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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
24 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY the practice, is in beginning to familiarize yourself with the capacity for actively chosen presence—and also in getting to know the vast category of things Buddhists call “mental formations,” and the even vaster category of things we call “arising phenomena.” The value of breath practice is not in staying but in noticing when we’re engaged in any activity other than just touching bodybreathmind and counting. When we see that’s happened, we simply return. We come back to the arbitrary anchors of the breath and “one.” This cultivates the capacity in our offthecushion lives to engage, with the power of intention and choice, with whatever arises. When fear arises, we don’t have to hide in fear. When sadness and grief arise, we don’t have to shrink from them or cover them over with anger. And when anger arises, we don’t need to lash out. Instead, we can choose to remain present and take action in alignment with our highest values. Zen practice offers us some suggestions for such actions in the form of the four bodhisattva vows and the sixteen bodhisattva precepts. Though we initially rely on the scaffolding of counting the breath, we can also gradually begin to dismantle that scaffolding. There are several different approaches to practice, and none is any more advanced than another. They are simply different, and differently valuable at different times. To dismantle the scaffolding of counting, we begin to practice just following the breath without attaching a number, bringing our full attention to the physicality of breathing. When we notice our minds doing something other than being with the physicality of breathing, we desist from adding fuel onto that fire of doing. We unhook from it and bring our attention back to embodied breath. Shikantaza is not accomplished by you; it is accomplished by the entirety of the universe inclusive of you.