What is “Right Effort” in Mindfulness Meditation?
According to the well-regarded book, “What the Buddha Taught”, “Right Effort” is described as “energetic will to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising and to produce ..good and wholesome states of mind”. I think this advice is sage, but probably only achievable by experienced practitioners who have keen ongoing awareness and the ability to truly let go.
For most meditators, getting rid of “unwholesome” states is not easy. Some such states may arise from a variety of causes including deep-seated personality patterns, early childhood trauma and much more. Sometimes, raw and powerful emotions may arise without any conscious causality. In such circumstances, it may be “right effort” to switch from your normal practice, for example following the breath, and make the arising fear, pain, sadness, envy or whatever the object of your meditation. Treat it as you would do the breath – be mindfully aware, but without judging, resisting or analysing. If distracted, let go and start over again. Create space so you do not fall into knee jerk reaction and so you can observe the causal factors connected to whatever is arising in consciousness… and let go of them. Remember, the past is past. Now is the opportunity for real change.
Right effort in trying to meditate daily may sometimes mean being compassionate with yourself – not pushing too hard for “results”, forgiving yourself for being too tired or scattered or for missing your regular meditation sessions. That having been said, you must also take yourself to task for making excuses for backsliding. Honesty and balance are important.
In Dharma, AJ
NB Our next meditation retreat at Harmony Dawn is April 28-30, 2017 with the possibility of staying extra days. Please let us know asap if you would like to attend.