Sunday, February 16, 2020

Step 2, Came to believe in peach blossoms...



Step 2:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Koan: Lingyun was wandering in the mountains and became lost in his walking. He rounded a bend and saw peach blossoms on the other side of the valley. This sight awakened him and he wrote this poem:

For thirty years I searched for a master swordsman.
How many times did the leaves fall
and the branches break into bud?
But from the moment I saw the peach blossoms,
I’ve had no doubts.


Centuries later the Japanese teacher Keizan responded with his own poem:

The village peach blossoms didn’t know
their own crimson
but still they freed Lingyun

from all his doubts.
Like so many things in my life, Step 2 is an example of how fruitless it is to intentionally go after something. I can’t say to myself, “Today I’m going to believe that a Power greater than I will restore me to sanity,” and then go make it happen. This would be like Lingyun saying, “Today on my walk I’m going to become enlightened.”

This is what he was saying in his poem after he had become awakened by seeing the peach blossoms – For thirty years I searched for a master swordsman…Is it over there? Is it behind that tree? Is it at night? How about if I hold my hands thusly? Searching, searching, searching to no avail.

 Lost in his wandering was a form of meditation. Lingyun saw a power greater than himself in the peach blossoms. They relieved him from his fears. It’s all peach blossoms!  But I HAD to first admit in Step 1 that I am powerless. Being powerless opened the door for me to find a power greater than myself.  Miles O.

In his searching, he had an agenda, a goal he yearned for. We could say there’s such a thing as speed searching, which would be the sport of orienteering. There’s no such thing as speed wandering, though. The key may be in giving up the search and not trying to take everything in, dare I say know everything? He became lost in his wandering – perhaps not knowing his whereabouts and not even knowing what he was looking for.


“For me, sanity means clarity, clear seeing.” There was nothing sane about my upbringing at all, an insane childhood, insane parents, insane growing up, and insane adulthood. So how could I be restored to something I had never had? The whole thing about sanity was huge for me. I had to be taught over many years how to be sane – how to find clarity, clarity seeing the truth, clarity seeing the peach blossoms in my life. For the first 10-15 years in my sobriety, everything was a power greater than myself. Dale H.

Unconsciously getting out of his own way and putting down the obstacles in his mind was all it took to be open to the sight of the peach blossoms. Lingyun had no doubts. He came to believe.



Lingyun was completely in the moment when he saw the peach blossoms, awakening to ultimate awareness. In Step 2, we “come to” awareness, an awakening, where all this makes perfect sense. There IS a solution here.   John S.

There’s something else going on here, too. Long dormant on a shelf, I threw an old book into my car for reading before meetings. It’s The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.

Early in the Editor’s Introduction section, it reads: “Zazen can in fact be effective [attaining awakening] even in a chair or on a bench or while kneeling…” (and Lingyun has shown awakening can happen when wandering.

It goes on to say, “What ensures success in the quest for enlightenment is not a particular position but an intense longing for truth for its own sake.” Lingyun had this longing and so do we in working the Steps in our quest to find sobriety and find our Higher Power.




Sitting here with my eyes closed, I noticed a slit of light coming through my eyelids. It reminded me of fire. I thought of the recent wildfires we’ve had here. Fires are certainly a power greater than me.
  • I survived my fire experiences.
  • Why do I always wonder if I’m OK?
  • Is it OK to feel this way?
  • Then I brought in my H.P. and these thoughts vanished.
  • I am OK.   Morgan

In Step 1 we set ourselves up, in a good way, by admitting we are powerless over something (people, places and things). By admitting we are powerless we are also admitting there are things in the universe that are more powerful than we are. We believe in a perfectly working universe, yes? The universe, right now, is “universing” the only way it can.

That there is a force (or forces) behind all things is easy to acknowledge; but comprehending this force is beyond my capacity.

Step 2 is taking a beginning step onto a path to believing.
You will come to believe – guaranteed – when the time is right.

Bill K.













Friday, January 31, 2020

February Koan and Step 2



It's February tomorrow, and with it comes sitting with Step 2 and the following koan. It may seem wordy to you but it isn't.  Whatever part(s) of this koan stick to you, it's the whole koan and all of Step 2.

Step 2:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Koan: Lingyun was wandering in the mountains and became lost in his walking. He rounded a bend and saw peach blossoms on the other side of the valley. This sight awakened him and he wrote this poem:

For thirty years I searched for a master swordsman.
How many times did the leaves fall
and the branches break into bud?
But from the moment I saw the peach blossoms,
I’ve had no doubts.

Centuries later the Japanese teacher Keizan responded with his own poem:

The village peach blossoms didn’t know

their own crimson
but still they freed Lingyun
from all his doubts.

Bill K.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Step 1, "We have come to our real 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


From Dale:  "My real work is to learn about myself by doing the inventory steps. The deeper meaning of Step 1 begins with I don’t know, then admitting that I need help.  It’s still this way after all these years of sobriety."

Impede: to interfere with or slow the progress of.

If alcoholism isn’t an impediment in our lives, I don’t know what is. Alcohol absolutely impedes our lives, ultimately in the most severe ways. Eventually it shows up as incomprehensible demoralization, utter despair, hopelessness and a fear of impending doom. If we’re fortunate, the time will come where we find “we no longer know what to do.”

Pam: "I always had a plan, knew what to do, a scam, could do something in that righteous place. In Step 1 it was about sitting with my failure. I can step back and find acceptance and stop trying to figure it all out. I really don’t know what to do."

I was there once. I didn’t know what I could do. My way wasn’t working. I couldn’t stop drinking. I gave up. The tiniest voice hesitantly told me, “You are probably an alcoholic.” There weren’t any arguments anymore.

Elsie: “The Steps help us to get out of our own way.”

I knew very little about AA then. My mother had found AA and would send me little notes like the Serenity Prayer. I ignored her attempts as not applicable to me.  And I knew there were places like treatment centers, too. Early in December 1986 I told my wife that I think I need to go to one of those treatment centers. No argument there, either.

This is where my real work began. I didn’t know it at the time that I had opened the door of recovery and taken Step One, at least in a general way. From that point on, recovery’s momentum grew as my working continued, doing what I was asked to do at the center.

Kirsten: “At 22 months clean, I’m now actually working on my insides now! When I was out there, I never gave a thought about this, it was chasing after all the external things."

What I’ve experienced in sobriety with Step 1 is that is no longer a barrier. Perhaps, though, that’s what many of us have to work through -- the discovery that Step 1 changed from a barrier to an impediment.

Could Step One be an offering from the universe? “Hey, you might want to take a look at this.”

In our sutras we have Bodhisattva’s Vow by Torei Enji where he says:

“…this is the Buddha appearing to us,
finding ways to free us from our own attachments
the very ones that have made us suffer
again and again and again.”

Then Dale gave us a line about knowing from the Tao Te Ching: "He who regards his intellectual knowledge as ignorance has deep insight. He who overrates his intellectual achievement as definite truth is deeply sick.”
-  Translated by Hua-Ching Ni, 1995, Chapter 71

By getting a sponsor and doing the Steps, the working continues; and now it’s not a burden.  AA is my life’s work today; still, impediments happen daily. Something comes up that I resist or don’t like. Something seems to be getting in the way of my wants. GASP! When I recognize this I know I need to get to work on the matter.

John said, “This koan was very apropos to what I’ve been living these past few weeks. I’ve been driving myself to think I can do more than what I can actually do.” It begins by thinking “I can do this. I force myself to do more until I find myself stuck [an impediment] and have to admit I’m powerless. This is the place where I can actually begin to work by realizing I can only do so much."

When a stream meets an obstacle, the water always takes the path of least resistance. May you find the Steps to be the easier way.

Bill K.