“Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake in each moment, the effort to overcome laziness and defilement, the effort to make each activity of our day meditation”.
Kohn, Michael H.; tr. The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Boston: Shambhala, 1991
A number of years ago an elderly, deaf, Dominican monastic would come and stay with us and join in the monastery schedule. He was a gracious and quite spoken man and he would tell us stories.
On one visit he told us about his new hearing aid. One day, soon after he had his hearing aid, he was walking past the refractory. With his new device switched on he was shocked to hear the brethren apparently throwing the cutlery at the tables! Of course they weren’t and neither are the people here on retreat, however it does sounds like that.
Every now and then there needs to be a remind to the gathered guests to pay attention to the noise level in the dining room. Invariably, after such an announcement, what happens is people try very hard to handle their cutlery and bowls quietly and there are really loud crashes too, as a plate or knife escapes somebody’s grasp.
Sometimes the harder you try the worse things become, probably because the trying is coloured by anxiety and fear. At least the intention is good though. Some where it is said that Right Effort is the effort it takes for the Buddha to raise his foot. Which is rather different to the straining associated with ‘efforting’.