All of us are living confined within the great matter of birth and death and I would add, face even more cycles of birth and death. Few of us take into consideration how birth and death are to be transcended; that within each of us is the embryo of the tathagata which is outside of the cycles of birth and death which we have not as yet intuited so as to see it, directly.
Most of us believe that there are more pressing matters right now: feeding our families, paying off our college loan, putting money aside for our retirement and so on. We have no time to consider what in Zen is called keeping an eye on the huatou (看箇話頭), the word huatou 話頭 meaning pre-thought or ante-word which is pure Mind before it is stirred by thinking. Seeing this Mind is also spiritually seeing, directly, the tathagata embryo.
Maybe, from a guilty conscience, we will do zazen. But just sitting cross-legged is not all that effective for breaking through the matter of birth and death. Keeping an eye on the huatou, that is, looking within to see pure Mind is better. But it ain’t easy. As the reader can understand, staying glued to keeping an eye on the huatou much of the day is not going to happen, not with a mind filled and engaged with worries and desires. Nevertheless this is the practice of Zen called gongfu (工夫) which refers to the non-martial arts use of the term. It means any expenditure of time and energy in study and/or practice. Doing both zazen and keeping an eye on the huatou is Zen gongfu.
Still, we have to do it because awakening to pure Mind means, above all, we are able to transcend the great matter of birth and death.. And what you imagine it to be is nothing at all like actually accomplishing this awakening.