So, what is really Zen practice? When I did not know much about Zen and started my practice, it did appear something incomprehensible and mysterious to me but over time my understanding of Zen is that is simply awareness. Be aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. It sounds very simple and we tend to think that we are already doing it. We think that before we undertake any action, we know the what and why behind it. But do we really know? How many things we do because of peer pressure or because of habit or because of social conditioning or simply because of convenience? And how many times do we realize that everything that we do has an effect and it matters, howsoever trivial it might look. Every breath that we take results in CO2 that feeds the plants.
So, what does awareness do? How does it affect the bottom line? Let me tell you, it is one of the most difficult tasks to observe oneself...:) It is lot more easier to watch TV or listen to music than to just sit silently with only oneself for company. My experience is awareness is the key that unlocks the door to contentment and peace. Mind you, I am not saying the door to happiness. Happiness is whole another post. Awareness allows one to judge consequences of one's actions prior to performing it and observe how mind interprets pleasure and pain and attaches itself to these. It allows one to see real nature of phenomena and its life. This in turn leads to more and more wholesome action and less clinging to things that are impermanent - they may give short term please but they will disappear eventually.