A new handyman is coming over this morning, and he’ll be looking at the house like a doctor my body. The house and I were built in the same decade, the fifties. I’m a little sensitive about the receding hairline and I know the house needs painting.
I was telling a friend yesterday I used to believe in the effortless effort. I didn’t get very far before I said, “Never mind.” It was more complicated than I thought, and I realized I needed to re-think it. I used to want things, like relationships, to be relatively maintenance free or at least not take that much energy. I was wrong.
I think our psychological history has to be rewritten with each level and stage of emotional development we pass through. It’s definitely one of the goals of therapy. A change in the level of insight or understanding changes everything. It’s like, “Now I get it.” Mine often arrived with some mud and humility.
It’s not that my preference for effortless has gone away, I can feel it right now. I had some resistance to calling John, the handyman. When he arrives, I’ll do my best to sniff him. I’m hoping the fit is good and we can work well together.
Most of my long-term practices are relatively effortless. I like to get my exercise by walking. I usually stroll with a friend, and never get tired of it. In fact, I’m sad when I can’t.
I also like to do yard work, although I am far from perfectionistic. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s my paleo work-out and I love to chop wood, carry rocks, and make soil out of compost. Paradoxically, I’ll choose hand over power tools every chance I get. I find them more effortful than effortless.
But my journal is the practice I’ve spent the most time thinking about, and I’m a little concerned this morning because I won’t get to sit here for as long as I’d like. I do not need to discipline myself to write. It takes discipline to stop.
I’m careful I don’t let this blog get too effortful, which is why I keep it to two pages. I’m up from the five-hundred-word limit I started with. That became a little too effortful for me. More than two pages, however, would begin to tax me. Can’t have that.
This desire for effortless effort has played its part in how and why I gravitated toward counseling. My career and calling, by the way, look considerably different from this stage of life than when I was first beginning. I have much more psychological history and material to carry and compost. It’s good shit.
I’ve always loved heart-to-heart talk, and it didn’t matter if I was paid or not. Now I get to work for free. I’m no longer a professional and doubt I could ever be one again. Too effortful for me.
Chyako says, “It’s painful to pose.” And I could go off on this one. But the point is simple: if you’re not being true to yourself, it takes a lot of effort to sustain it. Sustainability is another word for effortless, and it’s only sustainable to be true to yourself.
I’m not always true to myself. Sometimes it takes a month or two, but then I get back on my path. When I’m on my path, that’s what I call effortless. The Taoists call it wu wei.
The idea of a path is symbolic to the extreme and belongs to the archetype of the journey. It’s where this sansaku has drifted and I’d like to keep walking, but the handyman is on his way.