How to be effortless
As part of my teacher training in Vedic Meditation, I have been delving deep into a lot of Vedic knowledge and philosophy. Some of it is pretty mind-bending stuff and is challenging me to look at things with a different perspective.
One example of this is the concept of effortlessness. The idea being that things in life should not be difficult. We should not be pushing and expending great effort to move through life. We should follow natural flow and charm and things will unfold.
Can we be effortless in daily life?
Initially, I got this in theory but was struggling with the concept in practice within the context of...well, life. It’s all very well to say to be effortless, but we have bills to pay and jobs to do and families to look after etc. Plus there are all those things we’re working towards, that holiday, that promotion, that half marathon, that house renovation. These things don’t just look after themselves. Right? Somewhere along the line, we need to put in some effort to make sure we don’t fall into a messy heap.
After quizzing my teacher on this though, she helped me with an insight that made it all just click. Effortless effort. Now I know this is technically an oxymoron, but bear with me. It is not that we don’t take action (or put in some kind of effort), but we don’t make that action one iota more than it needs to be.
How we get in our own way
We tend to do this a lot as humans. Rather than taking the next right step or action to move forward with a task, idea, we add all this extra ‘stuff’ around it to add to its complexity. We stress, ruminate, overthink, second-guess, change our minds, change our minds again, deliberate and worry.
It doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation to it either. We can sometimes feel like all this internal activity is what we need. We are making sure we think it through so that we get things ‘right’. But how often do we spend so much time doing this, that we don’t actually take a step forward? Then after a while, the action or task starts to lose its charm or feel even more weighty than it did originally? So we end up taking no action at all. All our effort and all our energy have gone into the thinking about the thing, rather than the doing of the thing.
Effort = energy expended
Have you ever had one of those situations where you are massively avoiding doing something you don’t want to do? You spend all this time and effort stressing about it, thinking of ways out of it, talking it over with people etc. Then when you finally just bite the bullet and do it, it actually wasn’t that bad? I know I have. Think about all those times and all that energy you expended not doing the thing. Now imagine if you had all that energy back, to spend on things that were important to you. Sobering isn’t it?
Our energy is a precious commodity. It’s one of the most important levers we have to work with for creating better work-life flow. We need to be conscious about what we give it over to. Unnecessary effort = unnecessarily expended energy.
How to be effortless
So how can we start being more effortless in our effort?
Look at where you are currently expanding unnecessary effort
This is about starting to build your awareness. For me, once I really thought about the areas where I was doing this, I became more present to it. I was able to catch myself when I got in a thought spiral. If you can catch yourself doing this, you can take action. If it’s difficult to do this for yourself, ask a trusted person (partner, friend, colleague etc), when they have seen you do this and to even point it out to you in the moment.
But often we know we are doing it. The problem is, we let ourselves.
One of the things I have found most helpful to building this personal awareness in my life is meditation. Meditation can really provide the space for us to step back and see ourselves objectively. We can better recognise our thought patterns rather than being stuck inside them.
Take the next step
The next small step forward, in most cases, is usually not that bad. Work out what that next step is and take it. Now there are two schools of thought here. The first is that you could plan out all the things you need to do, then take a step. The other is to forget the planning and do the very next thing you know is important. While planning is really essential for some things, we can sometimes let it get in the way of action. If you just want to get yourself out of a state of rumination, looking one step ahead may be a better option to get you moving.
Rinse and repeat
Doing this is a like building a muscle. You need to work at it over time. It’s not going to be easy to begin with, but the more you practice, the better you will get.
What is something you have been expanding unnecessary effort and energy on? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.