Friday, December 27, 2019

January koan and Step 1

Dear Friends,

Hard to believe that January 2020 is just around the corner... and two weeks away, with our local
(Sonoma County) 12&Zen meeting on January 10th.

What better way than to begin the New Year with Step One. Time to get to work.


- - - -

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

Koan: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

                we have come to our real work”

From The Impeded Stream by Wendell Berry

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Step 12 -- Woven and Interwoven

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

We and every one of the Steps are woven and interwoven. What happens when our actions show that we’ve embraced the 12 Steps into our lives? This interweaving continues on and on.

Each Step stands in its own place, ready for engagement and our full attention, open with no barriers.
“We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven” – Seeing this is the result of our “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps…”

“And this interweaving continues on and on” as we “tried to carry this message to alcoholics.” In the larger picture, we’re carrying the spirit of AA into all we meet. This weaving continues no matter what.

“While each thing stands in its own place”
– ready for our attention, we “practice these principles in all our affairs”
  • One day at a time
  • One hour at a time
  • One minute at a time
  • One second at a time
  • Just now
And yet each thing is in relationship with each other thing:

 The individual,

         The family,

                  The community,

                           The district,

                                    The region

                                             The state,

                                                      The country,

                                                               The continent,

                                                                        The world,

                                                                                 The solar system,

                                                                                          The galaxy

                                                                                                   The Universe

Early on I thought of the Steps as being linear – 1,2,3,4,5, etc. Now I know they’re not only interwoven, they build upon each other. Step 12 is the consummation of all the Steps, where all possibilities exist, ever expanding in all directions.

From "This Floating World", Lion's Roar, August 1, 2018
Since the Steps are so much a part of my day-to-day consciousness, I’d be amiss not to include the communal dreaming that Joan writes about.  This is part of the ever expanding. The Steps bring about awakening, what about when we’re asleep?

Part of his daily morning prayer

Near the end of the evening we talked about dreams. I know I dream, but seldom remember them.  Dale said he’s been a lucid dreamer all his life. We know dreams are important; so it seems natural that the Steps are also part of our dreamscape.

Bill K.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Step 12 and December Koan

Here is what we will be sitting with in December, just two weeks away.

Bill K.

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Layman P’ang Gobsmacked Me!

Isn’t it amazing the times we notice seemingly unrelated events unfold, only to discover their chain of events are not only related, but life changing? This is one of those times.

My teachers say koans are transformative. They are. In one fell swoop my formal koan practice with Layman P’ang and what I call 12 & Zen (where, in a small group, we sit with a Step and a koan) merged.  Included in this mix are three friends, meeting level with Suzanne’s words, the 10th Step, the 7th Step, and a newly exposed character defect of mine.

At this past October’s 12 & Zen group we sat with Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it;” but it was Layman P’ang’s koan that rocked my boat, not the one we sat with that Friday evening.

As many of you know, besides 12 & Zen, I continue with my formal Zen practice working with several teachers in koan study. I was moving onto the next koan from the book “The Sayings of Layman P’ang” translated by James Green and his dialogue with P’ u-chi entitled “Open or Closed?”  For those who are not familiar with koan study, please remember that the koan is always about you. You are at the center of each koan.  Another aspect when sitting with koans is that any part of a koan, even a small phrase or single word is still the koan.

As I began reading, I couldn’t get past the first sentence. I was blown away when I read: “I don’t care to see old man know-it-all today.” Not only am I an old man (I’m 75), I realized I-AM-A-KNOW-IT-ALL! And because of this, I suspect there are people out there who don’t want to see me today. A surprising relief washed over when I took ownership and admitted this to myself --because I know there’s something I can do about it.

Then three of my friends came to mind. The very ones that at different times within the past few months have said in effect, “You’re such a know-it-all. One of them said, “You really know a lot, don’t you?” I made some feeble reply that I try to know the facts. At the time, their words didn’t resonate. But all of their responses must have been residing in the back of my mind like a kind of software that reveals clues of itself then disappears, only to pop up another day.

The more I read on, the more I realized how this koan was overlapping in my life and conditions. 

“How do you know whether it’s Open or Closed?”
  •        I’m right and you’re wrong. You’re right and I’m wrong.
  •       When I’m open to not getting in the last word, our conversations usually remain open and free flowing.
  •       When I insist on proving I have the right answers, our exchange contracts. I’m closing the door to our conversation.
  •       I’m open to not being a know-it-all and closed to being a know-it-all.

“You’ve been playing me for a fool all along.”

  •       I’m only fooling myself being a know-it-all.
  •       There’s no way I help others this way.

I don’t need to be “right” all the time. I don’t need to get in the last word. It’s not my job to correct others’ statements. I don’t have to play Captain FactCheck anymore. The thought of being a know-it-all is uncomfortable for me now. It’s not like I plan my day around it.  What is this about me that insists that others hear my facts? As the Big Book often points out, it probably has to do with a self-centered fear. I’m an alcoholic. I don’t want to be a know-it all anymore.

In Step 10 it states, “When we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”  I know what to do. When the time came, I said to my friends, “First, I’d like to thank you for pointing out a character defect of mine, and secondly, I need to apologize for my behavior. I am a know-it-all.”

Then, remembering Step 7, if I truly want to improve upon my character, I need to humbly ask my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings.  All of this requires daily attention and is now integrated into my spiritual practice.

And speaking about spiritual practice brings up what Suzanne said, from something she saw on Facebook.  It was another Ah-HAH moment that ties all of this together.

The most important spiritual growth
doesn’t happen when you’re meditating or on a yoga mat.
It happens in the midst of conflict  -- when you’re frustrated,
angry or scared and you’re doing the same old thing,
and then you suddenly realize that you have a choice to do it differently,
or think about it differently,
or “be” about it differently.

My Dear Friends,

If, in the past you have thought of me as a know-it-all, I sincerely apologize. And since old habits are hard to change, every now and then I may again fall back into past behavior.  If I happen to be with you at the time, where you recognize my know-it-all habit returning, please give me a spiritual nudge by saying, “Hey Bill, is your door open or closed?” Then, hopefully we'll have a good laugh together.

Formal koan practice, Layman P’ang’s koan, 12 & Zen, three friends calling me out, admitting my shortcoming, Step 10, Step 7, a meeting and Suzanne’s words -- It’s been quite a ride these past few weeks.

Thank you my friends and thank you Mr. P’ang. This is truly living!

Bill K.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

What is the key to Step 11?

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.


A sponsee asked, “What is the key to Step 11?”

Her sponsor leaned in.

At our Sunday 11th Step Meeting (It's actually called the Moment of Silence Meeting) a while back, the speaker used “Lean in” as a mantra for how she addresses Step 11. So I "made up” this koan.

Dale and his sponsee were talking about this koan earlier in the day. He was amused that both he and his sponsee came up with the same words in response to leaning in – listen and attention.

And then, laughing aloud he said, “Leaning in also means ‘Let me tell you a secret.’”

He found this evening gratifying by simply listening. First it was listening to the silence. The heater would occasionally make clicking noises and there was the faint drone of traffic going by; but what developed for him was an enveloping field of silence. “I would sense my heartbeat and then the pulse in my head,” he said, “becoming very aware of my body, leaning into myself, which I believe is also leaning into my Higher Power. This was my conscious contact this evening.”

“Conscious contact is the key to Step 11, which is synonymous with attention.”
My friend Larry exclaimed this at our 11th Step Meeting. It comes from our Twelve and Twelve, Page 98

Leaning in is an action, it takes effort; and it’s through effort that we improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power. When I’m leaning in, I’m getting closer to the object that matters, closer to the things I am thankful for. We lean with our senses, yes?

·      Seeing with our eyes -- Did you see that cute little baby over there?

·      Hearing with our ears -- Did you hear that melodious bird calling?

·      Smelling with our nose -- Can you believe the smell of that rose?

·      Tasting with our mouth -- That’s the best apple pie I have ever tasted.

·      Touching with our skin – If you could only feel how soft my dog Wendy’s ears are.

In other words, it’s by paying attention to our surroundings that we notice what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. What’s happening here is we’re paying attention to what the Universe has presented to us in this moment. These are gates to God.

For me, the accelerant, the catalyst, the “Special Sauce” to Step 11 and “…improving my conscious contact with God” is gratitude. Gratitude is the surest gateway to God that I know. And it all comes about when I lean into my life and notice.

Leaning in also reminded me of a recent YouTube video I watched, “It Looked Impossible: New film follows free climbers up the ‘Dawn Wall’ - NPR


The mountain climbers were absolutely leaning into the rock’s face (along with gravity, a power greater than themselves), as close as they could, paying attention to every nook and cranny. Paying attention to their every movement. Their lives depend upon this closeness to the rock face. It was holding them up.

This, a perfect metaphor for practicing Step 11…when we fully lean into our lives with prayer and meditation, the leaning can be so deep into our HP, it takes us to a place where we notice there is no separation between us.

"You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop." Rumi (1207-1273)

Bill K.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

What is the key to Step 11?


Quite a week we've had here in Sonoma County coping with the Kincade Fire. I hope you are safe.

We meet early in November on Friday the 8th. I wonder what sitting with Step 11 and this koan may bring to you?

Bill K. 

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.


A sponsee asked, “What is the key to Step 11?”

Her sponsor, without saying a word, leaned in.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Step 10 -- Promptly Clean Up My Mess


 Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  

Koan: Both roots and branches must return to their origin, and so do respectful and insulting words.  Shitou Xiiqian

Healthy roots and branches, run through a chipper, are added to the soil as mulch to eventually break down and provide nourishment for future plants.

Diseased roots and branches need to be destroyed or burned to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Respectful words beget respectful relationships. Insulting words, like diseased roots and branches, spread insult and anger.

As soon as words leave my lips, respectful or insulting, I cannot take them back.  They are irretrievable, spreading forth their intended message.

Reviewing my day, or at any moment of the day, when I realize I have wronged someone, these wrongs are my diseased roots or branches needing attention.  Following this realization with Step 10 offers good news when I promptly admit my wrongs. The intensity of the fire I build needs to be hot enough to destroy the diseased branches.  By this I mean fired up in a good way – intent on correcting the situation. Or will my words fall short, leaving patches of still-diseased wood?

Early in my sobriety, maybe 5-6 years sober, I was running with my dog on a golf course cart path, not on the fairways.  It was an early week day morning, no one around, the sun just coming up ... and I knew there were signs saying “No Dogs” allowed.

Then I met up with one of the groundskeepers.  He yelled at me to take my dog off the course.  Unfortunately, the first words out of my mouth were insulting words.  I wasn’t hurting anything, right? I started to walk away, only to have that gut feeling of knowing that not only was I in the wrong, I needed to apologize for my verbal response, right now! I spun around and approached the groundskeeper.  Initially I think he thought I was coming back to reengage or even fight.  “No, no,” I said, “I mean you no harm.  My behavior was over the top, I’m sorry for this, I will never bring my dog on the course again.”  We shook hands, even smiled, and I sincerely wished him a good day.  It was a good run that day.

The origin of the insulting words came from me, so too of the respectful words afterwards.  Had I not made amends, there would be two not very serene people going separate ways, perhaps each spreading more “disease”.

Step 10 saved my butt.  When I promptly clean up a sour situation (caused by me) and then reestablish a decent relationship with another person, it’s a good day.  Promptly doing a tenth step, in a way saves two (or more) lives.

Bill K.

Note: This last Friday the three of us began sitting a little after seven...for about 5 minutes...all seemed well until one person said, "I'm going to get sick," so we closed down shop early. Our 12 & Zen this month had no discussion period.  What's important is that my friend is OK now. We surmise this was a little bout of food poisoning.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

October Koan with Step 10

 Dear Friends,

October is near.  Time for Step 10 and the following koan.

Bill K.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Koan: Both roots and branches must return to their origin, and so do respectful and insulting words.  Shitou Xiiqian

Monday, September 16, 2019

Steps 8 and 9, Swept Away and Still Singing

Step 8:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.



A bug on a branch

swept away down the river

still singing her song.

                  Issa (1763-1823)

I can’t remember when I saved this poem from one of Brother Toby’s weekly haiku postings. I knew I wanted to use this as a koan many months ago. Then [great timing!] a little more than a week ago, he used it again, this time from Brother Toby’s Friday Reflection, August 30, 2019. *

 “Jumping ahead a few years, we are in the age of my very favorite haiku poet Issa (1763-1928). When our beloved and deeply missed Sister Marti (1936-2016) was valiantly living with pancreatic cancer, she spent wonderful times writing haiku which were later collected in her little book FROM STARDUST TO STARDUST: HAIKU – A FINAL YEAR. She chose as a kind of introduction a poem of Issa which had been translated by our good friend Cliff Edwards at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a couple of minor changes.

                A bug on a branch

                swept down the river

                still singing her song.

Marti’s experience and this haiku bring to mind many people who were in one way or another defeated in the big life story but who, thanks to a little violet, were able to keep singing their songs in the most desperate of situations. The psychologist Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) found a little blue flower outside the barbed wire before she was murdered at Auschwitz. The university student Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) focused on the wind in the trees before she was beheaded at Munich. Anne Frank (1929-1945) stole up to the attic of her hiding place to look out at a tree before she was taken away and died at Bergen-Belsen. These people were slaughtered by the fascist regime of the 20th century. Yet each, like our Sister Marti would not let death itself defeat them. Even in those dire circumstances they all kept singing their song. And each one of us can do the same thing if we look for that little violet and the present moment, the now-moment, out of which it grows.”

- - -

Yes, I told my sponsor that I was willing to go to any length because I wanted this thing called sobriety. But Step 9 can feel like one is being swept away.  I know what needs to be done; but it’s scary not knowing how it will all turn out.  What will I do when there’s no turning back? I do know that prayer beforehand will help.

As the Big Book says, these conversations we have with those we have hurt don’t always go smoothly.  Still, we go through with it knowing we have the backing of our sponsor, the fellowship of AA and our Higher Power – this is the branch we are clinging to.

When I find myself face-to-face with this other person, I become that little bug being swept down the river. How fast is the current? How wide is the river?

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” Big Book Page 83

We are singing our song!

This evening, not only were we a zendo of two sitting with the same poem, we were singing different songs.

Initially, Dale was simply not connecting these Steps to the haiku. So he paused, did some reading and thought about the people he had harmed (Step 8) and the phrase, “…except when to do so would injure them or others” (Step 9). This brought to mind the Eightfold Path and doing no harm. Then he wondered about this poem and what it says about Issa. “He seems to revere all life, “Dale said, “Even bugs. He doesn’t try to save the bug either and allows life to unfold. This is our version of right action – this is the program working you.”

Returning to the Steps he thought about being respectful of others by not harming people in the first place so we won’t have to do Steps 8 and 9. “After some time in the program, I don’t want to have to make amends."

Koans and haiku used as koans have a power to transform our lives. No matter what the circumstances we can find peace of mind, and even joy. We’re all floating down a river; where it will take us we don’t know; in this moment supported by a branch it’s time to sing our songs.

Thank you Brother Toby for your inspiration.

Bill K.

* "Starcross Monastic Community is a small, independent, autonomous, and ecumenical community of lay-people living peaceful lives in the contemplative tradition and offering encouragement and affirmation to gentle folks on all spiritual paths."

Starcross Community:

Friday, August 30, 2019

This time, for September, we'll be sitting with a bug...

Step 8:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 

Step 9:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others


It's almost September and we'll be sitting with both Steps 8 and 9.

Our koan comes via a haiku from Issa.

Can you hear her song?

Bill K.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

12 & Zen and Buddhistdoor

Hello Everyone,

Have you ever heard of Buddhistdoor?

It's an international site chock full of worldviews on all varieties of Buddhism and Buddhist-connected themes.  I urge you to peruse its pages.

Back in April 2019 I had an article "printed" called:

Addiction and Recovery: Buddhists on the Path to Sobriety in AA 
By Bill K.

Should the link not work, go to their Home page, then to Features, then to Long Reads, then type in the title into the search box.

You who have followed my 12 & Zen blog know that I'm totally at ease practicing the 12 Steps and Buddhism together.

It's when I read or hear about people who think Buddhists can't get sober in AA, that I ask, "Really?"  

I have many Buddhist friends in AA who agree with me;  that AA will pretty much work for anyone, regardless of backgrounds.

For those Buddhists who don't think AA will work for them, all I ask is to have an open mind and give it a try.

Just passing it on,

Bill K.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

August Potluck: I bring the Koan, You bring the Step(s)

"Barlow Cutoff", Oregon, W.H. Jackson circa 1865

Koan: Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.


We are sitting with this koan today, to see if any of the 12 Steps take hold. As this evening played out, we saw how the word home is deeply evocative.

Part 1: I began by stating many of ways home is used:

It’s a residence, domicile, or house

  • ·      A social unit
  • ·      Habitat (home range of antelope)
  • ·      One’s own country,
  • ·      Headquarters (Home of the SF Giants)
  • ·      Home safe! As in baseball
  • ·      I have a home group in AA

It’s a special location:

  • ·      Where you live, eat and sleep.
  • ·      Where you are relaxed and comfortable.
  • ·      Where you’re in harmony with the surroundings.
  • ·      Where you can be with yourself, and have privacy.
  • ·      Where you’ll find loved ones.
  • ·      Where friends come for a visit.

Every day is home, and home itself is a journey.

  • ·      Where we tell someone that I’m going home.
  • ·      Where we tell someone that I am home.
  • ·      Where we tell ourselves that I can hardly wait to be home.
  • ·      Hearing the truth really struck home.
  • ·      Out of jeopardy, I’m home free.

Last week I was the temporary secretary at a meeting. The young speaker made it clear that “No matter what my problem is, I have a Step handy that will solve my problem. I can take the Steps everywhere and apply them when needed.” She went on to explain that when she finds herself powerless over people, places, or things, there is Step 1; when she recognizes her selfishness there is Step 3; when she’s been rude to someone there is Step 10; when she finds herself ill at ease, she can reach out and help a newcomer (Step 12).

In Step 12, “We practice these principles in all our affairs.” Not just on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – “…in all our affairs” implies we’re doing this every day, all the time.

This is what this koan was saying to me. I’m always on some kind of journey – physically, mentally, or spiritually.

From the PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION sutra by Hakuin Ekaku, is the line, going and coming, we are never astray.

Going and coming are what makes a journey.  “We are never ever astray.”  Home is always near at hand. Returning to this moment is returning to my essential home base and my practice of the 12 Steps.

F.H. began by saying this koan is nice the way it evokes the sweet satisfaction he has with his practicing all the 12 Steps, beginning with his morning meditation. “Each moment, each breath, each day – home is program, home is the journey, practicing to the best of my ability, practicing these principles in all my affairs.”

John agreed, “Step 12 is practicing all the Steps, daily.  Home equals my spiritual awakening.  It’s this journey that gets me to a spiritual awakening again and again.  I’m not a morning person.  When I wake up each day, it’s like I have to reprogram my thoughts in order to begin today’s journey. It’s in my morning prayers where I become rejuvenated for the day.

James said today’s journey is made up of all my experiences; where the whole world is Step 11 in prayer and meditation with my Higher Power.  Wherever I am, just be, I’m home.

Part 2: Our Other Home

Then F.H. spoke.  “I must say the ways "home" has been described tonight, a home as a special location was not my experience growing up. Relaxed, harmony, privacy, comfort, loved ones – none of these could be remotely found in my home – my childhood was horrendous and traumatizing.

Others responded with equal pain. Bob said, “I didn’t have a home.” It was a war zone full of anguish and pain.  I was a little kid caught in the middle, trying to survive in chaos, while all the time everyone’s lesson by words and actions declared, “You don’t matter!”

After hearing what others were saying, another person revealed that he had been sexually abused as a child, by both parents. “I’ve never told anyone about this except my sponsor.

Wow. I never would have predicted the trajectory of this evening’s discussion; bringing into the room examples of pain today and finding relief from the past; and pain from the past and finding relief today. The Big Book tells us, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” P.83

When sitting with koans in the traditional way, one of my teachers would tell us that any part of the koan will work, even just one word.  One way or another, we were all at home with tonight’s koan, showing us, “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” (Page 84) 

Perhaps your journey took you to other Steps?

Bill K.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

It's a potluck. I bring the koan and you bring a Step or two.

Hi Friends,

Oops! I forgot to send out this month's koan; but no specific Step. Sit with this koan and see what Step or Steps come to you. 


August: PotLuck Koan

Koan: Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Step 7: Acting without inattention

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.


Student: “What is Zen?”

Teacher replied, “Attention, Attention, Attention!”


When we do Step 7 we’re asking for help.

Yet, at meetings, how often have you heard people say, “I hate asking for help?' It’s ego deflating to admit that I can’t do this by myself. It’s a stumbling block for us, and our AA ancestors knew this. No wonder that the Big Book makes no bones that our ego must be smashed.

We also don’t like admitting things. It’s the pulling of our covers that leaves us exposed; and a smidge of honesty is required, too. We’ve already done some admitting early on in Step 1 when we admitted we were powerless over alcohol. Now we’re taking it to another level, not with our sponsor; but instead, a one-on-one asking for help from our Higher Power. This is not the time to let one’s guard down. Our alcoholic mind and its pact with our ego will tell us, “You don’t need to do this…you can do this on your own…we’re a team…we’ve done it before…hey, remember that other time when we…?”

Instead, it’s the tapping into my True Self, my innermost self who is open to Step 7 (and all the Steps for that matter). How?  (1) By attending to what’s at hand and (2) by recognizing the importance of conversing with a personal God.

Step 6 is where our attention begins as a condition of readiness. The 7th Step Prayer on page 76 begins with a retelling of Step 6: ”My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.”

In Step 7 we’ve begun applying our mind, a focusing of consciousness with a view to action, with asking being the action, “I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.” (p 76) Attention requires effort and control. Yes, we actually have control over our attention.

My friend gives a good example of this.  At a grocery store, he waited and waited, thinking that he had being ignored by a worker at the meat counter. He could feel his irritation level rise, and when a different worker said something to him, blistering rude remarks spewed out at the man. Immediately he knew his behavior was way out of line and promptly made his amends.

He told us that he knows had he been paying attention to how things unfolded; by recognizing an old character defect of his, by stepping back and doing a short Step 7, he could have stopped his fuming irritability before erupting.

What is Zen? What is Step 7?

·      We’re paying attention to our Higher Power.

·      We’re paying attention to what is troubling us.

·      We’re paying attention to lessening the grip on who we think we are. This brings about some humility.

·      We’re paying attention to the sincerity of our words in asking God to remove our shortcomings.

·      We take it easy after asking, allowing spaciousness within for relief to rest – a relief from the load we’ve been carrying to dissipate.

·      Paying attention to the details of one’s life.

Coming up next month is another opportunity for attention and Step 8.

Bill K.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Step 7 and the July Koan

Yikes!  I just realized that I have not posted the July Step and koan. I apologize for the delay.


Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.


Student: “What is Zen?”

Teacher replied, “Attention, Attention, Attention!”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Buddhism and the 12-Steps Working Together

Back in April an article I wrote was posted on the Buddhistdoor site. What prompted me to write this article began several years ago, when I read a sober Buddhists saying that AA isn't a good place for Buddhists to find sobriety. Really? That's not been my experience. And never mind that this person got sober in AA himself.

Addiction and Recovery: Buddhists on the Path to Sobriety in AA

If you are a member of a Buddhist-inspired recovery program and maintain your sobriety with them, Good for you!  Whatever path to sobriety that works for you, I'm for it.

The point I'm trying to make in this article is don't let anyone tell you that AA doesn't work for Buddhists.  You will meet other Buddhists with longtime sobriety at AA meetings. With an open mind, try it out for yourself -- see how the 12-Steps and Buddhism compliment each other.

The editors at Buddhistdoor were kind enough to provide a link to my blog.  A wonderfully eclectic international online Buddhist site I invite you to take a look at Buddhistdoor:

Bill K.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Truly is anything missing in Step 6?

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Koan: Truly is anything missing now?

Truly -- from the word truth -- that which is true: In Zen as well as in AA, being true is at the very core of practice. In Zen we have our True Nature, True Self; and in AA we say, “to thine own self be true.”

Little mind is day-to-day chatter and thoughts, about me, about you, paying bills, fixing dinner, pulling weeds, and a stubbed toe. Then there is Big Mind, which is our True Nature, our True Self, beyond duality.

At our Monday evening CityZen gathering, a story was told (Thank you Chris!), a story that I’ve altered some (think made up) that might add another perspective to our Step 6 discussion.

In this story, there’s is a watcher looking over us as we stumble and bumble about in our daily lives. Think of this “Watcher” as the sky.

In the world of form (stumbling and bumbling, etc.) people do us wrong, resentments grow, things don’t go my way, friends die, I’m rude, I become angry and others are angry, the furnace breaks down, my kid comes home with head lice, I can’t find my glasses, and on and on.  Now, think of one’s character defects over time as clouds in the sky.

If they’re really bothersome they turn into storms or even hurricanes in the sky, all causing relative degrees of chaos and suffering in the mind.

Question:  In real life, have any clouds, storms or hurricanes EVER left the sky harmed in any way? It is like this – the self-centered alcoholic causes harm and still, the Watcher is never harmed.

In Step 6, being true to ourselves, we recognize our character defects – the storms we’ve created over time. Now we find ourselves ready to be rid of these character defects, and allow whatever is watching over us to take them away…just as clouds dissipate in the sky leaving no marks whatsoever.

Elsie gave us a turn-this-upside-down moment when she told us how it was when she first worked the Steps. When she came to Step 6, she thought the “to have God remove” part was like saying, “I’ll have my husband pick up a quart of milk on his way home from work.” Say what? That would be like commanding God to remove defects. “Who could ever be in charge of God, she pondered?” Certainly not me.

Is anything missing now? You bet there is! Since I will never be perfect, no matter how often I search for defects, always searching within, doing the Steps over and over again, there will always be missing “wrongs” to correct. So of course, later I realized that I needed to ask God in Step 7 and was not making commands of him in Step 6.

Dale often says that inventory work is at the heart of his practice.  It’s in the Big Book reminding us to do this by asking if we’ve really done Steps 1 thru 5; have we omitted anything? Is anything missing? If we can’t think of anything missing then we go onto Step 6. “It’s almost like Step 6 is a prelude to Step 7. ‘Are you ready’ is an echo of Step 3 – I’m ready to make this decision.”

Then he laughed saying, “Somewhere I heard that we’ve been given these 12 Steps to do  [keep us busy] while God works the miracles.”

John: “In acknowledging that I’m entirely ready; in that moment of complete surrender; the experience of having peace of mind washes over me.”

When I’m truly ready to let go and let God, relief comes by knowing there’s nothing lacking, nothing extra, and nothing missing – things fit together like boxes and lids – leaving us with expansive blue sky above.

Yours truly,

Bill K.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Step 6 and June Koan

Greetings Everyone...

June is just around the corner and time to sit with Step 6 and the following koan:

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Koan: Truly is anything missing now?

Bill K.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Step 5 and the Avatamsaka Sutra

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

From our Sutra entitled Purification:    

Koan: All the ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.
Basically, sutras are Buddhist scripture.  This one felt like a perfect fit for Step 5 (and 4, too). I began to wonder when this sutra was written.  First I asked Rocks and Clouds Roshi, Daniel.  He quickly wrote back that this sutra is found in the Avatamsaka Sutra, also called the Flower Ornament or Flower Garland Sutra that had its beginning in the 2nd century CE.

According to Wikipedia, the first complete Chinese version of the Avatamsaka Sutra was completed around 420 in 60 scrolls with 34 chapters, the second version around 699 with 80 scrolls with 40 chapters.

My next question was where in this grand sutra do we find Purification? Gregory Wonderwheel came to the rescue.  He loves delving into Buddhist history and scripture and said it’s near the end of Chapter 39. This would indicate that “our” Purification Sutra came about in the second version around 699.

Repentance Verse

All my past harmful actions,
from beginningless greed, hatred, and delusion,
born through body, speech, and mind,
I now fully avow and repent.

Turns out that the Avatamsaka Sutra is one of the longest of Buddhist sutras. It “describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another.” D.T. Suzuki said it’s “the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience.”

Thomas Cleary’s English translation was a phenomenal undertaking, exceeding 1600 pages. He calls this sutra “the most grandiose, the most comprehensive, and the most beautifully arrayed of the Buddhist scriptures.”

I interpret the Flower Ornament Sutra as containing every aspect of the human condition. Here, coming back to my cushion, we are meditating with the 5th Step; still, I’m wondering if we could find all of the Steps contained in this grand sutra.  Wouldn’t that be a delicious addition to the buffet of our 12 Step program? Maybe I'll take a look at Chapter or Book the future...

All the ancient twisted karma…

How about all our past twisted behavior? We come into AA with baggage of our “character defects”. Elsie commented, “I was not the person I wished to be when I came into AA.” When she came up to the words, the exact nature of our wrongs, she wasn’t sure what that meant.  And today, with more than three decades of recovery, “I’m still not sure about exact nature. What does she do? She continues to work the Steps; she has changed sponsors and “I review, review, review my situations and know that I am getting closer to the ‘exactness’.”

The Five Remembrances Sutra comes to mind regarding “all my past harmful actions”.

Ino:      My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All:      My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance (also translated as delusion)…

Doesn’t this describe three important conditions of an alcoholic?

 ·      “Selfishness-self-centeredness! [Certainly tied to greed] That, we think, is the root of our troubles. P. 62

·      “Resentment [A form of hate] is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” P.64

·      “The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking.” P. 30

These are the driving forces that take us to the bottom, a bottom where we are suffering from the consequences of our unhealthy actions. So, what do we do to go beyond this suffering?


“Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.”

Step 5 is where we, with the guidance of a sponsor, acknowledge our behavior and the harm we have done to others. Those who helped write the Big Book knew we had to admit this as deeply as our willingness takes us, to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another person. This Step is a BIG ego smasher, in having to share this with others. This is what we do if we want to recover and turn our lives around. The writer who wrote this sutra 1,320 years ago, in effect, came to the same conclusion.  The human condition hasn’t changed.

John remembered an AA convention he attended early on in his recovery entitled “Language of the Heart.” It was at this convention where he grasped the concept of living amends. It’s the openly and fully that expands Step 5 to include living amends.

Yes! Confession includes our entire body, mind and spirit.

Bill K.