Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Optimal Effort: 32%

Originally posted on September 7, 2011

The other day a friend wrote on an email, “When we open our hearts, God opens our minds!” This got me thinking—okay, so,  if this were true, how would it work? First, let’s imagine, just for fun, that there are angels and that they manage meaningful coincidences, known as  “synchronicities.” I use this “big if” to explore the question: What is the optimal effort that we must make in order to get the most from Divine Grace? And what occurred to me is that either too much passivity or too much effort to make personal desires happen the way the ego wants them to just doesn’t generate the optimal energy exchange. Of course this is extremely speculative, but it isn’t too far out as an intuition.  I’ve checked it out with several people who seemed to flow with the Tao—though they wouldn’t call it that. Some are good Christian souls who live into their faith; others more New Age.

The point is that there is a “just right-ness” for the degree to which folks need to  “step up to the plate.” Some fall short: they don’t engage fully, sincerely. Their laziness, passivity, dependency (expecting God to do it all), half-heartedness, etc. leads them to do, oh, between 2 – 20% of what must be done. The angels or spiritual source can’t “reach” them—they aren’t themselves really reaching out in the right way.

In the other direction, there are those who try to micromanage what happens—they try too hard, get over-controlling, specify or try to make happen over 40% of what needs to happen. Their “ego” gets in the way. That’s the meaning of the phrase “don’t push the river.”

The optimal energy exchange operates when people make an effort regarding their needs at about the 28 – 35% range. Make a moderate, sincere, intelligent effort and then allow a spirit of faith-filled surrender, let go. When it’s supposed to work, the angels help, things open up with strange but meaningful coincidences—the aforementioned synchronicities. Sometimes it doesn’t work. The idea of letting to isn’t meant as a manipulation. If it doesn’t work, it’s time to open to the possibility that whatever you were planning may not be ripe at that time—or perhaps never.

So, the old saying, “Let go and let God” saying begins to make sense at the upper limit, while at the lower limit of this range, the other line, “God helps those who help themselves” is more applicable.

If you think about, though, this ratio where the “helpee” (i.e., the person being helped, child, student, camper, client, patient, etc.) really does a third of the work also applies to many real human relationships in which helping occurs—with parents, teachers, therapists, friends. If you really open to it, helpers really try, put some energy into it, and often know more about what’s needed than you do, so it tends to click. But there are helpees who are slackers and others who are over-controlling, and the helping just doesn’t click. I don’t know, but it seems that this theory of Grace resonates with a mature understanding of what goes on in ordinary life, if folks could really see it.

The implications are clear: Do all you can, don’t expect it to be done for you—AND—be open to and subtly ask for help. Matthew 7:7: “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you” is consonant with this general idea. But you need to do your part, you need to knock, sometimes persistently. There are many subtleties here, no short cuts, and some mysterious elements.

Here’s another fantasy. In a couple of centuries, this activity of working with the “higher powers” becomes standard in many ways, from physical to social healing. Some day most people will get this willingness to live into faith with humility and courage balanced. And kids will pick it up the way they pick up reading and writing: The more they see grownups enjoying it and get the sense that everyone can learn it, the more they open up to wanting to learn this balancing skill. In other words, seeing it demonstrated and feeling the love-faith from people they love—“this is the way it’s learned," many kids will naturally pick up skills that to us now seem like near magic—the knack of letting go, healing, and letting be in the service of inspiration.

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