The so-called "Backwards Bicycle" [youtube, 8 minutes] is a bicycle that has been made to steer in the opposite way that a normal bike steers. So if you turn the handlebars left, the bike will turn right, and vice versa.
It's a fascinating story. The intuition is that one should be able to quickly adapt, since you can easily understand the basic concept and you already know how to ride and balance on a bike. But that intuition would be wrong. Turns out that it is exceedingly hard to re-learn/un-learn the way you ride a bike.
The reason for posting this here is that it strikes me as a passable analogy for awakening. We have all been indoctrinated into a certain kind of attentional style (attachment to thoughts and self identity) which has been practiced for hundreds of thousands of hours. Awakening or enlightenment could be thought of as a substantially different style of attention. It is possible to stumble a bit into this different attentional style, i.e. ride the backwards bike straight for a second here and there, but in order to actually master this different attentional style takes some serious practice.
People in various meditation communities preach relaxation and say that there is nothing to do. Sure, I get that. There is certainly room to relax if one is substantially grasping or resisting and one becomes aware of that (BTW, how does one become aware of that?). And once one has thoroughly and completely learned to ride the backwards bike, sure, the message is going to be to just go with that, go with the flow and let that happen, nothing to do anymore, just relax and be.
But when one is starting out and can't really ride that new bike, effort, repeated effort, over and over again, is definitely required or else all that will ever be happening is falling down over and over again and the bike will never be ridden.
Learning a new skill requires effort at first, particularly if it goes against the grain of previous conditioning. For example, I find it much more difficult to learn a person's name if I get their name wrong the first time. In the case of awakening we are working against unbelievable amounts of conditioning that has been honed to the level of completely innate instinctual behavior. It takes time and effort to undo that. However, once learned/relearned/unlearned, then it can start to become effortless.
I advocate a balance between awareness of awareness and letting go. This post is intended to highlight the fact that some kind of serious intent or effort to be mindful is necessary, a notion that is typically eschewed by the consensus meditation community.