I vaguely remember the general moment when it dawned on me that what I was doing in the zendo was pretty damn ordinary. I sat. I breathed. And when I did more than sit and breathe, I came back to sitting and breathing. Even while working on the first koan, it never got much beyond this, except that breathing and "muing" were now intertwined until even sitting and breathing and muing became sitting-breathing-muing.
I also vaguely remember the general moment when it dawned on me that the difficulties I was having in practice were directly related to the conduct of my life. If I was going to have obstructionless zazen, I needed to be living a more obstructionless life. Coming to see how I actually acted in the world rather than how I thought I acted in the world was instructive. And sobering. And completely free of glitz. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I recently came across this bit of "Zen humor" on a Buddhist blog:
It's funny because it's true. And it's because it's true that so few people practice Zen over the long haul. One has to be really comfortable with boring, and plain, and unexciting, and unglitzy in order to stay with it.
Either that, or one has to be so sick of exciting, and fascinating, and fast, and showy that one figures there's nowhere else to go. (I think that was my point of entry.)
Last night a visitor came to his first formal sitting with any center or temple. After explaining the "25 minutes, no moving" rule (it was Beginner's Night), he offered that he hadn't engaged in any form of common spiritual practice in a decade (and he was lucky to be in his 20's). The upshot was that he liked to do it his way and did not like to be corralled into a herd.
He made it through the evening and sat stock still the whole time, though, so who knows? Maybe already he's sensing the limits of doing it his way and that the end of suffering means checking one's preferences at the door.