This Practice -- Meditating With the Steps and Koans
Sitting with the 12 Steps will deepen their influence upon you, enriching your life of recovery. Applying koans will take you deeper yet, in all aspects of your life. They bring a practicality and usefulness today just as they did in Lin-chi's time (D. 867); where you can pass your wisdom onto others. Take the 12 Steps from AA's "Big Book" add a few koans from past Zen Masters leaves you at a new starting off place, the stepping off a 100-foot pole, full of all possibilities.
How I sit with a Step and koan
I hope they don’t mind me using this superb example of “How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
by Lion's Roar Staff| August 8, 2018
A profoundly simple practice that works for experts and amateurs alike.
1. Choose a quiet and uplifted place to do your meditation practice. Sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion, or if that’s difficult, sit on a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, without leaning against the back of the chair.
2. Place your hands palms down on your thighs and take an upright posture with a straight back, relaxed yet dignified. With your eyes open, let your gaze rest comfortably as you look slightly downward about six feet in front of you.
3. Place your attention lightly on your out-breath, while remaining aware of the environment around you. Be with each breath as the air goes out through your mouth and nostrils and dissolves into the space around you. At the end of each out-breath, simply rest until the next breath goes out. For a more focused meditation, you can follow both out-breaths and in-breaths.
4. Whenever you notice that a thought has taken your attention away from the breath, just say to yourself, “thinking,” and return to following the breath. In this context, any thought, feeling, or perception that distracts you is labeled “thinking.” Thoughts are not judged as good or bad. When a thought arises, just gently note it and return your attention to your breath and posture.
5. At the end of your meditation session, bring calm, mindfulness, and openness into the rest of your day.”
This is the technique I began with when I started my Zen journey. Of course, I still use it today. In 12 & Zen we usually sit with a particular Step for the first 5 minutes, then we sit with a koan and the Step for 20 minutes.
Instead of returning the breath as our anchoring point, I return to the Step or the koan OR any word or phrase of the Step or koan. Whenever I notice that a thought has taken my attention away from the koan or Step, I just say “thinking,” and return to following the Step or koan.
Can I tell you with certainty that koan "A" is the best to use with a particular Step? Absolutely not. There is no way of knowing or predicting which koan will appear under what circumstances. I told you what worked for me regarding Step Three. My friend Ken I. had his koan experience surrounding Step One. D. T. told me the koan he was working on and how it mingled with Steps Five and Six. So it wouldn't surprise me to hear that the koan you "used" with Step Three might have a great impact on how you see Step Eleven. And some of you who already have a koan practice may find a koan elsewhere that jostles your step work. Koans have no boundaries or limitations. They appear when a space opens up.
"They take us to places we haven't chosen to go"
- John Tarrant Roshi
This is an unpredictable grand experiment we are taking, you and I. If you've found this blog useful, please pass it onto others. Perhaps we'll meet along the Way.