Thursday, March 31, 2011

Don't Tell Me ...

... I Can't Do That.

Once I heard that you cannot arbitrarily attach koans to anything... ummm ... but that's what I've done here, this is what the project is all about. Well, sort of. We do what we do what we do. So I've assigned certain koans with the Steps, to see what happens.

That's not completely correct, the assign part, because some of these koans seemed to assign themselves! This is how it happened for me where I realized the koan that I had heard on a Monday evening of meditation stirred up all sorts of thoughts around Step 3.

The koan's relationship with Step 2 came to me while at a 7-day retreat. A friend told me the koan that jumped into his mind around Step 1. I had originally chosen a different one but
his was much better since it was his actual experience. Another friend was meeting with his teacher in dokusan (at PZi we call this Work In The Room instead). He revealed how the koan
he was working on came to relate with Steps 5 and 6.

This leaves us with the other koans here, the ones I've chosen. Never underestimate the potential of a koan. I know this to be true and that all koans are potentially useful. That they will stir up a Step for you remains unknown. But later on, maybe something different will happen.

For sure, I am not a koan master; but I have had the experience of working with several hundred of them. As I sit with koans, in the back of my mind are also the 12 Steps and my experiences with them. Either consciously or unconsciously the question arises: "Does this koan remind me of the Steps at all?" At times, by meditating with these koans, a glimmer of possibilities appears -- not an ah-ha moment as it has been for others; but that "this one" just may work for others. Certainly not cast in stone, I know the koans I use here will change and evolve over time.

The other people mentioned here who have had specific Step/koan awakened moments are all long-time Zen students in the koan tradition. Their experiences, I reiterate, are koan-driven and not something thought up.

It's only a matter of time and practice where YOU will also experience the effects of a koan with a Step. The koans I have chosen may do this for you; the koans my friends experienced may do this for you; or it may be a loan you've heard from elsewhere. If you already work with koans, whose to say that it may appear disguised as a Step.

I can teach you how to meditate in about 5 minutes; but it's something that you'll need to practice for the rest of your life for the best results. Step/koan practice will take time, after all, we are doing something very new both in Zen and the 12 Steps... all of which encourages me to practice, practice, practice.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sitting with koans p.r.n.

p.r.n. is nurse-talk for "as needed ... and this is just how to work with koans -- as well as how koans have a way of working with us.

Lucky for us, koans are infinitely portable so we can take them anywhere. So when might be a good time to match koans with the 12 Steps? As needed!

  • When you are working your steps with your sponsor.
  • When you are taking a sponsee through the steps. Days prior to your meeting date would be a good time to reflect with step/koan.
  • Do you attend step study meetings? You would know what step will be discussed in the next week ... carry both step and koan with you for a few days before you meet.
  • Just for the fun of it.
  • Allow some step/koan time during your daily meditation.
  • Something during the day reminds you of a certain step -- bring the koan to mind.
  • Sometime during the day a koan comes to mind -- bring in the step.
  • And sometimes koans just appear out of nowhere.
If there is a mantra for what we are doing here, it would be "Practice, Practice, Practice!"

In Step 12 we "practice these principles in all our affairs." To practice with koans is to carry them with us everywhere. It just seems natural that they would co-mingle throughout the day... and they will, if you allow them in.

And then there's formal meditation, sitting in a chair or on a cushion, that specific time each day for sitting. This cannot be over emphasized, the importance of a daily meditation. An hour a day is really good (like a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening); but even 15 minutes a day is very helpful... every day.

When I began meditation it was 3 minutes. It seemed like an eternity with all the chatter going on in my head. After a time, when the 3 minutes passed relatively quickly I upped it to 5 minutes... then 10, then 15 minutes. This was morning meditation only. Then one day I decided to do the 15 minutes in the evening. It worked pretty well. The 15 and 15 turned into 20 and 20.
Now I usually get in an hour a day. It's part of my day, just like the five 12 Step meetings I go to each week, no planning required. My recovery comes first -- prayer, meditation and meetings get plugged into my daily schedule first.

If I don't do this, my day usually doesn't go well. Then I start to pile on more stories to myself, thinking they will make me smarter in navigating my world of "little thoughts and designs."

My life becomes more unmanageable. Go figure. If I'm lucky, a koan such as "hanging by my teeth" appears (see Step One). Ouch! That's not a pleasant place to be. Time to step back a little and relax... a little meditation would be helpful, and asking the Universe for a little guidance is good... to allow expansion of the spaces between my thoughts. The longer the space between thoughts, the quieter my mind becomes.

Koans have this knack of disassembling thoughts, changing minds, offering new perspective, and dissolving preconceptions. This is why I have a koan practice.

These koan-induced changes often come about as ah-ha moments where I go from "this is how it is" to "wow, I'm way off -- it's really like this." The point I'm trying to make here is that it's not a linear process like solving a math problem. It's more like a discovery of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, newt!