Sunday, January 12, 2014

Step 1: Die Well

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

Case 5 of the Mumonkan:  "Hsiang-yen: Up a Tree"

Everything here was once alive
The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?' (What is the meaning of Zen?).  If you do not answer, you evade your responsibility (break all the rules of common decency). If you do answer, you lose your life. What do you do?"

Thus began our 12 & Zen gathering this past Friday.  We had 18 people this evening, with three of them new.  What made it even more interesting to me was that more were coming from 12 Step programs other than AA.  New issues arose, and still I think we all came away with a common sense of accomplishment.

What life do we lose by letting go?
After first reading the koan as written above, I then made a few “adjustments” for the evening.

You are up in a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth…from down below a person asks, “What is recovery? What are we doing here?”

If I don’t answer, I evade my responsibility, not only to others but also to myself.  By not answering, I’m not responding to the situation at hand.  We have this same dilemma with Step One.  How will I respond to this Step?

If I do answer, I’m engaging in my life, even though it means whatever happens next is unknown to me.  When I admit my powerlessness, I’m conceding that Step One is true or valid for me.

To fully engage in my life I recognize there is death all around me.  My in-breath passes (dies) onto the out-breath.  Each moment dies away and the next moment appears.  To admit my powerlessness over people, places, and things is (can be) the passing away of my delusions; conceding this to myself produces a shift from self will to aligning to the will of the Universe.

Our lives pass away every minute, every hour, every day.  To be fully engaged in my life, no matter what is happening around me, I must let go and fall into the next moment with awareness.  This is what living is!

Life is about coming and going.  Things come into our lives and then go.  To be happy, it helps to make the best of what comes and the least of what die well.

Bill K