Friday, November 30, 2018

Sitting with Shitou Xiquan and Step 12

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.


Koan: We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven

And this interweaving continues on and on,

While each thing stands in its own place.”

     ~ Shitou Xiquan



We'll be meeting in about two weeks on December 14th with Step 12...and sitting with the wisdom of Shitou Xiquan (b.700-d.790)

Usual time, 7 PM. 

Bill K.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Step 11 -- Are you awake?



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.

I heard this at our Moment of Silence Meeting…a meeting dedicated to Step 11.  Some of you may recognize our koan for November as Psalms 46:10.

Koan:  “Be still and know I am God.”

After I sent out the announcement this month, a friend wrote back, "A koan from the Old Testament?'  On page 87 of the Big Book I recalled, "Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer." Still, I have something for everyone here.  Perhaps one of these will work for you:

“Be still and know I am your HP.”
or  
“Be still and know I am here.”

I did things a little differently this time.  After reading the initial koan, at intervals between 2 and three minutes during the meditation time, I shortened the koan by one word.

Be still and know I am
(meditate)
Be still and know I
(meditate)
Be still and know
(meditate)
Be still and
(meditate)
Be still
(meditate)
Be
(meditate)


During the discussion time, one person thought of this as a mantra, to be repeated over and over again while soaking in each line and its offering. A wonderful term came about that fits this situation perfectly – spiritual dropping off place.

I viewed this koan as really seven koans.  Often with koans and interviews with my teachers, within the story they would single out other phrases for me to sit with.  As with Joshu and the dog koan, Mu (or No), my teacher would ask, “How long is mu? How wide is Mu. What color is Mu, etc.?

This is what I was presenting to the group, seven koans, each presenting a mysterious open ended-ness. It was how I sat with it all. The open ended-ness is the spiritual dropping off place. Coupled with Step 11, it became a place where my conscious contact with my HP grew closer and stronger, almost as if something was leading me along.

Be still and know I am

·      DH recalled there is a Hebrew word or phrase that means, “I am that I am.”

·      Step 11 implies that our HP is always approachable and near at hand…nearby.

Be still and know I

·      I went back and forth with the “I” here. Of course it’s the “I” of the universe telling me something.  It’s also me, myself, and I.  Through practicing the 12 Steps over all these years, I trust that my HP is here for me.

Be still and know

·      Know that Step 11 works; it produces good results. I know this from my experience.

Be still and

·      Take in all the possibilities and mystery in this dropping off place.

Be still

·      DH will ask his sponsee, “What do you need to do when you’re upset?” The Big Book is clear about this, too.  We pause, we take it easy, we go somewhere and be still.  This is why meditation is so important for us. It’s a place where emotions are quieted. “Where I can find my wisdom mind and the tools of the program,” DH added.

A bee being

Be

·      I am that I am.  Be the person your HP wants you to be. EA said, “Be free to learn about your Divine Creator.”  Be open and available.  In other words, be attentive to what is happening right now.




Use this mantra. Use these koans. Use both. Are you awake to Step 11?



Bill K.







Wednesday, October 31, 2018

November Koan for Step 11

Greetings:

Here is the koan we'll be sitting with. Maybe see you on the second Friday (November 9th) at 7PM?



Bill K.
 
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.


I heard this at our Moment of Silence Meeting…a meeting dedicated to Step 11.  Some of you may recognize our koan for November coming from Psalms 46:10.

Koan:  “Be still and know I am God.”
Or use this slightly altered version: “Be still and know I am here.”


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Step 10 -- Nothing Hidden

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


Koan:  A 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,” Shangu replied.”
Sweet-olive is different from the olive we normally think of.
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.”



“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.”

·      The Great Matter of AA – my sponsor doesn’t hide things from me.

·      The Great Matter of the Big Book – it doesn’t hide things from me.

·      The Great Matter of meetings – Listen…the AA message isn’t hidden from me.

·      The Great Matter of my Higher Power – through prayer and meditation, nothing is being hidden from me.

Then who is doing the hiding?  I am. You do. We do, with our deceiving, delusional and craving mind.


A fragrance is noticed when my sinuses are clear.  My delusions are noticed when my mind is clear, when I’m open to what is here right now. The awareness comes in direct proportion to how my own house is in order.  We talked about this tonight when D. said the first time he did the Steps, “It was rather superficial but good enough to go onto the next Step. As the years of sobriety accumulated and I worked the Steps at ever deeper levels, my mind became more clear.”

Step 10 is a lesson about discernment, paying attention, being mindful of one’s thoughts and actions just now and sensitive to my emotions.

This koan is telling me, “Nothing Hidden just now.

·      Smell the blossom’s fragrance – nothing hidden, just fragrance.

·      Hear the chirping bird – nothing hidden, just chirping.

·      Tasting cool lemonade on a hot day – nothing hidden, just lemonade.

·      Recalling that conversation today where I may have been rude with another – nothing hidden, just rudeness…my rudeness.

Among the five of us, we discovered that collectively we had 153 years of sobriety in the room.  “So I was surprised the other day,” S. said, “Me with 25 years, still getting upset with another person who talks constantly, telling her, ‘Your stress is stressing me out!’ “

Upon reflection S. asked herself, “Where was my compassion? Understanding? Realizing that it’s this other person who has a problem and I needed to be more kind in this situation.  This is the beauty of Step 10 – it’s always available, where I can clean up my act, hopefully the sooner the better.

E. jumpstarts her Step 10 to coax out those hidden things by asking herself, “How am I like this other person?”

D. emphasized the importance of inventory, “I take spot inventories all day long, not just at night before retiring; a self reflection of my actions and motives to see if I’m hiding anything.  What a relief.”  

The choice is mine. I can stew about this other person all day long.  Good luck with that and where it will take me.  With Step 10, I’m really putting my life  back in order, moving on, getting back to doing the greater good.



Last week I was deep in sesshin (Zen retreat), walking alone on a redwood forest path. My normal busy habit mind had dropped away by then.  I was seeing things that could easily have been overlooked; things that were in plain sight and not hidden. Step 10 is a spiritual decongestant, clearing my mind to see the truth.

Bill K.







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.