Monday, December 31, 2018

One koan, Six Verisons, for Step 1

Happy New Year, 2019, there is no better place than to begin with Step 1.

The second Friday falls on January 11th. Hope to see you soon.

Bill K. 

Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over something -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Same Koan, different translations:

1) James Green’s version:

Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.”

2) Ruth Fuller Sasaki's version:
"Flake after flake does not fall another place."

3) Blue Cliff Record case 42:
"Good snowflakes -- they don't fall in any other place."

4) Yamada's translation is:
"Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."

5) John & Joan's translation:
“Beautiful snowflakes! They don’t fall in that other place.”

6) Sekida's translation:
"Beautiful snow- flakes, one by one; but they fall nowhere else."

Monday, December 17, 2018

Step 12 -- The interweaving continues on and on...

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

Koan: We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven
And this interweaving continues on and on,
While each thing stands in its own place.”

     ~ Shitou Xiquan

Initially I was drawn to the “woven and interwoven” concept in this koan, as the beautiful tapestry of our fellowship – the interweaving of individuals in meetings, the weaving of groups with our service committees, intergroup and functions, the tapestry of all the groups in counties and states across our nation, and reaching beyond the U.S. to countries around the globe.  AND it all comes back to one alcoholic helping another, which begs the question, “Where do I stand?”

Weaving the Steps together is how we “work” the 12 Steps, there are no boundaries.  Step Twelve is the jumping off place.  It’s like the day I received my full-fledged drivers license and was able to drive off in a car all by myself; knowing that now I'm responsible for my safety and the safety of others. Completing Step 12 calls us to be responsible…”When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.”

John S., is a longtime member but new to 12 & Zen.  This was his first time with us. He commented that tonight’s koan “Took me to the interweaving of my past and present, before and after sobriety, which is who I am today. Now, it’s what I do with my weaving and interweaving that’s important,” the weaving continues on and on.

I had a revelation this month. It was like tumblers in a lock falling into place where a door opened into a new realm in how I experience my Higher Power. It all came together (interweaving?) with the help of Christine, an outside of AA book, a telephone koan discussion with a teacher, and Layman P’ang.

  • First was Christine S., a Tibetan nun, with training and practice in several traditions.  With more than three decades of sobriety, she once said that her higher power is a verb.  Her point of view startled me.  I’ve been sitting with this for more than a year, agreeing with it, yet something felt missing.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the verb aspect.
  • Next is the quotation “God is everything or else He is nothing,” on page 53 in the Big Book. A huge part of the success of AA comes from the suggestion that we can create a power of our own understanding;  so I have no problem with changing this phrase to correspond with my Zen practice to read: “God (or Higher Power) is everything and nothing.” The everything refers to form (things) and the nothing refers to emptiness (no things), as in the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”.  With this in mind, I knew I was headed in the right direction.
    "Yes, Yes, Yes!" I said while reading this.
  • I’m reading a book called, Holy Rascals by Rami Shapiro. It’s #26 on page 56 that brought it all together!  My perception changed. On my morning walks, the “things” (nouns) like trees and mailboxes and leaves, actually everything, changed modes. Trees were treeing, the mailbox mailboxing, leaves leafing, and I was in the mix, meing – all of us on the walk, walking.  Simply saying “I am one with all” doesn’t automatically make me feel this “oneness”.  Now I was experiencing no separation between treeing and meing. We were happening.
  •  In my ongoing koan practice, I’m working with Layman P’ang,  this time with Dialogue #20. Speaking and Not Speaking. Here are a couple of lines of their dialogue: Pai-ling asked the Layman, “So can you tell me simply, how do you not avoid speaking about it? The Layman winked at him.
  • This time on my walk I laughed about Layman P'ang's winking because I found everything was winking at me! As the trees were treeing, their implied winking was their way of telling me; “We’ve been doing this all along; and you thought we were only trees.”  This is what I told my teacher earlier in the month during our telephone dokusan (meeting).  The interweaving goes on and on.
All of this takes me back to the koan:  “We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven…” has evolved into, “We and everything happening are woven and interwoven… coupled with “My Higher Power is everything happening and nothing happening.”

I am one lucky guy.  Working the Steps in my life continues to bring me spiritual awakenings. Practicing these principles in all my affairs continues to bring me freedom, peace of mind, and a sense of purpose. Sharing this with you brings me joy.

See what’s happening throughout the weaving and interweaving?  God is the Happening and we are happening.

Here’s winking at you,

Bill K.