This is a repost of a blog I wrote in 2013!
Every kind of manifestation relies on our finishing what we started. Through our perseverance we achieve creative and spiritual states we would otherwise not experience. In fact, a lack of joyful effort, of sticking with “it” results in discouragement and unhappiness. Our perseverance is often all we have in the face of distractions, resistance and disappointment.
Evidence points to perseverance being central to feelings of lasting satisfaction. Those who persevere with their commitments are happier and more satisfied, and more financially sound. When we are not joyfully participating in our creative and spiritual life, we are likely under the control of such habitual states as resistance and fear. Enthusiastic effort is one of the six perfections in Buddhist philosophy. (Generosity, Ethical Discipline, Patience, Enthusiastic Effort, Concentration, & Wisdom are the six perfections). Joyful effort is really all about perseverance with an attitude.
Because each of us is unique we need to find what motivates us, what keeps us going and what helps us hold an enthusiastic attitude toward our intentions and commitments. “Motivation determines the ultimate worth of any activity.” Geshe Sonam Rinchen, Ruth Sonam, The Six Perfections.
I hear a collective groan in my spiritual journaling class when I refer to this perfection as the one that makes everything happen. The groan reflects not a resistance to what I said so much as it is to the shared challenge of staying enthused when it comes to certain spiritual practices and creative commitments. The paradox is that most of the practices and commitments are known to be of benefit. We typically sign up for commitments that will bring us happiness and fulfillment! We initially say an enthusiastic yes but find ourselves discouraged or distracted.
It can be hard to keep going, or to return to what really brings us meaning and satisfaction in our lives. But, I am not going to address the “why we are this way.” Fortunately, we don’t have to answer this question in order to generate enthusiasm. We can cultivate joyful perseverance without knowing why we are the way we are. (And, this can save you lots of money too – instead of searching for reasons why you are the way you are, explore what will generate movement in the present moment and put your money and energy there!)
Here are simple ways to maintain joyful perseverance in your spiritual and writerly life–
Be mindful of your first thoughts and words upon rising in the morning. These are known to set a tone for the day. I use the practice of saying my bodhisattva vow out loud three times. Don’t recite something robotically, instead recite it intentionally and mindfully. Enthusiastically. I first started this practice at a time when I was self-critical So, I began with setting a tone for a kinder self, and said out loud upon rising: Julie be merciful to you. When I could start with some kindness toward myself, I experienced more kindness with others. A more recent one that I often include after my vow is: Thank you for this day! Choose or create a vow, or intention or some statement that will uplift and bring you in alignment with something positive.
Discover the benefits of your practices and commitments. Journal or contemplate the benefits of meditation or walking, for examples. You may even want to read other’s commentary on the benefits of certain practices or efforts. Even reading on the health benefits of walking and being outdoors can generate some enthusiasm.
Hold a conversation with all that is around you. Keep the dialogue going from your end by paying attention to what is in front of you presently. What are you involved in at this moment? Use a field journal (see below) to encourage such dialogue with the world around you.
Commit to something small, like a one-mile walk, or a 150 daily word count but leave time and room for more. We often find ourselves not wanting to go the whole three miles or write those 500 words in our book but one mile seems doable; 150 words can be done. Then by the time we get to the 150 words or the one-mile mark we are often in a state of joyful enthusiasm and will continue on (so make sure to give yourself the time to do more).
Before saying yes to a given undertaking examine whether it is truly an appropriate course of action for you or not. Is it timely? Is it truly beneficial? Are you willing? Are you capable? It is much better not to begin something than to start and abandon it before you are done. (This can become quite discouraging as well). This can become a pattern that robs you of satisfaction.
Remember – the benefits of any creative action can only come from your efforts. No one else can write the book or run the race, or experience the resultant satisfaction of a spiritual practice for you. Remembering that we will experience direct benefits from our efforts can help maintain some enthusiasm around commitments we already made. This includes remembering the reasons you committed to something in the first place. What got you excited about it initially?
Make a creative manifestation board or mandala of images and words that inspire you.
Live out in the open! Share your stuff with others – especially your successes. Made a good pie? — post a picture of it on Facebook. Better yet, take a piece to a neighbor. Sit down and have a conversation as you share the pie. Walked that extra mile?– tell someone. Better yet, take your camera or friend on some of your walks. Wrote a poem?–, read it out loud to others. Show and tell! Experience the enthusiasm of having shared your good efforts. This living in the open can include being part of a creative manifestation group where you share your intentions. More on this in my book: The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are.
Live intentionally. Set intentions; keep them conscious and live from your intentions on a daily basis. See The Wheel of Initiation for more on living intentionally.
Keeping Field Notes. My smaller notebooks, which I carry with me, or have hidden in different spots around my house are my field notes. Since everything is the field in my spiritual and creative life, I rely on my field notes to harvest ideas and witness the world around me. These field notes feed me, keep me aware of my surroundings and help to maintain a joyful participation in the world around me. They help me cultivate attention. I have my field notebook ready in every situation, ready for that insight or experience worth documenting. I look for scenes and sights and listen for dialogue that can go in my books, blogs and journals. The best scenes in my fiction are harvested from my field notes. The most pertinent spiritual insights are typically jotted down first in my field notes, in the field. I recommend you have at least three field notebooks, each labeled with a certain theme, leaving one untitled for the more general material you may harvest during the day.
Finally, practice the attitude of enthusiastic effort by reading inspirational material. For example, I read William Stafford’s or David Whyte’s poetry and prose and get excited about what I am doing with my life. Then as the enthusiasm gets ignited, I put on my walking shoes, or write in my novel, or meditate . . . or visit with a friend.
“Armor-like enthusiastic effort consist of being prepared to do as much, go as deeply and continue for as long as is necessary to achieve a positive objective.” – The Six Perfections by Geshe Sonam Rinchen, translated by Ruth Sonam
Keep writing, keep meditating, and keep rising up each morning with your spiritual principles and creative intentions strong in your heart. Everything you give your self over to will give itself back to you.
“Assistance is the universal immutable force of creative manifestation, whose role since the Big Bang has been to translate potential into being, to convert dreams into reality.” –Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.
“The meaning of life is
whatever you ascribe it to be.
Being alive is the meaning.” –Joseph Campbell