Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One word is enough.

There are koans of few words and koans of many words. It doesn't take much for a koan to stick to a Step -- one word or short phrase is enough. Koans work so effortlessly when we let them.

When thoughts arise telling you that the koan you are sitting with seems
a perfect match for "Part A" of a Step but has nothing to do with "Part B," that's the time to pause, take it easy, and let this notion go. This is a good example of how we critically think things to death; the quicksand of duality rearing its ugly head; the conflict between subject and object. If there is an answer here, it's no subject, no object, just practice.

This is how the koan I've assigned to Step Two came about -- a better way of saying this is how little Jade came to believe.

Koan: Little Jade

A woman calls out to her maidservant, "Little Jade, Little Jade," not because she wants something, but just so her lover can hear her voice.
We were given this koan at our January retreat (sesshin). During the week-long sesshin I'm working on other koans, too; but this one seemed to filter in and out during the day. The
evening talks by teachers usually revolved around little Jade.

Step Two we "Came to believe ...." Believing is an interesting concept in that it doesn't have to be backed up with facts. For me it's a feeling rather than a thought. Two phrases came up for me and began a dance ... "came to believe" and "lover." And yes, my thoughts tried to take me to the part of Step Two that says, "... could restore us to sanity" and begin a dialog about how could Little Jade have anything to do with restoring me to sanity... blah, blah, blah.

This brings me back to "came to believe" and "lover." I thoroughly believe (there I go again) that my Higher Power loves me. I also recall the time when I realized that I loved the person I was dating and she loved me (my wife, now). Just knowing that, in my heart was enough ... that I was loved. My wife's name is Beth. Seeing her, thinking about her, hearing her voice, hearing someone else say her name, all has the power of connectedness, a goodness from the heart that all is well.

For some of us then, isn't this the feeling of coming to believe? I don't think we can make ourselves come to believe in a Higher Power of our choosing; but we can allow for this belief to happen when we give it space to grow in our heart.

And the "could restore us to sanity" part? Simply put, that happens, in various degrees, heh, heh, heh, after coming to believe. Little Jade knows what I'm saying here.

Bill K.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Step 2 says that I'm insane?

In 12 Step groups we're told that it's insane thinking when we do the same thing(s) over again expecting different results. The Buddha said we suffer because of our delusional thinking. "So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making." P. 62 BB
We make up "our troubles" with our minds.

sane: "sound of mind, rational, showing good sense"

insane: "not sane; mentally ill or deranged; demented; mad; crazy"

delusion: "a false belief or opinion (not substantiated by sensory evidence)"

I suspect if we work on our insane thinking, we will also help tackle our delusions; and
likewise, if we work on our delusional thinking, we will also address our insane thoughts.

What is this "working on?" My proposal is that practicing with the 12 Steps and koans
together, we can help to resolve both matters, or at least lessen their impact upon our lives.
We do this by not thinking* of either steps or koans separately but as one practice.

It's much like the idea of striving for enlightenment (whatever that means). Awakening cannot be hunted down and captured -- it simply happens when we are doing the thing which allows it to happen -- not trying, not seeking, not striving and not looking outside ourselves.

In Step 2 we learn that our insane thoughts will be taken away; in other words, we cannot try ourselves to dispose of them. Delusions disappear via our meditation practice, not by thinking our way into clarity. We stop the struggle, we take it easy, we do what is required to make space for the Universe to speak to us. This can happen to anyone, at any time, anywhere. It's right here, right now!

When I hear a Step being read at a meeting, a koan often appears as its reflection;
when I'm working on a koan on my cushion, a Step may appear as its reflection. There's
no clinging to one or pushing the other away; instead they appear as one entity to
reflect upon -- helping my mind to become more rational and my opinions to fall away.

Bill K.

* See earlier post about colons and periods.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Have you been using too many colons?

We have thoughts; then we usually have thoughts about those thoughts; then we have thoughts about those thoughts, too; and so begins our suffering.

Here's a "thought" example of what I mean. "Boy are all those tattoos on his arm ugly: I could never do that ... what would my Mom think ... he's obviously been in prison ... and probably addicted to drugs ... I hope he doesn't sit next to me ... he could have Hep C ... why would anyone go through such pain, only to have hideous tattoos showing... he should cover them up when out in public." Ongoing thoughts such as this bring me no peace of mind. But this is what the human mind does, and we believe it!

But what happens when we leave that first thought alone? There it is. One thought. From the example above, the first thought was: " "Boy are all those tattoos on his arm ugly." Now try sitting with that one thought without "thinking" about it. "Is that so?" is a good question to ask yourself, without going into another dialog around that question. This is the process of meditation! Noticing thoughts but not running with them. When we do, then
come back to your breath or that first thought, OR your koan OR the Step you are working on.

So here's my tip. Use more periods (.) and fewer colons (:) in your life.

Back to tattoos, they are simply body art. Period. Anything else we add to that is not very useful. Sure, you may not appreciate his particular body art but that's just your opinion. Opinions are not what the Universe presents to me. I've made them up and they usually do not bring me joy. In fact, at one time I had all these same opinions about tattoos, until one day it came to me that they are simply body art. Some art I like and some art a don't. When I come upon any kind of art, good or bad, what has been presented to me is simply art. What I do next is my choice.

What has all of this to do with the 12 Steps and Zen Koans? Everything! it's part of my practice to notice when my thoughts have become stuck in the quicksand of opinions and stories. As with real quicksand, by stopping the struggle is when freedom becomes possible. When I stop the
struggle with thought-upon-thought is when the koan can deal with the matter.

Bill K.