In normal life, we use the word “effort” to describe anything that demands energy from us to complete. This is mechanical effort. We have the habit of making some efforts and the habit of avoiding others. But effort in The Work is different, or at least it should be different. We do exercises, tasks which we set every week. And we are not particularly successful in this. We know from the reports that we make in these meetings. We can tell form what others say, and also from what they do not say. Nobody ever says “I did this every day to my own satisfaction.” So we need to examine our efforts. We need to find the cause of why we fail.
Did we fail because we forgot entirely? If so why did we forget?
Did we think of the task and then dismiss it?
If so what dismissed it?
How did that “I” get to be in charge at that moment?
Were there negative emotions that prevented action? This is common.
What were those emotions?
Did you simply misunderstand the task?
If so, why did you not pay more attention?
What stopped that?
How did you justify not doing the task?
To make effort in the work is to struggle. If there was no struggle then whatever happened, just happened. In the broad reality we inhabit events occur in four different ways:
- Law of accident,
- Cause and effect,
Struggle happens only by will, by intention that is actualized. So you first must have intention. How do you form an intention in yourself? You cannot make effort and not be aware of it. So first there is an intention and then action. No matter how weak, this is our will. We are never ready for work, in the way that we are ready for activities of life. And if we get to the point of really being ready, then we will attract events for which we are not ready. We must try to use will.
If we have just one atom of will and we use it, it will grow. There will be two atoms then more and more. There is the question of super-effort—effort beyond normal work effort. A super-effort before anything else is obedience to a task. It means not avoiding. It means sacrificing our presumption of choice. Super-effort is a conscious effort. It is true intentional suffering. Often when we “make efforts” it is just pretense. When we cannot avoid effort, we make it, but this is not a super-effort, because we did not choose. If someone you are with makes a super-effort, how would you know?
We are not always in the same state. We fluctuate. People in ordinary life cannot ‘do’, but for us it is different—we try to do. If we are diligent, we try to do it frequently, every day. We are identified and something in us notices, so we try to let go. We talk mechanically, so we try not to. We feel negative about something, we try to let the emotion pass. We have negative imagination and we drop it. We recognize we are not present so we self-remember. This is doing.
And all the time, as we fail repeatedly, we must try to understand why we failed. We try to gather self-knowledge. We realize we are so much less than we thought, and we begin to acknowledge our nothingness. We do not shirk from this. If we shirk, then why? Only realization of our present state, in the moment or over time, provides stimulus for work. We deceive ourselves, we are asleep, we are in peril, our house is on fire, it is always on fire, but not in the room we occupy.
We have no time to waste. The fire must be quenched. The reward for quenching the fire is to discover other rooms on fire. Our life is on fire and we are asleep. As we are, we can only dream of putting out the fire. If we make efforts, super-efforts, we get to fight the fire rather than dream about fighting it.