Monday, November 13, 2017

Step 11 -- You may need to call for a plumber

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.

Koan: “The answers will come if your own house is in order.“ Page 164 Big Book

We had to call a plumber the other day after my wife noticed water a puddle of water on top of the dryer. Something was amiss; our house was not in order.

Delving into the matter, I had to pay attention to what was happening. Paying attention – it’s the operative word for solving this plumbing problem, as well as how to go about integrating Step 11 into my daily life.

We started another load of laundry.  As the washer discharged water I could see water bubbling out of the drainpipe onto the dryer.  We have a plugged pipe somewhere, but where is the stoppage?

Opening the clean-out pipe outside the kitchen window I discovered that (1) water flowed freely from our kitchen sink into the outside pipe and (2) it flowed freely outside when I took a hose and ran water into the washer’s drainpipe.

The stoppage was somewhere between the kitchen and our sewer. I called our plumber.  His "roto-rooter" device reached its end, fifty feet and still had not reached the obstruction.  One more try, he went under the house and tapped on the pipe where the blockage was.   Luck was on our side, the trapped gunk broke free and "whooshed" down the pipe into the sewer line. He cleaned out the affected pipe; our house is in order (at least pipe wise).

At the end of our 11th Step meeting we read the St. Francis Prayer.  It begins with, “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace…”

There’s a company that used to be called Clear Channel.  The name "Clear Channel" came from AM broadcasting, referring to a channel (frequency) on which only one station transmits.  This meant no interference from any other channel.  That’s what I want in my mind with the 11th Step…no interference from distracting thoughts, a mind that is in order.

A clear channel, an open, unhindered flow between my Higher Power and me is Step 11 at its best.  This comes about by noticing, paying attention, and attending to what is present (reality). When something is obstructing this channel, my house is not in order.  Instead of calling a plumber, I’ll talk to a sober friend or call my sponsor, of course, who is more than happy to do some tapping on my behalf.

The subconscious topic of the evening seemed to entail “pipes”.  Daniel took us back to when he was new in the program.  One evening, after he came home he heard a hissing sound.  Walking around he eventually found himself under the house.  His home was on a hillside so it was easy to walk under part of his rented house.  There it was, a pipe hissing and spraying water.

There were pipes leading in every direction and multiple valves – the scene was overwhelming to him.  He didn’t know where to begin, so he went back inside thinking, “This isn’t my house, it’s the owner’s job to fix this…I’ll call him in the morning.”

I just don’t understand what to do, he thought. A little time passed.  He got up and went under the house thinking, “If there’s anything I can do, show me.” He turned the first valve, no change; then the second valve, no change; then the third valve, when he turned the handle, the hissing stopped.

This experience made an impression.  “This goofy prayer showed me something,” he said, “I learned something about prayer.”

In his case, the answer came, then his house was in order.

My mind finds orderliness when I practice the 11th Step on a regular basis.  Even just a little bit of order is all I need to find answers appearing in the form of being at peace with whatever is happening.

Bill K.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Step 11 and a Big Book Koan

We're back and looking forward to meeting together again... and ready for this month's Step and koan:

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.

Koan: "The answers will come if your own house is in order."
Page 164 Big Book

What does order look like for you?

Bill K.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

12 & Zen Cancelled As Santa Rosa Burned

A little change from the ordinary -- actually a large change.  For the first time I had to cancel our 12 & Zen gathering this month.  One of those out-of-my-control situations in the form of an outbreak of several wildfires burning nearby. Briefly, here is our story:

October 16, 2017

Dear Friends and Family,

As you well know, we’ve had several fires burning in Sonoma County  [which has turned out to be the most devastating fires in California’s history]. The fire that threatened our home was the Tubbs Fire. 

We are safe and all of the homes on our street have been untouched; but we have more than twenty friends who have lost everything.

Early last Monday, the 9th, I woke up around 2AM.  I could smell something and got up and looked around the house.  I couldn't identify what the smell was. Then I went outside and smelled the smoke. I climbed on top of the roof and this is what I saw, a red glow with the wind blowing from left to right.. 

The hillsides were hidden by the smoke.  We heard propane tanksexploding.

Walking down our street I met a neighbor who was evacuating.  We quickly collected some important papers, the computer’s external hard 
drive, clothes, photo albums and such and put 
them in our camper van.  We drove to nearby Oliver’s Market and waited until daylight.

At daybreak we returned home. I saw some neighbors on top of their roof and I joined them.

About 10AM we heard our area of town had been put on a mandatory evacuation order.  Time to leave.

The arrow shows where our home is.
Incredible how fast this fire spread from the town of Calistoga, 10 +/- miles away to Santa Rosa.  Even the freeway Highway 101 failed as a firebreak. The fire jumped the freeway and totally destroyed Coffee Park, hundreds of homes gone.

The winds, winds, winds.  The closest the fire came to our street was about a block away.  Into the van we went and drove to (son) Matt and Susan’s home in San Rafael.  It was so fortunate to have such a wonderful “evacuation center”. And there we stayed, eyes glued to the TV news and online maps and all.

 As I said, there were fires all over the County.  Upper left is the Tubbs Fire (map below) which affected us. Then two fires merged into one called the Nuns Fire. You can see how it has burned perhaps 2/3rds of Annadel State Park.  Since this picture it has expanded to include Sugarloaf Ridge SP and Hood Mountain Regional Park.  


The south part of Nuns Fire was threatening the town of Sonoma.

This fire to the right is the Atlas Fire in Napa County.  All-in-all I think these fires have burned somewhere around 150,000 acres and over 6000 homes lost.  About 40 people have died from these fires.

On Thursday we decided to drive up to see how things were in the neighborhood.  Matt kindly drove us up. 

We took advantage of this and retrieved our two other cars, parking my car in the Oliver’s Parking lot and driving Beth’s back down to San Rafael.

We also packed up some more clothes and grabbed some other photos and papers.  Getting back to Matt’s we would think of other items we forgot to grab.

The ferocity and losses from this wildfire have been matched by the generosity and selflessness of first responders and regular citizens countywide. Wonderful to witness this!                 

Bill (and Beth)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Step 10: Respectful and Insulting Words

In about two weeks (October 13th), some of us around here will be sitting together with Step 10 and this koan...

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

I think I'll begin sitting with this today.

Bill K.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Step 8 Step 9 -- Wet Feet Dry Feet

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.

Koan: Step by step in the dark – if your foot’s not wet, it found the stone.

~ Shaku Soyen

Finding the stone seems to indicate we are moving on a path, a route, going somewhere to somewhere else ... moving from this stone to this stone to this stone -- from a wet stone to a dry stone. We are moving to an opposite condition.  We do this all the time, moving from:

·      Hot to cold

·      Danger to safety

·      Angst to relief

·      Sorrow to joy

·      Step 8 to Step 9

Writing down my 8th Step, the names of people I hurt, thinking what I did to them, it can feel like slogging in wet and muddy conditions, wondering when will this end.

In the 9th Step, the slogging disappears; through courage and an honest effort at making my amends, I realize my angst turned to relief -- my foot isn’t wet anymore (at least with this particular person).  The 9th Step is finding the stone.

Before taking any one of the 12 Steps, in a way we are in the dark; not knowing what to expect, not knowing if we can do this.  It could be fear, too.  This is perhaps especially true with Step 8.  The mere thought of contacting people we have harmed and making amends is a dark place full of what ifs.  So dark that one person this evening said she purposefully left some people off her list the first time she did the Steps so she wouldn’t have to include them in her Step 9.  This did not solve the problem.  “By leaving people off my list,” she said, “my foot stayed completely wet and I still felt miserable.”

The word “harm” stood out for another person.  In the Three Pure Vows or Precepts, the first is Do no harm. “When I was drinking, I harmed people in many ways.  Listing these people on my 8th Step, I was acknowledging to myself that I had not been following this precept.  By being willing to take action on this path, experientially moving from Step 8 to Step 9,  I was learning how to recognize the harm I caused --  to notice if my foot was wet or dry, to know when to make amends, to know when relief appears.”  After making an amends, he went onto say that if he still felt a resentment toward this person, “my foot is still wet.”

We are “Creatures of Pain and Joy…” writes James Ford in this blog posting:

In this splendid article about working with koans, he writes, “There is no escape on the koan way. Our whole lives are explored, all facets of the real. And our experience of it, now every thing is holy, now no thing is holy.”

As humans, this pain and joy is something we can’t avoid.  We revert to our old ways and do harm to others, we find our feet wet again. Sooner or later we’ll remember how Steps 8, 9 AND 10 have worked for us in the past, then follow their direction.  We know they will lead us to the moment of discovery – “Hey, my feet aren’t wet anymore, I’ve found the stone!”

Bill K.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Canine Consequences

When we got this dog

I didn’t read the fine print.

It’s only when she died last Thursday

did I realize what was due.

A balloon payment of deepest sorrow

to be paid immediately!

It cannot be postponed

even for a second.

I accept this charge in its entirety.

No way shall I avoid this moment

or this moment or this moment…

It is the price I pay

for what I received from Ryla.

But embedded in every sorrow

is a bright memory.

Inside every fond memory

a dark sorrow looms.

“Bright and dark are a pair

like front and back foot walking … *

When Ryla and I would come home from our walk

while bending down I would say to her

“Kiss that pretty girl on the nose,”

which I did.

This is how it is, just now.

Shitou would say, “Don’t throw away your time.”

Bill Krumbein
September 2017

* Taking Part in the Gathering by Shitou Xiquan (700-790)
   Shitou taught that “what meets the eye is the Way.”

See September 2, 2017 post

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Dear 12 & Zen Family,

Ryla 11/4/2002 - 8/31/2017
As many of you know, I am not on Facebook.  When there are times I want to share something that is dear to me with the "world", I'll do it on my blog here. Such is the case today.

Our beloved dog Ryla passed away two days ago. We have spent hundreds of hours meditating together for more that twelve years. 
 Many of you at Pacific Zen Institute (and even the 11th Step Meeting) have met Ryla. You know what a good meditation practice she had. Or when I drove out to St. Dot's to deliver or retrieve all the retreat supplies, I would bring her along.

One day I was waiting in line to have a face-to-face meeting with my teacher, Rachel. These meetings are called dokusan. Ryla was with me of course. The bell rang, it was my turn to enter the interview room.  But instead of me entering the room, unbeknownst to my teacher, I opened the door slowly and sent Ryla in. A fun time for sure.  I understand Ryla and Rachel had a fine dialog together.

Ryla had a mission.  She was a breeder for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

In August of 2004, Beth and I volunteered to become CCI breeder caretakers.  Little did we realized what an impact Ryla would have on our lives and many others. 

What an honor and privilege it has been to care for and nurture Ryla’s five litters of puppies until they were 8 weeks old; and then to experience the joy of seeing how almost 50% of her puppies graduated and became service dogs, facility dogs, or hearing dogs, etc.  Ryla’s daughter Wyla was chosen as a breeder.  And then Wyla’s Dyla became a breeder. What a legacy.

It goes beyond words to try to describe how Ryla touched our hearts; but calling her a family member is a good beginning.

Even though she greeted us every morning, wagged her tail daily, and loved her treat after fetching the newspapers, we suspected something was amiss with her teeth.  Last week the Vet took a look and said she needed a good teeth cleaning and possibly 3 teeth to be pulled. This seemed reasonable to us.

Last Thursday I took her in for the appointment.  As they were about to take her back, I bent over, kissed her and said, “Kiss that pretty girl right on the nose.” I would do this same ritual every time we got home from our daily walk.

A little later I received a telephone call from the Vet.  She was still in the operating room under anesthesia.  Basically, the X-Rays revealed a lot more going on – twelve teeth had to come out.  I felt this was too much for this old dog to endure, coupled with her other health issues, so I authorized euthanasia.

With Ryla’s other health issues this past year, Beth and I promised her quality of life.

People who met Ryla would often exclaim, “Her eyes, they’re so expressive!” When she got me up on that morning I looked into her eyes. Wagging her tail and a nudging nose was her way saying, “Time to get up, it’s another good day.”

I didn’t know I’d be kissing Ryla, right on her nose, for the last time.  So much to be grateful for.

We use koans with 12 & Zen, so it's apropos (upon hearing of Ryla's passing) that one of my teachers, David Weinstein, sent "...the dew drop world is the dew drop world, and yet...and yet..."

I responded, "And yet...and I feel incredible happiness, sadness, and gratefulness at the same time.  A good day for sure."

Dogs are wonderful people.

Bill K.

See September 7 post.