The question of effort is one that cuts across all spiritual traditions, ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary or postmodern. It is one of the most effective of "skillful means," or ways to help those who enter a spiritual way or path to transition from the conditioning with which they negotiate consensus reality to a new way of being in the world. Yet it is also one of the most misunderstood ways, partly because the transition itself is so difficult, strewn with obstacles and completely counterintuitive to a lifetime of familial and societal learning. We are taught to make efforts in order to attain valued aims or goals, and we formulate objectives that need to be met along the way. We feel the need to obtain something, and, given the inextricable connection between need and value, we value what we believe will meet our need. What we learn about the place of effort in all this is that we need to assert ourselves, to take whatever action is required to attain our objectives and eventually attain our goal. Somehow our identities, our feeling or sense of who we are and what we can do, are deeply involved in these efforts. The primary objective of a spiritual path or way is to challenge this usually unquestioned process, to upend the entire conditioning that reinforces this way of being and living, and in so doing change the very meaning of effort.
The idea of effort not only finds an essential place in all authentic spiritual traditions but also is most deeply implicated in our identity, our sense of self. For that reason, it is not only an indispensable way into a new, liberated feeling of self but also the chief obstacle to it. The Sickness of Effort will explore this difficult question by examining how the notion of effort changes in different traditions across diverse cultures. In so doing, it will reveal an altogether new notion of effort and, with that, a new and liberated feeling of identity.
About the Author
Gary Bryant is an ordained priest, a hospice chaplain, and a lifetime student of the world’s spiritual traditions. He has five master’s degrees, having studied at Rice University, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. Gary is also the author of two books published by Balboa Press, Invicti Solis and The Liberation of Thought. Those two books, along with The Sickness of Effort, form a trilogy designed to explore the universal search for liberation.
With thirty years experience in a form of spirituality called the Gurdjieff Work, Gary is authorized to establish and foster individuals and groups in that tradition.
He is also the past president of the Prometheus Society, past membership officer of the Triple Nine Society, a current member of the online Four Sigma Society, former associate of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE), and a former lifetime member of Mensa.
Gary enjoys participating in athletic activities with his wife, with whom he resides in the Houston metro area.