Zen folks have a lovely way of talking out of both sides of our no sided mouth. So, for example, when we sit Zazen, we sit beyond and right through all human preferences and thoughts of "hot and cold" ... yet Dogen advised that we should sit in a room that is neither too hot nor too cold when we can. We sit beyond and right through "clean vs. dirty", yet best to sit in a clean room with clean clothes. A quite room is best, although we sit with an inner stillness that transcends all noise or silence.
Of course, if one needs to sit in a cold, dirty and noisy place with no escape ... one sits right there, finding the Warmth, Silence and Purity that transcends all small human judgments of opposites. Such is Shikantaza. There is no "bad Zazen" ... even the days of really "bad Zazen".
So, your advice as follows is lovely, wise counsel ... Beautiful! ...
But let me just add that, when the thoughts and emotions get really really really out of control and wild, there is a middle way here. There are some steps that one can take to bring things within some balance.many times I still frolick around like a madman in my head and all thoughts are violently asserting themselves, but they're just thoughts. . . Whole and complete, even when they drop away like my brain is shedding skin 900000 times a second.
Usually, we sit still and dry in our boat at the center of the storming waves, the eye of the hurricane ... but sometimes we need a bit of an anchor. Master Keizan, Dogen's Dharma-Grandson in the 14th century, had this to advice as temporary measures when the mind gets too crazy ...Last time, I spoke about how there is no “bad” Zazen, even on those days when the mind is very cloudy with thoughts and emotions. But in fact, there are a couple of things we can do to settle down when the mind is really, really, really, stirred up with tangled thoughts, wild emotions and confusion.
We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form of Shikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed. AS SOON AS the mind settles a bit, I advise the we return our attention to “the clear, blue, spacious sky that holds all“, letting clouds of thought and emotion drift from mind, focused on what can be called “everything, and nothing at all” or “no place and everyplace at once.” I will explain why in today’s talk.
The reference to concentrating on a Koan temporarily or on some state of Oneness or Non-birth is a temporary measure to get the mind to some workable degree of balance and concentration when the "monkees" of the monkey mind really are going on a rampage! Usually, we let monkeys just be monkeys, "paying them no nevermind", letting them do their swinging in the vines ... but sometimes we try to quiet the rampage.If your mind is disturbed, rest it on the tip of the nose or below the navel and count your inhaled and exhaled breath. If your mind still is not calm, take a Koan and concentrate on it. For example consider these non-taste stories: Who is this that thus comes? (Hui-neng); Does a dog have Buddha nature? (Chao-chou); Yun men's Mt Sumeru and Chao-chou's oak tree in the garden. These are available applications. If your mind is still disturbed, sit and concentrate on the moment your breath has stopped and both eyes have closed forever, or on the unborn state in your mother's womb or before one thought arises. If you do this, the two Sunyatas (non-ego) will emerge, and the disturbed mind will be put at rests.