Saturday, October 1, 2022

Step 10 Revealing Ourselves

A new month, a new koan...This is what we're sitting with in October.

Bill


Step 10:  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

 

KOAN:  Blue Cliff Case 27: Yunmen’s Manifestation

A monk asked Yunmen, “When the tree withers and the leaves fall, what’s happening?”

Yunmen replied, “the golden wind is revealing itself.” [“autumn is manifesting itself”] 1

The golden wind is the reference to autumn in the old Chinese culture. It’s a sweet time really—this time of letting go, of returning, of waiting for the new to emerge. There’s a quality of being between times when the old is still visible and the new has not yet formed. There is a golden quality to this time—an intimacy.


Golden Wind is the name of the deity of autumn.



Sunday, September 11, 2022

Steps 8 and 9 - - From our sickness comes medicine



Step 8:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

 

Koan: Yun Men, teaching the community, said, “Sickness and medicine correspond* to each other: the whole world is medicine, who are you?”

*Correspond or subdue or heal …

From the Grapevine Daily Quote


I once read where the HH Dalai Lama told a story about a man who was robbing gas stations at the rate of seven stations a week – one each day.  The robber was starting to feel remorse over his actions and decided that from now on, he would only rob six stations a week. By his actions, the robber was making the world a little better.  Yes, he was still causing grief in other people’s lives six days a week but on one day he wasn’t. We say progress rather than perfection, yes? Who is this robber? By discovering an antidote, he looks to be on the path of recovery.

A month or so ago it seemed that some animosity toward Zoom attendees crept into a meeting. A friend sent me this message: “Have to admit I did not feel welcome today. The first thing the secretary said to us on Zoom was that we should come to the meeting and join the group. (We did join—on Zoom.) Then when the guy who read the steps balked at reading at the microphone she quipped “Well YOU voted for Zoom!”  Ouch.” [but she ended with] “Acceptance is where peace of mind lies and I’ll opt for that.” In her moment of pain, she experienced sickness and medicine corresponding to each other by choosing acceptance over resentments.

In my humble opinion, the 12 Steps are the best antidote to alcoholism available. Consider each Step as a booster shot, a medicine of incredible effectiveness, building upon all the prior Steps.  Steps 8 and 9 are relying upon the spiritual antibodies we’ve accumulated by doing Steps one through six.

By looking over my 4th Step, I pretty much have the list of names for Step 8. It seemed intimidating, a bitter pill to take. In his own way, my sponsor assured me that this will lead to healing and freedom. Then, embarking onto Step 9, relief came early. With each checking off of names on my list, I knew that bitter pill was working. In Steps 8 and 9, I’m clearing away the wreckage of my path, and more medicine against the first drink.

When I fall short and say something that’s hurtful, I’m hurting others and myself. At the same time, it can be medicine to others when they realize my behavior is not something they wish to imitate. “Thank you for showing me how to be a jerk,” may pass through their mind.

Who am I? Ha!…I hope I’m not the aforementioned jerk. 

To sum things up, I think the best example of this koan manifesting itself in the Big Book comes from: “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” Page 84

Bill K.









Monday, August 1, 2022

Steps 8 and 9, August/September

 

Here we are, summer is almost half over; Steps 8 and 9 have their way of revealing who we are.

Step 8:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

 

Koan: Yun Men, teaching the community, said, “Sickness and medicine correspond* to each other: the whole world is medicine, who are you?”

*Correspond or subdue or heal …


Bill K.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Steps 6 and 7: A spiritual Get out of jail FREE card



Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.  

 

Koan: “How many steps did it take to get to this room?”

~ Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans

 [“…to get to this room?”, the teacher is asking about the room where they are sitting for one-on-one teaching. On a larger scale, how did we arrive at this place and time in our lives?

- - - - -

If I had only applied myself better to my studies and not been so immature, I probably would not have flunked out of college on my first try. This likely would have resulted in getting a different degree, possibly working for the US Forest Service in a different state. Being a 22-year-old recent graduate, I would have been ripe for the Draft and off to Viet Nam. If I survived that, I’d most likely be married to a different woman. 

·     But I did flunk out of college, a step that directed my life.

·     Following my cousin’s choice, I joined the Naval Reserve – six months of active duty training, then a commitment of one weekend a month plus two weeks in the summer, for 5 years. I was one of those Weekend Warriors.

·    Then I found myself back living with my parents and taking classes at the local Junior College, to make up for all the Ds and Fs. 

·    Went back to the school that I had flunked out of, but it was no longer a fit. I dropped out which is better than flunking out.

     Summer school and one quarter at another college, this time my grades were good enough and all is well.

·    Early January, 1968, Beth and I had our first date. In my essentially zero experience of dating, she seemed like a pretty nice girl. So I asked her out again...

·    January 19th, my reserve unit was recalled to active duty, report to NAS Alameda immediately! Oh no! Do you remember the USS Pueblo, the naval destroyer captured by North Korea? That’s why we were recalled. I would spend the week on the base and drive three hours north to see Beth on weekends.

I’ll speed things up. Getting called up to active duty was the catalyst that led to us getting married in July. We got an apartment in Walnut Creek. Beth would drive me to the base in the morning and pick me up after work. By December, our unit was released from active duty. In January I was back in school, and as they say, the rest is history – we will be celebrating our 54th anniversary next week.

I’ll date myself bringing up a 1950s TV show called “The Life of Riley”, where the star, William Bendix, would inevitably say, “what a revolt’n development this is.” How did my difficult development come to be? 

With some reflection, I can usually retrace my steps back to reveal the evolution of my troubles; either (a) a way comes to me via AA principles for resolving my problem or (b) it does not. Others may ask or I ask myself, “Have you tried Steps 6 and 7?” Caught in my self-imposed jail, Steps 6 and 7 are a spiritual Get Out of Jail FREE card.

Step 6 greases the skids to Step 7…and the ideal lubricant for greasing the skids is admitting my powerlessness over it all. When in doubt, go to your Higher Power.

The steps I might have taken had I not flunked out; the steps I did take have led me to writing this blog; and what about the steps it took for me to become an alcoholic, and the steps it took for me to get sober, and the steps it takes for me to stay sober…every one of these developments has required taking certain steps – some leading to revolt’n developments – and some leading to gratifying developments.

 

Bill K.


Barbara F-K writes: 

I truly believe that I am a sum of my “ growing “ steps.
 I have not shut down the door to my past.  Instead, I am grateful for all those learning experiences because it brought me to where I am today.
Today I can continue to take the steps , necessary to not only keep me sober, but keep me in “the sunlight of the Spirit.”
And that includes steps six and seven.

Thank you for being part of my recovery.

 

 

 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

12 & Zen June/July – Steps 6 and 7


 

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

 

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.  

 

Koan: “How many steps did it take to get to this room?”

~ Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans

 

 

(How we arrived at this place and time in our lives)


Bill K.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Darken further into Steps 4 and 5...to find it's not entirely dark


Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  

Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 


Koan:  In the dark, darken further. 

            (Daodejing)

 Page 82, Roshi Joan Sutherland’s Acequias,

 Miscellaneous Writings on Koans

 

Just the thought of darkening, I’m compelled to bring my longtime (30+ years) friend Jerry Adamowicz into this posting. For decades we had a bantering commentary on light and dark.  Twice a year we would kid each other about what was about to come. On December 21st, he being the extrovert would say with a big grin, “You know, the days are going to get longer now.” I would go “Arrgghh” and we’d laugh. Come June, I being the introvert would reciprocate, “You know, the days are going to get shorter now,” where he would go “Arrgghh” and we would laugh. At the end of this post is a link to Jerry’s Obituary.

We all have known people, upon reading Steps 4 and 5, immediately say, “I’m not going there.”  They’ve painted these Steps in foreboding darkness. Those who refuse these Steps eventually leave the fellowship and end up drinking, which leads back to the very darkness they were trying to avoid.

I consider myself very fortunate. Willingness came to me early on. In the three-week residential treatment center, I listened and did what was asked of me. When it came to Steps 4 and 5 with my sponsor, I listened and did what he asked of me, through the times of my feeling guilt, shame, and remorse, etc. I had trusted the process through Steps 1-3, and after hearing some of the things he told me about himself, what he had done (and I hadn’t done), I didn’t balk at Step 4 or 5. The proof, my sponsor sitting right in front of me. Angelo had 3 ½ years of sobriety when I asked him to be my sponsor. He was happy with his life, and sober. I wanted that. With his direction, we finished the Steps and I found sobriety and happiness. 

Thank you, Angelo Flores (February 3,1945 - May 13,2022). In the last weeks, he was sleeping almost 24 hours a day. There were times when he seemed to not recognize me, not even a smile. The last time I saw him, three days before he passed, he smiled. i kissed him on the forehead. "Can you give me a kiss," I said, putting my cheek next to his lipsI "Smooch." I know he knows that I love him and will miss him.

Do I find myself in those places where things look their darkest? Of course I do. Is it foreboding, dangerous, threatening and a place to escape from?

Sometimes yes in physical situations. In the darkening in our koan here, instead of trying to escape, it’s asking us to darken further. What is that?

Writing down my 4th Step and acknowledging my part in situations is the way I embraced all of what the darkness had to offer, including mental anguish.  Then Angelo asked me to make a fourth column revealing my role in these matters. It’s progressing through these Steps where light appears; the light of awareness of who I was when drinking; the light of awareness of who I could become in sobriety; and the light to better relate to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Figure 1

I will continue to have dark times and light times – just as our planet spins, keeping half the world dark and half the world light at all times. These natural forces bring us light and dark every day. At any given moment, nearly half the world is dark and nearly have the world is light, and the remaining parts neither entirely dark or entirely light.

The yin-yang symbol, or “taijitu” as it’s often referred to in China, can be helpful here and as you may recall, I used it a few months ago in my commentary about Steps 3 and 4. In this philosophy, the “universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature.” Figure 1. The opposing principles are the black side and the white side. The complementing principles are the dark dot in the white side and the white dot in the dark side.

Figure 2

We Westerners seem to operate under a “taijitu” of only the two opposing principles. Figure 2. We tend to get caught up in the absolute duality of things – something is either good or bad, you’re either with us or against us, I’m either happy or sad. Having this perspective is limiting and not helpful at all when working Steps 4 and 5.  

And something we view as whole right now will change later on. The taijitu represents a realistic view of what wholeness looks like in the moment and how the universe works. Wholeness in the moment, though, is fluid and everchanging. One moment looks like Figure 1 and two seconds later looks like Figure 3.

Figure 3

Step 4 says “we must take a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves.” The goal is to uncover or reveal the dark aspects of our past.  The real darkness is how our culture wants us to keep our emotions like shame and guilt hidden in the darkness.  At the same time, as hard as it may be, we try to remember that we carry along a kernel within us that is light and good…going into the dark parts knowing that it’s not entirely dark. Let Figure 1 be that reminder to bring along the whole you, the dark side and the light side.

Revealed in the Big Book on page 417 is an example of this very taijitu. “A.A. and acceptance taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us.”

Perhaps Bill W. had been reading James Truslow Adams? “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault in the rest of us.  James Truslow Adams (October 18, 1878-May 18, 1949)

Dark side, light side, neither side is autonomous. Together they make a whole. A dynamic whole that moves between yin and yang, ebb and flow, this is the way of the universe. This is the way of Steps 4 and 5, together a whole, a process to be embraced. To Darken further actually takes us to the other side, where there’s more light. On page 324 in big Book, it says the dark past [is the] greatest possession we have. This is how we darken further, and by knowing our wholeness we can better carry the A.A. message to others.

- - - 

A day later, Joanie L. sums it up, "...to open to the darkness...my eyes have adjusted to the darkness and now I see clearly."

Bill K.

P.S. Other good dark things? Dark coffee and dark chocolate.


Jerry’s Obituary:

https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/pressdemocrat/name/jerome-adamowicz-obituary?id=32245673

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Steps 4 and 5 Koan

I'm late in posting this! My apologies... vehicle repair, house guest, shower contractor communications and my aging brain contributed.

Plenty of time, though...this is what we'll be sitting with for April/May.


Bill K.




Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  

Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

 

 

Koan:  In the dark, darken further. 

 

                           Misc. Koans p. 82 Roshi Joan Sutherland’s Book