As often as we’re reminded that meditation is a practice without any particular goal, it’s hard not to get ambitious about it. The tendency to worry about getting things wrong, or to strive to get them right, is baked deeply into our nature.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear this talk by Shōhaku Okumura, a Japanese Sōtō Zen priest, reminding us that Zazen (and any meditation practice) is good for nothing. Meditation practiced for a particular purpose is not meditation at all:
We usually think that this meditation practice is to attain some kind of enlightenment or awakening. But Dogen said we should just sit without any expectation. Even enlightenment.
Because [if] we practice in order to get enlightenment then that is desire. Desire, our egocentric desire, is still working there in search of truth. So from the very beginning we just, in Dogem’s expression, throw ourselves into the way, without expecting any reward.
That is what is called, just sitting.