Saturday, November 26, 2011


"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything." Albert Schweitzer

In a way this posting is deviating a bit from the blog's 12 Step/koan dialog, still, no matter what Step we're with, the act of being thankful is always available, running in our recovery veins. At November meetings around here, "This is gratitude month," is almost always acknowledged, with that being the topic du jour. It was the topic of a planned PZi one day retreat; but because the teacher became ill, the retreat was cancelled. Not to be forgotten, when our Monday evening rolled around the gratitude koan from the cancelled retreat appeared.

But first came the Monday morning news when I was told of an horrific event -- a 12 Step friend of mine had been stabbed to death by his mentally deranged son.

My heart was heavy as I walked into the zendo. My only plans were to sit with this tragedy and later to call out Mark's name at the dedication sutra. Jacqueline was leading the evening sitting and offered this koan:

"Thank you very much I have no complaints whatsoever."

Did I have some complaints on my mind? You bet I did. This shouldn't have happened to Mark. What a senseless killing? His daughter had called 911, oh the pain she must be going through. And the troubled son, his life now ... and the county, why did they choose to close down the only emergency mental health facility? Oh yeah, I have some complaints here, and not feeling much gratitude at all. And given more time I might have included complaints about not having anything to be grateful for.

Clearing my mind, coming back to the koan, clearing my mind, coming back to the koan, I sat.

I would rather be thankful for something agreeable where it's easy to have no complaints... you know, where everything is going your way. Not tonight. Things aren't going my way. Is there room for thankfulness here? Nope. But as the evening progressed my thoughts shifted to what it was like to know Mark. Such a gentle man. He had more than three decades of recovery, too. His words have helped me along the way, his actions have shown me how to live more fully, using the 12 Steps in my life. Thank you very much for having Mark in my life, I have no complaints whatsoever. While "being" with Mark on my cushion, I realized the complaints had vanished, there was no room for complaints to appear. Complaints only narrow my vision and taint my mind. Is this what my Higher Power wants for me?

This koan can be viewed as a barrier-like rigid statement (akin to "you should be doing it this way") -- or as the catalyst for a stretching, integration and flexibility of thoughts, conflicting thoughts not in conflict, a freedom supported by the Universe. There even came a thankfulness for not complaining; for it's thankfulness that opens up my heart and mind to what this life is really made of, something I don't want to miss.

Bill K


  1. Our fellowship did a retreat at Saint Dorothy's, just a few weeks before PZI took it over for sesshin. Before the big evening meeting, we started a new practice--we lit a candle for all those that we've lost to our disease.

    I will light one for Mark this morning and then create a gratitude list. Humbly and thankfully, Ken

  2. Thanks for this example of Zen and Recovery in action. My prayers are with Mark's family - both biological and recoverical.


    Jane Derry