Just Sitting – Meditation with No Goal?

When silent illumination is fulfilled, the lotus blossoms, the dreamer awakens, A hundred streams flow into the ocean, a thousand ranges face the highest peak.

One of the books I am currently reading is The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings of the Zen Practice of Shikantaza by John Daido Loori. I had heard of this book a while back, but I was hesitant to buy and read a book about “just sitting.” I mean, after all, how much can you say about just sitting?

Shikantaza, or “just sitting,” is meditation without an objective or goal. It is as simple as the name. The practitioner “just sits.”  The more I’ve practiced meditation in this way, the more I have come to appreciate its simplicity. I’ve also appreciated it because without a goal or objective, there is no judgment. There is not such thing as a “good” or “bad” meditation practice. How can you fail at “just sitting”?

Despite the fact that Shikantza (“just sitting”) is without goals or objectives, there it is not, necessarily without focus:

Objectless meditation focuses on clear, nonjudgmental, panoramic attention to all of the myriad arising phenomena in the present experience.

and again…

“Just sitting” is a verb rather than a noun, the dynamic activity of being fully present.

Even the experience of positive experiences should not be a goal:

Mere idle indulgence in peacefulness and bliss is not the point.

Nor should enlightenment or better concentration become an objective:

Zazen is not learning to do concentration.

THE WAY IS BASICALLY PERFECT and all-pervading. How could it be contingent upon practice and realization?

In other words, while sitting, one allows feelings, thoughts, noises from the world, etc. simply to rise and fall, to come and go. There is no judgement. No “good practice” no “bad practice.” A practice is “successful” merely because one shows up. I like that.

This practice of Shikantaza mirrors the spiritual objective of nonattachment, to not cling to our experiences in an unhealthy way, to not identify with them in such a way that they control us.

This makes the practice of Shikantaza very personal:

Zen practitioners, as they progress beyond the beginning stages of zazen, encounter a unique landscape that reflects their own personality and individual life experiences. There is no map for this terrain…

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

2 thoughts on “Just Sitting – Meditation with No Goal?”

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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