I often think of myself as having what I call a "zen core". Down inside I'm grounded. I believe everything happens for a reason and I have a lot of faith in The Universe and karma. I know everything is always going to work out in the end. I practice kindness and compassion. I think everyone has their own story that motivates their actions and therefore try not to take anything personally. However, in between my core and the rest of the world there's another layer. Sometimes it's a thick layer that hides my true self and causes me to be prone to anxiety and outbursts. Other times it's thin and I feel calm, safe and able to me my true self. I am continuously on a journey to cause that shell to become so thin that it eventually disappears.
According to The Oxford Dictionary, zen is a noun: a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition. The way we use the word today is different. It typically is used to mean a state of calmness, a togetherness of mind and body.
I'm currently reading a book called The Dude and The Zen Master. It was written by Jeff Bridges, who played The Dude in The Big Lebowski, and Bernie Glassman who has been Bridge's Beddhist teacher turned close friend. The idea of the book is that many people see The Dude as a Zen Master. The book is a collection of conversations between the two men on this and other thoughts on living well and doing good.
What I've come to realize from this and other books I've written on the subject, is that zen is a little different for everyone. For me, it's about getting to that place of loving myself and being untouched by what others think of me or comparing myself to others. It's about staying calm in the face of anxious thoughts and letting them pass because in the end, everything will work out so I might as well not throw a fit. Some days I'm totally zen, other days not even close. But if I can reach it on some days, I know I can reach it on all days. One of the most important things I've learned on my journey is to stop and ask "What would serve me best?". When I answer that question honestly and follow through, I am peeling back my shell and truly being myself.