"Don't seek, don't search, don't ask, don't knock, don't demand – relax. If you relax, it comes. If you relax, it is there. If you relax, you start vibrating with it. –Osho
At the end of his life, Chandra Mohan Jain, an Indian mystic and spiritual teacher, wished only to be known as "Osho," a Buddhist term for "teacher." In today's quote, Osho was stating a principle that is variously known as the "Law of Reversed Effort," or the "Law of Reversed Effect." Both names seem to fit.
This is a law of life, in the sense of a scientific law, a description of the way things work naturally. The law states that the harder you try to accomplish something, the harder it is to do it. Here's a quote from Paul Twitchell, founder of Eckankar, taken from his book Letters to Gail, Volume I, January 23, 1963.
Twitchell gave as an example, a person trying to ride a bicycle on a rocky road and striving to avoid the biggest rocks. Because the rider is focused on the big rocks, he will hit them instead of missing them. Another example he gave was of a man trying to walk across a narrow plank from one building to another on the tenth floor. The person's mind will be on trying not to fall, and since he would be focused on falling, that's what he would do."This law is a practical law of nature concerned only with man, for man is the only animal on earth that can make use of his imaginative powers! This law is concerned with the imagination. It goes like this: The more you try to put your imaginative powers upon something in concentrated effort, the less you can do it. The harder one struggles to achieve some goal, the more difficulty he will have to overcome; difficulty caused, at least in part, by the strain of his effort. 'You tried too hard, relax, take it easy and try again,' are frequently heard expressions. It means to try not to force results!
When we try to force results, it means we have a certain result in mind. The problem is that the result we have in mind may not be the best result for all concerned. God may have another result in mind; we just can't see it yet. This is another aspect of having patience with God, as I wrote about in my blog post yesterday. So often, we think we know best in a situation when we really don't.
Here's a perspective from Jackie Kosednar, who was the publisher of Alaska Wellness Magazine until her death in 2012. "When we 'try,' we gather our energy and push. Often, that energy seems to bump up against some cosmic wall and boomerang right back to us. All this serves to do is push us back the way we came. It’s like the old cliché: the dance of life is two steps forward and one step back."
Kosednar suggested that instead of saying, "I'll try," say "I'll do it," because when you "try" to do something, you are assuming that you will fail. If you don't believe that, watch what happens next time someone tells you that he or she will "try" to do something. Chances are, the person is really telling you that he or she doesn't really expect to do it, and the person is really just giving himself or herself an "out." In other words, the message is not, "Wait for it," but, "Don't hold your breath."
Kosednar said that there are ways around this law. When we try to do something new, the first thing we should expect is a bit of backlash. After all, if it were that easy, we would have done it by now. She suggested "jumping over the wave" rather than hitting it head-on.
We also need to look deep inside ourselves to be sure that this new thing is something we really want to do. "Desire is strong energy, and can cut through resistance like a sharp knife," Kosednar wrote. So often, we do things that we think we "should" be doing, even though we don't want to. When this happens, it's no surprise that we fail. If we find that we don't really want to accomplish something, then it behooves us to figure out why. For example, are we afraid of failure? Are we afraid of the unknown? Are we afraid of being disappointed that our problems will still be there, even after we have accomplished what we set out to do? Do we secretly fear rejection?
Sometimes we just have to hit bottom before we can find the willpower to make a change. We have to look at our bloated bodies in a candid photograph before we decide to lose weight. We have to wake up in the emergency room of a hospital after an overdose of drugs before we decide to get free of our addiction. We have to be booted out of a job before we start searching for a job that is more relevant, more challenging, or better-paid. We have to have our manuscript rejected over and over by the "wrong" publishers before we find the "right" one.
A Chinese friend of mine told the story of how he decided to get out of China. During the reign of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung), intelligence was not favored, probably because all the thinking people resisted the totalitarian regime. The "intelligentsia" were made to work in the farms, the factories, or the coal mines so that they would come to appreciate "the people." My friend was assigned to a coal mine. One day a coal car accidentally dumped a load of coal on him, and as he frantically dug himself out, he promised himself that he would get out of China at the first opportunity. As he told his powerful story, all of us who were listening realized on some level that this man had made a decision at the level of Soul. He did get out of China, and I met him at the University of Minnesota, where he was teaching linguistics.
Kosednar says that this kind of decision, at the Soul level, invokes a state of grace, where a higher law takes over, and the universe begins to cooperate with us in our endeavors. This is often the point at which we ask for assistance from a Higher Power.
To recap, it's important to focus on our desired outcome, rather than on what we wish to avoid. It's important to do something rather than "trying" to do it. It's important to avoid forcing outcomes according to our expectations. Instead, we should be open to unexpected outcomes that may be much more desirable. We should expect problems and rise to meet them, knowing that they are only temporary obstacles. And we should relax, knowing that all is well, and that our efforts at making changes will eventually have some effect. :-)