Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Commiting to Step Eleven, Zen Version

Yesterday I spoke to our PZi community at large, the 11th Step continued as my topic,  but this time I used the "Zen" version.  The evening went pretty well, too, and just like at our 12 & Zen gatherings , the discussion after the talk was moving and personal.  If you have considered doing this with your Zen community, I urge you to give it a try. 

The following is a consolidation of my notes; it will give you an idea of the evening's format and content.   


Welcome to Monday evening at PZi.  Some of you are familiar with what we do every second Friday of the month, called 12 & Zen.  In 12 & Zen we use the Twelve Steps that originated with AA. There are hundreds of recovery groups that use variations of the original 12 Steps.  Since November is the eleventh month, we’ll sit with Step 11.  So this evening we will be sitting with a Zen version by Bernie Glassman.

[A hand written example of Step 11, Zen Version, was hanging on the wall]

I made a commitment to deepen my realization of the Enlightened Way.

This Step is about staying the course...it's about our meditation practice.  First we’ll sit with this Step for about 10 minutes.  Find yourself in this Step.  And then I will introduce the koan for this evening – where we will sit with the koan and Step for the remaining 30 minutes.



This dewdrop world

It is but a dewdrop

And yet – and yet 

As we meditated, I would occasionally offer a few questions for stimulation:
  • "Where does dewdrop take you?"
  • "Dewdrop/commitment ...Commitment/dewdrop."
  • "What is your dewdrop this evening?"

Issa (18th Century Japanese poet, often Haiku poetry)  1763-1828…was living when our country was in it’s formative stages. He had great losses in his life:

Wives died... his children died.  His first son died one month after birth;  his first daughter died from smallpox about a year old; his second son died by suffocating while bundled on his mother's back. Issa wrote this poem right after his daughter died, at a time of deep grief.  In so few words he offers us such vast possibilities.

Perhaps he was thinking, “My little girl’s world, it is but a little girl, and yet –and yet…but this poem includes much more -- all of us in this room are included.  It’s poetic genius that he chose the word, dewdrops.  Dewdrops.  The conditions must be just right for them to form, the right moisture in the air, the right temperature.  Then they appear.  They shine in the morning light.  Then they drop away or evaporate.

Issa’s little girl, the conditions were right for her to be born.  As a little girl she shone in the adoring light of her parents.  Then she died.

This is what life is …yes?  How life works.

Our thoughts usually have this coin-toss tendency of calling out “heads or tails.” Conditions are ripe, things appear, we pass judgment --we limit our perspective to this or that, good or bad, life or death…"this shouldn’t be happening to me."

Everything has but a short cosmic life -- a beginning, a middle, and an end. And yet collectively [LIFE] it all continues on and on and on.  No.  It’s heads AND tails.  Dewdrop world is heads AND tails, good AND bad, life AND death, Step 11 and this poem.


1)  FIRST, There’s the idea to commit to something – STEP 11 here:
I need to meditate more.

2)  OK, I’m going to do it  -- the decision is made:
Tomorrow I’m going to meditate 30 minutes right after breakfast.

3)  The next day I recognize that I’m doing what I told myself I would:
 I did it! I’m meditating! Mission accomplished!

4)  and yet …and yet …things change.
The phone rings, someone comes to my door…I fall asleep…I hear a branch fall on my car…

Last week I donated blood.  A feel good sort of thing, something I’ve been doing for quite a while… Actually two commitments arose, my plans were to donate blood right after visiting the eye doctor, and then it came to me as I drove to the blood bank. I told myself that I would not eat any sweets afterwards.

If you haven’t donated blood before, the way it works, there’s a 15 minute required rest time after donating (to see if anything develops like fainting, dizziness, etc.).  I told myself no sweets this time, only water and a small bag of peanuts.  As I was sipping my water and munching my peanuts, another man there got up from his chair, walked to the counter, and opened up a Tupperware container full of chocolate chip cookies.  I had forgotten they bake cookies there!  And yet – and yet …I knew I was doomed...and went over and retrieved (only) two cookies.

Life turns on a dime.  This was my “AND YET” moment.  I ate my two cookies, rested the 15 minutes and went on with the rest of my day. Even though I had made a commitment not to eat sweets, it became a peanuts AND cookies moment for me. It’s was OK for me …and not a time for self-judging…just notice.  This is meditation...to notice without judging.


Isn’t this a form of digging?  To dig deeper, below the surface, to see what treasures I may find.  Little insightful treasures …humongous treasures of insight, I keep digging…I keep meditating.


In our sutras we chant, "Nirvana is right here!"  But alas, it goes unnoticed much of the time …because I haven’t paid enough attention to right now.  Remedy?  Meditation.  Meditation brings about more awareness.  Step 11 is an agreement I make with myself to find space in my daily life for meditation.  Find the space.  Make the space.  Carve out the space.  When we took our vows, John Tarrant Roshi asks that we commit to meditating every day – at least one hour a day of meditation.  This is how a meditation practice develops – meditate every day.  Dig deeper every day, the treasures will come.

Making a commitment doesn’t mean I will keep it.  But what I practice here is to come back to my commitment in Step 11.  Mind wanders? Come back to my breath.  Mind wanders? Come back to my koan. This coming back is also commitment.  The point of having a commitment to Step 11 is what strengthens my practice. My practice, in this dewdrop world, becomes more effective, efficient, portable, accessible.  It brings more happiness and peace into my life.


- - -

This is enough from me.  What came up for you this evening?  Where did Dewdrop take you?  How is your commitment to practice?  And yet – and yet?

Bill K.

WAY…our treasure:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Step 11: The Source of Inspiration


Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

A few weeks ago a speaker at our “Moment of Silence” 12 Step Meeting said something that really stirred me, something that has meandered in and out of my thoughts ever since.  He spoke of the word inspire, that its early meaning comes from the Latin word spiro, to breathe.  We know how important the breath is in our meditation practice – when distractions arise, we come back to the breath.  And to breathe was also referring to blow into or upon, as in the Devine is blowing into us – “to influence, move, or guide us.”

On page 86 of the Big Book, “…we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought,” this is our prayer.  This is how we verbalize our request; but it's only half the equation.  When I return to my breath, this is the other half, to open the channel between my Higher Power and me.  It’s a two-way channel now.  Through this channel God can breathe inspiration into me.  To have a conscious contact with God begins with my breathing … patient breathing.

Here is the November Koan I offer to go along with Step Eleven.  It comes from Issa, an 18th Century Japanese poet:

This dewdrop world 
It is but a dewdrop world
And yet – and yet

May inspiration come your way today.