Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Warrior: Right Effort 2

(Although this entry on effort can stand alone, you can read part 1 here)

Anytime you settle into a good, deep "warrior 2" pose, something that becomes pretty apparent is this: staying there for long is going to take effort. Staying with those little moments of effort in our practice provide an opportunity to explore the various textures of effort that we can apply to our yoga and to our daily "to do" lists. The question then, is how to exert that effort.

In the Sona Sutta, the Buddha likened the "right effort" to a stringed instrument that doesn't necessarily play better just because the strings are very tight. Instead, the tension on the strings must be right for the specific needs of the song to be played. This sets up a basic approach to effort as a continuum that puts (what I think of as) a military sort of discipline on one end and my college room-mate's dooby-fueled, couch and hoho binges on the other end.

While it seems obvious that some sort of effort is necessary, to me, a "tight strings" approach to effort, or forcing ourselves to do something is not compatible with yoga's values of non-violence, compassion (for yourself!) or to experiencing yoga's most profound benefits.

The basic problem with a heavy handed self discipline is that, for me, it becomes self-defeating. When you start viewing every asana, (or writing or studying...) as an exercise in "strength" or "mind over matter," you're trying to exert your will over your natural inclination. First of all, this kind of approach has the tendency to kill the chance for any spontaneity or joy. And I guarantee you, your "natural inclination" is going to kick your "will's" ass in the end. From my experience, people who rely on that kind of "effort" rarely succeed in their persistence. The problem is, at least for us Yanks, that's the kind of effort we're taught...

The "American Work Ethic:"

Although my mother is in many ways a very enlightened individual, I can still hear her admonishing me not to be "lazy" and saying: "sometimes you just have to make yourself do it."

And that's the American ethic, right? Industry! Enterprise!




But perhaps this sort of approach of "making yourself do it" is really taking the easy way out.

Maybe, "just make yourself do it"


being lazy.

Perhaps if we weren't so lazy, we'd instead commit to the disciplined, relaxed and compassionate approach of working diligently to create conditions where our work feels more effortless.

In other words, rather than try to kick our "natural inclination" in the ass, we can find some ways to work with it. The basic approach there is cultivating joy in what we do. Now, that's the RIGHT EFFORT.

In part 3, I'll write about some specific approaches that have been helpful to me.


Confusion Say said...

I love how they positoned that paw there.

I haven't had a chance to really read all this, so excuse me if you already talked about this.

Do you think yoga is violent?

Luckymortal said...

No, I don't think "yoga" is violent or not violent, it's just a group of tools, both physical and mental. I can use a hammer to build a shrine, or I can smash someone's head in with it.

I've taken yoga classes that seemed, to me, to follow that second approach. For me, they were just too competitive. I thought they were using yogic "accomplishment" to build some kind of "meaning." As if "being good at yoga" (whatever that means) made their lives worth something.

That was my perspective, maybe for someone else those teachers were perfect.

But Yoga's all about finding the right tool for the right individual. That approach probably won't be violent.

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