Shikantaza is a Japanese word that means ‘Just sitting’.
A meditation practice which I introduce in Chapter Four of Guide to the Mindful Way of Life, and present to the live beginner’s groups on their fourth class.
Haku’un Ryoko Yasutani describes this practice graphically:
“Shikantaza is the mind of someone facing death. Let us imagine that you are engaged in a duel of swordsmanship of the kind that used to take place in ancient Japan. As you meet your opponent, you are unceasingly watchful, set, ready. Were you to relax your vigilance even momentarily; you would be cut down instantly. A crowd gathers to see the fight. Since you are not blind, you see them from the corner of your eye, and since you are not deaf, you hear them. But not for an instant is your mind captured by these impressions.”
We are present, fully aware, taking everything in but not distracted by anything. We just sit.
A frog is often used to depict the state – sitting still, totally aware of what is happening around them, but not allowing the movement to distract or influence them.
If we can introduce the just sitting practice into our meditation training, we will be able to move into a relaxed, spacious awareness, where we no longer battle with our thoughts, but are able to step back and see through them.