I was thinking about right effort last night at the end of our I Liq Chuan class here in Tempe.
Right Effort is something they talk about in Zen as one of the factors of the eight fold path, along with right speech, right action, right livelihood, right intent, right concentration and right mindfulness. Typically their categorized as "discipline, concentration and wisdom." If you've ever gotten an email from me, you may have noticed these three words as part of my signature.
Despite what we want to do with our time, life often gets in the way, throwing a variety of hurdles in our path. As it happens, I'm in the middle of some stuff right now, which is all adding to my "stress bucket"; vehicle troubles, my dad's health, etc. and my sleep this week hasn't been ideal, so by the end of class, when we practice our 21 form, I just wasn't feeling it.
The 21 Form, done properly, takes quite a bit of focus and concentration do be done "right". There's a of moving parts all at once, and everything needs to be coordinated just so. It becomes a form of dynamic meditation; everything is done with full "knowing".
My hands are HERE, my feet are there, touching the ground in just such a way, gravity is pulling on my here, my body is facing this way; now that, and all the time, more than anything: I KNOW where my center is, how I move to keep the balance to change direction at any time or ready to produce power. The attention has to be there to know, every single time.
Standing at the front of the class, it would have been easy enough to just phone it in and call it a night. Who would know besides me? I've put in my 10000 hours by this point, I could just let habit and muscle memory take over, but standing there, looking out over the water I thought to myself "What are you doing? What do you really want? If you don't concentrate and put in the right effort here, you only cheat yourself."
How often do we cheat ourselves? How many promises to yourself do you break in a day, or in a week, and how do we feel when we do that?
On the other hand, bringing our thoughts and actions into alignment is like "mind and body as one". It's not always easy; in fact, most of the time it WILL BE hard, but knowing that our actions align with our beliefs and values is a form of self discipline that brings inner peace.