Let me riff for a second ...
Strange as it sounds, Shikantaza
is not a matter of trying to do something nor of trying not to do something, nor is it a matter really of not trying
either of those (although the latter is closer to the mark). It is not a matter of mindfulness, good concentration or some deep Samadhi
state attained during Zazen, nor is it a matter of the absense of any of those. It is not about attaining Kensho, seeking to attain Kensho, not attaining Kensho or not seeking to attain Kensho. It is just-what-is, and just-what-comes
On the other hand, it is not a matter of sitting doing nothing., idly letting anything that happens happen.
Instead, it might be termed sitting energetically, sincerely, fully dropping all of that ... beyond trying and beyond not trying. It is dedicatedly seeking nothing to seek. Pursuing the goalless goal, shooting the arrow wherein the target was already hit before the arrow was first pulled from the quiver (and at every moment after too, through stringing, release and flying). It is just-what-is, and just-what-comes
. It swallows whole subject and object. It is subject and object separately and fully united (beyond even such words as "subject" and "object"). That is why I often compare Zazen to a hike or race up and down a mountain in which the mountain is everything (in fact, it is only the mountain itself which is doing the racing and hiking up the mountain), in which all of the mountain itself -is-
the destination, there is no distant "finish line" to "get to", and thus each step is instantaneously a perfect arriving at the winner's tape. Despite that, we do not give up, do not sit down at the starting line, do not jump out of the race (our life) early, do not turn back or waste time.
It is just the dharma gate of great ease and joy. It is undefiled practice-realization. We simply entrust everything to Zazen (be it to the posture, the breath or to the action itself), as a perfect act ... all that needs to be done in that place and time, the only place to be in that time. We consider simple sitting as no more or less than all the Buddhas and Ancestors, and as all the rest of Reality too, sitting in that moment in/through/perfectly as
our sitting. There is not one thing to add to a moment of Zazen, not one thing that needs to or can be taken away.
And when Zazen is known in this way, the description is true! ... much as seeing the "Venus de Milo" as complete and perfect
in her beauty makes it so by the seer's eyes despite (and perhaps because of) her missing limbs and imperfection. On the other hand, the unrealized or unawakened eye, seeing her as merely incomplete and broken
makes it so too. Eye of the beholder (an eye that before awakening seems to be just subject, yet is always subject, object, and swallows subject and object too).
And when all of life is known in this way (for all of life is "Zazen" in its wider sense), then each second of life is a perfect arriving, there is no place to go or to which we need go. Yet, despite having ever and always arrived, we keep living nonetheless, moving forward diligently ... energetically, sincerely, with great dedication and meaning . We are not complacent, self-satisfied, do not think we are wandering in meaningless circles, spinning our wheels. More than "frustrated or numb, with no place to go to
", it is better to say, "always right at home
" (even when a bit frustrated with life and wandering in its circles, happy or sad).
Just as life holds everything in it, the sea holds everything in it, the universe holds everything in it, time holds everything that happens in it ... the good the bad, the beautiful the ugly ... Zazen holds all, because a moment of Zazen is this very life, ocean, world, time, God (should we use that name) too ... when truly seen as such.
Now, if someone were to think I am saying, "All you need to do in Zazen is sit down on one's hindquarters, and that's enough ... just twiddle your thumbs in the 'Cosmic Mudra' and you are Buddha
" then, respectfully, I believe they do not get my point. But if they understand, "There is absolutely no place to be, where one needs to be or elsewhere where one can be, than on that Zafu in that moment, and that moment itself is all complete, all-encompassing, always at home, the total doing of All Life, Time and Space fully realized
" ... they are closer to the flavor.
Zazen seeks no change, needs no change, is complete and whole ... and that realization works a revolutionary change.
Sorry (not really) to keep emphasizing the same things ... but "getting non-getting" is so hard to get. The vitally important purpose of Zazen is that Zazen needs none, for it functions for all purposes.