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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
JOSH BARTOK 29 In shikantaza, we receive everything that arises into one category: stuff that arises. There aren’t two categories. There isn’t good stuff and bad stuff. There isn’t stuff we’re trying to have and stuff we’re trying not to have. There isn’t breath and body and sensations and traffic. It’s all just stuff that arises. Shikantaza is the embodied receiving of all that stuff into one category. It’s worth noting the recursive quality of this. Receiving is itself just another category of stuff that arises. And receiving everything that arises into the one category is another form of immediately affirming nottwo. One form shikantaza takes is releasing even the contrivances of receiving and the scaffolding of turning toward, of immediately affirming not-two. This is stepping off the cliff of the known, of the doable, of all certainties and entering the free fall of just sitting with this one thing that is bodybreathminduniverse. Shikantaza is not accomplished by you; it is only accomplished by the entirety of the universe inclusive of you. Practicing in this free fall of shikantaza lets us engage with the subtle mental formations of willing, intending, striving, and knowing. In this free fall, we may try to grab on to some form of certainty to stop our fall, like Wile E. Coyote grabbing on to a branch as he falls off a cliff. Inevitably, that branch will break. In shikantaza we simply see the impulse to grab, without buying into the story of grabbing or the story of needing to stop our fall, of needing to apply an antidote to what we’re experiencing. To practice in free fall in this way is to practice becoming comfortable with notknowing, com fortable with uncertainty, comfortable with discomfort, with doubt, with our raging minds. But make no mistake: this comfort isn’t some limited state of mind. It’s not some other state of mind. Just this—always and inevitably—is it. And so we just get on with sitting. JOSH BARTOK is a guiding teacher of Boundless Way Zen, a pastoral therapist, and the executive editor for Wisdom Publications. To practice in free fall is to become comfortable with not-knowing, comfortable with discomfort, with doubt, with our raging minds.