There is a story about a young man in Japan who wanted to be the greatest martial artist of the land. He thought that to reach this goal, he must study with the best instructor, who lived many miles away.
One day he left home to go study with this great Zen teacher. After travelling for several days, he arrived at the school and was given an audience with the teacher. “What do you wish to learn from me?” the master asked.
“I want you to teach me your art and help me become one of the best martial artists in the country,” the young man replied. “How long must I study?”
“Ten years at least,” the master answered.
The guy thought, ten years is a lot of time. I want to get his done sooner than that. I don’t have that much time. Certainly if I try harder I can complete this task quicker. So he asked the master, “What if I studied twice as hard as everyone else? How long would it take then?”
“Then it would take twenty years,” replied the master.
The guy thought, ‘That’s even longer! I don’t want to spend twenty years learning something. I’ve got other things to do with my life. Certainly if I tried really hard I could learn it much quicker’.
So the student asked again, “What if I practised day and night with all my effort, then how long would it take?”
“Thirty years,” was the master’s response.
The young student became confused and wondered why the master kept telling him it would take longer.
He asked the master “How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?”
“The answer is simple. With one eye focused on your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way,” the master said.
(Another way of saying this is, “With half your attention on your goal, you only have the other half to focus on the work.” Any endeavor takes effort, but it also takes patience. If we have one without the other, we get off balance. with only effort, we try and try but get frustrated when we do not see results as fast as we would like. Or we get burned out and tired very quickly. With only patience and no effort, we never really put our full attention to a task. We never give it the commitment we need. This is as true with school work as it is with a meditation practice as it is with sports. in the story, the master knew that the student had enough effort; what he needed was to balance that effort with patience.)
~ From “Just say Om! – A Teenager’s Guide – Your Life’s Journey” (Soren Gordhamer)