Oh, what a year this has been!
But in truth, a year like any year. The Buddha knew that such is the stuff of life, all of life filled with many things we long for and many we fear and resist ...
I usually describe Shikantaza Zazen to newcomers by a "sky-and -clouds" metaphor (one of the 'classic' metaphors in the Zen world) .... with the Light, Clear, Open, Boundless Shining Sun and Sky as Buddha Nature ... and clouds of ignorance, thoughts and emotions that may becloud or obstruct our experiencing such.
Yet our way of Shikantaza (unlike some flavors of meditation and Zazen) is not about attaining a mind always 100% totally free of clouds, though sometimes that may come too. Rather, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't ... clouds drift in, clouds drift out. Sometimes, the sky is so wide and blue and clear in all directions, without a cloud in the sky! That is good Zazen! Boundless, Cloud Free!
And sometimes (maybe most times), there are clouds drifting through the sky ... but we do not latch onto them or stir them up ... just let them go and drift away. Shining Blue peaks through the wide open spaces between the clouds. Moreover, the light of the sky can be seen to shine right through-and-through the clouds themselves ... so that clouds and sky are not seen as apart or in any conflict whatsoever. The clouds are now illuminated and transformed from their darkness, the Sun and Blue Shining right through-and-through each and all, and the Sky Whole. It is not "cloud free", but rather, the clouds are encountered as having been Free, Light and Clear All Along! That is good Zazen too ... maybe even more precious than an all clear sky!
Now, sometimes (in human darkness and ignorance), the sky is so cloudy, fogged and stormy, filled with rampant thoughts and emotions, that the clear blue is completely hidden and bound in! That is not good Zazen ... that is just ignorance, confused and cloudy bad Zazen! And so, we should let the clouds clear and blow away, returning to the spacious, shining blue as described above.
However, even when the sky and sun are totally hidden ... not a patch of blue to see in the gray and stormy sky ... the sky and sun are still there even though we are blocked from seeing by the covering clouds. In fact, there is no bad Zazen ... even the bad Zazen.
"Right" Zazen and "Wrong" Zazen
Now, take those clouds as also representing too the events and times in our own life ... each cloud just happy times or sad times, rainy days and sunny ... earthquake and disaster, good health and sickness ... the death of someone we love, our new daughter coming home ... getting older ... beginnings and endings ...
... and just let them be too, the changing clouds of life moving along. Know the Light, Clear, Open, Boundless Shining Sun-and-Sky that illuminates each happening ... all the white clouds or black clouds or gray of daily life. Our way is not about always having a life free of problems, any more than there can be a sky always free of clouds! But each is instantly transformed in the Silent Illumination of the Bright Boundless Sky ... and the Sky and Clouds are seen as Whole ...
... even the darkest moment just Light, Clear, Open, Boundless, Shining when known as such!
It is a lovely way to live.
Happy New Year ...
... and a Peaceful Right This Moment to ALL!
Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended