Uchiyama Kosho Roshi (1912—1998), student of Kodo Sawaki, teacher to Shohaku Okumura, once pointed out that people are apt to add various expectations to their practice of zazen, so that few ever practice zazen singlemindedly. It seems that people cannot help setting up various goals or expectations of zazen because they practice it at great pains. Almost everyone practices zazen with some sort of goal in mind:
"I practice zazen to attain enlightenment and reach a state of tranquility."
"I practice zazen to improve my abilities."
"I practice zazen to strengthen my body."
"I want to become more intelligent."
"I do zazen to discipline myself physically and mentally."
"I wish to become free from fear."
"I'm hoping to calm down and cultivate my mind by practicing zazen."
Yet, as soon as we set up these goals, we separate ourselves from our practice and from our life. The goal becomes the "object," our current situation the "subject," and our practice the means for the subject to achieve the object. While this method works in almost all cases in the secular life, for a true spiritual practice, there can be no separation of subject and object, and practice itself most assuredly cannot be what causes that separation, what lies between subject and object.
Zazen should be practiced as shikantaza (just sitting), not sitting with any of the above - or other - goals. It goes without saying that zazen is just sitting upright and facing a wall. The essence of the zazen that Master Dogen taught is to just practice it straightforwardly without adding any coloring to it at all. Rather than brightly colored and very loud, it is colorless and soundless.