People have so many exotic ideas about what Zen is and isn't. It's not really so important what you think Zen is. It's more important that you find a way to appreciate Zen in your everyday life through how you work with yourself, how you preform daily routines and how you relate to others. In the end this amounts to trusting in your own natural openness which is based on a mindful awareness that is not something we can grasp in a merely conceptual way. Trance of Unworthiness In her book, "Radical Acceptance", Tara Brach says "Because so many of us grew up without a cohesive and nourishing sense of family, neighborhood, community or 'tribe,' it is not surprising that we feel like outsiders, on our own and disconnected. We learn early in life that any affliction–with family and friends, at school or in the workplace–requires proving that we are worthy. We are under pressure to compete with each other, to get ahead, to stand out as intelligent, attractive, capable, powerful, wealthy." So it's no wonder that you might feel inadequate and unsure of yourself.
When you are disconnected from yourself through this trance of unworthiness it's easy to get stuck in your mind, with increasing thoughts and ruminations about the nature of your problem. This trance of unworthiness is accompanied by a strong "inner critic", an inner voice in yourself that is constantly keeping score and judging you when you fall short of the mark.
Living a Life of Openness Breaking the trance begins by cultivating a quality of attention born from a regular mindfulness meditation practice. This embodied awareness is anchored to the breath which continually bring your attention back to the present moment. This is refreshing as you don't bring along with this the baggage of self-incrimination that is fueled by your constant ruminations and thoughts.
There is some richness within yourself, waiting to be discovered. It is unconditional so it doesn't need anyone else's confirmation. Opening is enough. You can learn to trust this kind of awareness that doesn't rely at all on your conceptual mind. This is how living a life of openness begins to break the trance of unworthiness.
Connecting with Others We live in a complex world. So it's easy to understand how you might be overwhelmed. When you contract into the trance of unworthiness this vicious cycle feeds on itself and its easy to become increasingly isolated, lonely and alienated.
Living a Zen-inspired life begins by learning to slow down and find time to be still. When you keep company with yourself in this gentle way you begin to restore some natural balance and sanity. A regular practice of mindfulness meditation goes a long ways towards encouraging you to take the time to honor and acknowledge this space of empathic awareness.
This kind of personal attunement can help you begin to be more empathically connected to others. You can even learn to remain connected to others when you disagree with them.
You are a social being, and living a Zen-inspired life actually helps you strengthen your interpersonal relationships by improving the quality and richness of your interpersonal communications. Contrary to what many think, a Zen-inspired life is highly relational and will improve and enrich your social life immeasurably, strengthening your network of friends, family and community.
Contributing Yourself to the World While many people may think Zen is a passive withdrawal from the world, nothing could be further from the truth. The fruits of mature Zen practice are an enriched and engaged life with the world around you. You discover some deep aspiration within yourself to be of service to others, and this leads to some sense of confidence and worthiness that breaks the back of the trance of unworthiness completely.
There is no victim or poverty mentality left at all. You live and practice a profound spiritual path that brings you constantly into your daily life with gift bestowing hands. You become so humble and ordinary, noone may even notice you, but that doesn't matter. You don't need anyone's confirmation. A Zen-inspired life is the confirmation you've been seeking.