Thursday, July 14, 2011

When a small portion of a little thing is a big deal

We know that the number of people who are in 12 Step programs is very small compared to the number who could use the Steps. Likewise, the number of Zen groups who practice koans is very small compared to the total number of Zen groups. For that matter, there really aren't many people in the U.S. practicing Zen. These thoughts brought me to the directories of three popular Buddhist magazines, Tricycle, Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma. I counted 50 Zen Centers.

Then I looked at the centers that mentioned Rinzai or koans as a part of their ad. There were about 11 of these. So I'll ball park it by saying about 20% of the Zen centers use koans in their practice.

James Ford has a recent book out called Zen Master Who? With all the research he did to write this book about "people and stories of Zen" in the United States, surely he would know about the popularity of koan practice. He wrote to me:

"A seat of the pants sense of percentages?

I don't know, not a quarter of Zen teachers. Maybe ten percent are serious about it. Possibly fewer.

Very, very tentative."

So there you have it. There aren't very many of us doing koans ... and fewer yet practicing koans and the 12 Steps. But this doesn't get me down one bit. It's about introducing quality in our lives... whether passing on the 12 Steps or passing on koan practice (or both!), if a single person's life changes for the better as a result of reaching out to another, then it's all worth it. I've helped save another being -- you've helped save another being.

Bill K.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4th Weekend

Yesterday I chaired a meeting, a Steps and Traditions meeting using the 12x12. The book is passed around the room, each person reading a paragraph or so, until the entire chapter is read.
Then it was time for me to speak.

All that was requested of me was to talk (10-15 minutes) about my experience with Step Two.
Yes! When I learned that my topic was Step Two,
I knew I would somehow bring a koan into the discussion.

For a moment I had the fleeting thought that someone might jump up and exclaim, "No, no! You're about to read some unauthorized literature." No one did. I was sticking to their request regarding my experience by briefly mentioning what happened at the January retreat when we meditated with the "Litttle Jade" koan (see the Step Two tab above)... and how it was for me when I feel the love from someone
else just by hearing them call my name.

Feelings of being loved by my Higher Power didn't happen right away, at least this is my experience. Time together had to pass ... a period where I "came to believe" it was so.

My story this day related the kind of love I have felt from another person to that of the love I feel from my Higher Power, and how this particular koan seemed to be the catalyst here.

I don't recall ever even saying the word "Zen" as I spoke; but I did say koan several times.

After the meeting, I was pleasantly surprised when 6 or so people asked me about koans. It was obvious that they were intrigued with this process of how a koan brought me deeper into
Step Two.

Next Friday I'll be holding the first of three sharing sessions of Steps and Koans. Hopefully I'll see a few of these people who were at the meeting. As I've said before, koan practice is not for everyone; but for those who give it a sincere try, the results are amazing.

blistering hot days
watching the zucchinis grow
july 4th weekend

Bill K.