From time to time, even dedicated practitioners of zazen may lose sight of the ultimate aim of their practice. In her essay "What is Zen?" Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi, Abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo and the Zen Center of Syracuse, offers this advice:
"What is Zen? It’s both something we are—our true nature expressing itself moment by moment—and something we do—a disciplined practice through which we can realize the joy of being. It is not a belief system to which one converts. There is no dogma or doctrine. Zen is the direct experience of what we might call ultimate reality, or the absolute, yet it is not separate from the ordinary, the relative. This direct experience is our birthright. The practice of zazen—meditation—is a way of realizing the non-dualistic, vibrant, subtle, and interconnected nature of all life. . . .
"So, again, what is Zen? Stop now. Stop trying to get an intellectual lock on something that is vast and boundless, far more than the rational mind can grasp. Just breathe in with full awareness. Taste the breath. Appreciate it fully. Now breathe out, slowly, with equal appreciation. Give it all away; hold onto nothing. Breathe in with gratitude; breathe out with love. Receiving and offering—this is what we are doing each time we inhale and exhale. To do so with conscious awareness, on a regular basis, is the transformative practice we call Zen."