Shifting gears from being on the road to settling into a regular householder rhythm, has given me the opportunity to deepen my relationship with Jeff in our paradisiacal home, have a regular rhythm to practice, study, work on the land, and to cultivate ease. In addition the morning meditation sangha has flowered, with a regular cast of characters and very welcomed drop-ins from new folks. I miss a lot about being a Grateful Roadwarrior, but the joy of being in a home that doesn’t change frequently has brought expanded joy.
I will be writing weekly about the practice in the Sangha and over the next several weeks the community will be studying and inquiring into The Eightfold noble Path. This week: Right Effort. If this is your first visit, it may be helpful to visit the two previous posts on Right View and Right Intention.
Through calm abiding meditation and inquiry into the reality of the moment, the Right View of the nature of Nature arises: that all beings are essentially good and that all beings’ actions, in their essence, are ignited by the Right Intention to manifest and sustain goodness. These are the seed and root of the sprouting of Right Effort.
When I reflect on my actions in the world, I’m able to see those actions that cause suffering, relieve suffering, or are neutral, and looking more carefully, I am able to see the origin of those actions in my effort. (Suffering in this context would be any action that causes the veiling or obstruction of the essential ground of goodness in myself or others.) Effort then is not the actions that I take, but the movement or will beneath and before the actions.
How I effort is based on the causes and conditions, conscious or unconscious, that precede the effort. Unconscious conditioning is often a result of how I was raised, how my physical being was formed, how I learned to interact with the environment, as well as any pre-birth experiences and are the foundation of the causes that have led to my view of the world and developed my intentions. This unconscious conditioning is often the primary engine behind my suffering and the suffering that I inflict on others. This conditioning manifests in afflictions like ignorance, anger, hate, jealousy, or fear that seem to lurk and arise unbidden especially in situations where I feel threatened.
While this is all going on there is an ever-present call to return to goodness. I notice that when I slow the process and my thinking down, there is space for goodness to be seen, and the veiling of goodness caused by the afflictions becomes conscious. In this awakened consciousness, I begin to think toward goodness with my intention and an effort arises to move away from the afflictions. That effort is the slowing down that began the reflection as well as the effort to move toward goodness.
Besides the call to return to goodness, the experience of suffering is another significant trigger of these processes. When I experience or see suffering I usually recoil from it or have a reaction to it. Through the practices of calm abiding and inquiry, I train my thinking, feeling and willing to pause before moving towards an action. With practice, the unconscious causes and conditions that often propel me into reaction, become conscious and are calmed by the simple act of attending to them. Then I am able to allow the natural effort that arises from Right View and Right Intent to be the ground of my actions.
Right Effort then, is the conscious willing to bring about goodness in all that I do, feel and think. The effort to sit in practice, the effort that leads to taking vows, saying prayers, cultivating Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, following commandments, or anything that flowers as actions that lead to the cessation of suffering is Right Effort.
Paradoxically, the more I practice this way of making Right Effort, the less effort there is. More and more, Right Effort appears effortless and the perpetual generator of goodness comprised of Right View, Right Intention and Right Effort, becomes a way, the only way, of being who I am.
If any of this strikes a chord or sparks some interest, the sangha would enjoy your presence in the morning practice.