Efforting or Offering

When I was a little girl my mother used to say, “If there’s a hard way to do something, Gail will find it.”   And she was right.  The harder I tried, the better I thought I was doing.  One hundred percent was never enough.  I gave two hundred percent.  It was through the practice of yoga asana that I came face to face with how destructive that behavior actually was.  Practicing yoga with a two hundred percent effort was really hard and resulted in injury, after injury, after injury.   But instead of easing up, I just kept trying harder because I had confused trying harder with doing my best.  I kept it up until one day I heard something inside me say, “CHILL OUT!  There’s gotta be an easier way.”

The way I practiced yoga on my mat was indicative of how I was functioning off my mat.  Consistently doing things the hard way is not sustainable, and eventually I experienced burn out.  Because I tended to take on more than I could comfortably handle, I became resentful.  And since I never took a break, I was exhausted.  I was clearly not aligned with what was optimal, appropriate, or life enhancing.   I was very intense and tense, and I was way out of balance.

As I refined my yoga practice I learned that the intensity I needed to develop was not to be intensely effortful, but to be intensely aware, to be intensely purposeful, and to act as if every movement on my mat was meaningful.   In other words, the effort I needed to develop was to be intentional, not to work harder.

As I made the effort to become more intentional in my practice, I learned the difference between doing my best and trying my hardest.  I began to realize that trying my hardest was overkill and that doing my best in any given situation, on the mat or off, was all that was required.  I became aware that doing my best meant to participate fully, but never with so much effort that I lost my inner smile.  On the mat you can tell if you are trying too hard when your breathing becomes labored.  Off the mat you can tell if you’re trying too hard if your inner smile is gone.  I discovered that when I did my best instead of trying my hardest, I found the delicate balance between effort and ease and I felt empowered.  I was happier, too.

It got me to thinking about all the times I’ve done something out of a sense of duty and obligation, without joy – something that I really didn’t want to do because my heart wasn’t in it.  Forcing yourself to do something because you think it’s the right thing to do but is devoid of joy is what I call efforting.  It’s like preparing a meal you really don’t want to prepare for someone who really doesn’t want to receive it.  It’s a lot of hard work, there’s no inner smile, and it can lead to resentment.  In contrast, preparing a meal that someone wants to receive with a smile in your heart still requires work, but it is so much easier and so much more fulfilling.  This is what I call an offering.

The difference between efforting and offering is not defined by the activity itself.  The difference lies in the intention you set for yourself doing the activity, and the attitude with which you approach it.  Let’s face it, just as we do postures on the mat that we don’t necessarily enjoy, we are also called to do things off our mats that we would rather not do.  It’s a part of life.  But when we set an intention for ourselves to do our best instead of trying our hardest, no matter what we are called to do we have made a commitment to do the task with sensitivity and a smile in our hearts.

Instead of doing an unwanted task, or any task for that matter, by forcing yourself to do it with either a negative or a lackluster attitude, make the task an offering.   And remember, that what matters most is the offering you make, not the effort you make.  When you make an offering your actions are an expression of something deeper than duty and obligation.  Your actions become a gift of the heart and you become the offering that others want to receive.  It’s so much easier and your inner smile shines brighter, too.

Namaste

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16 responses to “Efforting or Offering

  1. Gail I read this blog a few weeks ago and just needed to “sit with it”, before I responded. Your way of sharing your personal story, really struck me and it struck me in a way that I never expected. You see, the way you defined “efforting and offering”, spoke to my spirit and got me to looking at myself, and how I often engage in “efforting” rather than “offering”. Although I’ve made some positive strides in the practice of “offering”, I still have a lot to do. So THANK YOU! for sharing, as you’ve assisted me in opening—my heart, mind, eyes and spirit to something that I had not totally embraced. THANKS AGAIN! and keep up the wonderful work. Hugs, Tanya

    • Thanks Tanya your comments mean a lot to me. Keep reading and pass the blog on if you think someone else might enjoy it. Gail

  2. Tom Johnson MD, MBA

    Gail,

    Bravo! The coast to coast incredibly diverse response that you are receiving on this blog from individuals of all walks of life is absolutely amazing! Your blog reflects the fabric of a universal theme expressed by many disciplines dedicated to helping humankind find peace and wellness. In my opinion This blog represents a beacon of healing light. I am grateful for and appreciate your creation of this wonderful community tapestry for exchange of healing ideas.

  3. Here I am again with your blog in hand, contemplating the discovery that you’ve left for the month.

    Thank you for your July blog posting. As I reflect on including compassion in my self-study, I am overjoyed by your newest offering focusing on the effort I exert in my daily activities– and remembering to be gentle with myself. The manner in which you’ve incorporated the analogy of yoga asana with moving through our postures of being and showing who we are in life, is both profound and simplistic.

    The more I give without thought of my intent, the less aware I am of my impact to myself and others. It’s better to give than receive, as the old saying goes, but it’s better to give with awareness and intention. The feedback from the universe makes me more aware of the compassion I must embrace for my asanas, as well as the state that others are in.

    Your offering has resulted in my effort of removing the intense nature of my EGO (Effort – Go) and allowing me to flow with love and peace through my role and responsibilities in life– creating better and more fulfilling offerings (Opportunities For Finding Efforts Reinforcing Niyamas Goals)

    I will come back to see how others interpret your message. I also acquire insight from their comments.

    Peace and blessings.

    • I love reading all of the comments too. They provide insight and inspiration for me as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
      Namaste

  4. Gail
    ,
    It will take me some time to answer to ths blog – that subject is profound. I work hard, I think I am doing my bst but I burn out after successes and the smiles are so compartmenalized. So give me some tme to reflect on this – doing your best/working hard/ intentions – that coud create some voids. You have made me a better person to reflect on these issues and I will answer you more fully later. You are wonerful.

    • Dear Dana,

      I applaud your willingness to contemplate the ideas offered. I look forward to hearing your reflections once you have had a chance to digest the difference between working hard, doing your best, efforting and offering. Thanks for always striving to do and be your best. You are truly an inspiration and a beautiful role model for living life with gusto even when it’s hard.

      • Dana Bolstad

        Gail,
        I tested this out for 3 days and the shift in my entire being was dramtic. I equate doing well at something with hard, hard work, and as I reflect on my accomplisments there are many I end once I meet the goal because of the burnout experience because of the intense effort. That kind of effort also results in a selection process that makes me miss out on many activitie and daiy joy, because I decline if I know I can’t give my all. Your blog make me aware that my choices erase my inner smile, and it was happening alot because of my saving up effort for the special choice.

        So for 3 days I tested out intention, attitude, and best and I have accomplished more with joy in the past few days that I have in months. Thank you for the awareness and I look forward to less effort and more offering.

  5. Gail,
    Your blog is a masterpiece, lot’s of food for thought and inspiration coming through. At the moment my off the mat yoga is taking me to some very challenging places, after breaking my leg and having surgery three weeks ago I’ve had to rely on every resource for healing and strength that I posses.

    I appreciate your words and hold them close to my heart as I continue to move through this difficult journey of mind, body and spirit.

    • Dear Dale,

      Through your period of recuperation you will be able to teach us all about the true meaning of taking yoga off the mat and the strength and resilience it actually requires. I sometimes think that when we are challenged, it is a blessing in disguise that helps us come into that place of deep contemplation that is so easy to avoid when all is well. I am reminded that it is not what happens to us that counts as much as how we engage what happens that is the most important. It is a time to open to grace and receive the blessings that are always available to us.

      Thank you for your offering.

  6. Gail, What a magnificent “offering”! I don’t can’t express how deeply your words affected me today, except to say that I’ve shared the blog with some of the people I love most in the world, who sometimes also “over-effort” like I do. I know I will return to this posting again and again. No, better yet, I will print and post on my bathroom mirror to begin each day. Thank You! Cheryl

    ps…Beautiful moonflower!

    • Dear Cheryl,

      Knowing how deeply this affected you makes all of the effort I put into the offering worthwhile. Thanks for sharing how you were touched by it and thanks for offering it to your friends.

      Much Love,
      Gail

  7. This is beautiful alchemy… efforting becomes offering, trying hard becomes doing your best. Your sharing points out this alchemy is extremely transformative when practiced daily, though these shifts might seem subtle at first (like meditation.)

    I like the way this Yoga-blog resonates with the essence of the Indic sources of Yoga without their religious and ethnic language. I’m reminded of the Bhagavad Gita’s “action as selfless service – an offering of devotion to the universal Soul”

    It’s great that you’ve got a blog coming up on Sankalpa – intention! What about one on Ashirwad – Blessings?
    Thanks! And… blessings!

    • Dear Graham,

      I had not thought of this as alchemy, but that’s exactly what it is. Thank you for sharing your perspective. The absence of religious and ethnic language is intentional and I am happy to know that you appreciate that aspect of the blog. This truly is an offering from my heart. Thank you so much for making the effort to share in the conversation. Your willingness to do so increases my inner smile. I do plan to write a blog on blessings….stay tuned.
      Blessings to you

  8. Your insight that “the effort I needed to develop was to be intentional, not to work harder” goes against everything we (I) hear and “know” to be true. Yet, while I bristle at the concept, it’s the one line in your post that made me smile the most. I wonder why?! To work harder feeds the idea that one can never DO enough, or have the work they do BE enough. You’ve reminded me (right on time, by the way) that I’m always enough when I operate within my intention. Of course, that means I must be aware of my intention, but that’s a subject for another post! 🙂 Thanks for this…and the gift of yoga!

    • Hi Tiffani,

      In actuality, it is being aware of our intention that is the “hard” work that we need to do. I appreciate your honesty that it’s difficult to wrap your mind around a message that contradicts our typical way of thinking about something. You’re right, that is the subject for another blog which is already in the works. Thanks for starting the discussion.
      Gail

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