I was at a Buddhist gathering recently and the discussion turned to the idea of “not-striving”. It was presented like a basic Buddhist tenant. I began to think about the idea and found I quickly determined that without striving, enlightenment is not a realistic expectation. Anyone that has climbed Mt Everest certainly strove to do so and reaching enlightenment is a similar high goal.
I wondered if perhaps I did not quite understand what the term “striving” meant. When I Googled it I immediately found the source of my conundrum. It had two slightly different definitions:
- make great efforts to achieve or obtain something
- struggle or fight vigorously
When I think of striving I think it is to put in a great effort. It is about being focused on a goal and sticking to it. The word that comes to mind is volition: the act of choosing, willing or resolving. In my thinking, to strive can be empty of struggle and fighting against what is.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the counsel to “not strive” when it refers to struggling against what is, in order to force a solution. I also know, from personal experience, that I can strive motivated by desperation or I can strive from a place of calm assurance. My efforts may be the same, but I find that my peace of mind is greater when I release the desperation and focus on coming from faith.
Reflection: Are my efforts towards my goal motivated by calm assurance or do I feel a sense of “have to”? What can I do to free myself of the internal pressure of striving?