Right effort and the power of struggle is the second source of transformation in John Bennett’s book, Transformation. There are countless writings on right effort from the Zoroastrian tradition to Buddhist teachings.
We all struggle with something, but much of that is avoidable, if we learn the deeper meaning of right effort. To intentionally struggle with our own negative states is the path, but this gets completely misunderstood. This article is an attempt to clarify the meaning of conscious labor and intentional suffering.
We are familiar with the saying no pain, no gain, but many frown upon this in the age of flow and law of attraction.
There is this idea that we can have something with little to no effort. I believe in grace and that we deserve to receive abundantly. To receive is to know the active force of reception.
Both reception and effort are necessary.
They go hand in hand. We know this from making efforts toward an aim and seemingly out of nowhere help often comes from an unexpected direction. It is the energetic pulse of effort that is somehow answered. We may see examples of grace in which it appears to have come from nowhere, but when more closely examined, we find there has been an internal effort of the right sort.
We can make all kinds of ineffective efforts to eliminate a negative state in the form of distraction, association, or by-passing, but the source of that state is continually rising its ugly head again and again. When we apply right effort, the lasting effect of understanding that state from a new and more complex perspective means freedom from the negative state itself, and eventual permanent freedom from it.
Many believe we should not look at our conditioning but look to a brighter vision. This is optimistic and naive. To learn to truly regard ourselves with compassion and non-judgement requires effort; the kind most people aren’t willing to try.
Right effort is an internal and intentional struggle that converts energy.
We already struggle so much with inner conflict. We can move back and forth between the many parts of ourselves, both of which we are identified. We may believe we are in a moral dilemma, a crisis of conscience, or an intentional struggle, when in fact, what is actually happening is our lower nature is battling with our lower nature.
This is the plight of the reactional self.
We act one way without being able to help it, and then we take a corrective measure that is equally identified by doing “the right thing”. Often it is based on should’s and shouldn’ts, and likes and dislikes, that ultimately have to do with how our self perception isn’t syncing up with real life events. The inner struggle with two sides of the same coin does not produce the energy of transformation. Often our decision to change behavior is founded in guilt and shame, so the pendulum swings in another direction that is just as attached.
This type of struggle will yield very few results, and often results in failure to raise the frequency of energy that acts upon us and within us.
For example, perhaps someone has fallen into a bad habit again. Guilt or no guilt, it takes something to shake them out of it. They then start depriving themselves of all kinds of things in an attempt to “correct” the wrong. Nothing has been gained by this correction in terms of energy or what I am referring as right effort. They may feel better in general or better about themselves, but the energy upgrade has not occurred. It will still be a battle of the lower selves often mistaken as “willpower”.
The struggle between two identified parts of ourselves often gets mistaken as “good inner work”. However, that kind of conflict within ourselves takes no effort. In fact, it happens on a regular basis.
Right effort comes when we attempt to watch this crazy inner conflict.
With enough practice and sensitive energy available, we apply a secondary force or “aspect” into the situation. We attempt to see and understand our behavior and inner turmoil from a new perspective. The inner turmoil already exists. We know we are identified, and see ourselves judging ourselves, unable to correct unwanted behavior, feeling guilty, attempting to do something in the opposite direction, and this is the opportunity for “right effort”.
Our attempts at using “will power” over a situation in which we see one action as bad and replace it with another action that is good, will not produce the desired result of right effort. It is simply addressing symptoms instead of the cause.
The correct effort becomes not correcting or relieving the situation right away. It is the effort to see into ourselves more deeply. It is the effort to accept what we see for what it is. It is the effort to “disidentify”. This is not easy. However, this alone may dismantle the actual cause.
Picture the struggles of a recovering alcoholic. Of course, the huge effort is to stop drinking. The next helpful step is to recognize what is causing that desire. This is where watching the internal struggle yields huge results.
With practice, this new effort develops the ability to discriminate and intentionally wrestle.
This is the work of the divided self.
This intentional inner effort really does involve conscience. It is the struggle between our higher and lower selves, because we have clearer access to our higher selves. We have developed the ability to watch and recognize a state of identification. We have enough “I”s integrated to be able to observe.
This is when it becomes a source of permanent transformation and facilitates even more right effort.
We may see into deeper parts of ourselves, and the source of our habitual behaviors. The effort is no longer not to drink but to accept oneself fully in ways we never thought possible
Perhaps you are able to distinguish between these various types of struggle within you. With presence in the mix, something starts to transform. The more the energy transforms, the easier it gets.
Have a great week. Let me know how you are “struggling”.