Skillful effort is about being aware of our thoughts and dealing with them. Thoughts arise in the mind; they are either wholesome or unwholesome. If we allow unwholesome thoughts to continually occupy our mind, we will develop unwholesome habits which will lead to suffering. Skillful effort is how we can embrace the wholesome thoughts and address the unwholesome ones.
In cultivating a garden, we spend our effort doing four things. We prevent weeds from arising. We pull out those weeds which have arisen. We plant seeds of the plants we want to grow. Once these plants arise, we protect and nourish them.
Our efforts are the same for our garden of thoughts in the mind. We direct our effort in four ways:
- We prevent the arising of unwholesome thoughts.
- We overcome unwholesome thoughts which have arisen.
- We strive for wholesome thoughts to arise.
- We maintain those wholesome thoughts which have arisen.