Improvised Practice

"Improvised Practice" number 51 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

The mechanics of our practice is not always aligned with traditional Zen practice. Zen practice is very conservative. It hasn't changed much in centuries. As Zen has migrated Eastward and been assimilated into Western culture, the forms of the practices have been modified and some improvisation has occurred. Bodhidharma started this cycle.

Our book group is reading Joko Beck's Everyday Zen. At the last gathering of the readers, we discussed "be a light unto yourself". This is a translation of a translation, written down and copied over and over again after being orally transfered from one person to another all the way back in time and space to the Siddhartha Gautama's death.

What is this 'be a light into yourself'? While that may allow for some improvisation, how do we keep from having our practice be makeshift?