Sunday, July 16, 2017

Step 7 -- When the time comes to do so...

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: When the time comes to do so, put on your clothes. If you want to walk, walk.  If you want to sit, sit.

At a meeting the other day, Nick said that his sponsor asked him, early on, to put the word t-h-e-n after each Step -- to work Step One, then go onto Step Two, then Step Four, etc.  This makes the way one views the 12 Steps be a body of one.  In Step 6, it’s about being entirely ready.  Ready for what? Ready to do Step 7.  In Step 7, we proceed to do what we’ve decided to do. It can be as easy as deciding to get dressed.

Any reluctance or procrastination here, for some, may have more to do with having doubts that it will work in my situation; but believing right off the bat, I think, is not as critical as the doing part.  Step 7 has more to do with the doing, the asking.  As we do it, again and again and again, we come to believe.

I think kind words grow kindness, and angry words grow anger.  I can’t take words back after they have left my lips.  So it is with Step 7.  Humble words grow humility.  As I ask my higher power to remove my shortcomings, when I am sincerely humble in the asking, this is what creates the power of Step 7.

This evening we talked a lot about getting dressed, with DH saying there are two ways to get dressed here.  We can put on our “old” soiled clothes, these being our old ideas and old beliefs; and by noticing this, paying attention, engaging in the moment, we can take inventory of the situation.  Being aware of my old pattern(s), I don’t like the way I am feeling right now.  I don’t like the way I look in these old clothes.

Arrgh, it’s time for me to change out of these old clothes. “God, please help me to get out of these old clothes and put on fresh new ones.”

I decide to get dressed again, get dressed, now I’m ready for the day.  I decide to do Step 7, do it to the best of my ability, then onto Step 8.

One person brought it all to what is challenging for him today.  He’s in his 70s and has health matters that are not going away.  No longer can he do things today that he could six months ago.  He called his sponsor yesterday to say that now “I realize I must change the way I do things today.”  In his case he is experiencing physical shortcomings.  Not asking God to remove them, he said he’s asking for help in living with the way his body works today.  “If I’m out of breath, then sit down, rather than physically pushing myself too far.”

As much as I’d rather not admit, I sometimes “forget” how readily Step 7 is available to me…until the time comes when I do it.  When the time comes is the natural sequence of things. 

Like right now, finishing up here,  it will be time to take a walk.

Bill K.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Time for Step Seven this month...

Hello Everyone,

Something to sit with.  July brings us Step 7 and this koan:

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: When the time comes to do so, put on your clothes. If you want to walk, walk.  If you want to sit, sit.

Bill K.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Step 6: "It's dark, dark."

It's dark, dark...
Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Koan: A teacher and student talked far into the night. “It’s getting late,” said the teacher, “time for you to leave.”  The student opened the door, looked out saying, “It’s dark, dark.” The teacher lit a candle and handed it to the student.  Just as the student was about to take the candle, the teacher blew it out.

Gateless Barrier #28

…It’s dark… There’s the turning out of lights at bedtime. Trust, no fears, no doubt, just the ease of falling asleep.

…dark… and we see here, dark, dark… the the fear and doubt of the darkness outside.  Am I unsure my defects of character can be removed…that my H.P. could do this?

…the teacher lit a candle… A sense of gratitude may have appeared in the student, the candle will help ease the fear of what is out there in the dark.  I am ready to go now.  My sponsor is a teacher of sorts.

…the teacher blew it out…  Oh no, I’m scared again.  Why did the teacher blow out my candle and put me back into a state of fear? There must be a lesson in this.

Perhaps the teacher (my sponsor) is telling me that I don’t need the candle, to have faith in myself. When I’m ready, God is ready.  When I’m willing to put my life into the hands of God, what is there to fear? By doing this I’ve discovered that I have my own light that comes from within -- candle of trust, a light of readiness.

…time for you to leave… to leave that feeling of being left in the dark, to leave the feeling of what could happen, that I’m not prepared -- to leave the conversation with my sponsor about Steps 4 and 5 and move on. . My H.P. and Step 6 (and 7) shine brightly.

All of this happens, simply by flipping the switch of readiness. I still need to be reminded of this all the time.  What or who can I rely upon in situations of darkness?  Step 6 reminds me, its my Higher Power of course! Step 6 is putting Step 3 into action.

In sitting with koans, any part of a koan will do.  This time it was the word “dark” that kept appearing.  This, in turn brought to mind Shitou xiquian and an excerpt from his “Taking Part in the Gathering” as it appears in our sutra book:
The darkness is inside the bright,
But don’t look only with the eyes of the dark.
The brightness is inside the dark,
But don’t look only through the eye of the bright.
Bright and dark are a pair,
Like the front foot and back foot walking.

Bill K.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Step 6

 Start your sitting... Here is what we will be sitting with this month:

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


A teacher and student talked far into the night. “It’s getting late,” said the teacher, “time for you to leave.”  The student opened the door, looked out saying, “It’s dark, dark.” The teacher lit a candle and handed it to the student.  Just as the student was about to take the candle, the teacher blew it out.
Gateless Barrier #28

Bill K.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Step 5, Growing from the mud...

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

Koan: “From the mud grows the lotus.”

Our society has a thing about dirt and mud, equating it to germs and something that may harm us.  Mud is bad. There is the striving for the cleanest laundry, carpets, floors, countertops, glassware, and cars, etc.

Then again, I’ve read that kids who grow up on farms and ranches, because of being exposed to myriad forms of bacteria, microbes, and yes, “germs”, have a stronger and more robust immune system than city kids.  It’s because these kids are exposed to more dirt, mud and manure. So bad mud can be good mud.

We come into AA caked with varying amounts of our “muddiness” and dirt, accumulated over our drinking years.  In Step 4 we uncover the muddy and dirty parts of our being.  In Step 5 we air our dirty laundry not in public, but with our sponsor, perhaps wondering what any of this has to do with staying sober.

“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experiences can benefit others.” (p. 84)

  • No matter how much mud and dirt we’ve accumulated
  • We will see how our muddiness can help others
  • If our 4th Step is mud
  • Then our 5th Step is a way to boost the spiritual immune system

Step 5 is the beginning of acknowledging and letting go of our muddy past actions (character defects and wrongdoings). From this we are on our way in becoming a different person, principally by putting others before self.

“In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world.”  And there are other ways to look at this.  Take light and darkness – we cannot have one without the other.  The lotus needs mud for its very survival.  No mud, no lotus.  This saying would be quite fitting, hanging on the wall at any 12 Step meeting.

In Step 4 we become aware and take ownership of our truth.  Muddy parts and all, this is life.  What Roger said he finds helpful comes from Eckhart Tolle, something to the effect:  "Life – it’s all part of a higher good.”  In Step 5, it’s the higher good of truth that sets us free.

Think about 1934.  Alcoholics Anonymous did not exist yet.  The first 100 members of AA were still deep into their full-blown self-centered alcoholic disease, muddying their lives and those around them.  In a short four or five years, growing from the dedicated work of these very same people, a lotus flower bloomed -- the AA Big Book became reality.  This flower of sobriety continues to bloom each time a 5th Step is completed – from our muddy past grows a flower.

Bill K.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


It's springtime, May is just around the corner...

What comes up for you with this koan and Step 5? 

We'll be meeting, as usual, on the second Friday of May, the 12th.

Is your practice growing? 

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

Koan: “From the mud grows the lotus.”

Bill K.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: Someone asked his teacher, “But what about during disasters?”

She responded, “That’s it, too.”


And there are disasters that occur solely between my ears.
When we find ourselves in a situation we deem disasterous, it usually is, or becomes one. Doing Step 4 was not disasterous for me; but many a time I’ve heard where others bolted from AA at the thought of taking a moral inventory.  This could very well be the greater disaster than looking at one’s past actions.

In no way am I discounting disasters like bombings or tornados, etc. In these cases,
a majority of people rise to their highest level, risking their own life in helping others.  This koan applies to all disasters, including the stories we make up in our minds. That’s it, too.

I was drawn to the “it” in this koan. I have to show up for my life – this is it.  The landscape of reality, my life as I know it right now – this is it. Watching my landscape go by or ignoring it altogether, this is it.  Step 4 gave me an awareness of and insight to my behavior.  Yes, it was uncomfortable for me.  Sometimes it feels like sobriety is sending me to the front lines of my life. It is the Steps that show me how to respond.

I believe every one of the Twelve Steps is an awakening of sorts, but I didn’t always realize it at the time. The Steps are in order to facilitate these awakenings. Without taking the Step 4 inventory to the best of my ability at the time, I wouldn’t have anything available to go onto Step 5. “Step 4 is getting to know yourself,” said E., “And eventually being OK with who we are.  The “it” is the OK-ness.

H. was not focusing on “it” at all.  And on the topic of disasters, said he didn't think he has ever been in a disaster,  “Dangerous situations, yes, but not any disasters.” He calls Steps 4-10 his inventory Steps.  His ongoing prayers and practice are looking at himself and his role on a daily basis.

The “it” for M. was about rewards and payback for doing each Step.  In this case, Step 4, “Am I going to be OK after doing this?  Does God still have my back?”  For her, the answer has been yes.

In my Zen practice I’ve worked with the koans in a book called The Gateless Barrier. The same book by a different author is called The Gateless Gate.

As I continued sitting with this koan, I realized that “It” goes beyond my personal landscape of life, deeper into what is. You see, these dharma gates are always available to me under any condition. Others might say this is God’s message being revealed.  It can happen at any circumstance.

·      What about during fun times?  That’s it, too.

·      What about when working Step 4?  That’s it too.

“It” is the gate to awakening.  Some may think Step 4 is a barrier.  No, no, no.  Looking back on it now, it was the gate that opened up the rest of the Steps.

H. spoke again at the end of our meeting, telling us that, as a child he suffered from horrendously abusive parents. “I just realized that my childhood was a disaster. For countless years I wrestled with my role, questioning my relationship with my parents. It was when I worked the Fourth Step that I acknowledged I was the victim.   That’s it!  I found my true self in this matter and could move on.

On the drive home, H. was still wondering, “What was it for me to talk about my childhood tonight? The words just came out.”

I assured him that what he said was a perfect example of tonight’s koan in action.  And fortunately for the rest of us, we got to share his experience.

Bill K.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Time to Play With Our April Koan...

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: Someone asked his teacher, “But what about during disasters?”

         She responded, “That’s it, too.”

This thing I call 12 & Zen;  and by using koans in a non-traditional way, we play.

Playing a Step off a koan and playing a koan off a Step can bring about a new awareness. 

It’s like hitting the refresh button on your computer.  Twelve and Zen is a 12-Step refresh button!

Are you ready to play?

Bill K.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Essential Source of Step 3

Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Koan: “…with whatever meets your eye being nothing other than the essential source.”  Daoxin (580-651) The 4th Zen ancestor

This Step and koan has, over the past two weeks, taken me all over the map.

It was one of those times when my words were not enough; and not finding a corresponding definition to my experience. Then, of all places while reading an NPR article on my iPad, the answer appeared.

·      “…praying to the ultimate power behind all things.”

No longer feeling stuck, these words made sense to me, and my working with Step 3 and a Higher Power of my understanding.

Bill W. wrote: "The phrase 'God as we understand him' is perhaps the most important expression to be found in our whole AA vocabulary.”

I had a similar experience when coming across the sentence fragment that became the koan we’re sitting with today.  What our eyes meet is the essential source?  Of course! It corresponds well with the Big Book: “…I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, or thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” came to mind. The essential source of ultimate power is in each and every moment.  This is what God, the Universe, is giving to us.

·      Higher Power, essential source, ultimate power, at this moment

Being in my 70s now, health matters seem to be coming at me faster than I would prefer.  My cardiologist said my A-fib has returned so not only increased the dosage of my blood pressure med, he added a “blood thinner” to boot.  My family doctor says I am at a pre-diabetic level and need to start doing something about that (or more meds).  And then there’s surgery coming up at the end of the month for an inguinal hernia.  I’m falling apart.

One morning late in February on my usual walk with Ryla, maybe I was thinking of my mortality when I wrote O vast Ocean.

Ryla, about 8 weeks old
It brought me comfort actually, as the verse would appear while walking on following days. One thought came up though, that it’s only the wave’s shape or “waveness” that’s returns.  The wave is the ocean; the ocean is the wave; another view of the essential source of Step Three.  It’s all happening at the same time, from a Zen perspective, form is emptiness and emptiness is form.

Which brings me to our beloved Ryla, while walking about the neighborhood on the first day of March, I’m abiding in the ocean and waves and the Source, when I stopped to and say hello to Norm.  I had seen him before but just learned his name.  He was loading up his SUV, to drive to UC Davis with Maggie, one of his dogs.  Maggie has cancer and goes to Davis for treatments.  Norm was telling me of how he is spoiling Maggie and feeding her chicken-apple sausages as “enhancements” for her meals, so she’ll feel better.

“Ryla is having health issues, too,” I said.  I could feel the lump in my throat growing as I told him that she has Liver Storage Disease, and how it’s become incredibly stressful for us all.

Things seemed to be going well.  She had gained some weight back (47 to 50).  But of late she decided she didn't like the dry dog food anymore.   She stopped taking her meds no matter how we tried to hide them, so I had to pry open her mouth and stuff them way back in her mouth, close it shut and see if she swallowed (4 times a day). 

I couldn’t go on speaking and lost it.  We hugged each other.  We understood each other because we’re dog people. I continued on our walk.

Then it struck me, the verse wasn’t about me; it was about Ryla and her condition.  In Step 3 there’s a lot about my will and God’s will, with the object being, of course, to align with God’s will, the will of the essential source, as I see it now.  There was a time when Ryla would eat the dog food and accept the pills readily.  All was good.  But for whatever reason, Ryla began telling us she doesn’t like her present condition of nasty-tasting pills and dog food.   I wasn’t paying attention.

Ryla, March 2017
Thanks to Norm and my bumpy conversation, there came a total shift in attitude.  When we got home, I told Beth what had happened.  We didn’t have to convince the other – we both knew the decision -- we immediately stopped all of Ryla’s meds and special dog food.  That evening Ryla gobbled down some chicken-apple sausages in warm broth.  She loved it.  We knew we had made the right decision.  This is what she wanted.

The next day our household was in a different dimension, we all were happier and our hearts lighter.  We fixed Ryla scrambled eggs for brunch.  We shower her with extra belly rubs and scratching her ears a certain way.  She returns wags, nudges, and brings me one of her toys to play with.  We still walk every morning. This we will continue to do…until one day, she will tell us that she’s had enough.   She will leave us one day, but not from our hearts. I must remind myself that her essential source is always right here before my eyes.

Bill K.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Give me the reaching...

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

Koan: A student said to Yunmen, “I’m reaching for the light. Please help me.
Yunmen replied, “Forget about the light, give me the reaching.”

 “Came to believe…

Out of college, we moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains in August, 1970.  It was that summer when I saw that huckleberries were ripe, and nearby.  Sure, I had tasted huckleberries before, a few berries at a time; but now I wanted to bake a whole pie.

With a one-pound coffee can in hand I begin to pick berries.  They aren’t very large you know, the largest only a quarter inch or so in diameter.  Reaching for the berries, plink, plink, plink as they bounced off the bottom of the can. 

After a while I looked down at the can of huckleberries – geez, there’s only an inch of berries at the bottom, "It's going to take me a very long time to fill the can," I muttered.  But I kept on picking, reaching for the dark maroon-colored “orb-lets”, and of course sampling a few before they made it into the can. Slowly the can filled, only by my reaching for the next cluster.

"Came to believe that the can would eventually become filled.... 

Long story short, I filled the can and we had one great tasting huckleberry pie.

Now, about this reaching for a power greater than I,  and that I’m supposed to believe in?  What I’ve found:

  •       Reading the Big Book is reaching
  •       Working with a sponsor is reaching
  •      Talking with friends is reaching
  •    Being patient is reaching
  •       Listening is reaching
  •    Paying attention is reaching

Prayers and meditation are like this, too; even the feeblest ones…they are all reaching.  And if we continue the reaching, our lives will be full.

Dale told us he’s very fond of Step Two.  It’s not always about finding the Big Kahuna type higher power; it can be very practical in his daily life.  Being restored to sanity is the important part and reaching this place is the core of this Step.  "Reaching a level of sanity and being restored to a state of peace so I can go on with matters.  A person can say something that brings about a re-centering and my obstacle is gone. In this moment, that other person is a greater power.  The funny thing is that much of the time, that person has no idea how much they helped me."

- - -

Nina from Oregon writes:

I love the koan you have chosen for step two.... and the mistaken idea that once you have god and he restores your sanity your problems are solved all is good   end of story. Faith is a relationship   malleable changeable.... we get peace serenity inner emotional maturity when we really work program are open to god's intention for us   and really work to live that plan god has made...and we also toss those things away when we decide to run our show ourselves.  Faith god serenity sanity    solid sobriety    all are things that have to be worked.... our sobriety is a lifelong process of   inviting god in to guide us   deciding to pay attention to what he tells us    and then either living by or not living by his plan.... its the reaching    that is important.... without reaching for god for faith for guidance for his intention     we are stuck in ourselves with our own small futile plans...and no sanity is possible....

Sanity might be one way god's grace (his working presence within us and in our lives) manifests...there are many other ways...

- - -

Keep on reaching and you'll see that your "can of life" is filled to the brim.  The spiritual ways we work the 12 Steps (more reaching) are as varied as our finger prints.

Bill K.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hello All,

Having had a bout with the flu, I'm back among the living!   The koan I had planned for January,  we'll see it again later on this year.  In the mean time ...

We'll be meeting on the second Friday in February, the 10th.  Here is what we'll be sitting with...

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

Koan:  A student said to Yunmen, “I’m reaching for the light. Please help me.

Yunmen replied, “Forget about the light, give me the reaching.”

Bill K.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 2017 Step and Koan


 I apologize for this additional email to you all -- it's the only way I can contact local people.  This is the first time we've cancelled.

12 & Zen is CANCELLED for January.  We plan to resume meeting in February (second Friday).

The reasons being:

The county is being hit particularly hard with the flu (influenza), I being one of them.  I'm well along recovering but that also means there are many others contracting this bug.  I'll give you an example, at our Tuesday meeting there are six of us who sit in this one corner --all of us caught it recently.

We're experiencing one of the strongest storm(s) in a decade.  Have had more than 7 inches in the past week.  Today's total (so far) is 2.65 inches.

High winds are toppling trees across roads and such, downing power lines in places.

Flooding is occurring throughout the county.  No problem in my neighborhood but definitely a problem for people who are trying to drive to neighboring towns.

Even though the rains are predicted to subside on Thursday/Friday, there are other treacherous situations out there. This is probably one of those "better safe than sorry" decisions where people would have to drive in these conditions at night in order to reach the zendo.

Take good care of yourselves, drink plenty of water, and stay home this coming Friday.


- - -

 Hello All:

A new year and a new change.  I'll be giving out each month's Step and Koan and posting it here instead of just sending it out to those on my reminder list.

This way everyone can begin sitting for a week or so before we meet locally on the second Friday.

And also, this is probably a good way to begin any month.

Bill K.

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

Koan: "Why can't the person of great strength lift their leg?"

  ~   Gateless Barrier, Case 20


 - - -