Sunday, August 13, 2017

“It’s only for your benefit, honored one.”



This month it was a Potluck … We sat with this koan to see what would happen with the Steps. What Step(s) will this koan bring to you?

Koan: One day when Dongshan and a monk were washing their bowls, they saw two crows fighting over a frog. The monk asked, “Why does it always have to be like that?”

Dongshan replied, “It’s only for your benefit, honored one.”


[Dongshan (807-869) founded the Caodong School in China, which developed into the Soto School in Japan by Dōgen. He lived during Linji’s time.]

I was on my morning walk, wondering what koan we would be using for our August meeting. About two minutes later this koan appeared, and a few minutes after that Step 2 came to mind – I would be bringing Step Two into our “potluck” conversation.  As I continued on my walk, Step 2 became more clearly a benefit for me.

Then this koan brought three Steps into our conversation, Steps 2, 3 and 4. “With koans,” E.A. began, “There’s always more.  Koans help to understand reality and to really identify what’s going on in my world. The ‘working’ Steps came to mind (especially Step 4); with all the balking and resistance in those early days of sobriety, I came to realize they’re all for my benefit.”

D.H. said that during the week it was with Step 3 that this koan was mostly engaged with; “But tonight, Step 4 was the main focus.  The monk was judging this situation when he asked, “Why does it always have to be like that?”  Judging ourselves -- that’s what we do.  “How I see myself becomes very apparent in Step 4.  Examining my insane existence in Step 4,” D.H. said, “Is for my benefit.  Reality begins to appear when I give up my judgments.” He passes on what Pema Chodren said about waking up:

"Life's work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into your life wake you up rather than put you to sleep.  The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will."


Most of us know what the Big Book says about acceptance: “Acceptance is the key to my relationship with God today.  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, and leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.”

This is the way I see and experience my Higher Power.  Elsewhere in the Big Book it says there are no mistakes in this world.  When I am in the moment, I am experiencing God.  In fact, that is the only place where God appears – in this moment.  Whatever is happening right now, this is what the Universe is giving me.  It’s up to me on how I will respond. “My actions are my only possession.” (This comes from our Remembrance sutra).   Not only do I strive for acceptance in the situation, but also willingness to accept the consequences for my actions.

It was the Third Step came to R.M. and also the Serenity Prayer, to accept what we cannot change.  I liked how he phrased his situation by saying, “God’s plan for us is spiritual evolution.” No matter how we label things, good/bad, etc., “Everything,” R.M. said, "Is a part of a higher good."


The evening began with discussing these various Steps, yet the koan kept leading us to “what is” – REALITY.  Two crows fighting over a frog for their food, is reality.  Truly working the Steps, to the best of our ability, can only happen in reality. Rami Shapiro writes in his book Recovery – the sacred art, “God is Reality.” When I turn my thoughts and actions over to the care of Reality, I’m alive! It’s all for my benefit.  It’s all part of a higher good.  Everything is here to wake me up.

---

Then something else came up for me afterwords; not the all-out fighting of two crows over a frog, but a tugging none-the-less.  Tonight was a perfect example of how koans bring about revelations; in our case how at least three different Steps appeared to us while sitting with a single koan.  Tugging against this notion was the thought of next month when we’ll be sitting with Steps 8 and 9 – making amends…then there was this remembering of a moment many years years ago very early into this 12 & Zen project. I was leading a group this Friday night.  I don’t even recall the specific Step we were sitting with. During the audience participation a man began telling us of his experience with a different Step.  In a fit of thinking I needed to control things, to stay on topic, I reminded him that we were discussing a different Step now, and steered the group back to that evening’s Step.

I was so wrong in doing this. Right Speech is a part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. When I got home that evening I recognized my response was definitely wrong speech.  I learned from my behavior and don’t think I have ever made an error like this since.  So I suppose realizing my poor judgment was to my benefit later on.

But it was too late for the man since I didn’t catch my shortcoming soon enough.  I had hoped the man would return the following month; but he didn’t.  He never returned.

Corralling the Steps and koans together as we do here is a non-traditional way of working with koans and good things come from this.  But koans cannot be controlled.  And just as E.A. said earlier, “With koans there’s always more.”

Had this man returned the following month, I was ready to make amends. Maybe one day my words here will come before that gentleman’s eyes. Sir, if you're reading this, I regret what I said to you that evening; I ask for your forgiveness.  You were simply expressing your relationship with that koan way back then.  Everything you said was true to where the koan was pointing for you and I interfered with the process.

Honored ones, Blessings and Benefits for you...

Bill K.





Thursday, August 3, 2017

Potluck … What Step comes to you with this koan?




Koan: One day when Dongshan and a monk were washing their bowls, they saw two crows fighting over a frog. The monk asked, “Why does it always have to be like that?”

Dongshan replied, “It’s only for your benefit, honored one.”

Hello All,

Our August koan. What Step or Steps does this koan bring to mind? 

Are you a crow or the frog?

Bill


 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Step 7 -- When the time comes to do so...


Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: When the time comes to do so, put on your clothes. If you want to walk, walk.  If you want to sit, sit.

At a meeting the other day, Nick said that his sponsor asked him, early on, to put the word t-h-e-n after each Step -- to work Step One, then go onto Step Two, then Step Four, etc.  This makes the way one views the 12 Steps be a body of one.  In Step 6, it’s about being entirely ready.  Ready for what? Ready to do Step 7.  In Step 7, we proceed to do what we’ve decided to do. It can be as easy as deciding to get dressed.

Any reluctance or procrastination here, for some, may have more to do with having doubts that it will work in my situation; but believing right off the bat, I think, is not as critical as the doing part.  Step 7 has more to do with the doing, the asking.  As we do it, again and again and again, we come to believe.

I think kind words grow kindness, and angry words grow anger.  I can’t take words back after they have left my lips.  So it is with Step 7.  Humble words grow humility.  As I ask my higher power to remove my shortcomings, when I am sincerely humble in the asking, this is what creates the power of Step 7.

This evening we talked a lot about getting dressed, with DH saying there are two ways to get dressed here.  We can put on our “old” soiled clothes, these being our old ideas and old beliefs; and by noticing this, paying attention, engaging in the moment, we can take inventory of the situation.  Being aware of my old pattern(s), I don’t like the way I am feeling right now.  I don’t like the way I look in these old clothes.

Arrgh, it’s time for me to change out of these old clothes. “God, please help me to get out of these old clothes and put on fresh new ones.”

I decide to get dressed again, get dressed, now I’m ready for the day.  I decide to do Step 7, do it to the best of my ability, then onto Step 8.

One person brought it all to what is challenging for him today.  He’s in his 70s and has health matters that are not going away.  No longer can he do things today that he could six months ago.  He called his sponsor yesterday to say that now “I realize I must change the way I do things today.”  In his case he is experiencing physical shortcomings.  Not asking God to remove them, he said he’s asking for help in living with the way his body works today.  “If I’m out of breath, then sit down, rather than physically pushing myself too far.”

As much as I’d rather not admit, I sometimes “forget” how readily Step 7 is available to me…until the time comes when I do it.  When the time comes is the natural sequence of things. 

Like right now, finishing up here,  it will be time to take a walk.




Bill K.







Saturday, July 1, 2017

Time for Step Seven this month...

Hello Everyone,


Something to sit with.  July brings us Step 7 and this koan:



Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: When the time comes to do so, put on your clothes. If you want to walk, walk.  If you want to sit, sit.

Bill K.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Step 6: "It's dark, dark."



It's dark, dark...
Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Koan: A teacher and student talked far into the night. “It’s getting late,” said the teacher, “time for you to leave.”  The student opened the door, looked out saying, “It’s dark, dark.” The teacher lit a candle and handed it to the student.  Just as the student was about to take the candle, the teacher blew it out.

Gateless Barrier #28

…It’s dark… There’s the turning out of lights at bedtime. Trust, no fears, no doubt, just the ease of falling asleep.

…dark… and we see here, dark, dark… the the fear and doubt of the darkness outside.  Am I unsure my defects of character can be removed…that my H.P. could do this?

…the teacher lit a candle… A sense of gratitude may have appeared in the student, the candle will help ease the fear of what is out there in the dark.  I am ready to go now.  My sponsor is a teacher of sorts.

…the teacher blew it out…  Oh no, I’m scared again.  Why did the teacher blow out my candle and put me back into a state of fear? There must be a lesson in this.

Perhaps the teacher (my sponsor) is telling me that I don’t need the candle, to have faith in myself. When I’m ready, God is ready.  When I’m willing to put my life into the hands of God, what is there to fear? By doing this I’ve discovered that I have my own light that comes from within -- candle of trust, a light of readiness.

…time for you to leave… to leave that feeling of being left in the dark, to leave the feeling of what could happen, that I’m not prepared -- to leave the conversation with my sponsor about Steps 4 and 5 and move on. . My H.P. and Step 6 (and 7) shine brightly.

All of this happens, simply by flipping the switch of readiness. I still need to be reminded of this all the time.  What or who can I rely upon in situations of darkness?  Step 6 reminds me, its my Higher Power of course! Step 6 is putting Step 3 into action.

In sitting with koans, any part of a koan will do.  This time it was the word “dark” that kept appearing.  This, in turn brought to mind Shitou xiquian and an excerpt from his “Taking Part in the Gathering” as it appears in our sutra book:
 
The darkness is inside the bright,
But don’t look only with the eyes of the dark.
The brightness is inside the dark,
But don’t look only through the eye of the bright.
Bright and dark are a pair,
Like the front foot and back foot walking.

Bill K.













Thursday, June 1, 2017

Step 6

 Start your sitting... Here is what we will be sitting with this month:


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

Koan: 

A teacher and student talked far into the night. “It’s getting late,” said the teacher, “time for you to leave.”  The student opened the door, looked out saying, “It’s dark, dark.” The teacher lit a candle and handed it to the student.  Just as the student was about to take the candle, the teacher blew it out.
Gateless Barrier #28

Bill K.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Step 5, Growing from the mud...



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

Koan: “From the mud grows the lotus.”


Our society has a thing about dirt and mud, equating it to germs and something that may harm us.  Mud is bad. There is the striving for the cleanest laundry, carpets, floors, countertops, glassware, and cars, etc.

Then again, I’ve read that kids who grow up on farms and ranches, because of being exposed to myriad forms of bacteria, microbes, and yes, “germs”, have a stronger and more robust immune system than city kids.  It’s because these kids are exposed to more dirt, mud and manure. So bad mud can be good mud.

We come into AA caked with varying amounts of our “muddiness” and dirt, accumulated over our drinking years.  In Step 4 we uncover the muddy and dirty parts of our being.  In Step 5 we air our dirty laundry not in public, but with our sponsor, perhaps wondering what any of this has to do with staying sober.

“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experiences can benefit others.” (p. 84)

  • No matter how much mud and dirt we’ve accumulated
  • We will see how our muddiness can help others
  • If our 4th Step is mud
  • Then our 5th Step is a way to boost the spiritual immune system

Step 5 is the beginning of acknowledging and letting go of our muddy past actions (character defects and wrongdoings). From this we are on our way in becoming a different person, principally by putting others before self.

“In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world.”  And there are other ways to look at this.  Take light and darkness – we cannot have one without the other.  The lotus needs mud for its very survival.  No mud, no lotus.  This saying would be quite fitting, hanging on the wall at any 12 Step meeting.

In Step 4 we become aware and take ownership of our truth.  Muddy parts and all, this is life.  What Roger said he finds helpful comes from Eckhart Tolle, something to the effect:  "Life – it’s all part of a higher good.”  In Step 5, it’s the higher good of truth that sets us free.

Think about 1934.  Alcoholics Anonymous did not exist yet.  The first 100 members of AA were still deep into their full-blown self-centered alcoholic disease, muddying their lives and those around them.  In a short four or five years, growing from the dedicated work of these very same people, a lotus flower bloomed -- the AA Big Book became reality.  This flower of sobriety continues to bloom each time a 5th Step is completed – from our muddy past grows a flower.


Bill K.