Monday, August 15, 2011

"What is zen?" asked the monk.

"Attention. Attention. Attention," replied the master.

Here is a koan that is fully encompassing. OK, they all are. What I meant is I didn't initially relate this koan to the Steps or recovery. Lately we've been having a PZi email dialog about "What is zen?" and responses have been all over the map.

This koan came from 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.'

Source: Charlotte Joko Beck. 1993. Nothing special: Living Zen. New York: HarperCollins. 168.

In keeping with my interest in the 12 Steps and koans, this particular koan leaked into my
consciousness appearing this way:

Attention to what? Practice! Paying attention to practice is a good thing. So zen is also Practice. Practice. Practice. We know that ... to practice these principles in all our affairs. Even when we screw up, that's practice. Noticing that we have screwed up, that's practice. Making amends, that's practice.

"What is zen?" asked the student.

"Sobriety. Sobriety. Sobriety," replied the master.

This is our practice. This is what we are attending to... our recovery.

Some time passed when another story question arose.

"What is sobriety?" asked the student.

"Zen. Zen. Zen," replied the master.

And there you have it. Proof positive that the path we are walking together, our practice of the Steps and koans, is something to be grateful for.

Bill K.

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