Saturday, May 9, 2020

Suffering through Step 5

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

Koan: Layman P’ang said: “From out of the clear blue, suffering arises.”

The Sayings of Layman P’ang,  #30 - Sung-shan’s Staff

Uncovering the things I did to others in the past, at minimum brought me shame, regret and sorrow. It didn’t paint the picture of who I thought I was, nor who I wanted to become. This was distressing.

The suffering that arose from writing down my 4th Step often came from out of the blue – an incident, an accompanying thought would spring up with new information to reckon with, usually pointing directly to my actions exclaiming, “what you did was wrong!”

And now, in Step 5, I have to tell someone else about what I’ve done? Another form of suffering appeared. Oh swell, now angst is added to my already uncomfortable distress.

The Buddha taught that life is dukkha. The Pali word dukkha is often translated as suffering in English; but there is no tidy translation since dukkha has a range of meaning and connotation. One of the categories of dukkha includes physical, emotional and mental pain. Suffering. Robert Aitken Roshi (in the lineage I practice) used angst as his definition of this kind of suffering.

Angst brings together the feelings of anxiety, apprehension and insecurity.

It sure did for me – with angst coming from what the Fifth Step would entail (especially the other person part) and distress coming from what I thought of myself while doing Step 4.

“From out of the blue, suffering arises.”

Is this what my life is to be, carrying around the gnawing baggage of my past?

Of course not! Step 5 is part of the process that showed me there is an end to my suffering here (or at least a substantial reduction). With my sponsor I was actually participating in the act of recovering. Relief can come from out of the blue, too.

Without dark there can be no light. Without wet there can be no dry. Without life there can be no death. Without suffering there can be no serenity, peace and freedom.

So it was with my Step 5. With each admission and then my sponsor’s reply and the telling of his experiences, little by little I began feeling less “bad”. I left his apartment feeling lighter – no longer was I carrying the entirety of my heavy load of shame and suffering. My sponsor, in the spirit of AA was carrying a portion, too.

And in the following years when I occasionally found myself in morbid reflection of my past, I would remind myself by saying, “No, no, no, I’m not doing this alone anymore – I have help here. I admitted this to my sponsor years ago – he’s still helping me with this.”

Little did I realize, that coming up next with Steps 6 and 7,  I’d find an ever-present and effective technique for turning my troublesome thoughts and actions over to my higher power -- PRN (nurse talk* for “as needed”).

Bill K.

* My wife was a nurse for 40+ years.

Wendy following the rules.

Here we are, about to enter our seventh week of sheltering in place.
Please take care of yourself and others.

COVID-19 came out of the blue bringing suffering...and by experience we know that relief and good will arise, too.