Zen discipline is not a staircase or a means of getting somewhere; it is rather about the successive moments of life—of existence itself. It means being fully aware in body and spirit of the fact of your life, and continuing to cultivate and practice the best way to live as a human being. This is the meaning of Dogen’s words, “Dignity is itself the Dharma. Propriety is itself the essence of the house.”
There is a Buddhist term “fragrance learning,” which means a kind of unintentional absorption. Just as passing by an incense burner can imbue clothing with fragrance, so we are affected unconsciously by the atmosphere of a place, just by happening to be there.
But for Zen practitioners, work has inherent spiritual value and is integral to the life of discipline.
Before my eyes, time moved in a way I used to know well. In a scene that might have played out anywhere, people were freely crossing the street or lingering to chat and exchange a laugh. All around them time flowed, so clear and transparent that its very existence was forgotten, just as it had once flowed around me. Like air, it had been pervasive and invisible, so natural a part of life that I never gave it a thought. But now from the time I got up till the time I went to bed—no, even while I was in bed—I had not a moment to call my own.Eat Sleep Sit : My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple by Kaoru Nonomura, Juliet Winters Carpenter