Saturday, June 13, 2015

Not the Wind, Not the Flag That Moves

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Koan:  The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were having an argument about it.  One said, “The flag is moving.” The other said, “The wind is moving.”  They argued back and forth but could not reach the truth.  The sixth ancestor said, “It is not the wind that moves.  It is not the flag that moves.  It is your mind that moves.” The two monks were struck with awe.

The Gateless Gate # 29



The flag is moving …no, the wind is moving – Take all my defects … You don't really mean ALL of them.  Really?  I can keep "that" one a little longer?  My mind is moving...

“Were entirely ready…”

I’m not ready until I’m ready.  This is very much like “admitted I was powerless …came to believe and made a decision…” Conditions have to be met, just as conditions have to be met before winds appear; but for me, the condition comes from somewhere outside myself, and certainly not my self will. 

Here it’s my mind that’s moving.  Moving from today to tomorrow, from subject to object, from this story to that story.  My mind seems to be always moving –but there are times when it’s still.  Meditation helps still my mind.  In reality, my mind is moving AND still; but the moving part drowns out the still part. Perhaps it’s in the stillness where we become ready, in the stillness of  prayer.

“…to have God remove all these defects of character.”

This is my prayer in the 7th Step.  In Step 6 I’m just getting ready.  How do I get ready?  I think this goes back to our 3rd Step, where at least a thin layer of trust is growing. This gives me the wherewithal to be entirely ready.

But even when my prayers are sincere, there’s my self will to reckon with, and sooner or later I find that I’ve taken something back, even before giving it to the universe – much like the two monks, “The flag is moving … the wind is moving...”

It is my mind that is moving.  It all comes back to my mind – this wonderful, habitual, delusional mind of mine.  In our discussion yesterday evening, we seemed to be in agreement with this.  “When I’m ready,” one person replied, “I’m ready to open up to things, yes, open to change!”

The wind is blowing ...no, Nicky's hair is blowing...

Bill K

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Light Comes To a Dark Place



We were at Step 4 last month.  That can be a dark place, going over our past deeds – drenched in guilt, shame and remorse.

Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

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

~ Shaku Soyen




I see movement here in both the koan and Step 5.

·      In the koan it’s dark, we’re not sure where we are going…but we are moving -- only to realize that our foot is not wet anymore!

·      In going from Step 4 and now working Step 5, we are also moving.  Those who never finish Step 4 remain in the dark – those who complete Step 5 move beyond the dark, toward freedom.

·      Eventually completing our Steps (I know, I’m jumping way ahead), we come to realize, now we own our history instead of that history owning us.

Remember the last time, crossing a creek, when you accidentally slipped off the rock?  Plunge! Instantly from dry to frigid wet! For the moment, there’s no going back to dry.  The universe is wet foot.

The opposite may be happening when our sponsor says it’s time to go onto Step 6.  The dark and drenched feeling of Step 4 has been lifted by working Step five -- as if reaching high ground, high, dry, solid ground.

I asked D.H. to write down some thoughts from yesterday’s 12 & Zen meeting:

“For the week before the meeting, I found myself trying to "sit" with the step and the koan.  It was a disjointed experience, as if I couldn't piece together the parts of a puzzle, despite knowing that, in truth, the parts did fit together.  So I wasn't at all sure where the meditation on Friday night would take me ... if anywhere.

At the start of the meditation Bill referenced Step 4 -- the inventory we make of the "darkness" of our drinking and using lives.  As I began my meditation, the reference to step 4 seemed to become a springboard.  As my meditation deepened I experienced a recognition that for years into my sobriety I was "doing" steps 4 and 5 around the darkness of my history -- dealing with the Post Traumatic Stress resulting from childhood sexual and physical abuse, with my discovery of drugs and alcohol, and with 26 years of acting out and becoming, in effect, the abuser of myself.

As I moved through the meditation, it seemed as if the koan became a moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath guide.  I was able to acknowledge being with the darkness (perhaps observing it is a better explanation) without dipping my foot into it (my foot did not get wet).  And so in each moment and with each breath I found the stone on which to safely plant my foot.”

- - -

This same koan on a little different perspective brought a smile to my face.

Step by step in the dark = Do the Steps!
-- if your foot’s not wet, = If you’ve stopped drinking and using,
it found the stone. = Life will get better.

The more I sit with this koan, the more it seems to fit any Step.  If you have Type O blood, you are considered a universal blood donor.  Give this koan a try with all the Steps.  Keep it handy.  More will be revealed.


Bill K.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Look! There's a Fire!

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: Put out that fire across the river.

Who or what started this fire?  What is it consuming?  Who is it consuming?
These are the questions to ask while sitting today.

-----

This seems serious with a command sounding, “Put out that fire across the river!”  There’s a burning fire; and it’s a threat to something or someone.  Uncontrolled fires are serious.  Fighting fires takes courage, stamina, and special skills.  Do you remember the fire triangle?

But the fire is across the river and no threat to me, right?  The river is a barrier between the fire and me. Why do I need to fight it if it’s over there?  Remember, this koan and Step 4 is all about you.  Can you recall any barriers (or rivers) when you were doing Step Four:

  • The river of fear?
  • The river of denial?
  • The river of procrastination?
  • The river of delusion?
  • The river of dishonesty?
Step Four is about digging into our past actions and finding how we have wronged and hurt others and ourselves.  That’s the fire that’s burning within us all.  In Zen Buddhism, we have what are called The Three Poisons:
  •  Greed
  •  Hatred
  •  Ignoranc3


These three easily translate into selfishness, resentments and close-mindedness.  This is the triangle we use to discover how to put out our Step 4 fire(s)…fires that have been burning for way to long.  We examine our past to see where we’ve been greedy or selfish; to see where our hatred and resentments affected or decisions; and to realize our close-mindedness has kept us in the dark.

Our Step 4 (and 5) inventory is HUGE to recovery.  Completing them, we’re now building upon our 12-Step foundation, not only for ourselves, but also supporting what holds the fellowship together, bring us the triangle of Unity, Service, and  Recovery.


We never know where koans will take us.  For one person at Friday 12 & Zen, this koan took him to all the work projects he has on  his plate...projects that have been keeping him away from meditation.  "I need to get back to my daily meditation," he said, "Thinking about work all the time was my fire this evening.





And another fellow emailed me the next day:  "In my morning meditation today, the thought came that all of my "fires" at first always appear to be across the river.  Someone or something else to blame for starting them.  Someone else's responsibility to put out.  But upon doing inventory work (i.e. 4th step work), I get to see my part in setting the fire and to recognize my responsibility (to my Self) to cross the river and put out the fire.


Bill K.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Only the vine sustains you, only Step Three sustains you.


Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.



Koan: You are being chased by a tiger.  Coming to a cliff, you grab the root of a wild vine and swing yourself over the edge. The tiger you were fleeing from is sniffing at you from above; at the bottom of the cliff is another tiger waiting to eat you.  Only the vine sustains you.



Two mice, one white and one black, little by little start to gnaw away the vine.  Nearby you see a luscious-looking strawberry.  Holding tightly to the vine with one hand, you pluck the strawberry with your other hand and pop it in your mouth.  How sweet it tastes.



My sponsor once said to me, “I’m not in charge of what you say; but I am in charge of what I hear.”  So went our evening on Friday with people hearing this story in different ways.  I love it how koans do this.



Beginning with our experiences with Step One, we found ourselves being chased by a tiger of a different form:  By our disease.  Our conscience. Or by something we made up…the stories we tell ourselves, or being stalked by "a hundred kinds of" fear.



Having to make a decision has, in the past, brought on fear in me.  If I make this decision this will happen.  If I make that decision that will happen.  This is where the koan took me, a tiger of fear of making a decision was in the chase.  With sobriety comes the ability to make Step Three decisions more promptly – it can almost become a default mode: grab the nearest vine and jump; grab Step Three and jump.  It’s in the jumping where we are totally at the whim of the Universe.  “Only the vine sustains you.”  Only Step Three sustains you. It’s in Step Three where we learn to trust our Higher Power; that when our decision is aligned with what is right living (God’s will), we can be at ease.



And the tiger down below, “waiting to eat me?”  Can we be sure about that?  If the chasing tiger can take on many forms, so can the tiger below.  Maybe it’s Tony the Tiger.  We really don’t know since that part of the story has not unfolded yet.  As another person said, the chasing tiger is our past, the tiger down below is the future.


The two mice – black or white, good or bad, the way we usually see things (duality)…and then, of course, carry these thoughts into the future, usually to bad outcomes.  But it says one white mouse and one black mouse.  Either one or both could play a part in my future; but right now, they’re just gnawing. Lots of things in our life are being gnawed on, aren’t they?  Another person solved her anxiety of gnawing mice and decided her “vine” was really thick and no need to be concerned right now.



Strawberry… only this is what’s noticed.  No tigers, no mice, no cliff, no past, no future…just a luscious, ruby-red strawberry…in this moment the strawberry is what the Universe has given to us to partake in.  Taking Step Three has a way of changing our mind’s default mode for the better…no matter what the “strawberry” in life looks like today. Actually, the whole world is strawberry. "How sweet it tastes."


Bill K.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Home Departures, Came to Believe




Step 2:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


The fourth patriarch was Upagupta.  He was the attendant for Shanavasa for three years before becoming a monk.

Koan:

Shanavasa: “Did you make your home departure physically or in spirit?”
Upagupta:  “Truly, I made my home departure physically.”
Shanavasa: “How can the Wondrous Dharma of the Buddhas have anything to do with body or mind?”
On hearing this, Upagupta was greatly awakened.

By “home departure”, Upagupta is referring to becoming a monk.  And there are many ways we can depart from home.  What home(s) are you departing from when we “came to believe”?

What are the Wondrous Dharma of the Buddhas in your life?

- - - -

“Came to believe” is like acceptance, it doesn’t happen until it happens.  When it comes, it comes suddenly.  Acceptance comes when I put down my discriminating mind, my ego… a space opens up in preparation for Step 2.  This is one example of home departure, departing in spirit.  One person said "the home" was her false self.   This was the home she left.  The leaving was unintentional.  "I just gave up."

"Departing was changing my way of thinking," another said.

Dale asked, "Where am I departing from?"  I'm always coming home.  Taking refuge... in the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.  In his daily meditations, he changes his refuge ceremony to the First Step, the Second Step, the Third Step.  I can see how this would  work for us, thus I've swiped his idea today.

“A Power greater than ourselves…”  Back in my drinking days, a bottle (or several) of red wine was a power greater than myself.  Today, certainly I can find a power greater than a bottle of wine to help me.

Restoring my sanity?  Believing I can do everything myself is insanity.  I need other sources of Power.  My home departure choice of mine, physically, mentally, or in spirit gives me the wherewithal to pay attention to my life.  I am being shown the Way of right living (sanity) in each moment. 

"I found a new definition of sanity.  It was bigger than any definition I had heard concerning Step Two, but it was also bigger and better than my wildest imaginings.  This sanity offered serenity, a feeling of wellness or well-being, possession of a center of balance from which to operate, and a feeling that my place in this world was just right."

Bowie, Md., February 1999 Grapevine
"Beyond Sanity,"
Step By Step


Surely this is the Wondrous Dharma of the Buddhas,  here right now.

Bill K.






Saturday, January 10, 2015

Step One -- A wagon with no wheels

Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over something -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Master Gettan said to a monk, “Keichu made a cart whose wheels had a hundred spokes.  Take both front and rear parts [wheels] away and remove the axle: then what will it be?”  Gateless Barrier #8

“…whose wheels had a hundred spokes.”

 ·      Back in the day…100 spokes…the best of the best.  Some might have said, “This is the perfect cart.”  Like driving the most popular car and being the center of attraction.
·      I am this cart.  Wheels or not, it’s perfect the way it is.  Aren’t we all perfect human beings?  Born that way.  In Zen we say we ALL have buddhanature.

We also have our dis-ease.  In Step-1, to various degrees, don’t we arrive here only to realize that our wheels have fallen off—or one has fallen off and the others are about to wobble off—and still others it may only be loose lug nuts?  We come here broken, or soon-to-be broken.

·      “Take both front and rear wheels away…” Who or what is responsible for the taking?

No wheels, just the axels, power gone, lack of control, “that our lives had become unmanageable.”  We make our own cart.  My cart is my life.  There’s the cart that brought me to A.A.; there’s the cart I move around in today.  What are you driving today?

What others said:

·      Humbleness came to mind.  I don’t need 100 spokes.  It was only after they have been taken away that I can realize this.  Maybe four spokes are enough.
·      My life right now …everything seems to be crumbling around me and still I have been able to stay sober.
·      Our 15-year old grandson died in November.  It was cancer.   Part of me feels like this dismembered wagon.  All that is left is the wagon’s “box”.  But there are times where the wagon’s box is full of good things, like the good times I remember with my grandson.  All of this is happening at the same time and slowly the wagon is being put back together; but it will never look the same.

In addition, Zen teacher Barry Dogo Graham sent me this:  "What becomes vividly apparent is that he did not make a hundred carts, or even one cart. He found the carts in wood, metal and space. You do not make yourself - you only find yourself. This question - What becomes vividly apparent when wheels and hub are removed? - is a personal question, directed specifically at you. It asks you who you are."  See Barry's link to the right.

Bill K.

BTW, on Friday we held 12 & Zen at our new home, at Rocks and Clouds Zendo in Sebastopol, CA. Daniel Terragno Roshi was there to greet us... all nine of us! We always seem to leave with more than we came with.  What a great start for 2015.






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
7 PM

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.