from Everyday Zen: Love & Work, by Charlotte Joko Beck

Generally we look at life in terms of two questions: “Will I get something out of this?” or “Will this hurt me?” We may seem serene, but under that surface of serenity these two questions bubble and boil. We come to a spiritual practice like Zen trying to find the peace and satisfaction that has so far eluded us, and what do we do? We take the same habits that we lived with all our lives and put our practice into that same framework. We set up one goal after another, continuing this lifelong habit of running after something: “I wonder how many koans I can pass this sesshin”; or “I’ve been sitting longer than she, but she seems to be progressing more quickly”; or “My zazen was so wonderful yesterday—if only I could get it back again.” In one way or another, our approach to practice is based on the same struggle to achieve something: to be recognized by our peers, to be important in the Zen world, to find a safe hole to hide in. We’re doing the same thing we’ve always done; we’re expecting something (in this case Zen practice) to give us satisfaction and safety.