What is Zen Practice?
The fundamental practice of Zen Buddhism is meditation, or zazen. In essence, zazen is being present, without adding like or dislike, grasping or aversion to our immediate experience. Zazen is not a means to an end, but the ongoing practice of freedom from suffering. By keeping a spacious mind through whatever physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions arise, we see their evanesence and non-attachment develops. Thus, we become increasingly able to face and accept the inevitable changes and difficulties that life brings us.
Zen Practice is also a way of becoming more intimately present and engaged with our life, in all of our activities. We must admit that much of our life is spent lost in thought. We miss the present when we are distracted by worries about the future, regrets about the past, or fantasies. The ability to be engaged in our life can be cultivated and grown over time, and Zen practice seeks to do just that. Through our engagement with life we can connect with what moves our heart. In doing so, and as the imagined barriers between self and other drop away, we begin to find joy in benefiting those around us, and in taking care of the world.
Over time we become intimate with the truth that everything we experience is our own life, which is fine, just as it is. From this perspective nothing that happens is a problem, just something to respond to. This response can be made from a place of choice, and being able to make a choice about our response, even in difficult situations, is liberating. This is guided by our practice of the Bodhisattva precepts, so that our growing freedom is balanced by self-discipline and a concern for the benefit of others.