Effortless Effort


While away on retreat, I was reminded of one of my favorite concepts: Effortless effort. At first glance, it can seem like these two ways of being could never go together. When you look to the ways of the natural world though, you see that it is the only way that it goes together. But in order to see this you must be willing to strip away the striving, the scarcity, the worries and the comparisons of the fear-based human mind that drive so much of the unnecessary efforting in our lives.

All the stories that we create and buy into that would say life must be difficult. That in order to get what we most desire, we have to work really, really hard to get it. That we can only get there on our own, and that there will always be forces opposing us. Screwing with us. Against us.

To understand ourselves at this level takes time, and it takes our willingness to pay attention to the words we use and the thoughts we think around how hard we believe we need to work, and perhaps most importantly, why. In other words, What do we believe, down deep, about what we deserve and what we need to do to get it?

Nothing in the natural world feels undeserving. Nothing in the natural world worries that it will be in trouble if it outshines something around it. Nothing in the natural world believes that any other part of Nature is screwing with it. Nothing in the natural world feels as though it needs to prove itself, outdo another or justify its existence by working harder than anything else around it.

There is nothing wrong with effort. It helps us to accomplish what it is that we need and desire. The problem comes in when our efforts are driven, scattered, destructive. It’s easy to spot. Are your efforts filling you, or do they leave you depleted? Do your actions lift you and those around you up, or do they pick away at your sense of self and the quality of your relationships?

Be on the lookout for a lot of energy expended without a proportionate return on your investment. Be alert to how often you are busy to be busy, because anything less feels too hard to be with. Pay attention to the end of your day and the exhaustion that leaves you empty and wired. Tune into the sensations of being on a treadmill that never ends; no matter how much effort you put in.

To be effortless in our efforts is to flow with the river as opposed to trying to push it. It is to know yourself and why it is that you do what you do. It is to be plugged into Something Greater than yourself, and to trust that you are being carried along. No matter how much effort you put in.