Since the days of the hippies, many of what used to be considered "counter culture" have become mainstream; yoga, spirituality, marijuana, long hair, colorful clothes, meditation, incense, environmental awareness, vegetarianism, organic farming, plant medicine, health, anti-government. This obviously, is all good. And of course, there is little awareness or appreciation of how much good the hippy movement has brought into the world, and some people still think of hippies as dirty druggies which they were, but actually only a minority, because like any large, amorphous group, one will find a huge array of variations.
The popularity and comprehension of what is Zen, is another outgrowth of the hippies. And I want to bring clarity to this concept of "being zen". As always, I can only offer my opinions, and these, therefore are not presented as "facts". Zen could be thought of as the oppositie of neurotic. Zen is always being "on target". Think of the zen archer. Zen is not doing too much and not doing too little. Zen is not doing something ahead of time or too late. Zen is not saying things that are unnecessary or redundant, Zen is not wasting anything. Zen is not worrying, but rather, only having concerns. Zen is maintaining equanimity and remaining calm under all circumstances. This last one is what distinguishes a "master", because this could be the most difficult to attain, that is, an unshakeable equanimity. This one takes the most inner work. Probably to attain this, one must first be connected deeply with the infinite peace that underlies all existence (maybe). A certain detachment is necessary.
The other element that I believe is crucial in one's spiritual development is to remove all the blocks that keeps one's heart from opening to love. Imagine that who we all really are, is love (the verb). Everything else is hubris, ego, superficial, we just might be the embodiment of love.
If we can just be our true selves which is the same as being true to oneself. We need to know what is blocking our hearts from being wide open. Our cultures really gives us a lot of beliefs that are not actually true; one is the materialistic view of most everything, especially ourselves. Seeing ourselves as a "thing", a body, a personality, a separate entity, a human being. This is a materialistic concept of who we are. We come out of our mothers with the ability to transform energy from the sun into diferentiated cells that grow continuously until eventually the body loses its ability to do this and we "die". Initially this solar energy comes to us in the form of mother's milk. It had to go through many transmutations to finally come into our bodies as babies, and then more transmutations to utilize this energy for the cells to grow and differentiate. The only thing the baby has to do, is suck on it's mother's breast, the rest is done without the need of any conscious decisions or acts. It is all done for us. We don't ever have to know why or how. We can call it a "miraculous gift", the opportunity to experience "life".
As we grow in our consciousness, we discover that many things are unclear, that life is a mystery. What are we supposed to do with it? Freud clarified the parameters of human behavior as seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. On one level that seems to be true. Marshall Rosenburg, the founder of non-violent communication (cnvc.org) describe human behavior as always simply attempting to satisfy needs, consciously or unconsciously. Maslow was perhaps the first to make a list of what seems to be the essential needs of humans and there is a list on the cnvc.org website.
What might be the main thing that hangs people up from just "being love" is all this confusion about who we are. The ego (that who we believe we are but really aren't) never feels that it is worthy enough. It constantly needs bolstering. It makes loving oneself 100%, 100% impossible. Then to complicate matters, there are all those things that happened to us as children that robbed us of our dignity and self respect, that got buried in our unconscious, since we had no idea how to effectively deal with these traumatic experiences and often had no wise adult to help us through them. So one must get out of the domination of the ego, to stop identifying with "yourself", which sounds pretty tricky because it is. One might constantly ask oneself, am I doing this to satisfy my ego or am I doing this out of love? It might help to realize that whatever serves the ego doesn't serve your higher self, and to step out of competing and comparing. Humility, feeling neither greater or lesser in your essence than anyone else is a prerequisite. If I sound like an old hippy, its because I am one, though young at heart, and still sound in body and mind.