7 months ago

On Unnecessary Effort

We are trained to do more. But take a look around. How’s that working out?


But we keep working overtime to keep the whole mess moving forward.

Then, somebody like me says, “See what effort you make that is unnecessary, and just stop that unnecessary effort. Just for a moment. Just experience directly that it is unnecessary.”

And it’s no surprise that, given our training, we twist that into “Oh, I better try harder to stop the unnecessary effort.”

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No, no, no!

That’s not it.

Less. Less. Less.

There is a certain baseline of effort that is necessary to be.

Effort is required to breathe, for the heart to beat, for nerve impulses. Effort is required to defecate and urinate. Effort is required to eat.

But how much more effort do we make on a daily basis? On a moment-to-moment basis?

Take a look. Really look. Don’t think about looking. Don’t judge whether you are looking.

Just look.

And by look, I meanĀ feel.

I mean feel what it is to be you right now. And feel how much effort you are making that is above and beyond the baseline.

Not because the goal is to always be at baseline. Not because “unnecessary effort” is bad.

But just to see what is what. To be able to discriminate.


Well, here’s a good reason.

Because you’re going to have a disagreement with somebody. Your spouse. Your mother. Your son. Your neighbor. Your boss. Your employee.


And that is hard.

And it often generates “hard feelings”

And “hard feelings” are unbearable.

So we do all kinds of stupid things.

But if you can discriminate, then you start to become aware of the hard feelings. And you also become aware of the soft feelings underneath.

The soft feelings aren’t always nice either.

They are often scary.

Fear is a soft feeling, for example.

But we spend so much time wrestling with these hard feelings, trying to get rid of hard feelings by trying to rearrange circumstances – making others behave as the “should”, buying stuff, getting drunk, whatever – we overlook the soft feelings.

If you just can discriminate – which is possible through paying attention to what is unnecessary effort – something happens. You can’t fool yourself so much any longer. Then you realize that these soft feelings are here all the time.

And that all the unnecessary effort is not doing you much good.

You’ll still make the unnecessary effort. But it will be half-hearted.

Because you’ll know that this other dimension – what feels like a bottomless sea of unsettled soft feelings, of terror, of emptiness, of longing, of uncertainty – is always here. You can’t escape it.

So maybe it’s not worth trying so hard to escape what you can’t escape.

You’ll still try out of habit. And because the fear of doing nothing is sometimes too much.

But that’s okay.

The goal isn’t to reach baseline and cling to it forever.

The goal is what is already the case. Life happening.

You can’t fuck it up.

Stop trying.


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