May 18, 2011

Wise Effort: Week 3 of Rodney Smith's "Selfless Practice"

One of the topics that Rodney Smith explores in "The Practice of Selflessness," Week 3 of his Tricycle Retreat, is Wise Effort. Once we begin to understand selflessness (Wise View) we naturally want to make an effort to release the need to be separate. How can we do this? Smith advises us to use what he calls the four R's of Wise Effort: relax, release, relinquish, and rejoin. Smith covers each of these R's in "The Practice of Selflessness," and he also goes through them in his recent book Stepping Out of Self-Deception.

From Stepping Out of Self-Deception:


The four R's of Wise Effort are relax, release, relinquish, and rejoin. None of these words holds any tension or stress, nor builds upon the "story of me." These words represent moments of surrender, not acts of assertion. They allow us to fall back into ourselves rather than make something of ourselves. They call us back to our inherent nature through Wise View. The four R's do not build upon the sense-of-self; instead they invert the energy of seeking back to its rightful direction of investigation and discovery. The four R's are counterintuitive because the sense-of-self only survives by constructing itself over time, and these words deconstruct the self by eliminating the scaffolding on which it builds itself.

Effort in alignment with these four R's is a direct path out of the maze because they force the self to reveal its unconscious agenda. These words move us in the opposite direction of our habits, and thereby expose our conditioning. The sense-of-self will protest the use of the four R's because the "me" wants to maintain its power and control, and this form of effort takes that away. The self will complain how these four R's go against life's purpose and meaning by dismissing the advantages of willful effort. If that does not persuade us from using the four R's, the self will bring forth its trump card of fear. "What will guide me if I give up control?" it will cry. In that moment we will see why many people choose the more traditional, long, wearisome route of willful effort. This objection seems too emphatic, insecure, and personally defeating. 



To participate in this retreat you must be a Tricycle Community Supporting or Sustaining Member. Below is a preview of Week 3 of the retreat.



Also, when you become a Tricycle Community Member, you can join a Special Community Discussion with Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison, the founders and co-executive directors of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

Image: from the Flickr photostream of Krikit

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