We touched on a lot of stuff tonight in our not-so-little pre-zazen chat (a remarkable amount really, given that there was only three of us there!)
One thing that came up is these various methods for making one's life better with positive thinking and various meditation-type practices (The Secret is the latest craze in this it seems). That stuff is all fine in its context (although it was noted that often these 'get more successful' schemes come with a very high price tag... so I suppose they do indeed work: somebody's definitely gettin' rich!), but it's good to recognise the difference between that sort of meditation or method and the 'no gain' aspect of zazen as transmitted in Buddhism. It's quite different in nature.
It is the case that we generally feel better after zazen (especially after we've been doing it regularly a while), and it may often be true that people who practice zazen regularly enjoy less stress, decreased levels of aggression, more clarity, more balanced lives, better sleep even, and other positive physiological effects... but that's not the point of it, nor should it be our motivation in zazen. In fact, if our motivation is to 'get nice stuff' or 'feel good' in zazen, then we can't really be said to be practicing zazen as it has been handed down from Buddhist ancestors. Zazen is not about achieving goals in that way at all.
Put simply, our life is often characterised by running away from things which we consider 'bad' (e.g. poverty, being an asshole/ being boring old 'me', depression, stress etc etc etc) and running to things which we consider 'good' and that will cure the 'bad' stuff (e.g. being rich, being a 'perfect, enlightened' being, having amazing meditative experiences, being happy all the time, being care-free etc etc etc...) , but zazen, if we really tuck into it and practice it sincerely, is a break from this sort of inherently circular existence of getting what we want and being 'happy' then, inevitably, loosing it and being 'unhappy' and then struggling to get what we want in order to be 'happy' again.
Zazen offers more stability than a life of just irresistibly chasing after an ethereal carrot on the treadmill driven by our habitual wants and aversions. We can just stop that 'running to' and 'running away from' activity in sitting upright and non-thinking, letting that whole drama just come and go for a time. In this way we can get a broader perspective on it. Of course, we do have to try to make things in our lives better for ourselves and others, but getting caught up in just that, to not be able to see beyond that, is the source of some serious problems in life it seems.
Master Dogen, in a chapter of Shobogenzo called 'Bussho', explains that expressing the state of a buddha, that substantially 'getting' it, is a matter of 'being without'. This great attainment, this great wisdom of the ancients, involves us dropping away our lives of wants and needs, of 'good' as opposed to 'bad', of even the senses of loss or attainment themselves... to win at Buddhism is to gain every single thing everywhere in manifesting the Ultimate Loser right here and now.