Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Law of Least Effort: It Doesn't Have To Be That Hard

It doesn't matter if you believe in them, or even realize that they exist, but everything and everyone in the universe acts in accordance with certain laws.  There's laws of gravity, laws of cause and effect and laws of attraction (made famous by the highly criticized movie, The Secret).  In Deepak Chopra's book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success he briefly discusses another law, one that turned my life upside down, the law of least effort.

Life is an up hill struggle and nothing worth while comes easily.  No pain, no gain.  Makes sense, right?  It used to make perfect sense to me until a few years ago when I started studying yoga.  Now I'm just starting to realize that it really doesn't have to be that difficult.  When you are living authentically the life that you were created to live, things easily and effortlessly become available to you.  It's The Law!  Nature (as is often the case) is the best example of this.  Deepak Chopra explains: 

"Grass doesn't try to grow, it just grows. Fish don't try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don't try to bloom, they bloom. Birds don't try to fly, they fly. This is their intrinsic nature. The earth doesn't try to spin on its own axis; it is the nature of the earth to spin with dizzying speed and to hurtle through space. It is the nature of babies to be in bliss. It is the nature of the sun to shine. It is the nature of the stars to glitter and sparkle. And it is human nature to make our dreams manifest into physical form, easily and effortlessly."
Wherever you're going in this life, whatever your dreams and heart's desires, achieving them doesn't have to be an uphill battle.  It's only when we struggle against our nature, against the laws of the universe that things become difficult.  You wouldn't expect to defy the laws of gravity by throwing an apple in the air and having it stay suspended there while you fold laundry.  Likewise you must also live according to the law of least effort.  One of the most powerful pieces of advice one of my yoga teachers said to me was to practice letting go and letting be.  Let that be your mantra from now on.  Putting aside expectations, anxieties and past life baggage to allow your unique divine path unfold naturally, effortlessly and with ease. 

The Bhagavad Gita describes this state of effortlessness as the action in inaction.  The Bhagvad Gita, a sacred text in India, chronicles the story of Arjuna, a warrior on the battlefield who is conflicted about his involvement in the war.  Lord Krishna guides Arjuna in his journey and discovery of right and wrong action.  One of the most profound verses is Chapter 4, verse 18, where Krishna explains how one can do very little, yet accomplish huge tasks.  In Swami Sivananda's translation the verse reads:

"He who seeth inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men; he is a Yogi and performer of all actions".
My interpretation of this verse is you can physically appear to be doing nothing (effortlessness), but using the law of least effort also be hard at work making your deepest desires come true.  This verse shows us that although the physical body remains still (inaction), the higher self can still be busy at work (action).  On the other hand, we all know people who run themselves ragged following their every impulse and material whim (action).  But since these actions are not in accordance with their authentic selves, they are really going nowhere and doing nothing to grow and mature (inaction).

When we studied the Bhagavad Gita in my yoga teacher's training course, intellectually I understood this verse and could explain it's meaning in detail (it was one of the exam questions!).  But that was just cerebral.  I couldn't really understand it practically or see it's importance in my own life.  It made sense, but how could I living in this world put all this theory into practice?  I'm not Arjuna on the battlefield. 

Actually we are all Arjuna on the battlefield.  But it's not a battlefield, it's your life and you can chose whether it's spent in conflict, war, anxiety and doubt or bliss (ananada in Sanskrit).  Like anything in life, integrating the law of least effort into your life takes time, patience and lots of faith.  I still have days where I feel like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up hill.  But when I slow down, breathe and try to see beyond the temporary chaos, I always find an answer to help me through.  To help you integrate the law of least effort into your life, Deepak Chopera lists 3 techniques: 
  1. Acceptance - Accepting people, situations and everything that occurs.  If you believe that every challenge is present in your life to teach you and help guide you, you will realize your "difficulties" are really blessings. 
  2. Responsibility - Taking responsibility for everything that happens to you and how you chose to react to the difficult situations.  Whatever happens, ultimately you are the one that is allowing it to happen that way.
  3. Defenselessness - Sounds similar to helplessness, but it doesn't have to be.  Don't waste energy on fighting it, just surrender and let whatever comes, come.  Because believe me, life's difficult situations are going to come, whether you like it or not.  So why get on the defensive?  Instead see the lesson in the chaos and move on.
Wishing all of you an effortless journey forward this new year.

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