Those new to Zen (I am speaking from my own memories) are, in a way, trying to step through the looking-glass (Lewis Carrol). My philosophy teacher tried to explain it to me then gave up and told me to read D.T. Suzuki, which I did. I was still confronting the looking-glass. After I made my robes at the Zen Temple I imagined I had become Zen-ized. To tell you the truth, despite my time with a Zen abbot I had not stepped through the looking-glass. I had to do a lot more. The message the Zen books conveyed to me was almost incomprehensible. I was able to fake Zen like my teacher. I could live in the moment fully aware without missing a beat. But being mindful and alert was easy for me. I didn’t see much of this in the Zen stories I read and studied.
To step through the looking-glass for me meant to seek what is beyond the ken of the conditioned world; certainly beyond my temporal thoughts and my internal dialogue. It is not as easy as one might imagine. I didn’t mind living with the Abbot but then I was too young to know shit from Shinola. My immaturity was substantial which had to be corrected. As fate would have it I left the abbot. By that time I understood that within my mind was the beginning of my spiritual journey—that suddenly, one day or one night, I would see my true nature. This is when I stepped through the looking-glass. The former world I saw was no longer the true world; nor yet did I see my true nature. I was in limbo, so to speak. This paradoxical condition forced me to look even deeper within my self.
This deeper looking I learned about in a lecture given by Nippo Shaku in 1969 at San Jose State College. I couldn’t explain it at the time except to say that in my monkey mind was a mysterious, pure nature that I was not seeing and try as I looked during meditation and walking it just wouldn’t reveal itself to me. Despite the odds I pushed on undaunted somehow knowing I was on the right track. I eventually saw this mysterious nature. I dare say far too many are unwilling to step through my looking-glass. They are simply caught up in being aware and doing zazen. That's not real Zen.