Practice in Zen often means pushing ourselves to enlightenment or in Soto Zen, doing zazen as much as we can manage, letting our Buddha-nature naturally emerge. The other alternative is to read some Zen books and do nothing other than what it takes to stay alive in sound health, happily following the yellow brick road of Darwinian fitness.
Both approaches, it is reasonable to say, involve some kind of beneficial, purposive activity. But the required purposive activity can easily amount to wishful thinking with a few halfhearted attempts at zazen. Or turn into “do nothing Zen” which is a sham serving to hide the fact that we are nothing more than a couch potato who likes to read koans once in a while.
But what if we decide to get gung-ho and really go after enlightenment, pushing our self night and day? We can become skeptical. Will this kind of effort suffice? On the same note, we can excessively question such an undertaking until we rob ourselves of any and all enthusiasm to enter the crucible that may take us one day to yonder shore of enlightenment.
If we finally decide to get gung-ho pushing our self we just can’t do it blindly. There has to be something else we are pushing towards. To push our self, properly, means to look, inwardly, for pure Mind, that is, mind which is unstirred or unagitated rather than our familiar mind which is always disturbed and changing—the monkey mind.
Pushing then involves the purposive activity of looking deep within for pure Mind every waking hour no matter if we are cutting firewood, making a pot of coffee, rolling a cigarette, doing zazen or going on a ten mile hike. I would call this the way of Occam's razor or basically, keep it simple stupid.
We also have to do this in isolation to get as close as we can to our finitude and mortality feeling as if death is always hovering over our shoulder and the only way out of this difficult situation is to see pure Mind. Yep, this is not easy. But the history of Zen informs us that the path is almost always difficult.