Once upon a time I lived in Alabama and had a 52-mile daily drive to work at a NASA facility in Mississippi, which gave me a lot of time to think. At one point on the trip you pass eight churches in ten miles — a friend referred to that stretch as “The highway to heaven” — and seeing weddings, funerals, and other gatherings at those churches led me to think about life, death, and spirituality.
I was very aware that I was a spiritual being since I was 16, but despite that I never cared for a religious framework; every church I’d ever been to seemed superficial compared to what I had experienced. That being said, I always thought prayer was a good thing — it helped to create a proper state of mind — so I tried to come up my own prayer, something I could believe in.
One idea I came up with was to write some sort of prayer that would honor the ancestors that led to my life on Earth. But, I thought, a problem with this approach was that my ancestors weren’t all that honorable. My mom is probably the nicest person in the world, so there was no problem there, but without getting into details, my dad, my grandparents, aunts and uncles ... there weren’t many people I was concerned about honoring.
“I’ve stuck with Zen because it is unflinchingly honest, but at the same time accepting, kind, and caring — not in a soft syrupy way, but in a rugged, rough and tumble way. To become clear you have to see what’s really there, all the mental junk you’ve made and accumulated over the years. The honesty will force you to acknowledge the parts of yourself you’d rather keep hidden. The acceptance allows you to look at the less savory parts of your self without being overly self-critical.”
~ from this kwanumzen.org page
From an interview with Zen Master Bon Shim, for people who live with a lot of fear, worries, and insecurity:
Question: Do you feel that Zen has helped you?
Zen Master Bon Shim: Yes, yes, tremendously. I was a different person forty years ago. I was always very scared, scared of life, of people, of situations.