Hello all,

I've been slowly getting back into sitting. The feedback I received on the "Temptation" thread helped me realize that some major issues for me are turning something into a "duty" and having an attitude of perfectionism about it. I have this idea in my head of what my life should look like when I'm sitting and what my sitting practice should look like. I realize I need to throw all that out the window. It's a way of denying life, denying reality.

I've been sitting with the controlling mind that wants to have everything "just so" and watching it. I notice when "I" start trying to control something, which is pretty often! And I just let it go. I notice that I don't want to sit with sleepiness, or headache, or distractability. The controlling part of my mind seems to be waiting for all of this "stuff" to go away so "the real zazen can begin." The zazen that's smooth, focused, concentrated, peaceful...

It becomes clearer and clearer to me that this is a delusion. This is the very tendency that keeps me resisting and pushing away reality and life as it is. I keep waiting for things to get clearer, more settled; I keep waiting to have more energy, more discipline; keep waiting for certain transitions to pass so I can settle into my life; keep waiting, waiting for Godot...

I've noticed that my mind sometimes wants to go back to some form of concentration practice: counting the breaths, or watching the breath. But I can see that, at least for me, where I'm at in my practice right now, this is just the ego looking to hijack zazen and turn it into another exercise in control. To forcibly press my mind into the shape it thinks it should be in. I experience freedom when I let go of this tendency, note the desire to control, and just let go of it. And this is how I learn to relate to my life off the cushion as well: to accept that each moment I find myself in needs nothing extra; it does not need me to hack away at it until it is, or at least looks, "perfect." How the hell would I have any clue what "perfect" was anyway?

Which makes me wonder: why do so many Soto teachers encourage some kind of concentration practice or "mind settling practice" to beginners? It seems this only gives power and energy to the controlling ego that keeps us mired in delusion 24/7. It turns sitting practice into another arena of "control and conquer." "I will conquer my mind!" Isn't all of that nonsense?

I guess I can see how some might have the idea we need to be able to settle the mind first to prevent ourselves from "spacing out" and drifting the entire time we're on the cushion. But I notice for me that if I have enough awareness to notice I've drifted off, at that point any form of counting or concentration practice becomes superfluous. Awareness has already returned.

So it seems to me that to cultivate a concentration practice goes against the freedom and realization offered by shikantaza. We see the futility and delusion of our efforts to control through just watching the mind without trying to control it. So how can a practice that's about trying to control the mind fit into the Soto / shikantaza approach at all?

Any thoughts and feedback are much welcomed.