This week, we’ll begin a look at the second Factor of Awakening: Energy or Effort (Virya).
In some respects, developing a skillful relationship to the energy and effort that goes into practice is vitally important if we are to make any realistic progress along the path. At times it’s important to know when to apply more effort, increasing one’s determination, and at other times, its equally important to know when to back off, relax and cultivate inner-ease.
In coming weeks, I’ll be looking at two sides of that question, in terms of the yin and yang dynamics of effort.
But before getting into the nitty gritty, I wanted to reflect more broadly on the theme of energy for practice, itself. We’re all familiar with the phrase, “fare-weather fan”, referring to a person who supports a sports team when the likelihood of playoff victory is high (ahem, overnight Bruins fans!) The sun is shining and these fans are all too happy to come out and cheer.
In spirituality, I’ve noticed an inverted tendency. When the dung starts to pile up that’s the moment when most people seek to ‘re-connect’ with their spiritual practice. When illness, break-up, death, or hard-luck strikes, that’s when they start signing up for meditation retreats, buying Pema Chodron books, and re-upping their yoga studio memberships.
Noticing this tendency, I’ve been tossing around the phrase, “foul-weather yogi” –the one who only practices when miserable. (This tendency accounts for the first 5 years of my practice).
So how to break that cycle, if, indeed, we’re caught in it? The best advice I’ve heard came from Sharon Salzberg’s teacher, Munindra. He told Sharon to make a small sign that read, “Just put the body here”, with an arrow pointing down at the meditation cushion. That was her practice, just putting the body in place. Not to wonder if the conditions were right, or if practice was necessary… but just to show up with however it was. This week, I encourage, and even exhort, you to practice in an even, steady way, everyday, no matter what. Just try it for this week, especially if you’re a ‘foul-weather yogi’. Much more on the effort and energy in practice next week.
Originally published on June 23, 2011