Anyone out there think like this sometimes?
If I work really hard at … x … I’ll get really good at it.
I think we all have this idea. In my experience, it’s the kind of thing that was drilled into my brain from a young age. I confess I have to watch what I say sometimes too. We push things on our children. We attack work with a ferocious energy. But what if this is just one of those things we say without being fully mindful of what our words really mean?
Now, I’m not advocating that we give up diligence and determination and such. No way. But here’s the thing. What if, at least in part – what if what we are really doing is creating more stress into the equation with this idea of working very hard? And what if that stress is one of the very things most impeding our progress, keeping us from the very success we seek?
With meditation and taiji my experience shows me that the more I relax, the more I pursue practice with diligence and determination yes but without this idea of “trying very hard,” the better things seem to go. When it comes to any form of meditation, whether sitting or standing or dynamic, the more we just show up and focus without creating any narratives or judgement or ideas about good or bad practice, the more we can just be present fully in each moment. And the more we do that, the more the way seems to open up.
And actually, I find the same thing to be true in doing about anything. At my office job in Chicago, I try to focus on the task without adding extra ideas to what I’m doing. When I go to the gym, and the owner teaches me how to use a new weight machine or new exercise, I see that having any ideas about trying very hard only get between me and the moment.
When I relax and just do, with full focus and nothing left over, life goes more smoothly and peacefully. If I’m speaking with someone and they want to debate something, I try to remember to say what I have to say just once and let it go. When a student calls me about the center and asks about taiji and meditation, I just say what these things are as clearly as possible, describe the benefits as simply as I can and then ask if the person wants to come try it out. I don’t try to hard to persuade them to come in. I offer and try to let go of the outcome.
So, basically, it comes to this: I think that if we allow ourselves to be caught up in trying very hard, it only seems that it takes longer and longer to make any progress. So, as counter intuitive as this may seem, the harder we work, the behinder we get.
Thank you Lewis Carroll!