about my blog but is not a regular follower.  My jaw dropped when he announced the koan for the evening saying, “This evening I offer you something to sit with from our Sutras -- My actions are my only true belongings.”


I was chortling to myself while we meditated and also realizing the wonder of it all; that he and I, independently, would come up with the same koan for Step 9.  I think it was the koan choosing us.

During his talk, he brought up our PURIFICATION Sutra, which is about atonement and he referenced it to what we do in 12 Step programs. Later I kidded him by suggesting that he had implanted bots into my computer to “swipe” the koan that came to me for Steps 8 and 9.

PURIFICATION  Sutra:

All the ancient twisted karma

From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.

And let’s not forget our positive actions, our sober actions, our helpful and caring actions, our humble actions – these, too, are actions upon which we stand. “Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now…the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others (BB Page 124),” for sure, the actions of a bodhisattva.

One definition of purifying is “to free from guilt.” Step 9 is a purifying Step.



THE FIVE REMEMBRANCES  (The five facts that Shakyamuni Buddha advised we should reflect on often):

Shakyamuni Buddha advised: These are the five facts that one should reflect on often.

Ino:       I am of the nature to grow old.
All:      There is no way to escape growing old.

Ino:       I am of the nature to have ill health.
All:      There is no way to escape ill health.

Ino:       I am of the nature to die.
All:      There is no way to escape this.

Ino:       All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.
All:      There is no way to escape being separated from them.

Ino:       My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All:      My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


Amazing, the more I practice the 12 Steps and Zen Buddhism, the more I realize their overlapping qualities.

Bill K.














Friday, August 24, 2018

September 12 & Zen Reminder...

..two weeks away... Friday, September 14th.

Lots to sit with...Where do you stand today?

Bill


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.




From the Sutra: The Five Remembrances. This is one of the five facts that Shakyamuni Buddha advised we should reflect on often.



Koan:

 
Ino:       My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All:      My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hard, Easy, or Neither

This August koan, there is no Step in particular. What Step or Steps come to you while sitting with this koan?

One day, while Layman P’ang was meditating in his sitting hut, he suddenly cried out, “”It’s hard, hard, hard! And I’ve put ten coats of linseed oil on this platform, too!”

His wife said, It’s easy, easy, easy! Just turn your eyes to the floor, lower your feet to it, and be on your way!”

Ling-chao said “It’s neither hard nor easy! The mind of the Ancestors* is in every blade of grass!”


* Referring to Hsin-hsin ming who wrote:  “Though the Great Way is expansive, treading upon it is neither hard nor easy.”


Friday:  We had a small but earnest group…of three. One-third of our group said this koan brought up Step 10 for her. “Continued to take a personal inventory,” E-V-E-R-Y day.  Just deciding to do this can be a hard at times, a chore, easier for another day.

But over time and practice, the daily inventory becomes an ongoing process, going deeper and deeper, beyond just naming things.  O.K., what if person X just grates on my nerves and I was snappy with her…I need to apologize.  But really now, what was behind my behavior?  The more I practice my self-inventory, it’s no longer something that has to be done, it’s something I want to be done, to bring harmony to both parties.  It’s becoming second nature to  do this, to look at my part, easy, just like getting out of bed.

In a way though, with all the Steps (1 thru 12), aren’t we taking a form of inventory when acknowledging and examining our thoughts and actions?

Two-thirds of us thought this koan engaged with all of the Steps.  At times, the Steps can seem so hard and difficult for us; that’s usually when we resist something.  Resist comes from the Latin resistere, re-sistere, which means: “to take a stand.”

Oh how we alcoholics can take stands – “I’m not going to do that!” Why? Because we think it’s too hard (or lame or stupid or scary, or fill-in-the-blank). It’s the resistance that’s the problem.  When I say, “Boy is it hot today,” I can guarantee that I will feel hot.

Like we hear at meetings, AA is a simple program for complicated people. We complicate matters when we resist what is presented to us.  What can be more simple than rolling out of bed with feet touching the floor? We don’t give this a thought.  One moment we’re in bed, the next we find ourselves standing by the bed… then walking about.  One moment we are working the Steps, at other moments we feel as if the Steps are working us. How could this be?

“It’s neither hard nor easy,” said Ling-chao, “The mind of the Ancestors is in every blade of grass.”

This is where our practice of the 12 Steps take us.  By definition, a PATH means that others have tread upon this same route, and over time a PATH is created.  In our case, a 12 Step “path”.

Part of my morning prayers goes like this:  “I pray that I may hear my teachers and the 10,000 bodhisattvas who have gone before.  I pray that my teachers, past present and future, hear their teachers and the 10,000 bodhisattvas who’ve gone before…”

The thousands upon thousands of men and women who have worked the 12 Steps before you and I came along have contributed to clearing the AA path for us.

“The mind of the Ancestors is in every blade of grass.”  The mind of awakened alcoholics are in every one of the Steps.  And those times where I feel the Steps are working me – I’d like to think it’s my AA Ancestors helping out.  With their help, “It’s neither hard nor easy.”


Bill K.

















Sunday, July 29, 2018

August "Potluck" Koan

Offering to you our August koan.  Sit with all of the 12 Steps.  What Step (or Steps) come to you while sitting with this koan? 

Koan: Three Views of Hard and Easy


One day, while Layman P’ang was meditating in his sitting hut, he suddenly cried out, “”It’s hard, hard, hard! And I’ve put ten coats of linseed oil on this platform, too!”


His wife said, It’s easy, easy, easy! Just turn your eyes to the floor, lower your feet to it, and be on your way!”


Ling-chao, his daughter,  said “it’s neither hard nor easy! The mind of the Ancestors* is in every blade of grass!”


* Referring to Hsin-hsin ming who wrote:  “Though the Great Way is expansive, treading upon it is neither hard nor easy.”


In August we'll be meeting on the usual second Friday, the 10th.  This is our 12 & Zen "potluck" koan;  what Step will you be bringing to the table?

Bill K.



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wait and See, Watch and Follow -- Step 7

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: Let’s wait and see.

This month’s koan is an exception to what I normally present here, that is, traditional koans from the Chinese masters. I do this every so often, but not deliberately; words come to me as a koan, as something to work with my everyday life.

I’ve had a cough since last December. Still have it. This is not normal, so I contacted my doctor, who has prescribed various tests over the past three or four months. What I know today is that I do not have any suspicious mass in my lungs.  A good thing.  But each test seems to point to something else that needs looking into, thus another test.  Tomorrow it will be an ultrasound of my abdomen.

Back to this koan and the latter part of last month, I attended a 7-day sesshin with CityZen (Santa Rosa, CA). I went into the retreat with really not knowing what was going on inside my body.  A CT scan was scheduled 2 days after the retreat.

Human nature as it is, my first thought was, “I have cancer, I’m going to die, why is this happening to me?”  A millisecond later a voice in my head said, “Why not me? What makes me so special to think I should somehow avoid things like this?” Actually I felt a sense of relief, bringing me back to the present.

On the first day of the sesshin when meeting with my teacher, I told her that she probably wouldn’t be seeing me for interviews during the week.  I explained a little what was going on and that my plan was to just sit with my condition. I told her a few koans and phrases had already appeared to me, Not knowing is most intimate and Sickness and medicine correspond to each other.

It was mostly the not knowing that I sat with for 6 days, putting aside thoughts about my health conditions, especially the what ifs and my future when they came up; and relax into a wait and see mode.  This month’s koan had just entered my world.

Entering the sesshin already acknowledging “why not me” freed up any worry about death.  Death is big in Zen; a gimme; no one escapes it. O.K. that’s settled, right now I’m sitting with being alive.

I trust in what happens in sesshin. Things are revealed when they’re revealed. This sesshin was no exception. Relief and answers came from many sources, all seemed to reinforce that I have a good life today, no matter what happens in the future! Simply amazing, all I did was sit and wait and see.  Examples:

·      The great Way is by nature calm and large hearted, not easy, not difficult…Accept your nature, accord with the Way and stroll at ease, free from annoyance. Reading from our Sutra Book, “Relying on Mind” by Seng-t’san.

·      Out of the blue, the Practice Leader would give us short messages of support.  Sometimes I go about pitying myself – and all the while a great wind is carrying me across the sky, or

·      Be patient …what you are looking for is looking for you.

·      Over and over again. Around and around. Up and back down. Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands, cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.  Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs. Walk around. Say, “Hey, how you doin’? Say, Nice Bowl! “  From a poem, Bugs in a Bowl by David Budbill.

One afternoon, in all its richness, The St. Francis Prayer came to mind.

How often have we said as a matter of passing, “The fog lifted around 2PM?” At sesshin, over a two hour period, I watched the fog lifting.  The fog and I were both lifting.

And more.  I left this sesshin feeling alive and ready for anything that comes my way.

And what does this have to do with Step Seven?

Everything.

First and foremost, we try to remain humble.  Humble people don’t try to force the issue.  Humble people don’t know the outcome or when it will happen. Humble people are patient…and willing to wait and notice what the Universe has in store for them.

Dale said, "The state of humility is being teachable and not trying to manage things...and it also has a relationship to gratitude." Elsie said, "Being humble is being truthful.  I'm aware of my shortcomings and accept that I'm not perfect



Upon asking my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, how do I prepare myself for God’s answer? It’s not like I can kick back on the couch and simply wait for a response.  “I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done…” (Big Book, Page 420), I wait while being mindful of what’s happening around me, all the while attending to the moment.

And what will clear the way to realizing my prayer has been answered? By attending to my H.O.W. (Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness).

After working with this month's koan, Dale has inserted it into his morning ritual:

Each day it seems I start upon a path,
Each moment a vigilant step,
Each breath points the way.
Wait and see, watch and follow
Each moment, each breath, each day.




Bill K.

P.S. A brief update on my health condition.  No red flags! I've had two kinds of CT scans and an ultrasound since the retreat. I have a hemangioma in my liver which we'll look at again in six months.
The other internal body parts look pretty good for an old guy.  Still trying to figure out what's causing my cough.  In the mean time, I'm feeling well and enjoying life.











Saturday, June 30, 2018

July Koan

We'll be meeting in about two weeks.  Here is what we'll be sitting with in July:

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: Let’s wait and see.

Bill K.