Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Koan: Step by step in the dark – if your foot’s not wet, it found the stone.
~ Shaku Soyen
Finding the stone seems to indicate we are moving on a path, a route, going somewhere to somewhere else ... moving from this stone to this stone to this stone -- from a wet stone to a dry stone. We are moving to an opposite condition. We do this all the time, moving from:
· Hot to cold
· Danger to safety
· Angst to relief
· Sorrow to joy
· Step 8 to Step 9
Writing down my 8th Step, the names of people I hurt, thinking what I did to them, it can feel like slogging in wet and muddy conditions, wondering when will this end.
In the 9th Step, the slogging disappears; through courage and an honest effort at making my amends, I realize my angst turned to relief -- my foot isn’t wet anymore (at least with this particular person). The 9th Step is finding the stone.
Before taking any one of the 12 Steps, in a way we are in the dark; not knowing what to expect, not knowing if we can do this. It could be fear, too. This is perhaps especially true with Step 8. The mere thought of contacting people we have harmed and making amends is a dark place full of what ifs. So dark that one person this evening said she purposefully left some people off her list the first time she did the Steps so she wouldn’t have to include them in her Step 9. This did not solve the problem. “By leaving people off my list,” she said, “my foot stayed completely wet and I still felt miserable.”
The word “harm” stood out for another person. In the Three Pure Vows or Precepts, the first is Do no harm. “When I was drinking, I harmed people in many ways. Listing these people on my 8th Step, I was acknowledging to myself that I had not been following this precept. By being willing to take action on this path, experientially moving from Step 8 to Step 9, I was learning how to recognize the harm I caused -- to notice if my foot was wet or dry, to know when to make amends, to know when relief appears.” After making an amends, he went onto say that if he still felt a resentment toward this person, “my foot is still wet.”
We are “Creatures of Pain and Joy…” writes James Ford in this blog posting:
In this splendid article about working with koans, he writes, “There is no escape on the koan way. Our whole lives are explored, all facets of the real. And our experience of it, now every thing is holy, now no thing is holy.”
As humans, this pain and joy is something we can’t avoid. We revert to our old ways and do harm to others, we find our feet wet again. Sooner or later we’ll remember how Steps 8, 9 AND 10 have worked for us in the past, then follow their direction. We know they will lead us to the moment of discovery – “Hey, my feet aren’t wet anymore, I’ve found the stone!”