Saturday, March 9, 2019

From Out of Nowhere, Step 3, and Pouring It On




Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”

This was the koan for the evening at CityZen last December, A phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).


Of utmost importance here, we are not asked to carry out this decision right now – the implication is that in some time in the future, we will make this decision.  We hear “fake it til you make it” tossed about at meetings, and for some this concept works. After all, it’s a form of surrender. And as Dale pointed out this evening, “The act of surrender leads to a state of surrender. I ask my new sponsees, ‘Are you willing to go onto Step 4?’ ”

Instead of “faking it,” I prefer using the Taoist concept of wu-wei (pronounced wu-way), which in a way is surrendering, too.  Wu means nothing and wei means action; in other words, not doing. When I hear the word “turn” in Step 3, it’s an opportunity to practice wu-wei. Ultimately I am doing by not doing.

We never know where a koan, or any part of a koan, will take us. Elsie and John gave examples of this.  In the morning Elsie tells her Creator, “You can have all of me. I’m willing for you to take the good and the bad. And because I take my will back, I have to repeat my practice of turning it over and over and over. He has a reason, without selection, for me to do this.”

Without selection: “When I try to select is my will,” John said, "Without selection, without control, I go deeper where anything is available.”

In times of struggle when I don’t know what to do about something or a particular situation, I’ll take a break from it all. As it says in the Big Book, it’s a good time to relax and take it easy.  How often have you decided to “sleep on it” and see what happens tomorrow? Wu-wei.

In doing this there seems to be a level of trust that those things may work themselves out later. This trust expands as I realize how many things work out without my help.

To the newcomer, it really doesn’t matter that there doesn’t seem to be anything at the other end right now. This will come later on if you continue working the Steps. What’s important is the practice of turning it over to God, to the universe, or collectively to everything that’s happening right now. The process is about getting out of the self who wants to run the show and placing trust in wu-wei. Answers, results, or resolution appears, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s amazing how this happens, over and over and over. Could “out of nowhere” be the source of one’s Higher Power?

Step 3 calls on us to find a God of our own understanding. I find trying to understand my HP an exhausting and pointless exercise.  In his book Holy Rascals, Rami Shapiro* writes about a God just beyond my understanding. Instant relief. I don’t have to understand my Higher Power.

With long-term sobriety, this was Bob’s first time sitting with us at 12 & Zen.  He showed us his newly made meditation bench and wanted to give it a “test ride”.  As we settled into our meditation period, I peeked.  He looked very solid and comfortable in his practice with the koan and Third Step.  He would tell us why.

“I didn’t do anything to get here,” he began, “Rehabs, meetings, an atheist...even threw my first Big Book into the fireplace … I knew my life was doomed with no hope. Into about six weeks of white knuckling, it all changed for me on a fire escape on a building in Sausalito. I experienced a profound and life-changing event. Complete peace of mind and body overcame me. That was more than three decades ago and tonight’s koan reminded me of that moment.  The koan enveloped me with Steps 1, 2, and 3.  I am blessed to be here. Doesn’t his remind you of Bill W.’s story where he writes; “God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound” (page 14).

There were no burning bushes when I did my Third Step with my sponsor thirty-plus years ago . We read the Third Step Prayer together (p. 63) “God, I offer myself to Thee…” Is that all there is to this I asked myself?

Today it’s more a feeling I have for my Higher Power and its inter-being with everything happening and with nothing happening, just beyond my understanding. When I practice Step 3 to the best of my willingness, I feel the abundance that comes out of nowhere, pouring into every nook and cranny of my life. In moments like this, all my needs are met.

Early in my sobriety when praying, I had this thought about my words. The words that come from my mouth go somewhere. I got this notion that they keep going out and out and out into the universe. It was like asking myself, “How far can I point?” How far do my words go? It's beyond my understanding to question who or what, if anything ever hears my words?  Sending my words out is enough. It’s still important for me to pour my abundant words out loud, without selection, into every nook and cranny.  This was enough because I went onto Step 4.

What a delightful and full evening we had…obvious to me that It poured its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny of our gathering. Can you feel the abundance in your life today?

Bill K.

Friday, March 8, 2019

March Koan for Step 3

My apologies...

I sent a reminder to local people but neglected to post the March koan here.
There's still time to sit with it! ; [ )

Bill K.

 
Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.



Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”



This was the koan on Monday evening at CityZen last December,
a phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Treasure of Step 2 Opens of Itself



Step 2:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Koan: The storehouse of treasures opens of itself. You may take them and use them any way you wish.

From Dogen’s “Recommending Zazen to Everyone” and a part of the Misc. koan collection.


Came to believe…

For some who are still familiar with the religion they grew up with, or are still a church member, Step 2 may come easy, as it’s already a part of their consciousness and not a hurdle. Perhaps it’s just a reminder that their church is still available to them.

Not so for many others.  Step 2 is a hurdle or even a seemingly in penetrable barrier, so it’s fortunate that the writers of the Big Book cut us some slack by using the words came to believe. Dale remarked, “I didn’t have to come to find God in Step 2.”


Thank goodness we aren’t asked to make this leap of faith immediately.  All we have to do is think that it may be a possibility further down the line.  We can even gloss over Step 2 with a lets-just-see-what-happens attitude.

Elsie said she came into AA totally disconnected. “My life was over but certainly not unmanageable.” We laughed.  “I complained and complained and complained to my sponsor about others in AA and then she would ask, ‘How are you like them?’” Arrgghh! Then we came to Step 2 “despite the “Came to believe” part. “I took my time with this Step until I realized it was a promise – and the door opened by itself.


A Power greater than ourselves…

The main object of the Big Book (Page 45),  “…is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” We don’t realize it at the time; but a storehouse of treasures has been given to us when we take Step 1. Step 2 is merely the beginning of this process. The “treasure box” is beginning to open.

Dale’s enthusiasm was apparent when he said, “This is the best of koans to match with Steps 1, 2, and 3,” Treasures are a part of my morning meditations.”  Just like the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha are called the Three Treasures, his morning treasures are the Dharma, the Steps and “that which supports me.”


Restore us to sanity


They’re telling me I’m insane? Yes I am, we all are.  We don’t arrive here open-minded, clear headed, and considerate of others. In fact, we’re the opposite and this leads to our insane thinking.

Dale freely admitted that he had been insane all his life, before coming to AA. “How could I be restored to something I had never experienced?  The focus for me was finding sanity.”

With a smidgeon of willingness we acknowledge Step 2 on a spectrum of “belief levels” (A scale of 0 to 10?), then time to move on.  We may not see it yet but this is a gift.  A treasure actually! It’s the continuing to work the Steps with our sponsor, and in listening to what others say about this process we are given these Step treasures, with each treasure building upon the other.

My storehouse is growing. “Having had a spiritual awakening” in completing Step 12 I realize the storehouse of treasures have been given to me freely. And because my goal now is to do the next right thing, I can take them and use them any way I wish

No matter how you “work” Step 2, by moving on to the next Step, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly”, it’s bringing you into closer contact with a Power greater than yourself. Look around, it sure seems to be working for a lot of other people in the room …you will come to believe in a Higher Power of your own understanding by being grateful for how the Steps are changing your life. Maybe it’s time today to give thanks for your treasures; one of them being restored to sanity.

As we were straightening thing up getting ready to leave, we all agreed – the 12 Steps are a miracle.



Bill K.



















Sunday, January 27, 2019

February's Koan with Step 2

Dear Friends,

Less than two weeks before we meet again, on February 8th.

Here is something to sit with until then...


Step 2:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.



Koan: The storehouse of treasures opens of itself. You may take them and use them any way you wish.


From Dogen’s “Recommending Zazen to Everyone” and a part of the Misc. koan collection.



Bill K.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Falling For Step One

Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over something -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Same Koan, different translations:

1) James Green’s version: Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.”

2) Ruth Fuller Sasaki's version: "Flake after flake does not fall another place."

3) Blue Cliff Record case 42: "Good snowflakes -- they don't fall in any other place."

4) Yamada's translation is: "Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."

5) John & Joan's translation: “Beautiful snowflakes! They don’t fall in that other place.”

6) Sekida's translation: "Beautiful snow- flakes, one by one; but they fall nowhere else."


Even though we are using koans in a nontraditional way, none-the-less, they are still koans; so I remind you that every koan is about you.

Yes, Layman P’ang is talking about snowflakes and these snowflakes are you.  Here are comments that bring us all into the koan.

1) James Green’s version: Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.” …and then we realize Step 1 is the best thing in our life…this same Step works for anyone; we’re in that same place.

2) Ruth Fuller Sasaki's version: "Flake after flake does not fall another place." Here we are, at (a place in time), Step 1.

3) Blue Cliff Record case 42: "Good snowflakes -- they don't fall in any other place."As alcoholics or otherwise, if we’re lucky, we find ourselves falling at the feet of Step 1.

4) Yamada's translation is: "Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."Beautiful alcoholics. We don’t fall on any other place that is outside the possibilities of recovery (Step 1).

5) John & Joan's translation: “Beautiful snowflakes! They don’t fall in that other place.” Once we fall onto Step 1, with our sponsor we then begin to fall into Step 1.

6) Sekida's translation: "Beautiful snow- flakes, one by one; but they fall nowhere else."Beautiful alcoholics, we fall nowhere else than where we are.


With this koan and Step 1, there’s something absolute here. This is it! “We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics,” (Page 30).

The argument is over as to where I might land. No equivocation.  I know I will land somewhere, if I continue drinking. For some of us, it was this thought that helped lead us to the 12 Steps.  It was in my case – I could see where I was heading and it didn’t look good. I will land somewhere after I stop drinking, too. I will land somewhere when I stop drinking and work the Steps. These are the somewhere possibilities:



·      Death

·      Institutions

·      Lose it all

·      Or stopping somewhere before the above

If we’re lucky enough to find ourselves at Step 1, we have a chance for a better life.

Every day we don’t fall in any other place.  But more important than where we fall is what we do in this place.

Dale couldn’t be with us so he told me about his experience with this koan.  “I start every day ‘in the same place’ with my morning prayers and meditations, acknowledging (1) that I am an alcoholic and (2) am powerless over just about everything.”

John talked about the snowflakes surrendering to their conditions, falling, blowing about, even melting.  “In Step 1,” he said,  “I’m surrendering to my conditions, too.

Elsie said, “We come from all directions, we come from all densities, as we fall into the program.  Step One is a Universal Truth for us, ultimately bringing us to the spirit of peace.”


Then our conversation somehow diverged into birth and death. And it wasn’t macabre at all – there was an openness, lightness, and healthy acceptance with it all. The phrase “not one, not two” came up regarding how to look at birth and death non-dualistically.

Can’t we say that dying is a form of “landing”?

…each flake dies in the same place.
…they don’t die in any other place.
…they don’t die on any other place
…one by one; but they die nowhere else.

When we do the 12 Steps, our old ways die off -- we are reborn.

I love it how our conversations can cake a 90 degree turn without any of us turning the wheel. I think the koan was doing the steering.



Bill K.














Monday, December 31, 2018

One koan, Six Verisons, for Step 1


Happy New Year, 2019, there is no better place than to begin with Step 1.

The second Friday falls on January 11th. Hope to see you soon.

Bill K. 


Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over something -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Same Koan, different translations:

1) James Green’s version:

Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.”

2) Ruth Fuller Sasaki's version:
"Flake after flake does not fall another place."

3) Blue Cliff Record case 42:
"Good snowflakes -- they don't fall in any other place."

4) Yamada's translation is:
"Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."

5) John & Joan's translation:
“Beautiful snowflakes! They don’t fall in that other place.”

6) Sekida's translation:
"Beautiful snow- flakes, one by one; but they fall nowhere else."

Monday, December 17, 2018

Step 12 -- The interweaving continues on and on...




Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

Koan: We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven
And this interweaving continues on and on,
While each thing stands in its own place.”

     ~ Shitou Xiquan

Initially I was drawn to the “woven and interwoven” concept in this koan, as the beautiful tapestry of our fellowship – the interweaving of individuals in meetings, the weaving of groups with our service committees, intergroup and functions, the tapestry of all the groups in counties and states across our nation, and reaching beyond the U.S. to countries around the globe.  AND it all comes back to one alcoholic helping another, which begs the question, “Where do I stand?”

Weaving the Steps together is how we “work” the 12 Steps, there are no boundaries.  Step Twelve is the jumping off place.  It’s like the day I received my full-fledged drivers license and was able to drive off in a car all by myself; knowing that now I'm responsible for my safety and the safety of others. Completing Step 12 calls us to be responsible…”When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.”

John S., is a longtime member but new to 12 & Zen.  This was his first time with us. He commented that tonight’s koan “Took me to the interweaving of my past and present, before and after sobriety, which is who I am today. Now, it’s what I do with my weaving and interweaving that’s important,” the weaving continues on and on.

I had a revelation this month. It was like tumblers in a lock falling into place where a door opened into a new realm in how I experience my Higher Power. It all came together (interweaving?) with the help of Christine, an outside of AA book, a telephone koan discussion with a teacher, and Layman P’ang.

  • First was Christine S., a Tibetan nun, with training and practice in several traditions.  With more than three decades of sobriety, she once said that her higher power is a verb.  Her point of view startled me.  I’ve been sitting with this for more than a year, agreeing with it, yet something felt missing.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the verb aspect.
  • Next is the quotation “God is everything or else He is nothing,” on page 53 in the Big Book. A huge part of the success of AA comes from the suggestion that we can create a power of our own understanding;  so I have no problem with changing this phrase to correspond with my Zen practice to read: “God (or Higher Power) is everything and nothing.” The everything refers to form (things) and the nothing refers to emptiness (no things), as in the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”.  With this in mind, I knew I was headed in the right direction.
    "Yes, Yes, Yes!" I said while reading this.
  • I’m reading a book called, Holy Rascals by Rami Shapiro. It’s #26 on page 56 that brought it all together!  My perception changed. On my morning walks, the “things” (nouns) like trees and mailboxes and leaves, actually everything, changed modes. Trees were treeing, the mailbox mailboxing, leaves leafing, and I was in the mix, meing – all of us on the walk, walking.  Simply saying “I am one with all” doesn’t automatically make me feel this “oneness”.  Now I was experiencing no separation between treeing and meing. We were happening.
  •  In my ongoing koan practice, I’m working with Layman P’ang,  this time with Dialogue #20. Speaking and Not Speaking. Here are a couple of lines of their dialogue: Pai-ling asked the Layman, “So can you tell me simply, how do you not avoid speaking about it? The Layman winked at him.
  • This time on my walk I laughed about Layman P'ang's winking because I found everything was winking at me! As the trees were treeing, their implied winking was their way of telling me; “We’ve been doing this all along; and you thought we were only trees.”  This is what I told my teacher earlier in the month during our telephone dokusan (meeting).  The interweaving goes on and on.
All of this takes me back to the koan:  “We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven…” has evolved into, “We and everything happening are woven and interwoven… coupled with “My Higher Power is everything happening and nothing happening.”

I am one lucky guy.  Working the Steps in my life continues to bring me spiritual awakenings. Practicing these principles in all my affairs continues to bring me freedom, peace of mind, and a sense of purpose. Sharing this with you brings me joy.

See what’s happening throughout the weaving and interweaving?  God is the Happening and we are happening.

Here’s winking at you,

Bill K.