Koan: Someone asked his teacher, “But what about during disasters?”
She responded, “That’s it, too.”
|And there are disasters that occur solely between my ears.|
In no way am I discounting disasters like bombings or tornados, etc. In these cases,
a majority of people rise to their highest level, risking their own life in helping others. This koan applies to all disasters, including the stories we make up in our minds. That’s it, too.
I was drawn to the “it” in this koan. I have to show up for my life – this is it. The landscape of reality, my life as I know it right now – this is it. Watching my landscape go by or ignoring it altogether, this is it. Step 4 gave me an awareness of and insight to my behavior. Yes, it was uncomfortable for me. Sometimes it feels like sobriety is sending me to the front lines of my life. It is the Steps that show me how to respond.
I believe every one of the Twelve Steps is an awakening of sorts, but I didn’t always realize it at the time. The Steps are in order to facilitate these awakenings. Without taking the Step 4 inventory to the best of my ability at the time, I wouldn’t have anything available to go onto Step 5. “Step 4 is getting to know yourself,” said E., “And eventually being OK with who we are. The “it” is the OK-ness.
H. was not focusing on “it” at all. And on the topic of disasters, said he didn't think he has ever been in a disaster, “Dangerous situations, yes, but not any disasters.” He calls Steps 4-10 his inventory Steps. His ongoing prayers and practice are looking at himself and his role on a daily basis.
The “it” for M. was about rewards and payback for doing each Step. In this case, Step 4, “Am I going to be OK after doing this? Does God still have my back?” For her, the answer has been yes.
In my Zen practice I’ve worked with the koans in a book called The Gateless Barrier. The same book by a different author is called The Gateless Gate.
As I continued sitting with this koan, I realized that “It” goes beyond my personal landscape of life, deeper into what is. You see, these dharma gates are always available to me under any condition. Others might say this is God’s message being revealed. It can happen at any circumstance.
· What about during fun times? That’s it, too.
· What about when working Step 4? That’s it too.
“It” is the gate to awakening. Some may think Step 4 is a barrier. No, no, no. Looking back on it now, it was the gate that opened up the rest of the Steps.
H. spoke again at the end of our meeting, telling us that, as a child he suffered from horrendously abusive parents. “I just realized that my childhood was a disaster. For countless years I wrestled with my role, questioning my relationship with my parents. It was when I worked the Fourth Step that I acknowledged I was the victim. That’s it! I found my true self in this matter and could move on.
On the drive home, H. was still wondering, “What was it for me to talk about my childhood tonight? The words just came out.”
I assured him that what he said was a perfect example of tonight’s koan in action. And fortunately for the rest of us, we got to share his experience.