Hi, I'm sort of new to formal Shikantaza practice. For a few days, I thought I'd been doing good progress, but today I stumbled upon something quite difficult. Actually, I'd done what I conceived to be shikantaza a few times over the past few years and I eventually abandoned the method because I saw no fruit in it. There were several problems I did not know how to face and this sitting has brought them to the surface again, so I have a few questions regarding the practice.
First, a little background.
I was mad at a person, very mad and irritated. I did not know what to do. Thinking that perhaps I could get something important out of this experience, I decided to sit down for 30 minutes. I sat through the entire thing, but my mind was absolutely chaotic, restless. The more I sat, the more angry and impatient I seemed to become. I was absolutely clueless to what I was supposed to do. I tried to simply let the thoughts pass, but I felt like I was suppressing them. At other times, there seemed to be loud voices in my head screaming "What are you gonna do?! What are you gonna do about it?!" and it was very distressing. I simply let it pass and did nothing...I felt absolutely powerless and it was distressing to go through such mental turmoil.
Now my questions after this experience:
1)What does it really mean to let thoughts pass away like clouds? I can't seem to find a clear enough difference between letting thoughts pass and ignoring them...What if the thought is about something that I must, or feel like I must do? How do I know what I really need to do?
2) Is Shikantaza truly 'without effort' or am I misunderstanding something? Do I just let a storm rage in my mind and watch it? I can't help but feel defeatist about it... It can be solved by analytic methods, to try and calm myself by taking on a little monologue, analysing the cons of staying mad - but this isn't shikantaza anymore, is it? And if ever there was no solution, my usual approach was to exhaust the intellect, having it run around in circles until it dropped dead.
3) I watched the beginner videos about 'returning again and again to the clear blue sky' or something along those lines. Does this mean that we try to clear our minds when we practice shikantaza? If I understand correctly, the blue sky is no different from the clouds (and occasional hurricanes), so I'm a bit confused here.
As a side note, I remember reading John Daido Loori saying that Shikantaza is actually quite the challenging form of practice. Right at this very moment, it seems very very true.
Dear friends in the Sangha, please assist me and please receive my heartfelt thanks in advance!