Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wholehearted Effort

Introspective practices, such as meditation or yoga, demand an expenditure of effort. Most of the time when we think of effort, the image that comes to mind is one of heavy breathing, wiping sweat from the forehead, or collapsing into a heap from exhaustion. There is another way of looking at effort, however, that does not automatically mean that we must push ourselves past our limits in order to be effective.

In dharma talks about the Eightfold Path, the last of the Four Noble Truths, some teachers have described this kind of Wise Effort as "wholeheartedness." This step on the path carries with it a wholesome desire to end our suffering, and it is a step that is taken with an open heart. The result of this kind of wholehearted effort is the liberation of the heart ("the sure heart's release" in the words of the Buddha) from getting trapped in habitual actions and ways of thinking.

Diligence is another requisite for Wise Effort. Without diligence and perseverance, there can be no practice, and diligence combined with wholehearted effort, will lead to an ability to use what we learn in our meditation practice in daily life. Diligently returning to the breath when the mind wanders, for example, gently trains the mind how to disengage from upsetting thoughts, and return to the present moment sensory reality. In Dancing With Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Phillip Moffitt wrote:
You cultivate and train your mind in order to shift your attention from one object or thought pattern to another. You learn how to apply effort in this manner so that when you find yourself obsessing on a thought that is not wholesome, you have the ability to shift away from it.
When you find yourself bearing down during your practice, see if you can soften a bit and let the practice come to you. By being diligent and wholehearted in your practice, rather than striving and effort-full, you will discover that you can, indeed, do more by doing less.


No comments:

Post a Comment