Working Smarter Not Harder

Secular Buddhism


In this podcast episode, I wanted to share some of my thoughts regarding the topic of effort. So in Buddhism we follow what's called the eightfold path. These are eight specific. That you focus on to live a more mindful life and the eight areas are right understanding right intent, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration and I've talked about these general I've talked about the eightfold path in general in the podcast before I mentioned it of course in my book. And I wanted to discuss some thoughts that I have regarding one specific aspect which is effort. So if you visualize real quick, the symbol of Buddhism is a wheel with spokes and these eight spokes represent these specific areas, these eight areas, and some people have divided these into three general groups, the group of pertaining to wisdom, which would be understanding and intent. The group related to ethical conduct, which would be speech action livelihood. Then, the group pertaining to mental discipline, which would be effort, mindfulness and concentration. And again I've mentioned this before but I've never taken the time to share thoughts regarding one specific spoke of the of the wheel and today wanted to do that with with regards to effort. Now, anytime, you encounter the eightfold path, you'll you'll typically hear it described as right this and right that right understanding right intent and so on. I've mentioned before that I prefer the term skillful because of skillful means being such a prevalent concept in. Buddhism. It's not right versus wrong. It's more of skillful versus unskillful. So I would like to talk about effort in terms of skillful effort versus unskillful effort. and. This kind of conjures up the expression that I'm sure you've heard which is that we can work smarter not harder and. I this is the first time. I've kind of correlated all of this in terms of Buddhist practice, and that's because over the past few weeks. I've been busy doing a lot of flying I had an eight day workshop where I was teaching for new pilots how to fly. Followed by an eight day, fly in, which is a gathering and you have vendors there and they're showcasing their equipment, and then all of the attendees were spending Oliver Time doing as much flying as possible just for the fun of flying. So it's a really fun event but I've been gone from my family and from my home for the past two weeks on the road doing all this work, and for during the first week working with four new students, I had this thought of skillful effort because of an experience that I had. So I had four new students and one student really stood out to me he joined the class. Several months ago he signed up for training and he expressed his concern I due to his age sixty seven years old and as you start reaching, I would say your mid sixties You know it's common for some people to lose a little bit of their strength. But to complicate things further for him, he he has Parkinson's disease. So he was a little bit worried about how those complications would factor into doing all this physical effort that it takes to learn to fly a pair motor, and for those of you who don't know the process of learning to fly. One of these entails strapping a motor to your back. That's usually sixty to seventy pounds and then running with that and and running to the point where you're going fast enough to take off, we don't have. Wheels in in powered paragliding at least not in the foot lunch powered paragliding, which is what I do. Our we are wheels are our feet. So you have to be able to run up to a certain speed to be able to take off just like an airplane has to get up to a certain amount of speed before it lifts off the ground, it's the same for us, but we don't have wheels. So has to be our feet. And student was a little bit concerned as as was I. I told him if if you're determined to learn, we'll spend all the time that it takes. If it goes beyond the eight days of a takes weeks or months, I will continue to spend that time with you and teach you as long as you put in, you know the the effort that it's GonNa take to do it, and that was kind of how we left things and then the day came for training to start. He was little nervous I was certainly a little nervous. And he did remarkably well and this is where I started to see and experience first hand what skillful effort looks like he knew himself so well. He knew at what time heating to take his medication he knew how long it would take before the meditate medication started to kick in. He knew when the window was opened for him to go out and start practicing and doing all the effort and the work it was going to take to learn and perhaps more importantly, he knew when that window was closing and he would be the first to shut it down and say, okay, I'm done I can't keep practicing because he knew that as the medication wore off and his Parkinson's kicked in stronger. Those were not skilful times to continue practicing and continue trying to push himself. And as I observed this over the course of several days. I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly he was learning because of the effort he was putting in and it wasn't. It wasn't that he was trying really hard as he was trying in a very smart way he knew when to be trying and when not to be trying.

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