The thing your average buddhist spends the most time on is watching the breath. Dauntingly, this simple practice immediately becomes frustrating as the ever helpful ego steps in and tries to run the show. The next thing you know, you are sitting there with a growing feeling of awkwardness which occasionally transforms into another feeling...growing suffocation. From there, myriad forms of hilarity can ensue. The ego, it turns out, is really not good at respiration. Thus, we practice with the breath for exactly that reason.
One of the disappointing things about Zen is that I always thought there was going to be more wax on – wax off. Like most people, my idea of Zen was formed at the movies and in dormitory conversations and in the occasional buzzed hot tub speculations. The twin pillars of eastern philosophy were Shogun and the Karate Kid, where Arnold from Happy Days turns out to be a totally cool old Samurai dude living in LA who teaches young Daniel-san karate by making him wax his car over and over again. Just when Daniel-san is about to quit, Mr Miyagi gives him is first karate lesson and Daniel-San discovers that he already knows how to block the attacks - it’s the same motion as putting the wax on and wiping it off.