We may think that Zen is about sitting in full lotus, or about wearing robes and chanting. We may be concerned with karma, reincarnation, or how we as humans suffer. I think all these things are worth looking at, but not without ourselves as the primary focus. If we could boil Zen down to its basic ingredient, what would it be? Zen doesn't exist without me, or without you. To me Zen is just a mirror, showing me that I am it. If I am it, what else is there? Sure we can be "mindful," but do we know it is ourselves that is happening? Can we really use our Zen with precision as Sensei did?
I used to practice Mindfulness as a concept, as a tool to move into a different understanding. When we see it as "Mindfulness," that's just what it is. I think this way of practice is very hard. It is as if we are trying to control the present moment, or at least control ourselves. There is something we are supposed to be doing and in turn something should not do. So eventually we slip into the fantasy of we ought not to do. Then we may say,"Zen is freakin' hard," which is true because we are missing the foundation of Zen. We miss ourselves.
Concepts are not necessarily a problem. They are just something we normal adhere to, so naturally we must learn a new perspective. The imprisonment of our own ideas is a road we really don't want to be on anyway. Have you ever done something or said something and in the back of your mind known this is not right? I know I have. That feeling of not having a way out of my habitual tendencies is what can be understood as Dukkha, or suffering. We suffer in a self made prison. We have not left a single gate open to grant ourselves freedom. Zen can be that gate. A way out of our own hell.
When I sit in Raw Mind ideas still happen, but they're not the only thing happening. The broad awareness of Raw Mind includes all things, even the ego. This is how Raw Mind offers freedom. The freedom to live and die. A friend once said to me, "I am tired of living." Then die, I say. Die and be reborn in each moment. This is true freedom. This is how we can use our Zen. I was reading in The Gateless Barrier about how in ancient China it was the custom for Zen practitioners to greet each other through a challenge of the Dharma. In fact this is how Koans have come into formal Zen practice. Truly, when ever we meet someone the Dharma is challenging us naturally. As I have said before, Everything is a Koan. I think it would cool to see a Zen culture like this develop in America, or at least Tulsa.