Here is a great story from the Edo Period and that shows that Zen can help squashes as well as people!
Behind a temple, there was a field where a lot of squashes were ripening. One day an argument started. The squashes split up into two groups and they made a big racket shouting at each other. The head priest heard the uproar. When he went to see what had happened, he found the squashes quarreling. The priest yelled to get their attention and scolded them: "Hey, you squashes! The idea of fighting among yourselves! Everyone do zazen!" The priest taught them how to do zazen. "Fold your legs like this, sit up, and straighten your back and neck." While the squashes were sitting zazen, as the priest taught them, their anger subsided and they settled down. Then the priest quietly said, "Everyone, put your hand on top of your head." When the squashes felt the top of their own heads with their hand, they found some weird thing on their heads. It turned out that one vine connected them altogether. "This is really strange. Actually we're all tied together and living just one life. In spite of that we've been arguing. What a mistake! It's just as the priest said." After that the squashes got along with each other very well.
The starting point of perception is self and other. Initially each squash views itself as a separate self apart from the others. There is inherently a relationship: In some cases, helpful, in other situations, perhaps antagonistic. Always a relationship when there is a self and other, a subject and object. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind for us is with other people. But there is a relationship with anything perceived as an object—a thought, the furniture, doing the dishes, riding a bike. Sometimes we can try to ignore it, figuratively burying the head in the sand. But the relationship re-emerges as soon as attention is turned back to the world which it inevitably does.
The next second step is to investigate the relationship based on the idea that there is a separate self. The key word here is idea. It is a thought that has taken on a life of its own . The idea appears to be reality. The practice of zazen is to investigate this illusion by growing awareness and letting go of ideas. An important point is that this is not done by willpower, or by self-limited rational capacity, but by using the practice of zazen to transcend the intellect.
Then, in the third stage, the squashes discover for themselves they are one life. The differentiation between the individual squashes does not disappear-- that is the manifestation of life. However, the entire experience interaction changes with that realization. It is one life working together.
We start with our own ideas of the individual self. The direction of Zen meditation is to let these ideas drop away and to experience this interconnectedness of life for ourselves. To allow our ideas of individual self to drop away and experience life just as it is. Instead of the term “life”, the expression “life force” is more descriptive. We are the manifestation of this life force. In some sense, humans believe they are in control of something, perhaps even themselves. But a closer look, even at the rational level, calls this into question. What is the force that animates us? That allows us to move, to breathe, to be alive. It is not due to our thoughts! Life force goes well beyond that. It animates everything (this is referred to as the 10,000 things in Buddhist literature.) Life force is beyond thought It is the reality of our life, it is ”I”. Understanding this intellectually is not the same as experiencing it. Experiencing it is transformative and, like the squashes, changes the way we interact.
Realization is often the term used, but is often misunderstood in typical usage. Instead of realizing it with the mind, it means to make real and express it in our activities.
However, even with this insight, differences do not disappear, The everyday world is still present-- but the experience of it, in its always changing interconnectedness, is now different. The experience of one life, just as it is, is the direction of zen practice.