Since the past 3 or 4 days, I have been experimenting with something.

A senior student told me during last weekend's Zazenkai that following/counting breath is recommended for beginners as with "just sitting" we may fool ourselves that we are alert even at times when we are lost. Somehow later during the week, I thought of putting his statement to test. I decided I'll count each time I "come back" from getting caught up in a sticky thought(-stream). I wont be counting just flashes of quick thoughts/images but only the ones where I get caught up.

This turned out to be interesting. In a 20 minute sitting, I found my counts were mostly near 20 and ranging between 18 to 23. I did one 30 minute sitting and the count was 36.

The other thing I noticed was that my concentration/awareness was very high throughout. I was getting caught up but was immediately coming back. It is interesting to note that I was getting caught up (and coming back) once per minute or so. So each minute, I was being aware initially (for about 10 sec or so), then getting caught up and then coming back. So about 40-50 seconds I was getting caught up. But surprisingly it didnt seem like so long when I was sitting. Each instance of getting caught up felt like 5-10 seconds and not 40-50 sec. It could have been that I was caught up in one long thought-stream which was for a few minutes with the rest of the thoughts being 10 seconds or so. To rule this out, I added interval bells every 5 min to my insight timer and found that the counts were pretty even during each 5 min interval.

I also tried it while walking outside bringing my attention back to just walking whenever I was lost and also making sure I count it. I found the same thing even then, I was very aware and coming back very quickly everytime I got lost. All the "caught up" instances were even (I could say basing on the distance I walked during that caught up time).

Did anyone try something like this? Can this be used as a practice? Is it like Shikantaza version of "breath counting"? Something that can only be used as training wheels? Or should it remain just an experiment and not useful as a practice

Love to hear your thoughts on this.

- Sam