For a couple of weeks I’ve been attempting to write this blog. The theme is effort vs. strain. How do we spot the difference and catch ourselves before healthy effort tips over to strain.
Every time I sat to write, strain blocked the flow and I needed to close my laptop and walk away. The harder I tried, the harder it got. Turgid. All the while questioning whether I simply needed to put in more effort!
Eventually I stopped ignoring what I know. This is what I remembered.
When we really want something, we have to “let go”. Feel the desire, set our intention, take some actions – then, let go of the outcome.
Good things come to us, often seeming as a gift. Not as rewards in direct relation to endless effort applied by us to a specific end.
Our lives are full of examples if we take the time to stop, observe, receive. Of a phone call “out of the blue”, holding the promise of a new opportunity. A reconnection. A chance meeting. Something seen or read that sparks a new idea. The wrong turn that takes us where we want to go.
Effort also is ever present. It’s what gets us out of bed each day. Some days we barely notice this as “effort”, on others the effort seems Herculean! Effort is how we show up for life. Noticeable when we put in that bit extra. Meeting friends on a cold, wet night. Reading that story, checking homework, and making a call. Attending class, going for a run, sitting to meditate…
Effort is healthy. It’s often a source of interest, a higher level of engagement in our lives. We put in. We receive something back.
This is the first clue. Most times, when we make an effort, Nature meets us halfway. How often do we say, “I’m so glad I made the effort…”? We make the effort to begin something new, do something outside our comfort zone and support comes our way.
What then of strain? All strain begins with effort. We exert our bodies at the gym, playing sport, at yoga, sometimes going beyond effort, straining. Setting us up for injury. And those days of Herculean effort to get out of bed? If we are unwell or exhausted, that is strain. And we’d be best served letting go and resting.
Where we have most to gain is in recognising effort turning to strain in our other endeavours. Where we strain our nervous system and our mind. When we convince ourselves that we need to keep applying effort to “make it happen”.
“It” can be anything we’re involved in. Any outcome we’ve become fixed around. Fixed about the order in which things will happen, the timing, the outcome.
Does this sound familiar? This ethic we have where more effort is goodness and equals more return. Remember the catch cry “no pain, no gain” – one that began in the gym and crept into every aspect of our lives. Try harder.
Strain also comes when we decide we need to do everything ourselves. I’m the only one who knows how, who can arrive at the outcome. Once we are living under strain, we become blind to “gifts” that come our way.
Has it become that we are more familiar with strain. We trust it more than the gift. We’re quick to dismiss “gifts” as luck, flukes, and unreliable events.
And then we reach our limit. We take a break and let go. And in the gap we experience the gift that is our life. Something, sometimes very small, sometimes very big, occurs that brings us back to knowing that we are not on our own.
“Or you could be the one who takes the long way home
Roll down your window, turn off your phone
See your life as a gift from the great unknown
And your task is to receive it…”
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Long Way Home”
Our task is to receive. We continue to make our efforts, day by day. To have intentions, to set our course. Then let go our fixed ideas of the outcome. Be present and humble enough to receive the gifts of life.
All original material copyright 2015 manifestmylife
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