For ten years now, my sitting practice has fluctuated from counting breaths, deep hara 40 second exhalations, mantra practice, and shamatha concentration. All this in the zendo, where we are supposed to be just sitting, totally engaged in sitting, not "learning meditation."
I'm not sure I ever tried to just sit, to bare witness to thoughts, feelings, images- I cut them off with the above techniques. And it was wonderful.
It was like standing in a classroom, the students off task, tearing up the tiles, cursing, fighting, crying, laughing, and I was in a hot tub, eyes closed, head phones of sweet dharma talks or soothing sounds of the beach.
My teachers for the most part have supported whatever I have done on the cushion. Tenshin Reb Anderson said all of these approaches were like different grits of sand paper, ending with the feather duster of Shikantaza, thinking non-thinking. But the Abbess suggested I try just sitting. She also suggested to reverse my lotus legs every other sitting. Physically and Mentally, I felt ripped open.
Just sitting feels like my first days of teaching middle school- how do I pay attention to all of this, how do I pay attention and let go? What is non-grasping when it's not pushing away? What is grasping when we were just trying to pay attention?
During the Shuso ceremony, I asked:
"Shuso! How do I pay attention to just this and let go!"
"Paying attention is letting go!" and he stomped his staff
I didn't accept.
"DOES IT HAVE TO HURT!?"
"No." he laughed.
Jiryu-sensei said, "Celebrate your grasping."
All through Rohatsu I sat with this question: What is not turning away, what is not touching either? And my experience with just sitting was the irritation of neutrality. No bliss, no piss, just a question. In the past, the aforementioned approaches to meditation have been very "fruitful." All kinds of highs and lows and beauty and vast open spaces.
But yesterday, during zazen and just sitting, I broke open with unexplainable, image less, thoughtless, crying. Have no idea why. Fatigue? Something else? It was chest heaving and long. Then gone. And I felt light and fresh. What's that?
Maybe just like pooping or throwing up. Maybe just sitting.