Happy weekend everyone,

A question I've often wrestled with in the past, and continue to do so regarding zen practice, relates to the formalities of zen. I'm wondering if others have wrestled with this, and how they've resolved it.

I'm not sure how to relate to the formalities of zen - the bowing, the chanting, the ceremony. From my zen past, I realize these elements of zen may have some positive influence on mindfulness or on helping one to get into the mindframe of practice. But, are these formalities - anything beyond just sitting - essential to practice? I've been to a number of traditional zen centers over years past where these forms of zen take up a significant part of the weekly group practice - and seem to my perhaps overly analytic mind to become robotic - and not off-cushion-time, real-life applicable for me. I've also been to one particular center in which all forms of zen were stripped away (no chanting, no incense, no formalities, etc.) with only the sitting remaining. Does this "just sitting" with nothing else take away too much? I'm not intending to critique others' forms of practice, just trying to find what would work best to get me back to the cushion with consistency. I'd enjoy hearing others' takes on this.