Friday, November 19, 2021

Step 11, Paying Attention to Every Day



Double your pleasure

Stay away from the drink

Double the koans

It’s not what you think

 

Lucky us, we’ll be sitting with two koans in November.

 

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.  

 

KOAN:  HERE'S AN OLD ZEN STORY: a student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom." Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention." The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention. Attention." The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me." In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention." In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?" Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."

 

KOAN: Yun Men said, “I don’t ask you about before the fifteenth of the month, try to say something about after the 15th. Yun Men himself answered for everybody. ‘Every day is a good day.’” 

[Note: Before the 15th is referring to before awakening, and after the 15th about after awakening.] 


Step 3 and Step 11 are in a wonderful relationship, whereas Step 3 is like an insurance policy, insuring me from that first drink. And like all insurance policies, one must pay the premiums.  Step 11 is the daily premium for this policy. If I stop paying, I’ll lose the policy. With no coverage, I’m doomed. 

Sought: 

To seek is to keep looking – to practice.  This requires attention and diligence. Think of an athlete, seeking to improve her track and field performances, she does this by  running on the track and working in the weight room regularly. If she wants to do her best in the next track meet, she must practice daily, to build stamina, speed, endurance, and strength, and to maintain a positive attitude.. 

Sought through prayer and meditation:

Running and the weight room helped our track star to build her muscles and run faster - - by developing a daily prayer practice AND a daily meditation practice, we build “spiritual muscles” to improve contact with our higher power. These muscles will grow, building stamina, speed, endurance, strength, on a spiritual level that is always available to us no matter where we are, what we’re doing or who we’re with. Prayer and meditation are the avenue to changing perceptions. 

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him:

A little twist here. What if “before the 15th

means before conscious contact with God

and after the 15th means having conscious

Contact with God?


On page 229 in the Big Book the early member writes, “…my only contribution to their literary efforts [ the book Alcoholics Anonymous ] was my firm conviction – since I was a theological rebel – that the word God should be qualified with the phrase ‘as we understood Him’ – for that was the only way I could accept spirituality.” 

Thank God for this phrase! Some say it’s one of the most important concepts in the book.  It has certainly provided me the wherewithal and permission to change my perception of my higher power.  I use the word God in conversations because it-s prevalent in the Big Book, at meetings, and necessary when talking with sponsees and newcomers – but my higher power is not a deity, but more like a verb. Please allow me to elaborate.

  

“…either God is everything or else He is nothing.” Page 54

 

From a non-duality perspective, this didn’t make sense to me. Nothing is something, just as the number zero is something. The vast majority of the universe is nothing, and this nothing-ness plays an integral part in what’s going on. Zero is nothing, and without it, astronomers wouldn’t have their cosmic equations.  When I see the word “Gog” in a sentence, I pivot to my Higher Power of nothing and everything that’s happening just now.  

praying only for knowledge of His will for us: 

As you may recall, my higher power is not a He nor deity. Then what does “His will” look like to me?  The key is paying  attention to what’s happening just now. If God is everything, then everything must be my higher power. Everything around me is happening. God is happening. My life goes better when I go with this flow receiving whatever comes my way or goes away. The level of my awareness determines my flow with the happenings just now. 

It’s only through AA, the 12 Steps, and integrating Eastern philosophy into my life where I began to recognize the goodness around me.  [I appreciate my life.] When I was drinking, the goodness was surrounding me and still, I didn’t appreciate my life. You know how this is,  spending too much time thinking solely of myself.  

Today I make a point of saying, ‘You are good, everything else is impermanent.” Therefore, “good” is my higher power. Every day is a good day, when I’m open to it. 

What makes for a good day? Waking up is a good start instead of coming to. Appreciating my surroundings, and smelling the coffee that my wife is brewing. After Wendy, our Lab/Golden mix has had her breakfast, she hops up on the bed, often giving me a few kisses on the head, as if to say, “It’s time to get up.” At this time of the year, while writing this draft, I have cherries and peaches with my oatmeal. Absolute heaven for the tastebuds.  

My friend Jerry is in hospice now. I visit him on Thursdays, take him to a nearby meeting on Saturdays, and call him every evening. We’ve been sitting side-by-side at meetings for over 30 years…meeting fixtures we are…or were. When I ask him how his day has gone, invariably he replies, “It’s been a good day today.” It’s sad to see how the effects of the cancer are taking my friend away; yet oh how I appreciate the time we’re still together. This makes it a good day. 

and the power to carry that out.   

Like an electric current, this power is generated from paying attention, from acceptance, from appreciation, and gratitude.  And having purpose! Our 12 Steps are all about purposefully serving others. Service generates power on many levels, even when I initially don’t want to do something, then decide to do it.  I’m always rewarded.   

Some days I feel more powerful than others. When I’m taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, life flows pretty smoothly. My spiritual fitness has a direct relationship with my daily practice.  Today's been a good day.


Bill K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 1, 2021

 Double your pleasure

Stay away from the drink

Double the koans

It’s not what you think

 

Hello My Friends:

Lucky us, we’ll be sitting with two koans in November.

 

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. 

 

KOAN #1:  HERE'S AN OLD ZEN STORY: a student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom." Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention." The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention. Attention." The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me." In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention." In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?" Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."

 

KOAN #2: Yun Men said, “I don’t ask you about before the fifteenth of the month, try to say something about after the 15th. Yun Men himself answered for everybody. ‘Every day is a good day.’”

 

[Note: Before the 15th is referring to before awakening, and after the 15th about after awakening.] 


Bill K.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Lost and Found in Step 10


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

 Koan:  A student asked Yunmen, "What does it mean to sit and contemplate reality?"

Yunmen answered, "The coin lost in the river is found in the river."

 

In driving about the city, my wife’s anxiety peaks when she thinks she’s lost. When I’m driving and she asks, “Are we lost?”, my usual response is something like, “I don’t know where we are, but I’m not lost.” As long as we keep moving, we end up finding ourselves on the right road. But I can certainly lose myself in other situations.

I’m a blurter, where most of the time my blurts bring about laughter, as I intended – but not so last week. We were bantering around before a ZOOM meeting and I engaged my mouth without thinking it through. Laughter was not my intention, I wanted to make a point. I knew immediately that my words, directed to a specific person, might have been hurtful – that I’d have no peace of mind until I made amends. I suppose I could say, “I lost it.”

“What does it mean to sit and contemplate reality?”

Could it be “…to practice these principles in all our affairs?” Thanks to my 12-Step practice, I knew what I must do in those times when I find my thoughts lost in the river of my self-centered alcoholic thinking. 


My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

The Five Remembrances Sutra 


The way for me to examine the symptoms of my diseased self, I jumped back into that old river, thinking about what I had said; and how I had, for a moment, become lost in one of my old character shortcomings. Within minutes after the meeting ended, I knew I’d be taking the appropriate action soon (promptly admitted it). I contacted my friend and apologized. She said, “I took no offense in what you said.” I felt relieved with her response, and by finding my way out of the river.

What this practice has given me is much like it is when I’m driving with Beth. No longer do I feel lost in the consequences of my behavior. I may not know where I am for the moment but I know there’s a way out – by pivoting to the wisdom of Step 10.

Bill K.







 

 

 


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Lost in Step 10

 

My Friends,

Yikes! Remembering in this morning, I knew there was something that I needed to do on October 1st. Aging forgetfulness has crept into my mind. 

Here's our koan for the month.


Bill K.


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

 

 

Koan:  A student asked Yunmen, "What does it mean to sit and contemplate reality?"
Yunmen answered, "The coin lost in the river is found in the river."

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Steps 9 and 10 -- it's dark outside...

  

 

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: Te-shan visited Lung-t’an and questioned him sincerely far into the night.  It grew late and Lung-t’an said, ”Why don’t you retire?” Te-shan made his bows and lifted the blinds to withdraw, but was met by darkness.  Turning back he said, “It is dark outside.”

Lung-t’an lit a paper candle and handed it to Te-shan.  Te-shan was about to take it when Lung-t’an blew it out.  At this, Te-shan had sudden realization and made bows.

[Case 28 The Gateless Barrier by Robert Aitken]

 

 

First Te-shan spoke that it was dark outside, words describing what he was seeing. This is like Step 8 when we think about the people we have harmed and write down our list. Thoughts about our past behavior also have a darkness to them. In doing our Step 4 and 5, we sat with this darkness. 

 


When Lung-tan blew out the candle, all that was left was darkness. Te-san could never have predicted what would come next. He became the darkness, no words about the darkness. This is like Step 9. With our actions, we become Step 9, a darkness of sorts, where our perceptions are unreliable and we find ourselves not knowing. We don’t know what will happen, but we do it anyway, trusting the process and continuing on with the amends. As or Step 9 progresses, holy smokes! Light begins to pour in. Without the dark, there cannot be light. 

Bill K.







Sunday, August 1, 2021

August/September -- It's Dark Outside -- Steps 8 and 9

 

Greetings My Friends:

A little more than one-third of summer has passed. Hope you are well. Now we get down to making amends...


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: Te-shan visited Lung-t’an and questioned him sincerely far into the night.  It grew late and Lung-t’an said, ”Why don’t you retire?” Te-shan made his bows and lifted the blinds to withdraw, but was met by darkness.  Turning back he said, “It is dark outside.”

Lung-t’an lit a paper candle and handed it to Te-shan.  Te-shan was about to take it when Lung-t’an blew it out.  At this, Te-shan had sudden realization and made bows.

 

Case 28 The Gateless Barrier by Robert Aitken


Bill K.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Step 6 and 7 and Falling Into a Well



Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.  


Koan: What is the way?

The clearly awakened person falls into a well.

~ Baling’s Three Turning Phrases, The Blue Cliff Record, case 13 commentary.

Here in Northern California, reservoirs are at record low levels; rivers have become creeks; and wells are going dry.  It’s July and any chance for rain is 3-4 months away (if we’re lucky). They call this a mega drought. The city of Santa Rosa has a mandate to cut water use by 20%. Water, essential for our very lives, we’ve got to make due with what’s being offered.

Steps 6 and 7, too, are essential for our recovery; but at times I forget they are available. And unlike a dry well with nothing to give, Step 7 is always abundantly full of offerings, full of relief from my selfish characteristics.


“Who isn’t falling into a well, pretty much all the time?” writes Jon Joseph Roshi of San Mateo Zen Community. Taking back my will, returning to selfish actions, falling into the well of old alcoholic thinking, and hurting others and myself. My “program” starts to faulter – this could lead to my downfall or even death, as certain as going without water.

With Step 6 I become ready to have my Higher Power’s help. With our drought, am I willing to do my part to conserve water? With Step 7-like action, I believe that collectively we citizens of Santa Rosa can get through these water difficulties.

In this wonderful world of koans and how they can turn things upside down, Jon gives the example when a student once asked Yunmen: "When it’s not the things I can see, and it’s not what they’re doing, what is it?” Yunmen responded, “Say it backwards.” And Caoshan once asked Elder De: “How do you explain the principle of response?” De said, “It’s like a donkey looking into a well.” Caoshan replied. “You said a lot, but that is only eighty percent of it,” adding, “It is like the well looking at the donkey.”

Let’s turn our koan upside down.  When I fully embrace Steps 6 and 7, with no reservations, I’m giving myself permission to be human, to realize my mistakes and allow [the well of] 6 and 7 to fall into me.

As Jon said, we all fall into the well. When I forget about these Steps, I become accident prone. Willfully ignoring these Steps is certain guarantee to fall in. And at other times when practicing AA principles, my self-induced barriers dissolve, allowing the well to fall into me. How could this be?

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.” BB Page 417

Bill K.