In an effort to counter tendencies towards striving and over-achieving, many Western approaches to meditation emphasize relaxation, ease and non-doing. When we’ve been trained to override our natural limits, being given permission to relax can be a welcome relief!
But if we stop there, we risk missing many of the benefits of spiritual cultivation. Emphasizing relaxation to the exclusion of determination is a grave mistake. Relaxation and ease are essential ingredients on the meditative path, but they must be integrated with whole-hearted effort and strong resolve.
Just as we can train for a race or grow skill in an instrument, we can develop an inner strength of mind that allows us to commit fully to what we value without straining. A balanced, loving and complete commitment is essential for growth in contemplative practice, for navigating difficult life circumstances, and for meeting the challenges of our times.
Here are some recommendations to build more inner strength
- Reflect on any area of your life where you’re able to commit and follow through. This could be as simple as brushing your teeth or deciding to go food shopping. Notice how it feels to be clear about without doubt, waffling, or indecision.
- Apply this clarity and firmness of mind to other areas in life. Start small. Choose a discrete task and take a few moments to make a resolve. You might resolve to give your whole-hearted attention to folding the laundry, instead of rushing or multi-tasking. Commit to attend to something you’ve been putting off.
- Reflect during and after the task on how it feels to cultivate this kind of clear determination. Do you begin to contract or tighten inside? Does a part of your mind rebel? How can you integrate the different impulses and parts of your heart?