Friday, December 19, 2014

New 12 & Zen Location for 2015

12 & Zen,  WE'VE MOVED!
Walk down this driveway, the zendo is behind the house.
New Location effective January 9, 2015

Fortunately for us, Daniel Terragno Roshi has generously provided his Rocks and Clouds Zendo for our 12 & Zen group to hold its usual second Friday of the month gathering. 

Rocks and Clouds Zendo
618 South Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472

(See "links" to the right.)

On South Main Street (one way), look for the white picket fence on the Maple Avenue corner, and the huge oak tree towering above.  Park on S. Main Street, the 618 driveway is just past this tree.

Hope to see you in January.

Bill K.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Buddhists and That 12-Step “God” Thing

"...with God as we understood Him..."
This topic has been on my mind lately, that is, Buddhists finding their way in A.A. or any other 12-Step group.   After all, Buddhists don't believe in God, right?  Here is the way I see it.

There’s plenty of room for success for Buddhists (or anyone) in twelve-step programs -- that is, if one is open-minded and willing to find acceptance in other people’s choices in their Higher Powers.  This is my experience and I see it in others every day.

On the surface it would appear that twelve-step programs, with the Christian influence and theistic language, would be incompatible for Buddhists. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people’s stories at meetings where, upon seeing the word “God” in the twelve steps hanging on the wall, would mutter to themselves, “I’m screwed.  This isn’t going to work for me.” Then they go on to say, “But I stuck around, listened, followed some direction and the ‘God’ obstacle eventually disappeared.”

Regarding this reliance on a God or Higher Power, clearly the founders of A.A. came up with a brilliant way to include all humanity.  Yes, they use the word “God” throughout the book of Alcoholics Anonymous; after all, it was written in 1935 when close to 95% of people in the U.S. considered themselves Christian.  But they also insisted that this Higher Power be of your own understanding.  Be creative, use your imagination, follow your heart – it’s your choice, not the choice of others.  “I chose to set aside my fears and just let see what happened,” said Christine S., Tibetan Buddhist nun with 29 years of sobriety, only to discover that “A.A. though theistic in language is clearly not theistic in spirit.”

And with a God comes prayer.  There’s not one among us who has not been thankful: the birth of a child, escaping injury in a car wreck, gazing upon the spectacular beauty of mountains, rivers, and stars, or feeling the snuggly warmth of your bed.  Who or what do you give thanks to?  Thank you Universe, thank you Dharma, thank you Tao, thank you Ancestors, thank you all Oneness of reality, or simply thank you.  Vajrayana teacher Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel writes, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know whom you’re praying to.  The very act of asking for help allows the heart to open and invite the world in.” We recite vows, “…which are a kind of prayer-wrapped intention,” writes Jan Chozen Bays Roshi.

Roger H., 19 years sober, who lives by the tenets of Buddhist traditions, told me, “Early on… having patiently waded through my resentment of A.A.’s clear and apparent Christian God peer pressure, I knew God was nothing but a delusion; I am an atheist.  Today, the ultimate purpose of my spiritual practice is to uncover and make contact with my essentially pure nature.” Roger has found his higher power!

In 1965 Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote, “Newcomers …represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable.  We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion.  In A.A. we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering.  Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all.  Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views.  Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light.  Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive…”

My friend Tom C. with 33 years of sobriety told me, “A.A. and Buddhism -- as I've encountered it -- are gloriously compatible. To me, being sidetracked by A.A.'s often Christian-influenced vocabulary risks missing out on the inner, wordless, powerfully healing music, whose truth can't be defined with human words. Both A.A. and Buddhism are technologies in some sense. In my experience, Buddhism is a marvelous technology for experiencing the universe's music, and A.A. is an empirically efficient technology for getting us in good enough shape that we can hope to hear anything besides the incessant rumblings and shrieks of our addiction.”

In the beginning I mentioned the importance of being open-minded.  For me, this has meant that when I hear a person speaking about “God”, I understand this person is talking about his/her God or Higher Power.  When I read the book of Alcoholics Anonymous, these writers are telling me how they found and have a relationship with their Higher Power.  When I’m asked to speak at a meeting, I’ll talk about my relationship with my Higher Power. It’s as simple as that.  As Bill W. said, we are not to “pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views”. If I hear something as pressure, I need to reflect upon the situation.  If someone actually tells me that I must do or think or believe what they do, then that goes against the A.A. Traditions.

“Our book [Alcoholics Anonymous] is meant to be suggestive only.” It’s a wise book, written through the experiences of many; open to one’s principled interpretations and widely adaptable to our lives today, no matter whom you think you are. 

Bill K.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What is my worth?

A glob of gum or a heart?
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [others], and practice these principles in all our affairs. 

Koan:  What is my worth?

Just think about asking yourself this question when you were at Step One.  I for one would not have given myself much worth back then. Low self esteem …low self worth…I did not measure up to others.

What handicap?
Then we work the 12 Steps… With each Step a building upon of ”estimable acts” as some say.  Something miraculous happens along this path.  We are transformed into a different person. I am not the same person that began my 12 Step journey 28 years ago.

We think of worth as value.  After working Step 12, have I become more valuable to others?  More valuable to society?  More valuable to myself?  How do I do this?

I'm an outdoor cat
By carrying the message of the Steps to others… By practicing these principles in all my affairs. 

The origin of the word “worth” is interesting:

·      Old English – weorthan
·      Old High German – werdan … to become
·      Latin – vertere … to turn

For something to become valuable, it has to be compared with something of less value.  From our beginnings at Step One, compare that with completing the 12 Steps; another way then, of describing this koan, might be What have I become?

Ain't life grand?
What have I become after having had a spiritual awakening?  There are myriad examples in the Big Book:

·      More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. P.63
·      We come to rely upon it [inspiration]. P.87
·      …spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. P. 100

Responses yesterday to this koan came in various ways.  If you do these Steps, it’s worth it!  Setting a good example equals worth.  A bookkeeper brought up the notion of assets and liabilities showing net worth.  When we give, we receive more (worth)… freely giving of our self, gives us a sense of worth.

What a great place to be!

Bill K.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Step 12 Koan

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:  What is my worth?

I invite you to sit with this koan ... begin right now ...where does it take you as apply it to Step 12?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Prayers that reach the gods

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: "Collecting firewood and carrying water are prayers that reach the gods."
-- Layman Pang

There’s a lot of activity going on here, with both Step 11 and this koan … sought, consciousness, collecting, carrying and praying.  It’s really about our life right now.  To be truly aware of our daily activities is a gift.

·      Collecting firewood and carrying water

·      Brushing teeth and taking out the garbage

·      Going to a meeting and setting up chairs

·      Paying the water bill and emptying the cat box

The God’s will thing, I look at it this way – whatever is in front of me, whatever is happening right now, is what the Universe has presented me with.  This is my life for which I am grateful.  My thanks go to my Higher Power, the Universe … the Dharma.  Or when things go awry sometimes, caused by others or myself, it’s time for me to call for help.  “H.P, I need some help here.” This calling is prayer.  This seeking is prayer.

But first I need to be aware of matters.  Things and circumstances don’t exist unless I’m aware of them.  To be conscious of something is to be aware.  No matter what I’m doing, this doing offers a pathway, an opportunity for prayer.

As one person said last night, when I simplify work [awareness] I can listen to my heart.

Another person agreed that there is a lot going on here, a lot of stuff to do.  When I’m doing the 11th Step, it’s a form of self-caring.  When I’m collecting firewood and carrying water, this is also self-caring.  Praying and meditation is how I care for myself, too.

To be of maximum service to my Higher Power and other people, this is what we strive for.  In a village setting, collecting firewood and carrying water is a service for the common good.  Practicing Step 11 is a way to become good at helping others.  When I contribute to the greater good, it’s my prayers of action that bring about a rewarding life. 

Bill K.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Step 11 Koan comes from Layman Pang

It's November already and we're sitting with Step Eleven.  This month's koan comes from Layman Pang.  We must also remember that Mrs. Pang and especially their daughter Ling Zhao were all very accomplished teachers.

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:  "Collecting firewood and carrying water are prayers that reach the gods."

Layman Pang

Layman Pang (P’ang Yun)
Pangun (Hoon)

Pang’s initial awakening was with Shih-t’ou and then later with Ma’tsu. Some would regard him a successor to both these masters. Although he remained a layman, he was well-regarded as a fine teacher wherever he and his family went:
The Layman was sitting in his thatched cottage one day [studying the sūtras]. “Difficult, difficult,” he said; “like trying to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree.” “Easy, easy,” Mrs. Pang said; “like touching
your feet to the ground when you get out of bed.” “Neither difficult nor easy,” Ling Zhao said; “…like the grasses growing. Bright, bright grass.”

Now is a perfect time to sit with this.

Bill K.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Attention, Attention, Attention

Step 10:  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
 KOAN:  HERE'S AN OLD ZEN STORY: a student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom." Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention." The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention. Attention." The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me." In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention." In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?" Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."

For "attention" we could substitute the word "awareness." Attention or awareness is the secret of life and the heart of practice. Like the student in the story, we find such a teaching disappointing; it seems dry and uninteresting. We want something exciting in our practice! Simple attention is boring: we ask, is that all there is to practice?

First, the student asks for “something of great wisdom”.  Here we are, sitting with Step 10 and it’s great wisdom and all that it has to offer – when we pay attention.

The teacher says “attention” once, twice, three times.  Oh how it is when we don’t pay attention.  Sometimes it takes three times.  This reminds me of one of the meetings I go to where the secretary announces, “Only bottled water is allowed in the room.”  Then it’s not uncommon, during the rest of the meeting, to see people amble in from the kitchen with a cup of coffee in their hands.  I was thinking if maybe I ought to give this koan to the secretary.

There’s a lot to pay attention to with Step 10:

·      By going about my day, and really paying attention to what’s going on regarding my actions and behavior.

·      There’s that section if the Big Book beginning with “When we retire at night, we constructively review our day.”  This requires attention.

·      By paying attention to what others are saying and noticing their body language.

·      By listening.

·      By noticing this relationship with others.

·      By noticing, perhaps I can head things off before a situation goes bad.

Master Ichu reminds me how it is when I’m not paying attention, how he eventually had to tell his student “attention -- attention, attention -- attention, attention, attention.”  By not paying attention I have missed out on things, missed hints and clues of what is happening right in front of me that would point to the next right thing.  Instead, I take a different direction; make a different choice, usually something to do with selfishness, which causes a problem to others (and myself).

There is great wisdom in Step 10, which allows us to make things right with the world.  When I am paying attention, this wisdom is right there and readily available…to promptly admit my wrongs.