Monday, February 1, 2021

 Hi Everyone,


Hope you are faring well.  The format for 2021 will be the same as last year, at times, with one koan for two of the Steps, over two months. Please allow Layman P’ang to talk to you these days in February and March.



Bill K.


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

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


       One day, while the Layman was meditating in his sitting hut, he suddenly cried out, “It’s hard, hard! And I’ve put ten coats of linseed oil on this platform, too!”

       His wife said, “It’s easy, easy, easy! Just turn your eyes to the floor, lower your feet to it [sandals], and be on your way!”

       Ling-chao said, “It’s neither hard nor easy! The mind of the Patriarchs is in every blade of grass!”*

 

This is referring from a line the Third Patriarch wrote, “Though the Great Way is expansive, treading upon it is neither hard or easy.”

 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Step One, our core issue


Koan: The Plum’s Core

The Layman went to visit Zen Master Ta-mei. As they were about to exchange greetings, the Layman said, “It has taken a while for the big plum tree* to mature. I wonder if any of the plums are ripe yet?”

Tai-mei said, “Go ahead and try one.”

The Layman said, “How completely unique!”

Ta-mei opened his arms wide and said, “You’ve gotten to the core!”

* The Layman’s question is a play on Ta-mei’s name, which means “big plum tree”.


On Monday, Zooming our CityZen gathering, we rang in the New Year with 108 bells – 108 is an important number in Zen tradition, it’s the number of worldly desires connected to pain and suffering. Michelle Brandt Sensei explained the mathematics behind this number.


See, hear, smell, taste, touch and object of mind (the unenlightened mind) are the 6 senses. Good, bad, and neutral are the three judgements.


6 x 3 = 18 

Next, we multiply 18 times the 2 kinds of attachment – getting something and lamenting getting something.


18 x 2 = 36

 Lastly, we multiply 36 times the 3 states – past, present, and future.

36 x 3 = 108


Before finding sobriety, not only are we packing around these 108 worldly desires, we throw alcohol, drugs, or gambling into the mix. Like COVID-19, we become super spreaders of pain and angst. It’s no wonder we find our lives so unmanageable. Fortunately, we have a solution.


What does it take for us to accept the tenets of Step One? We do know it’s entirely an inside job; it comes about differently for each of us; and with drinking “careers” in the single digits to those carrying on for fifty years or more.


There’s not one of us here who would not have benefitted by coming into the rooms earlier than we did. We weren’t ready. And look how many of us have family and friends who seem to be good candidates of AA but are still drinking? They’re not sufficiently ripe for the program either. 


Ripeness is subjective. I prefer plums that have a little give to them, a little firmness; but not the run-down-your-chin juicy kind. Maybe you like plums to be soft as gooey persimmons? We discover our own favorite ripeness in AA when we choose to taste the fruits of recovery. 


For all who are here, we’re here! After drinking for 25 years and simply sick and tired of being sick and tired, a tiny part of my psyche matured just enough to realize I was done and willing to do something about it.


There are many ways we “go ahead and try one.” I tried by calling up and entering a treatment facility. “How completely unique” it was being in treatment – I had entered a different world, a world without alcohol. A safe world with no temptations. Even though it hadn’t really sunk in, I accepted the core truth of my problem and admitted my powerlessness over alcohol. I’ve never taken a drink since.


Bill K.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Step One and Getting to the Core of Matters

Dear Friends...from yesterday...


full of gratitude

last day of 2020

a joy to behold

- - - 


And today begins 2021, Step One and a new koan to sit with this month. 



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


Koan: The Plum’s Core

The Layman went to visit Zen Master Ta-mei. As they were about to exchange greetings, the Layman said, “It has taken a while for the big plum tree* to mature. I wonder if any of the plums are ripe yet?”

Tai-mei said, “Go ahead and try one.”
The Layman said, “How completely unique!”
Ta-mei opened his arms wide and said, “You’ve gotten to the core!”

* The Layman’s question is a play on Ta-mei’s name, which means “big plum tree”.


- - -

Update: I'm having a heckuva time transitioning to my new computer. Stuff "lost" or doesn't work, I don't know the jargon, nomenclature, sequencing or what they're trying to tell me.  Arrggghhh.  This is a good time to put "One Day At a Time" in action...and to remember:

"Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday." Sir Anthony Hopkins...who just celebrated 45 years of sobriety.

Wishing you sobriety, happiness, joy, and freedom this year.

Muddling on...

Bill K.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

In these uncertain times...

 pandemic shutdown

sick and dying countywide

includes my iMac


Dear Friends,

 

So, in the coming weeks or even months,

there may be limited or postponed postings

on my blog.  

 

My computer is ten years old and it seems

has forgotten how to communicate with

itself and others (internet provider).


So far though, I can send and receive email 

on my iPad. Still there's an issue where 

the iMac can't send things to the iPad.


Such as it is. I trust these matters will be

resolved early on in 2021.  May you all

be save and well.


Bill K.

 



Sunday, December 13, 2020

Lost and Found in Step Twelve

 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:  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."


 
Before I found sobriety, the phrase “Oh you poor lost soul” * frequently made its appearance in my head, and probably others thought this about me, too.

This is my sobriety birthday month where I’m finding myself reflecting upon how I got here. At its core, this excerpt from the Big Book is etched into my story: “It wasn’t how far I had gone, but where I was headed.” P. 354

On this specific December Saturday, 1986, I was leaving with my friend to run the Sacramento Marathon. As I left home, a phrase from my wife’s parting words stuck: “Someone in this family is an alcoholic!”

Her words recirculate in my head all of Saturday, into the evening as I drank a bottle of wine, and well into the night. Sunday race day we were up early – the temperature was near freezing when we started but once the race began and we had found our pace our bodies warmed up – we broke four hours (a record) – the race went well, followed by the usual aches and pains. Then we drove the three-hours home.

Between December 7th race day and December 9th, something happened. Did I run instead of sit and contemplate reality? Clarity had opened me up. What if “I didn’t have to drink anymore?” P. 354. I knew nothing about AA at the time; but for years, in the back of my mind, I knew there were these places called treatment centers. Sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning I had made a decision – on Tuesday, December 9th I checked myself into St. Rose (long since closed).

“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.” P. 62 I was the cause of my lostness! When I made that decision to go into treatment, I had taken Step One without knowing there was such a thing.

It was there I began my journey in recovery – a journey of learning how to find myself, to discover my True Nature, something that’s always been with me but hidden by my ignorant and delusional ways. I had been lost in the river of my life.

“The coin lost in the river is found in the river.” I’ve found myself in the 12 Steps and Zen Buddhism, not by looking outward; but by consciously sitting with reality and my HP one day at a time.

Chuck, my longtime running and now hiking buddy sent me this from Robert Ellsberg’s collection “Blessed Among Us”:

“On December 10, 1968, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton died in Bangkok at a conference on monasticism. In setting forth on this journey he had written, “May I not come back without having settled the great affair. And found also the great compassion….I am going home, to the home where I have never been in this body.” On this trip he met with Buddhist and Christian monks and experienced an epiphany in the presence of an enormous statue of the dying Buddha. Exclaiming that this was the purpose of his trip, he wrote, “Everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.” He died later that week from an apparent accidental electrocution.”

For us alcoholics, Step 12, in some ways, is our greatest affair. By practicing the principles if all our affairs, we find the great compassion, too.


* I had not found Zen yet. Today I would say you poor lost soul and hungry ghost. 

 

Sobriety brings me joy and happiness AND I must take my recovery practice seriously. If I don't take it seriously, chances are I would lose it all. The hear the following at the close of each day in retreat, a message from the ancestors.  It's also a good thought to carry as 2020 comes to a close and we enter into the new year, 2021.


Bill K.

Just in, a contribution from Joanie:


“I was on a slippery rock in a rising tide of loss.

I craved change,
but turned away from it,
then drowned in contradictions.

Rock bottom became my solid foundation
on which to build my new life.”


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The last 12 & Zen koan for 2020

 Dear Friends:

We are here…December…and the last 12 & Zen koan for 2020.

Enjoy!

Hope you are safe and well.

Bill K.



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:  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, November 17, 2020

Step 11 -- Finding Home, Seeking Home

 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: “You’ve already found your home – although you still must seek it.” *

I feel like I'm one of the fortunate ones – early on in my sobriety, even though I’m introverted by nature and always avoided large gatherings, I felt “at home” in the meetings. This was a pleasant surprise.  Whatever was going on in my life I knew I could find refuge in a meeting. All I had to do was sit there…and listen. Little did I know that my entire world would change.

Then I learned about having a home group; the meeting to never miss; and if I did, people would call me to see if I was OK. Friendships have grown over these past decades, in many ways we're like family.

I was also pretty much at home with the Steps with my sponsor, becoming more comfortable with them and no longer wondering if they could really help me. By now I had some experience, proving what they could change things for the better.

By the time my sponsor and I were at the 11th Step together,  I had acknowledged a home group. I think I was their coffee maker, too. The group relied on me to make the coffee and bring some cookies; and in return, I could rely on the group to help keep me sober. This is the AA family in action. A family dynamic means helping the other.

Above all, I was sober! My home life was improving, my health was improving, there was more serenity, too.  I knew that this was a process and I was headed in the right direction. When I was drinking I knew I was headed in the wrong direction; but didn’t know how to “not drink”.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Step 3 is like an insurance policy to stop drinking and bring about recovery. As with all insurance policies, one must pay the premiums. Step 3 comes with a price. Step 11 is the premium I must pay.  If I stop paying my premiums (practicing Step 11) this valuable insurance policy (Step 3) will eventually drop to the wayside…and bad things will return.

I’ve found a home in AA and I’ve found my home in the 12 Steps. To maintain these homes I must seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power, my ultimate home of homes.

Prayer and meditation are spiritual exercises to be practiced daily. 

Toggling between acceptance and gratitude provides a wonderful home life indeed.

 

 

From Sutra: PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION — Hakuin Ekaku

Truly is anything missing now?
Nirvana is right here, before our eyes;
this very place is paradise,
this very body, the Buddha.


Bill K.

 

*  Gary Brandt gave this koan to us one Monday evening.  He adapted it from “Memories of a Catholic Girlhood” by Mary McCarthy—specifically, from the foreword “To the Reader.” The quote in the edition I have is on pages 22-23 (she just refers to him as “an older priest”): “I do not suggest to you where you will find your spiritual home—but you will find it—of that I am certain—the Spirit will lead you to it. Indeed, for me you have already found it, although you still must seek it.”