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Finding Balance in Meditation: Effort Without Effort

Updated: Jul 8

Thriving for Balance

Finding balance in life is a common challenge. Whether it’s about managing work and personal life or putting in the right amount of effort to achieve our goals, we all struggle to achieve equilibrium. This challenge extends into our meditation practice. What if balance was not a state to achieve, but an approach, a mindset to develop?

Often, we come to meditation, or any activity in our lives, with a mindset of striving and achieving, which can lead to frustration and a sense of failure when we don’t achieve the results we seek. We try 'too hard' and see the desired outcome slip away.

Instead, we can learn to develop a balanced approach through meditation. By practicing balanced effort in this way, we enrich our meditation practices and learn a skill that we can apply to other areas of our lives.

“Just Sitting”

Sangharakshita, the founder of our Buddhist movement (Triratna), recommends a practice called “Just Sitting” that balances effort and passivity.

“Just Sitting is without making any effort and without not making an effort.”

He suggests that every practice of mindfulness, whether it’s breathing or cultivating loving-kindness (Metta), requires a conscious effort; however, this effort should not become too willful. The Just Sitting approach helps develop a rhythm in meditation where we take hold, let go, grasp, and open up, achieving a perfectly balanced practice.

Steps to Achieve Balanced Effort in Meditation

  1. Understand Balanced Effort Recognize that meditation (and life in general) involves both conscious effort and letting go. It’s about finding a middle path where effort is applied without becoming forceful and controlling.

  2. Incorporate Just Sitting into Your Daily Meditation Practice After practicing Mindfulness of Breathing or Loving-kindness (Metta Bhavana) meditation, include a period of Just Sitting. This practice helps integrate the efforts made during active meditation and cultivates a state of receptivity and openness.

  3. Develop Sensitivity and Trust During Just Sitting Pay attention to the level of effort you are applying. If you notice too much effort, gently release it. This sensitivity to your inner state is crucial for balanced meditation. Trust that any effort you make, no matter how imperfect, will have a positive effect. The Buddha taught that even scrappy effort will yield results. Trust in your practice and allow the fruits to manifest naturally.

  4. Embrace an Insight Practice Recognize that Just Sitting is not only about calming the mind but also about gaining insight. Once your mind is sufficiently calm and receptive, Just Sitting helps gain glimpses of the fluid and indefinite relationship between "me in here" and "you out there".

  5. Follow a Structured Approach Subhuti offers a structured approach to Just Sitting with five aspects:

  • Just Settle: Allow your mind to calm down naturally without forcing it.

  • Just Wait: Trust that things will change and settle on their own.

  • Just Watch: Observe your thoughts and emotions with curiosity, without getting involved.

  • Just Enjoy: Find something pleasant in your experience and enjoy the current state.

  • Just See: Over time, the distinction between the observer and the observed may dissolve, leading to a deeper sense of unity and flow.

Achieving balance in life and meditation is not about perfection but about sensitivity and trust in the process. By incorporating the practice of Just Sitting, you can develop a rhythm in your meditation that harmonizes effort and passivity.

Trust in your meditation practice, and over time, you’ll find that the elusive balance becomes a natural part of your meditation and daily life. Remember, it’s all about effort without effort.


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