April 18, 2012

Wise Effort: Neither Slacking Nor Overachieving.

(Illustration credit: Frederick Warne)

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

{part six of eightfold path series}

Practice should be nourishing, not draining. Mindfulness practice isn’t always rainbows and lollipops, but it needn’t be torturous either. The Buddha taught that practice should be like a well-tuned string instrument. If the strings are too loose, they won’t play a sound. If they are too tight, they will break.

There are four right, or wise, efforts, according to the dharma teachings:

(1) Preventing the arising of unwholesome states.
(2) Abandonment of any unwholesome states that have already arisen.
(3) Cultivation of wholesome states that have not yet arisen.
(4) Keeping wholesome states that have already arisen.

Let’s look at each one in more depth.

Preventing the arising of unwholesome states

Who wants to suffer from unwholesome, unhealthy, unhelpful states of craving, aversion, worry, doubt, and so forth? I don’t. You don’t. Guarding against these negative mental states requires self-study. Sitting. Practicing meditation and cultivating greater mindfulness. Understanding causality—what situations cause you to become agitated? The goal is not to shun, repress or reject these negative states but rather to notice unpleasantness and not get all upset and create stories and commentaries that prolong it.

Abandonment of unwholesome states

Even if you organize your life so that unskillful tendencies are minimized, when they do occur, which they will, you can opt to let go of these unwholesome states. If your mind is a corporate boardroom, the chairperson can employ the veto power of the mind. Just say to yourself, “No, thank you,” or “I’m not going there.” Refuse to get carried away on a detrimental or delusional train of thought.

Cultivation of wholesome states

The compliment to letting go of negative, unwholesome states is generating the positive, helpful states of compassion, love, and wisdom. This is achieved through an ongoing, consistent practice of meditation, yoga, and other holistic methods. It is achieved through lovingkindness (metta) practice, gratitude and generosity.

Photo: Squidoo

Keeping wholesome states

Once you attain a wholesome state, make it last. Don’t get complacent. Don’t get bored and seek out a drama to stimulate your ego. Authentic mindfulness is a balance that requires both alertness and relaxation.

“Never, never, never, never give up.” ~Winston Churchill

p.s. Just joining us? Check out the other articles in the Noble Eightfold Path series:

  1. Right View: Elationship.
  2. Right Intention: Surrender & Be Kind.
  3. Right Speech: May Your Voice Be Full of Truth, Gentleness & Purpose.
  4. Wise Action: Anything Could Happen Next.
  5. Right Livelihood: What Makes Work Worthwhile?


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Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

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