Sunday, April 12, 2015

Step 4: Look! There's a Fire!

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: Put out that fire across the river.

Who or what started this fire?  What is it consuming?  Who is it consuming?
These are the questions to ask while sitting today.


This seems serious with a command sounding, “Put out that fire across the river!”  There’s a burning fire; and it’s a threat to something or someone.  Uncontrolled fires are serious.  Fighting fires takes courage, stamina, and special skills.  Do you remember the fire triangle?

But the fire is across the river and no threat to me, right?  The river is a barrier between the fire and me. Why do I need to fight it if it’s over there?  Remember, this koan and Step 4 is all about you.  Can you recall any barriers (or rivers) when you were doing Step Four:

  • The river of fear?
  • The river of denial?
  • The river of procrastination?
  • The river of delusion?
  • The river of dishonesty?
Step Four is about digging into our past actions and finding how we have wronged and hurt others and ourselves.  That’s the fire that’s burning within us all.  In Zen Buddhism, we have what are called The Three Poisons:
  •  Greed
  •  Hatred
  •  Ignoranc3

These three easily translate into selfishness, resentments and close-mindedness.  This is the triangle we use to discover how to put out our Step 4 fire(s)…fires that have been burning for way to long.  We examine our past to see where we’ve been greedy or selfish; to see where our hatred and resentments affected or decisions; and to realize our close-mindedness has kept us in the dark.

Our Step 4 (and 5) inventory is HUGE to recovery.  Completing them, we’re now building upon our 12-Step foundation, not only for ourselves, but also supporting what holds the fellowship together, bring us the triangle of Unity, Service, and  Recovery.

We never know where koans will take us.  For one person at Friday 12 & Zen, this koan took him to all the work projects he has on  his plate...projects that have been keeping him away from meditation.  "I need to get back to my daily meditation," he said, "Thinking about work all the time was my fire this evening.

And another fellow emailed me the next day:  "In my morning meditation today, the thought came that all of my "fires" at first always appear to be across the river.  Someone or something else to blame for starting them.  Someone else's responsibility to put out.  But upon doing inventory work (i.e. 4th step work), I get to see my part in setting the fire and to recognize my responsibility (to my Self) to cross the river and put out the fire.

Bill K.