I didn't want to put this in the Theravadin meditation section because it felt too diversionary, so I decided to just post it here.
My experience last night at the local Soto Zendo was very interesting. The meditative technique they use is Shikantaza ("just sitting") where there is no object of concentration like the breath as in Vipassana. The eyes are open, which I personally found made it more difficult for me to watch my own thoughts pass by without hooking onto them and daydreaming. I found that Shikantaza made me more aware of the external
present moment (such as the minutae of the environment, sounds etc.) than it did of the the internal
present moment (my thoughts) the way vipassana seems to.
It struck me that Shikantaza almost seemed like a "jumping in at the deep end" aproach to meditation. I felt like I was trying to drive a car without first being instructed what the steering wheel did. I found myself wondering how anyone in the Soto tradition could achieve the bright awareness in "just sitting" without first learning concentration practices. The instructor was a little cryptic but I couldn't help but think "if I was capable of just sitting down and achieving this state of perfect clarity without actually doing anything
then wouldn't I be a buddha already?"
Granted, I'm a complete novice at both techniques and maybe jumping in at the deep end may work very well, as it often literally does in swimming instruction I guess. Or maybe I'm missing the point of Shikantaza altogether?
Do any of you have experience with both techniques? What differences did you discover? Do you favor one over the other and why? What worked best for you in your earlier years of study?
I'm just full o' questions today and I really appreciate your insights...