Whenever one of my favorite yoga teachers would demonstrate a challenging pose, he would greet our dumbfounded expressions with a slow smile. Then, gently lay down a piece of wisdom from B.K.S. Iyengar on approaching the asana with, “effortless effort.” I swear he shrunk and turned green for a moment embodying the beloved, Yoda.
With a tilt of my head and a quizzical brow, I felt like Luke Skywalker in training. Could the act of not placing effort into something challenging actually improve the outcome?
Perhaps Yoda’s mastery of, “The Force,” is that he didn’t use any at all. It was just a natural extension of himself.
All too often, when we are learning a new skill, we desire immediate results. We want the instant gratification of the Google response…“ just Google it.” But, how do we handle events in life that Google can’t answer? Are mindful practices truly helpful?
Benefits of Mindful Meditation
You may wonder, what is to be gained from formal meditation or the practice of yoga? These practices are a sweet, little microcosm of our lives. The thoughts that arise, or maybe the discomfort in our limbs, are manageable experiences that mimic the sufferings or challenges in our daily lives.
Meditation gives us space in our minds to play with our reactions. While yoga creates space in our joints and musculature. During these practices, we initially make a conscious effort, until we form a mind-body awareness. We begin to notice our muscles strengthen and our minds become calm. What we gain in our daily life are new responses that become automatic and effortless. We gain balance.
When you are seated for an hour in formal meditation or twenty minutes for that matter, your mind can drift from one thing to the next. You may find it difficult to focus on your breath or compassion for this period of time. Instead, it is better to formally mediate for five minutes or 30 seconds with complete presence.
What is living meditation?
There is a difference between forceful practice and a flowing practice in both the attaining and retaining of new information. A mindful approach to living requires a continual flowing practice throughout the day. It’s how we speak to others, how we edit our own internal monologue, and the actions we choose to take in our daily lives. Mindfulness is not about forcefully sitting in formal meditation for hours at a time. Some of my most thought-provoking realizations have come to me while standing at the sink washing dishes.
Being mindful in daily life may take a bit of effort, in the beginning, you may even feel it takes more effort to stay present and observe your thoughts. However, the effort comes in the form of time and patience, not force.
An effortless effort is having an intention, a gentle determination, without aggression. You can’t force a solid piece of ice out of a glass without it breaking, but with patience and time, it will begin to turn into water and free itself.
May the lack of force be with you!
(If you are new to meditation or looking for resources, check out the Bookshelf tab on the main menu 🙂