Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating Space Between Thoughts

I'm working with a sponsee who's been in recovery for quite some time now -- still he hasn't placed much of a priority on meditation. He told me he meditates a few minutes at a time here and there during the day. It's good that he's doing this; but I've found that a daily block of time produces better results. Surely anyone can set aside 2% of their day to meditate -- that's only 30 minutes. Any amount of meditation is beneficial, right?

"There is really no benefit to meditation ... but the side effects can be great." -- Zen student Jurek Dumchowski *

I can't hear or experience any messages from my Higher Power when I'm talking. I can't hear or experience any messages from my Higher Power when I'm thinking, for thinking is but talking to myself in my head. "Selfishness -- self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles." The self-centered are always thinking about themselves.

I've got to make space for God's messages, the Universe's messages, a koan's message. This is why a BLOCK of meditation time is so important. Revelations come to me in-between the words of my thoughts and meditation widens that space between words. Slivers of meditation time give but slivers of reception while blocks of meditation provide the potential to give full reception to what's being offered.

Thinking, thinking about thoughts, not criticizing yourself for this, letting go of those thoughts, returning to the moment -- Thinking, thinking about thoughts, not criticizing yourself for this, letting go of those thoughts, returning to the moment -- Thinking, thinking about thoughts, not criticizing yourself for this, letting go of those thoughts, returning to the moment -- Thinking, thinking about thoughts, not criticizing yourself for this, letting go of those thoughts, returning to the moment... this is all you have to do for full reception.

I was taught to count my breath in meditation, keeping my eyes about one-quarter open. When I find myself telling stories to myself, to let them go and return to my breath.

"In zazen, leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don't serve them tea." Shunryu Suzuki

Koan practice is really a kind of meditation practice. When I find my mind wandering, when I notice that I'm thinking about my thoughts, to let them go and return to my koan. Any part of the koan will do -- koan meditation ... coming back to your koan, just like coming back to your breath.

Establishing a daily half-hour block of meditation is like having regular workout sessions at the gym except here you're building up your meditation muscles and endurance. This will increase the effectiveness of any meditations during the day. By increased effectiveness I mean better "reception" is created for any messages coming your way. An enhanced meditation practice is preparation for great side effects. How? A new-found ease in your meditation appears. No longer is it a chore or "homework" that your sponsor gives to you; instead, it will become a lifesaving tool that you'll reach for without even knowing that you're reaching.

And all this will happen by setting aside only 2% of your day to meditate.

Bill K

* "Zen On Sonoma Mountain ..." -- The Press Democrat Newspaper, Published on May 3, 1998

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Stopped Looking and a Treasure Appeared

In this blog's background material you may recall how a particular koan came to me as Step Three. Two other people (so far) have told me about their koan/Step experiences, one with Step One and the other with Steps 6/7. Over the months I went through several books in search of appropriate koans to "match up" with the Steps. This has proven useful to a small extent -- at least we have something to work with since all koans have their way with us regardless of whether one is working with the Steps or not.

I've now stopped looking for these "special" koans. It was like me trying to make things happen and you all know how well this works (self will). Instead, just like in the beginning, I've realized that it's better to allow the koans to come to me. This usually happens in a variety of ways; either it's a koan I hear at a retreat or Monday evening, or it's one I happen to be working with in our PZi curriculum, or it just appears.

Student: "Where do I find the Way?"
Teacher: "Enter here."

This most recent example came to me this way. Like a teeter-totter, "Enter here" became balanced with "Came to believe." Enter here, came to believe -- came to believe, enter here -- enter here, believe -- believe, here -- here, believe...

For sure, the Second Step Prayer.

"God, I'm standing at the turning point now. Give me your protection and care as I abandon myself to you and give up my old ways and my old ideas just for today." P. 59

Standing at the turning point? Enter here. And it gets better!

Try this as a call and response prayer/koan.

"God, where do I find the Way?" God: "Enter here."

I must admit the joy I felt carrying Step 2 and this koan about for the next few days. It felt just right, like all the pieces fit together. But this koan had more to say. There were more pieces to it. While mulling over "Where do I find the Way," Step One replaced "Came to believe." Where do I find the way to embrace Step One? Enter here. Where do I find the way to work Step 10, 11 or 12? Enter here!

Last Friday I offered the group to sit with this koan and then tell me what Step came up for them. One said Step 2, another Step 4, and a few said ALL of the Steps.

We may have a universal koan for the 12 Steps! Any Step! What a great tool for my toolbox. I can stop looking now.

How does this work for you?

Bill K.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

With Much "Vigah"

For those of my age, perhaps you recall President John F. Kennedy with his New England accent speaking these words with much "vigah?" Invigorate ("to give life and energy to"), this is the word that's been missing from my description of what koan practice has done to my 12
Step practice.

Practicing with koans -- carrying them about in my day, meditating with them, being distracted then returning to the koan -- has evolved into me using these same techniques with the 12 Steps. This was not my plan. It seems to be just another way how koans work.

Koan practice at PZi looks very different today than what it was when I arrived some years ago. "After 20 years of teaching koans in a classical way, John Tarrant, the founder of PZi developed a new way of teaching koans in a setting that requires no experience with meditation or Zen. The emphasis is on taking one step into freedom. Everything we do is directed to that end." *

This more expansive and inclusive view of koan practice is reflected in the different experiments/projects happening at PZi: One member is exploring, via the internet, by giving koans to Moms to work with and discuss, another member has begun using koans with hospice training, a third member who happens to also be a Protestant minister is introducing koans at his church, and not only Zen koans but also Christian koans he's discovered, and here I have melded koans to the 12 Steps.

In my case it's become less "thinking" about the Steps or dissecting meaning from the Big Book and more about how koans have "given life and energy" to the Steps in my life.

Just as a small phrase or snippet of a koan can appear to me, transforming whatever I was thinking into an ah-ha moment of being; now small bits of a Step are appearing more often with their way of transforming awareness to the moment. This is good. It leads to less thinking of the small "me", and as we all know, "Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles."

Bill K.

*From a PZi Announcement