Saturday, February 10, 2018

Step 2, It's all in the landing...

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

Koan - Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.”

Yamada's translation is: "Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."


I view “Came to believe” as not something to strive for.  Instead, it’s sort of a forecasting of what is to come, predicated on continuing to work the Steps. It’s like building strong muscles.  I’ll never simple wake up one day with stronger muscles.  Only after I have worked my muscles with exercise and lifting weights will my muscles become stronger.

Each flake … falling, swirling, updrafts, eddies, totally at the whim of wind and temperature, completely powerless over its destiny and not in control of anything.  Does it know when or where or even if it will land?  No.  All each snowflake can do is fall and wait and see what happens, falling only on the place where it lands.

I’m that snowflake falling, completely powerless over my destiny and not in control of anything.  The falling is the coming to believe part. Coming to believe that I will cease falling and land in a place.  Where or when, I don’t know.  All I can do is wait and see…and enjoy the ride.

This reminds me of a story from a Buddhist teacher; unfortunately I cannot recall his name -- You are falling from a great (un-survivable) height.  As you fall, spinning and rotating toward earth, what a shame it would be to not enjoy the spectacular view in all directions.

I’ll know I’ve landed in the right place when I have come to believe in Step 2. This may happen as soon as I embrace Step 3? Or later on…

The evening went a little differently for us this time.  I learned earlier in the day from a note that my wife had left, that Dale (who seldom misses 12 & Zen) would not be attending.  He was in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital. 

Of course he was on my mind and in my prayers. There was nothing I could do for him and I remained sane as I went about the rest of my day.  Concern yes, but no worries. He was being taken care of where he was and I am being taken care of where I am, because I trust in a Power greater than myself.

We missed Dale's presence yesterday evening.

Today I paid him a visit. He smiled as I walked in. His recovery may take months.  Beautiful Dale has landed in the same place.

"As the koan slipped into my body, I did not need to find a meaning outside of this very moment and this very place."*


Bill K.

* I  just swiped this from something my friend Jon Joseph Roshi just sent.  It seems a fitting closing here.
Thanks Jon.








Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sitting with Step 2 and Layman P'ang

February in a few days.  Time to sit with Step Two...

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

Viewing the Snow:  Layman P’ang pointed to the falling snow and said, “The snow is so beautiful; each flake lands in the same place.”

Yamada's translation is: "Beautiful snow flakes! They don't fall on any other place."


We'll be meeting on February 9th for sitting and discussion and a commentary here.



Bill K.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Step 1, This is our new normal



Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or something] -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Koan: My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.    
Mizuta Masahide  1657-1723

If there is a disclaimer for my blog, it’s the coupling of koans and the Steps. We are using koans in a non-traditional way, and yet…we never know what koans will stir in us.

We don’t know the cause of this fire; what if I started the fire, then couldn’t put it out and my barn was destroyed?

·     Now my winter hay is gone.
·     Now my animals have no food or shelter.
·     Now my tools are ruined.
·     My life, its so unmanageable.

In other words, look what a mess this is, all because of me. Isn’t this Step One?  Step One, ultimately about cause and effect, we’re addicted to something and our life gets unmanageable. We admit our powerlessness over alcohol (and many other things) and continue working the Steps and our lives get better.

Over time, I became an everyday drinker.  Never missed a day, even when I promised myself in the evening that I wouldn’t drink tomorrow.  My promise was made in earnest. Still I would find myself drunk the next evening wondering how that happened. It went on like this for many years.

On page 354 in the Big Book, the writer describes his situation: “It wasn’t how far I had gone, but where I was headed.” This is my story. I didn’t have to experience some of the consequences of those in the “They Nearly Lost It All” stories. At the time, the part that I was unsure about was the alcohol. I was not 100% sure that alcohol was my main problem and at the same time couldn’t come up with any other plausible reason. I think this was a product of my alcoholic mind still trying to sway me. And then, like a flipped switch, one day I was drinking and the next day I placed myself into a treatment facility. 

After being there four or five days, a change occurred – it dawned on me that I wasn’t yearning for a drink that day.  The compulsion to drink had left me!  This made a huge impact. Something within me fell away, “burned to the ground”, and I was free.

The moon is a subject in many Zen sayings, often a metaphor for enlightenment or awakening.  Realizing that I was no longer promising to myself to stop drinking the next day was the proof I needed; deep inside, I am an alcoholic. Surely this was my awakening at the time.

It’s the remaining Steps where I learn more about my burning barn; the role it has played in my life; and seeing my life changing for the better having had it burn down. Come to think of it, all the remaining Steps are a product of cause and effect.

This past Friday, when we were meditating, I could see that one person seemed uncomfortable.  After I rang the bell I asked him, “Are you OK?”

“No, I’m not,” but he told us to go on with the evening’s discussion.

Later he spoke of his condition.  He’s 75, has emphysema, there are side effects from medications, “…and I’m dying actually, just not all at once.” He talked about his body not functioning as well as it used to; always out of breath with heavy fatigue, and it’s discouraging not being able to do things right now when they need to be done. “My doctor has told me that I have a strong heart, that it’s the rest of my body that’s falling apart. He told us that this is my new normal.”

He smiled a bit saying his body is the barn and it’s burning down as we speak.  “I accept this,” he said, “I am ready to die [He paused] but its probably not going to happen this evening.” He went on to say that his total acceptance of Step One over all these years, and his total powerless over alcohol is no different than his powerlessness over the demise of his body.

“I can see the moon now,” he said, as he referenced the Steps, that they are such an integral part of his life, that he has awakened to the fact that this is my new normal.  He accepts situations where “things” won’t get done right now.  “I’ll do that tomorrow, or I’ll take a nap and see how I feel or I can ask for help. This is how it is now.

He spoke for ten or fifteen minutes, and we listened. "Wow," he exclaimed, "I've never even been able to speak to my doctor like this." Then he attempted to apologize for going on so long but we interrupted, “No, no, not only did you need to get this out, we needed to hear you.”

Oh my, the Universe, cause and effect, or happenstance put us here this evening to hear how this koan awakened our friend to his new normal.  The next day we saw each other at a meeting.  We laughed together.

Bill K.





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Step One Koan and 2018 ...

 ... YAHHHHHH!

Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over something -- that our lives had become unmanageable.



Koan: My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.

Mizuta Masahide  1657-1723



As usual, we'll be meeting on the second Friday,  January 12th.

Bill K.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Step 12, Buddha nature and Fire Buddhas


Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

“What is spiritual awakening?  It is waking to the flow of the moment and living in harmony with it.”  Rami Shapiro Recovery – the sacred art

Dale pointed out that the Big Book has a description of spiritual awakening: “We have ceased fighting anything or anyone…” P. 84




Koan: Since we all have Buddha nature, why do we practice?

The short answer, because we are human.  “Because I forget,” said Dale this evening.


PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION
— Hakuin Ekaku

All beings by nature are Buddha,
just as ice and water are the same;
apart from water there is no ice,
apart from beings no Buddha.

I read an article in one of the Buddhist magazines where the author mentioned Christianity’s doctrine of original sin and then wondered if Buddhism was about original good.  This notion has stuck with me ever since – for me it’s realizing that we all have Buddha nature.  It’s always available to us.  “Right now, it’s like this”…we’re buddhas, we’re awake, we’re alcoholics, we help others who are suffering, this is why we practice.

It reminded Dale of the book Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das. He said there’s God Eminent “out there” and God Immanent within myself – the way I view Buddha nature.

“Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”

My friends John and Rebecca lost their home to the October Tubbs Fire. Last week he had asked Bob C. to come over to the ashes and debris to haul some things away.  It was there that Bob noticed a scorched Buddha and Kwan Yin in the rubble.  “Don’t you want these” he asked? John said he could take them if he wanted.  When Bob first set eyes on these statues, he knew deep down they were special.

He sent me a photo of the statues and I agreed, they had a powerful effect on me, too.  Something about them resonated to my core – “Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”

“What shall I do with them,” he asked?  Let me just say they have found the perfect home.  When Roshi heard about these special statues, he immediately offered up his zendo as a home, where they can speak to us if we're open to it.

Another way to look at this, I draw from my (small “s”) source; from the things around me like the 12 Steps and meetings; and there’s also the (great “S”) SOURCE, where I seek God consciousness, my Higher Power within, my True Self, Buddha nature.

“Buddha nature:  The true, immutable, and eternal nature of all
beings.  Since all beings possess this Buddha nature, it is possible
for them to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha.”
Then there are those times when I feel disconnected and not a part of what is happening around me…and perhaps drop into a “poor me” state of mind.  The Big Book warns us of this, the consequences of self-centeredness.  Tapping into my Buddha nature brings me back to what is. Dale reminded me of this when he said, “I practice to transcend separateness -- we are all connected.”

"Until I understood and accepted my status as a human being, my effort toward seeking God was in vain."

Nanaimo, British Columbia, February 2003 ("My Name Is Gary and I'm a Human Being," from Spiritual Awakenings

 As Bill Wilson puts it, "When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone."  Buddha nature is my source.

Why do I practice?  So I can remember this.


Bill K.

[Koans] are “…doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”









Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Step Twelve and Buddha nature

...we'll be meeting on December 8th.  Here is what we'll be sitting with.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.


“What is spiritual awakening?  It is waking to the flow of the moment and living in harmony with it.”  Rami Shapiro, Recovery – the sacred art



Koan: Since we all have Buddha nature, why do we practice?



PRAISE SONG FOR MEDITATION — Hakuin Ekaku

All beings by nature are Buddha,
just as ice and water are the same;
apart from water there is no ice,
apart from beings no Buddha.

“Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.”





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.