How much effort?

Hello all,

Ive been listening to some of Ajahn Brahm’s talks and i am wondering how i know if i am trying to focus too much in my meditation or am i not focusing enough… im guessing there is a happy medium somewhere in between, but how does one tell when he/she is “trying too hard” and not trying hard enough? Is there a way or a system to use to practice staying somewhere in the middle?

All responses welcome…

Maha metta


If you haven’t cried your heart out in meditation, you haven’t started meditating!

be swell, and go allinn!


I love this quote from Ajahn Mun

Knowing not-knowing:
That’s the method for the heart.

So how is that going to help. I think we have to experiment until we get the desired result.


Meditation is a process of letting go, so you don’t have to exert any more effort that the effort to let go.

You don’t need (or indeed want) to exert effort to hold onto a meditation object like the breath for example.

I’ve just looked it up and Ajahn Brahm’s method starts with ‘sustained attention on the present moment’, which is the same as letting go of the past and the future. So exert just enough effort in this stage to let go of the past and the future. This means that you need to recognise when your mind starts thinking thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future. Once you recognise them they will usually stop all by themselves. Then you can rest effortlessly in the present.

Don’t attempt to move into a deeper level (stage in Ajahn Brahms parlance) without establishing yourself where you are for a sustained period of time.

Ajahn Brahm talks about effort in the opening of the basic method of meditation.

Have fun!


Ven. Sona was meditating in seclusion [after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding], this train of thought arose in his awareness: “Of the Blessed One’s disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?” Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona’s awareness. SuttaCentral

This describes how the effort must be balanced for optimal results - too much and its all tension and trying too much. Too little and progress is stagnant.

People who try to hard may find that the practice frustrates them and the feeling of them going nowhere is present. It’s maybe helpful to relax a bit and take it easy and re-evaluate your expectations and perhaps the current environment isn’t conducive enough to practice and make progress. It could also be about karma- things could improve in the near future (according to EBT).


If it’s at all possible, an in-the-flesh teacher who can get to know you is your best bet. Having the distance to look objectively at our own meditation problems is really hard, in my experience.


To find the middle of a stick, I rest each end on a finger. Then I bring the fingers together. They always find the middle. And it works for all sticks, even uneven ones like a broomstick. This is fun to try and will help you visualize how simple it is to find the middle way. It simply involves giving up the extremes. Your hands find the middle, not your mind.

Visit each end successively until nothing changes. That’s the middle.

Even the breath meditation works this way. We see long breath. We see short breath. Eventually there is just breathing in the middle.


Whatever kind of “move” from Here and Now, must be a lie … planning for decades, what has that gotto do with “ehi passiko”!?

Akaliko means not having to wait for the next life (to see heaven).

1 Like

The skilful application of effort can indeed be tricky.

As a simple, practical aid, I would suggest that you examine your body for signs of tension during meditation: a clenched jaw, scrunched up eyes, knotted shoulders, pressure in the head etc. can all be indications you are over-efforting (cf. the Buddha’s experiences related in the Mahā-saccaka Sutta (MN 36)).

Relaxed but not lax, is my approach.


I agree. And welcome to Discuss & Discover Leon! :balloon::raised_hand_with_fingers_splayed: