Saturday, September 30, 2017

Step 10: Respectful and Insulting Words

In about two weeks (October 13th), some of us around here will be sitting together with Step 10 and this koan...

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

Koan: Both roots and branches must return to their origin, and so do respectful and insulting words. 

Shitou Xiiqian

I think I'll begin sitting with this today.

Bill K.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Step 8 Step 9 -- Wet Feet Dry Feet

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.

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

~ Shaku Soyen

Finding the stone seems to indicate we are moving on a path, a route, going somewhere to somewhere else ... moving from this stone to this stone to this stone -- from a wet stone to a dry stone. We are moving to an opposite condition.  We do this all the time, moving from:

·      Hot to cold

·      Danger to safety

·      Angst to relief

·      Sorrow to joy

·      Step 8 to Step 9

Writing down my 8th Step, the names of people I hurt, thinking what I did to them, it can feel like slogging in wet and muddy conditions, wondering when will this end.

In the 9th Step, the slogging disappears; through courage and an honest effort at making my amends, I realize my angst turned to relief -- my foot isn’t wet anymore (at least with this particular person).  The 9th Step is finding the stone.

Before taking any one of the 12 Steps, in a way we are in the dark; not knowing what to expect, not knowing if we can do this.  It could be fear, too.  This is perhaps especially true with Step 8.  The mere thought of contacting people we have harmed and making amends is a dark place full of what ifs.  So dark that one person this evening said she purposefully left some people off her list the first time she did the Steps so she wouldn’t have to include them in her Step 9.  This did not solve the problem.  “By leaving people off my list,” she said, “my foot stayed completely wet and I still felt miserable.”

The word “harm” stood out for another person.  In the Three Pure Vows or Precepts, the first is Do no harm. “When I was drinking, I harmed people in many ways.  Listing these people on my 8th Step, I was acknowledging to myself that I had not been following this precept.  By being willing to take action on this path, experientially moving from Step 8 to Step 9,  I was learning how to recognize the harm I caused --  to notice if my foot was wet or dry, to know when to make amends, to know when relief appears.”  After making an amends, he went onto say that if he still felt a resentment toward this person, “my foot is still wet.”

We are “Creatures of Pain and Joy…” writes James Ford in this blog posting:

In this splendid article about working with koans, he writes, “There is no escape on the koan way. Our whole lives are explored, all facets of the real. And our experience of it, now every thing is holy, now no thing is holy.”

As humans, this pain and joy is something we can’t avoid.  We revert to our old ways and do harm to others, we find our feet wet again. Sooner or later we’ll remember how Steps 8, 9 AND 10 have worked for us in the past, then follow their direction.  We know they will lead us to the moment of discovery – “Hey, my feet aren’t wet anymore, I’ve found the stone!”

Bill K.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Canine Consequences

When we got this dog

I didn’t read the fine print.

It’s only when she died last Thursday

did I realize what was due.

A balloon payment of deepest sorrow

to be paid immediately!

It cannot be postponed

even for a second.

I accept this charge in its entirety.

No way shall I avoid this moment

or this moment or this moment…

It is the price I pay

for what I received from Ryla.

But embedded in every sorrow

is a bright memory.

Inside every fond memory

a dark sorrow looms.

“Bright and dark are a pair

like front and back foot walking … *

When Ryla and I would come home from our walk

while bending down I would say to her

“Kiss that pretty girl on the nose,”

which I did.

This is how it is, just now.

Shitou would say, “Don’t throw away your time.”

Bill Krumbein
September 2017

* Taking Part in the Gathering by Shitou Xiquan (700-790)
   Shitou taught that “what meets the eye is the Way.”

See September 2, 2017 post

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Dear 12 & Zen Family,

Ryla 11/4/2002 - 8/31/2017
As many of you know, I am not on Facebook.  When there are times I want to share something that is dear to me with the "world", I'll do it on my blog here. Such is the case today.

Our beloved dog Ryla passed away two days ago. We have spent hundreds of hours meditating together for more that twelve years. 
 Many of you at Pacific Zen Institute (and even the 11th Step Meeting) have met Ryla. You know what a good meditation practice she had. Or when I drove out to St. Dot's to deliver or retrieve all the retreat supplies, I would bring her along.

One day I was waiting in line to have a face-to-face meeting with my teacher, Rachel. These meetings are called dokusan. Ryla was with me of course. The bell rang, it was my turn to enter the interview room.  But instead of me entering the room, unbeknownst to my teacher, I opened the door slowly and sent Ryla in. A fun time for sure.  I understand Ryla and Rachel had a fine dialog together.

Ryla had a mission.  She was a breeder for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

In August of 2004, Beth and I volunteered to become CCI breeder caretakers.  Little did we realized what an impact Ryla would have on our lives and many others. 

What an honor and privilege it has been to care for and nurture Ryla’s five litters of puppies until they were 8 weeks old; and then to experience the joy of seeing how almost 50% of her puppies graduated and became service dogs, facility dogs, or hearing dogs, etc.  Ryla’s daughter Wyla was chosen as a breeder.  And then Wyla’s Dyla became a breeder. What a legacy.

It goes beyond words to try to describe how Ryla touched our hearts; but calling her a family member is a good beginning.

Even though she greeted us every morning, wagged her tail daily, and loved her treat after fetching the newspapers, we suspected something was amiss with her teeth.  Last week the Vet took a look and said she needed a good teeth cleaning and possibly 3 teeth to be pulled. This seemed reasonable to us.

Last Thursday I took her in for the appointment.  As they were about to take her back, I bent over, kissed her and said, “Kiss that pretty girl right on the nose.” I would do this same ritual every time we got home from our daily walk.

A little later I received a telephone call from the Vet.  She was still in the operating room under anesthesia.  Basically, the X-Rays revealed a lot more going on – twelve teeth had to come out.  I felt this was too much for this old dog to endure, coupled with her other health issues, so I authorized euthanasia.

With Ryla’s other health issues this past year, Beth and I promised her quality of life.

People who met Ryla would often exclaim, “Her eyes, they’re so expressive!” When she got me up on that morning I looked into her eyes. Wagging her tail and a nudging nose was her way saying, “Time to get up, it’s another good day.”

I didn’t know I’d be kissing Ryla, right on her nose, for the last time.  So much to be grateful for.

We use koans with 12 & Zen, so it's apropos (upon hearing of Ryla's passing) that one of my teachers, David Weinstein, sent "...the dew drop world is the dew drop world, and yet...and yet..."

I responded, "And yet...and I feel incredible happiness, sadness, and gratefulness at the same time.  A good day for sure."

Dogs are wonderful people.

Bill K.

See September 7 post.

September Koan

Greetings All,

Here is what we'll be sitting with this month:

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.

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

~ Shaku Soyen

We'll be meeting in only 6 days.


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?