The false self is the self of duality, the self of self-consciousness and limitation. Our true self is as wide open and unstructured as this very moment. Sesshin challenges us to experience this moment without limitation, without thinking good or evil, without thought of "how we are doing" or what we are accomplishing or failing to accomplish by our sitting.
Henri Matisse, Still Life With Oranges (and maybe a lime)
It's me, still working on that koan I discussed last time, which is working on me as I piece around in James Ford's The Book of Mu. What I'm getting is that the point is just to be here experiencing reality. You can get very fancy with koan work, but the point is almost laughably simple. Just be open to reality. A baby can do it.
I wish I had managed to videotape our godson Vaughan one Sunday at brunch when he vigorously communicated his desire for a lime wedge on his Dad's plate. He was under one year old, a dynamic, curious child. His Dad gave it to him, he turned the lime around, quite a feat in little fingers, looking at it, squeezing it to see what it would do. He touched his tongue to the skin. Made the decision and bit down on that lime. The expressions that played over his face were priceless, starting with shock and awe. I can't describe that visible flow of direct experience. Maybe you could try it yourself in front of a mirror. I can't, I laugh just imagining it.
We get so fancy about life, how to live, and oh, how to fix ourselves. People get very fancy about the Zen retreats mentioned in the quote, which are called "sesshin," and there can be a complex "etiquette" and rituals to follow. The idea is that following all this encourages you to pay attention to your movements every moment, though it does seem easy to fall in love with all the theater of it and forget the point.
The goal is actually so simple: just be here. This moment. Then keep doing that. Being wide open. Biting that lime.