Treeleaf Sangha, the atmosphere here has been so supportive as I attempt to wrap my mind around buddhist practice, that I feel comfortable sharing some struggles that I have been having.

Perhaps this is a common part of the practice, but Shikantaza has been very difficult for me. I am not sure if it comes from my background in doing different types of meditation, if it is just a stressful time for me, or if "just sitting" is just plain difficult for someone used to the frantic bustle of everyday life and everday thoughts. Either way, I am finding it harder and harder to hit the cushion. It is building up to almost a feeling of dread. As I sit, my mind races, my aches and pains are amplified. I feel tense. I feel stressed. I feel like I am doing it wrong even though I have an intellectual grasp on the fact that I CANT really be doing it wrong. Recent posts and discussions describing shikantaza here on the forums have been inspiring to me, but yet these feelings of almost-panic remain.

Could this be part of the transition from meditating strictly with the clear purpose of stress reduction to meditating without any real purpose?

As a beginner, should I be using a focus point as a form of training wheels? Building up samahdi before I graduate to Shikantaza?

I'm reading a book on Buddhist history by Carl Olsen, and he describes different stages of mindfulness (e.g. awareness of body and breath, awareness of feelings, etc.). I really like the idea of stages through which one can progress. But then again, I think that attachment to systematic improvement is probably one of my sticking points.

Anyway, to end this rant, I would just like to thank the Sangha for being there for me and to ask anyone who has had a similar experience to share whatever wisdom you feel would be helpful.

Strange to think that a grown man can't figure out how to JUST BE, but I suppose this is the way of things.