Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guest Book Review

Zennies in Recovery:  Read Twelve and Zen ...

I have some Zen students who are in the 12-Step Program. I’ve recommended that they read Bill Krumbein’s book Twelve and Zen: Where the 12 Steps Meet Zen Koans, published last week.

Deb Saint told me about Krumbein’s work a few months ago, and I thought it sounded interesting. Krumbein has been in recovery for more than 25 years, and a Zen practitioner for more than 15. He is a student in the Pacific Zen Institute, perhaps the most radical, innovative and dynamic koan school at work today.

This book is a valuable addition to the very small number of contemporary Western books on Zen practice that are actually valuable. Although other books have been written about recovery from addiction from a Buddhist view, as far as I know this is the only one that addresses koan practice in such a way. This is a book that will be helpful to Zen students in recovery and the teachers they practice with - and, even if you don’t have an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it is a wise, pragmatic guide to finding freedom from destructive, self-centered habits through koan practice.

Barry Graham

Author, Journalist, Zen teacher

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Passing this onto others ...

Dear Readers:

Available from Amazon's Kindle Store
This posting is a flat out, no nonsense advertisement for my new eBook.

Now you can carry about the 12 Steps and selected koans on your smartphone, iPad, Kindle, and such.

In the Big Book we have an entire chapter entitled Into Action.  This little book is just that ... something to do.

 "Don't leave home without it!"

And please pass this onto others who you think may also be interested in deepening their Twelve Step practice.

Thank you kindly,


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Step 11: Picking and Choosing

Let's see now ... do I choose a blue M&M or a red one?
We sat with Step 11 and Chao Chou this month.  "The Ultimate Path is without difficulty," he said, "Just avoid picking and choosing."

How can we not pick and choose?  We do this all day long.  We have to pick and choose.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  There is an apple pie and a pumpkin pie in the refrigerator right now.  What will my choice be?  Will I pick the pumpkin or choose the apple?  Or a smidge of apple and a large piece of pumpkin.  My will demands that I pick and choose daily.

 So I choose to set aside some time during the day for prayer and meditation.  The decision to practice communicating with my Higher Power every day seems like a good choice.  I know when I have  conscious contact, I can feel it in my heart;  but it takes practice to maintain contact.  My mind wanders.  I regain consciousness.  It goes away.  It returns.  I practice.

When I do follow [my perception of] God's will, I realize the choices have already been made for me.  It's not thinking of this choice or that choice, instead it's more about following what has been presented to me without any notion of a choice.  There is nothing to pick.

The Ultimate Path is when I do the next right thing.  The Ultimate Path is when I feel this in my heart.  The only way I can get this feeling, though, is by choosing to consciously practice prayer and meditation.

Bill K.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Barfing Koan

Rarely does my stomach bother me, so I probably wasn't paying enough attention to the vague unease last Monday.  Just a tinge of upset, then it would pass, only to return an hour or so later.  "It's nothing," I thought.

Fast forward to 11:30 PM. I immediately gave full attention to my stomach this time, the rumbling inside and muscle contractions and quickly dashed to the bathroom.  Knowing full well what was about to come next, embracing the toilet, then BARF!

There was a fleeting memory of past such events of long ago only to FULLY engage in the next contraction.  And what I mean by fully engage is letting go, my body was in full command and knows exactly what to do next.  I simply went along for the bumpy ride.  There aren't other choices really -- I could have begun a woe-is-me dialog but didn't.  Uncomfortableness yes, but there was some sense of ease by not resisting or arguing with the universe about what was happening here.  Instead, I went right into it ...I was the barfing...the entire world was barfing.  My response to this koan was BARF.

This continued all night long at 1 1/2 hour intervals.  I became very good at being the barfing.

Steven Grant was teaching last Monday evening (remember, I was still feeling OK then).  Since I usually arrive early to help with the setup, we talk about stuff.  In part of our conversation he asked, "You know what I tell the person who has never sat with koans?  I say take the koan to your pain."

This is exactly what we do when working the Steps!  We bring the Steps to our pain;  we bring our pain to the Steps.  This is all the more reason I believe that koans help my Step work.

Have a fun Halloween,


Monday, October 8, 2012

Saint Francis Prayer-Koan

It always amazes me when things all come together.  In this particular case I didn’t realize what these “things” were or what was to come together; but they did so at our Sunday Moment of Silence Meeting where we meditate for a spell then talk about the Eleventh Step.

What stuck with me the most was when Sheila, the speaker, said, “We become the prayer.”

I had been taking two men through the Steps, both on Step 11, just two days prior to this meeting.  We read the St. Francis Prayer on page 99 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Lord, make me a channel of they peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness –that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.  Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than be loved.  For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.  It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.  It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen

In my 12 and 12 is a notation, a suggestion, in red pen.  I do not know where or from whom I heard this, but I’m glad I did.  Where it reads “I may bring harmony”, instead of saying “bring”, substitute the word “be”.  May I be harmony.  Instead of “I may bring hope” say “May I be hope”.  Make this change throughout the prayer.

May I be love
May I be the spirit of forgiveness
May I be harmony
May I be truth
May I be faith
May I be hope
May I be light
May I be joy

Remember the koan “Who is hearing?” 

Who is comforting?
Who is understanding?
Who is loving?

This is what Sheila meant when she said, “We become the prayer.”  Which also means, “We become the koan.”  The Saint Francis Prayer is both prayer and koan.

Bill K.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September We Experiment

We didn't meet last Friday evening.  PZi had a three-day event happening.  This gives me the opportunity to experiment.

Instead of first sitting with a Step and then the koan.  Here is a koan, Case 230 from Entangling Vines,  to sit with:

Guishan Lingyou picked up a grain of rice and said, "Millions upon millions of grains of rice issue from this single grain.  Where does this grain issue from?"

I invite you to sit with this koan for the remainder of the month to see what Step(s) come to mind.

Please tell me how this koan worked for you.  What Step(s) came to you?  How did the Step(s) relate to the koan?  Join me in this experiment, I'd like to hear from you.  I sent this same request out to local people who show up for 12 & Zen.

 Next month we will be sitting with Steps 9 and 10 together.

I have another project in the wings -- a 12 & Zen eBook.  By announcing this to you now will give me the inertia to complete the little book in the next few months.  The idea of being able to have 12 & Zen available on a Kindle or other e-Readers seems appealing to me, offering 12 & Zen at your fingertips...whenever you find yourself in need of a Step and koan to ease whatever is happening then.  So stay tuned...

Bill K.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There's no perfect way ...

There's no perfect way to meditate -- there's no wrong way to meditate.

Meditation, whether it's noticing the breath or sitting with a koan, is like shoveling sand.  No matter how hard we try, sand will spill off the shovel.  Maybe only a few grains fall.  Another time it's half the load lost. 

The important point is we keep on shoveling no matter how much sand we spill.  It's only spilled  sand.  And besides, shoveling itself is meditation, koan practice is shoveling sand, simply pay attention...and allow the spilling to begin!

I plan to make an amends to one of the people who attended 12 & Zen last Friday.  We were sitting with a koan and Step Eight.  During the discussion time this one man remarked how the koan brought up experiences around Step Nine.

I probably was a little hasty when I mentioned that "...for tonight's discussion we were placing our focus on Step Eight."

Poor choice on my part.  Unfortunately I didn't think of this at the time.  The evening went well, most everyone joined in and seemed to enjoy the evening.

On the way home I realized that I was trying to control the topic instead of allowing the koan to lead our way.  I wasn't listening to my own words.  Of course this koan applies to Step Nine, and to
everything else in life. 

I was trying not to spill any sand; but I did anyway.  Next month I'll be doing more shoveling.

Bill K.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ready and willing

Here is a different translation of the Gateless Gate case #10, a Chinese version -- and comments by my friend, D.T..  He has practiced in the koan tradition for a long time.  At a retreat and in conversation with the teacher he relates how Steps 6 and 7 became entangled with this koan.

Qinshui, Solitary and Destitute

A monk said to Qinshui, "I am solitary and destitute. Please give me alms."
Caoshan said, "Venerable Shui!"
Qinshui said, "Yes, sir!"
Caoshan said, "You have already drank three cups of the finest wine in the land, and still you say you have not moistened your lips."

Step # 6:

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

We cannot give away what is not ours.  The only way to loosen and maybe get rid of our habitual patterns of behaviour is through a recognition of these,  a deep knowing of them that only comes through seeing them over and over again with a certain openness of attention and a realization of having arrived to the bottom of our situation and having no room to run away any more. A surrendering.

Our problem is often that we feel guilty, and shameful and we naturally want to run away from this so we make promises, pray to a Santa Claus god to give us what we want, which I see is the running away, once we sometimes obtain some relief from our shame and guilt we are back again to our deep habitual patterns of behaviour and we start the whole process again. And so on the familiar process continues....

It is unsaid in the koan above of what happened to this monk but it is assumed that he had a certain opening that allowed him to see something very deep and elemental about his living, his life, right there at that moment!  He saw deeply and acknowledge his condition, he owned it. Quinshi's words became the catalyst for this to happen.  We have to own our habitual patterns and see them clearly, free of wishful thinking and just as they are and then maybe we can begin to be free from them.

This monk has arrived at that place that many of us know, the bottom of our conditioning and the suffering it brings, there is no place to go –the Dark Night of the Soul as John of the Cross calls it– but the breaking open in this experience is exactly what the Universe provides when we get there, it is always there, it has always been there.    We find ourselves entirely ready....

Step #7:

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

So our practice with these steps continues, our practice with this life of ours continues, we attend to it wholeheartedly, mindfully."


- - -

After hearing D.T.'s experience with these two Steps AND a koan, it provided a spark, an incentive for me to delve deeper into Step/Koan relationships.  I had a Step/Koan relationship.  Now I was convinced that it can happen to others.

And so, 12 & Zen became a reality;  we began this PZi small groups project.

Bill K.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Steps 6 and 7: The Whole Doughnut Hole

“If I keep on turning my life and my will over to the care of Something or Somebody else, what will become of me ?  I’ll look like the hole in the doughnut” (P. 36 in the Twelve and Twelve).

I think I understand what the authors were saying here. By pondering this passage over time, a deeper revelation has come to me, giving the hole in the doughnut a more significant role than the original message may have conveyed.

The doughnut and the hole of the doughnut depend upon each other in order to remain complete –for without a hole, by definition, it would no longer be a doughnut. The hole is what makes a doughnut a doughnut!  The hole makes it whole.

We all can relate to the feelings we had when we first came to A.A., with an aching hole inside us that we couldn’t fill.  I know I didn't feel whole.  I tried booze but that didn’t work.

By working the Steps, the aching hole was eventually replaced.  No, I stand corrected… God’s love or one’s True Nature (What do you call it?) has always been there deep inside, but when drinking I was incapable of noticing, since all Icould think about was myself.

Our “doughnut hole” is our spirit.  Our practice is to notice it, bringing it to the forefront of our lives.  It’s that place before any thoughts appear, for that's how we live life to the fullest by embracing every moment.

In Step 6 we prepare ourselves and in Step 7 we humbly  ask God to remove our shortcomings. The act of turning things over and letting things go are pretty much integral to all of the Steps.  In my prior post I highlighted koan as spirit.  In this case it’s called doughnut hole spirit. In letting go we are tapping into our true self – who we really are -- our Universal Spirit.

Bill K.

Bill K

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July and Step Seven

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan:  Case 10, Gateless Gate:

A monk, Seizei, eagerly asked Master Sozan, "I am solitary and poor.  I beg you, Master, please help me to become prosperous."

Sozan said:  "Venerable Zei!"

"Yes Master!" replied Zei.

Sozan said,  "You have already drunk three cups of fine Hakka wine and still you say that you have not yet moistened your lips."

Here is your July koan to sit with, along with Step Seven.

To sit with...this is what we hear much of the time.  Also to remember that this koan is about you, just as this Step is about you. 

Koan as spirit is what friend David Parks-Ramage said the other day.  Your spirit.  This koan is your spirit.

Bill K.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How Are We Doing?

This is exactly what I asked myself a few weeks ago... "How are we doing with 12&Zen?"  Ever since we moved to a once-a-month format back in October, I felt a shift for the better  in how the
the evenings progressed.  But I wanted to know how the participants felt ... so I asked them to send me some examples of what they are getting out of 12&Zen.  Have they noticed any changes?
Here is what four people had to say, plus a bonus contributor (whose email simply arrived in time).

J.S. -- It's done at least two things I can think of immediately...first, it's solidified for me how koans are way more than mind puzzles...applying a koan to a step enriches my understanding of the step...perhaps as valuable, the participation of the group members in the discussion of the koan allows me to see other ways of thinking about how the koan and the step interact with each other and within my life...

B.F. -- The 12 and Zen has improved my conscious contact with God, as I understand him...hoping and praying that this knowledge will guide me in doing HIS will and carrying that out, to the best of my ability.

 K.G. -- I've attended the last two 12 Step Zen meetings.  These meetings are my first experience working with koans and I have really enjoyed trying to find the connection between the koan and the step.  The koans have challenged my understandings of the steps and invited me to think of them in different ways.  I appreciate the gently guided meetings and the respectful and light-hearted group who attend.  I really enjoy hearing how the other meeting attendees link the koan and the step and I generally keep thinking about the koan for a few days after the meeting.  I very much appreciate the chance to attend a 12-step meeting that is not solely Christian in it's understanding of the steps.  I look forward to attending in June.

L.M -- What I get from working in a small group around the steps is support, a different take, and an intimate relation-ship that only meditation brings.

And lastly the bonus contributor who lives 2000 miles away.  He shows by example that one can practice and become a part of  our 12&Zen community  by reading this blog, following his 12 Step program and embracing koan practice.

O.M. -- Just wanted to say that I've really been benefiting immensely from the blog.  It really has solidified the fusion between recovery and practice, clarifying that they are one and the same.  It's also been instrumental on a number of other phenomena, most notable selflessness (forgetting the self) and its centrality in the practice as recovery, and in the fostering of an awakened mind.

After sesshin paradigmatic shifts can often be ushered into one's life.  After this particular one, and because of the presence of the 12 Step Koan project, it seems like an unfolding of a new type of understanding of my koan practice has emerged.   Over and over again, 12 Steps/Koans enable me to see the koans in the steps and therefore in my life.  There is something congealing, as it were, and this for me is kinda exciting because the life of the mind and the external physical aspect of life are getting closer to one another.  This most assuredly makes life somehow better. But don't ask me how.

- - -

Bill K.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Step 6: Hush ...

Koan:  Who is hearing?

I can hear myself saying to my kids, "Time to get ready."   Getting ready takes some effort.  Getting ready takes some attention to the details at hand.  The same is true for truly hearing … first we have to be ready to hear, then pay attention to what comes our way.  

Who is hearing?  If we're comfortable with our Higher Power -- trust in our Higher Power -- practicing Step Three with our Higher Power, then we believe we will be heard by our Higher Power.  Believing that we are being heard, then, creates a space for a dialog with God … communication … a conscious contact… and the expectation that God will speak to us in some mysterious way. 

Today is June 1st,  a good time to sit with Step 6.  As with all mysteries, it's important to pay attention to clues along the way.   Some are delivered ever-so-faintly.  Hush… I think I hear something.

Bill K.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Giving and Receiving

It's probably not too much of a stretch to say that gratitude has an easier way of being noticed by those in recovery, especially when going over what it took (hitting bottom) to eventually get to where we are today.

Not only was gratitude arising from the  koan given a few Mondays ago but it  came via the relationship of giving and receiving and how they correspond to each other.  This also includes not giving, not receiving, taking, pushing away and the most amazing way we realize that we've received something good but not recognizing it at the time.  I was feeling a general sense of gratitude for what the Universe has given to me throughout my life -- grateful for life itself -- grateful for things that, at the time, seemed negative and foreboding.

Daito (1282-1334) is revered as one of Japan's most famous Zen teachers.  As the story goes, he practiced for 20 years living with beggars under a bridge in Kyoto.  The emperor heard about this accomplished teacher and in disguise, went searching for him.  He also heard that Daito was fond of melons.  Coming across a beggar under the bridge whose eyes were full of life, the emperor said to Daito, "Take this [melon] without using your hands."  The immediate response was, "Give it to me without using your hands."

At first I thought this koan would be well suited for Step 12 … at the time where we have finished this Step and are ready to help others find what we have found.  Twelve Step programs are given freely to all who are open to them -- to those who are willing to stop the pushing away in whatever form.

But it's not about finishing Step 12 or any Step for that matter;  it's more about my daily life and what is given to me and what I can give to others.   Take this koan when you feel gratitude; take this koan when you're not feeling gratitude.  Giving and receiving take many forms, including when doing nothing.

Bill K.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Step 5: How Did I Get Into This Mess? How Do I Get Out?

Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Koan:  From a very young age, you raised a goose in a bottle.  Now it is fully grown.  How do you get the goose safely out without breaking bottle?

Sit with this koan and Step for a spell, then read on.

 - - -

No one would readily choose to admit one's faults to another person, especially to the degree of honesty asked here, without a significant pay back.  I've heard at many a meeting that the chances of going out (relapse) are dramatically increased if Step 5 is not completed, not perfectly;  but to the best of our ability at the time.  It is very well a life and death situation.   Step 4 is where we realize the significance of the situation we're in, Step 5 is doing something positive about it.

This koan came to me via one of our other group leaders.  It was the koan his group had been sitting with. "Feeding" was the word that got my attention.  Presently I am taking a couple of men through the Steps and both were working on Step 4 and 5.  My oh my how we can feed our resentments…and we know the devastating affect they play in our lives (mostly in our own minds, yes?), still we feed them more, hoping for some kind of relief;  but it never comes.  Our resentments have an insatiable appetite to the bursting point.

Our 12 @ Zen group last week offered up a number of different possibilities and questions.  "How did I get into this bottle?" one asked. "What or who is the goose, anyway?" "Who is doing the feeding?" "What does it mean to be safely out of the bottle?"

Before my recovery, the usual response would be to smash the bottle (self will) … to force the issue to suit my needs.  This never brought about the results I wanted -- like trying to push a rope uphill. At the Sunday meeting a person brought up the notion that "we pause."  Take a step back.  Somehow, in the pausing, great things can come to be.  Pausing in prayer.  Pausing in meditation.  "No, No, No, I'll never tell anyone what I did!  But this is what we do in Step 5.  "Outwardly it is sharing our deep dark secrets with another person.  "Once we have taken this step … we can be alone at perfect peace and ease." (Big Book, P. 75).  The bottle has disappeared.

Now if you'd like, sit with what I posted here.  When have you been trapped in a bottle, then given up the struggle, to eventually find freedom in realizing that the bottle has disappeared?

Bill K.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Koans Appearing

 It's not uncommon for me to hear someone at a meeting say, "I hear my Higher Power through other people."  The same could be said how the mere mention of a koan by a person is exactly the koan I need to hear.  Just another example of how koans appear to me.  In these moments, the koan seems to be a mirror image of what I'm dealing with. 

Here's a recent example of how I really screwed up.  On Saturday the contractor came by to install four additional solar panels atop my roof.  Another item he pointed out to me was that our circuit breaker box was out-of-compliance,  but that he would fix this, too.  As we were looking at the box, I pointed out that "this" wire/conduit could be disconnected because it went to a now defunct hot tub.  Then he went to work.  An hour or so later he asked again about the wire/conduit in question and again I assured him that it went to nowhere, the hot tub was long gone.  The installation went  smoothly and quickly, he completed the job by early afternoon. 

It was an unseasonably warm April day, hitting 90 degrees by late afternoon.  I was getting quite warm inside so checked on the thermostat.  It showed the A/C on but the temperature read 79 degrees.  I checked a vent and no cold air.  Uh oh.  I went outside and there it was -- the air conditioner fan was motionless.  You guessed it.  The wires I was so sure went to the hot tub actually went to the AC.  I had no air conditioning. 

"You stupid turkey," voices began.  How *unobservant* of me!  Not paying *attention*.  Later on hearing my wife say, "How could you have done this?" didn't help matters.  Before I had found recovery, something like this would have been a perfect reason to tie one on.  But instead, sooner rather than later I came to realize the Universe had giving me reasons to laugh at myself instead of  judge myself. 

The first message came from Jesse,  where in our PZi Group he had emailed, "I suppose I'm more interested in being happy than figuring things out.  Life doesn't make sense, so go with what you get."

I soon realized that yes, I am more interested in being happy.  To go over and over again in my mind on what a stupid mistake I had made was not making me happy.  Things began to loosen up for me.  I even slept pretty well that night, knowing that this was not the end of the world, that the matter would eventually get fixed.  It just needed to be re-connected.

The second message came via an announcement that John Tarrant sent out to us.  "Hi everyone," he said,  "I'm working on the Zenosaurus course again and this time I've done the earliest, first koan of the course, Sickness & Medicine."


We've all heard that laughter is the best medicine, yes?  And now the "Sickness & Medicine" koan has been brought to my attention.

“Sickness and medicine correspond to each other.  The whole world is medicine.  What am I?”  This koan comes from Yunmen, one of the great Chinese masters.

What am I?  I'm going to stop beating myself up.  I'm going to find happiness again.  Hahahahaha.

Bill K.

P.S.  Sunday was almost 20 degrees cooler.  On Monday the contractor came by and put everything back into working order in about an hour.  Hahahahaha.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Passing A Koan ...

... a Big Book Koan at that!

Part of me once wondered if there were any koans in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Over time, rather than trying to search for them, they appeared to me. "Hey, this sounds like it might be a good koan," I told myself. So I took my ideas to one of my teachers, David Weinstein Roshi. He gave me some rewriting suggestions and then he asked me for the answers! Gulp. No hiding here...this was just like dokusan (we call it Work In The Room), the exchanges between teacher and student...except this time it was via emails.

The following shows how the questioning took place. Hopefully this may take a little mystery out of the way one "passes" a koan with a teacher. The end result is not like receiving a good grade from the teacher, it's more about "actualizing" the koan...finding one's place with the koan and discovering one's place right now.

Here's an example of a Big Book koan:

“Deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God.” (Page 55 in Alcoholics Anonymous). Show me the fundamental idea of God.

Before reading on, I suggest you turn your computer off for a while and sit with this koan alone. See where it takes you. And then, after you feel at ease with it all, come back and continue reading how this went for me...

These are a series of emails over several days, beginning with David.

David: So show me the fundamental idea of God.

Bill: "In today's local newspaper!

There is an article about the birthing center's 3000th baby (two of my grand children were born there).

There is an article about a 12 Step friend who has a local recording studio.

There is the obit of another 12 Step friend who took his life last Wednesday, the
same day I had my heart procedure.

David: Show about something more intimate?

Bill: Maybe it's the way I described it.

1) Last Wednesday when I learned that my friend had taken his life (BTW, he didn't go out...but was experiencing a deep, dark, depression) I wrote this:

the voices got their way
convincing my friend
to pull the trigger
the voices got their way
on this very day
as the doctor was mending my heart
others' were breaking

2) When I read the article about the birthing center I was reliving the times we saw our grand kids only hours old.

3) When I read about my 12 Step friend and his recording studio, I felt good thoughts about his success and our friendship in the fellowship.

When I wrote you, while reading the local paper, I found myself holding all three of these examples together and felt really alive and grateful.

David: Ah...feeling alive & grateful...that's it. What else?

Bill: More than feeling alive and grateful...

The examples I have given are the fundamental idea of God.

These are examples of my life.

I am the fundamental idea of God.

David: So...if that's true, then what else?

Bill: God is the fundamental idea of me. Like we say we are all Buddhas.

David: Forget about ideas, show me the fact, in a different way than you have.

Bill: Mmmmmmm, sip (good tasting coffee) is the idea of God.

David: What about bad tasting coffee?

Bill: Sip (who made this coffee anyway?) is the idea of God, too.

David: Alright!

- - -

It was right there in front of me all the time. That's what we have. Our life is right here.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Another Example

Page 164 in the Big Book: "The answers will come, if your own house is in order."

Page 84: "They will always materialize if we work for them."

Perhaps meditation is seeking answers to unasked questions. We sit with our koan, try to clear our minds of extraneous stories, and wait. For what are we waiting? I think it's clarity we wait for -- clarity is the answer.

Sitting with a Step and sitting with a koan is the path we are taking ... sitting brings us clarity, leading to happiness, joy, and freedom.

Is my house in order? Is my mind clear of anger, resentments and fear? Do my thoughts keep me away from what is happening right now? Housecleaning/mind-cleaning ...it's about letting go of our thoughts and coming back to the koan or back to the breath. This is all there is in this moment -- this koan -- this Step --this very breath. There's regular daily meditation. There's impromptu meditation during the day. This is how we work at it.

We're a nation of doers. Did your mother ever tell you, "Don't just sit there, do something?" Whenever I hear this I am reminded of Buddhist author Sylvia Boorstein and her book: "Don't Just Do Something, Sit There." Our life's answers "...will always materialize if we work for them." We do incredible work for ourselves through daily meditation. Just another example of how often my 12 Step practice reminds me of my koan practice -- and my koan practice reminds me of my 12 Step practice. Really now, they are but one practice.

Bill K

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Koan Transformed ...

March means we sit with Step Three. In February, the koan to sit with was set in my mind, ready for all. The Universe stepped in and made a few changes, beginning a few weeks ago when I came to the notion that God's will for me was happening in this very moment. This a wrote about last time and am continuing today.

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

The koan:

What is Zen?

Attention! Attention! Attention!

What is Zen? Another Zen community in our county has a newspaper ad which reads, Zen is Life! O.K.

I'm taking a shower. Posted on the wall inside a plastic bag reads a quote from Daniel Terrangno Roshi, "This is your life right now."

If Zen is life and my life is right now, and God's will appears as right now, then it seems
reasonable to say that Zen is God's will. Yes?

Koan transformed, this is what I offered to meditation last Friday:

A sponsee asks, "What is God's will?"

The sponsor replied, "Attention! Attention! Attention!

There were about 15 people that evening. I think everyone had something to add to the discussion. I could see how this "transformed" koan stirred up deep and reflective thoughts and experiences that these people have/had with Step Three. Our discussion was ever widened by the comments made about others' experiences.

We stayed perhaps a half hour longer this evening. By the end, it seemed to me that everyone left in an almost festive mood, full of LIFE. Full of Zen! Full of being in God's will!

Bill K.

P.S. The next day I received a telephone call from a friend who just couldn't make it on Friday. She was exhausted from you work schedule and chose to stay home instead. But she wanted me to tell her what the koan for the evening was. She wants to carry this koan with her this month.
This is how our 12 & Zen is working in people's lives!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How is it for you just now?

The more I practice Zen and the 12 Steps, the more koans seem to stick to this practice. Not a total surprise since koans can stick to any aspect of our lives, not just when we're into the Steps.

I just finished up a 7-day sesshin (retreat) where the koan for the week seemed to dance around Step 10 for me. Then a few days ago at Monday's regular sit, another koan (with my interpretation) opened up my evening. The original koan went like this:

What is Zen?

Attention! Attention! Attention!

There are many koans that ask this question with many different responses. The question this koan asks changed for me:

What is God's will?

Different questions? Perhaps not. I think they are asking the same question of us. This notion may have been planted in my mind from a meeting I went to just before sesshin. I raised my hand and responded to what I believe is God's will. "This very moment is God's will," is what I tried to convey.

In the "Twelve and Twelve" on Step Three (P. 40) it reads, "Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God's intention for us." Right now. Here it is. This is where my life is. My Higher Power intended for me to notice this very moment. If my mind is anywhere else, then I am not paying attention to what the Universe has offered. Naturally this brings about the revised koan:

What is God's will?

Attention! Attention! Attention!

What are you paying attention to right now?

Bill K.