Friday, March 29, 2019

April Koan with Step 4


In April we'll be sitting with Step 4 and this koan.  Hint ... you may begin sitting with this today!
More about this next month.

Bill K.

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

Koan: A soldier comes to visit a famous Zen master Hakuin. And the soldier asks, “Is there really a heaven and a hell?”

The Zen master replies, “Who are you?”

The soldier says, “I am a samurai.”

“You? A samurai? What kind of lord would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar.” The soldier starts to get angry and becomes so enraged that he’s about to draw his sword.

The Zen master continues and he says, “Oh, so you have a sword. It’s probably too dull to even cut my head.” At this point, the soldier is just indignant and he brandishes his sword.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of hell.” And the soldier immediately recognizes the wisdom in those words and he puts his sword away.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of heaven.”

Saturday, March 9, 2019

From Out of Nowhere, Step 3, and Pouring It On

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

Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”

This was the koan for the evening at CityZen last December, A phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).

Of utmost importance here, we are not asked to carry out this decision right now – the implication is that in some time in the future, we will make this decision.  We hear “fake it til you make it” tossed about at meetings, and for some this concept works. After all, it’s a form of surrender. And as Dale pointed out this evening, “The act of surrender leads to a state of surrender. I ask my new sponsees, ‘Are you willing to go onto Step 4?’ ”

Instead of “faking it,” I prefer using the Taoist concept of wu-wei (pronounced wu-way), which in a way is surrendering, too.  Wu means nothing and wei means action; in other words, not doing. When I hear the word “turn” in Step 3, it’s an opportunity to practice wu-wei. Ultimately I am doing by not doing.

We never know where a koan, or any part of a koan, will take us. Elsie and John gave examples of this.  In the morning Elsie tells her Creator, “You can have all of me. I’m willing for you to take the good and the bad. And because I take my will back, I have to repeat my practice of turning it over and over and over. He has a reason, without selection, for me to do this.”

Without selection: “When I try to select is my will,” John said, "Without selection, without control, I go deeper where anything is available.”

In times of struggle when I don’t know what to do about something or a particular situation, I’ll take a break from it all. As it says in the Big Book, it’s a good time to relax and take it easy.  How often have you decided to “sleep on it” and see what happens tomorrow? Wu-wei.

In doing this there seems to be a level of trust that those things may work themselves out later. This trust expands as I realize how many things work out without my help.

To the newcomer, it really doesn’t matter that there doesn’t seem to be anything at the other end right now. This will come later on if you continue working the Steps. What’s important is the practice of turning it over to God, to the universe, or collectively to everything that’s happening right now. The process is about getting out of the self who wants to run the show and placing trust in wu-wei. Answers, results, or resolution appears, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s amazing how this happens, over and over and over. Could “out of nowhere” be the source of one’s Higher Power?

Step 3 calls on us to find a God of our own understanding. I find trying to understand my HP an exhausting and pointless exercise.  In his book Holy Rascals, Rami Shapiro* writes about a God just beyond my understanding. Instant relief. I don’t have to understand my Higher Power.

With long-term sobriety, this was Bob’s first time sitting with us at 12 & Zen.  He showed us his newly made meditation bench and wanted to give it a “test ride”.  As we settled into our meditation period, I peeked.  He looked very solid and comfortable in his practice with the koan and Third Step.  He would tell us why.

“I didn’t do anything to get here,” he began, “Rehabs, meetings, an atheist...even threw my first Big Book into the fireplace … I knew my life was doomed with no hope. Into about six weeks of white knuckling, it all changed for me on a fire escape on a building in Sausalito. I experienced a profound and life-changing event. Complete peace of mind and body overcame me. That was more than three decades ago and tonight’s koan reminded me of that moment.  The koan enveloped me with Steps 1, 2, and 3.  I am blessed to be here. Doesn’t his remind you of Bill W.’s story where he writes; “God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound” (page 14).

There were no burning bushes when I did my Third Step with my sponsor thirty-plus years ago . We read the Third Step Prayer together (p. 63) “God, I offer myself to Thee…” Is that all there is to this I asked myself?

Today it’s more a feeling I have for my Higher Power and its inter-being with everything happening and with nothing happening, just beyond my understanding. When I practice Step 3 to the best of my willingness, I feel the abundance that comes out of nowhere, pouring into every nook and cranny of my life. In moments like this, all my needs are met.

Early in my sobriety when praying, I had this thought about my words. The words that come from my mouth go somewhere. I got this notion that they keep going out and out and out into the universe. It was like asking myself, “How far can I point?” How far do my words go? It's beyond my understanding to question who or what, if anything ever hears my words?  Sending my words out is enough. It’s still important for me to pour my abundant words out loud, without selection, into every nook and cranny.  This was enough because I went onto Step 4.

What a delightful and full evening we had…obvious to me that It poured its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny of our gathering. Can you feel the abundance in your life today?

Bill K.

Friday, March 8, 2019

March Koan for Step 3

My apologies...

I sent a reminder to local people but neglected to post the March koan here.
There's still time to sit with it! ; [ )

Bill K.

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

Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”

This was the koan on Monday evening at CityZen last December,
a phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).