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  • The Path of Least Resistance: How Our Expectations Are Getting in the Way of Our Enlightenment
  • Cecilia Gabriel

The Path of Least Resistance: How Our Expectations Are Getting in the Way of Our Enlightenment

Having expectations sounds great. Expectations, after all, give us a reason to work hard and have something to look forward to. It makes us feel we are in control, that you are creating a desirable outcome for yourself. It makes us feel quite safe and gives us some form of "knowing".

This illusion however can cause us great pain and suffering if expectations are not met. It can lead to disappointments, problems, and huge conflicts in relationships.

Expectation has a power to make us feel powerful but in reality, leaves us quite powerless.

We all have expectations and for the most part we don't even notice how much expectations we actually have. Sometimes I make myself believe that everything will be perfect and go as expected if I fulfill this this and this. We begin to have expectations for the things we are working to make a reality.

But how many times has it gone not as expected, things felt tense, and seemed like everything was spinning out of control. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Are my capabilities good enough? Am I good enough?

These questions that arise are the result of expectations not being met and feeling in some form that you could have had them met "if only."

The truth of the matter is is that these questions are a never ending treadmill to nowhere. The possibilities of what you could have changed and how many results could have occurred are infinite. Trying to understand the treadmill is pointless. But why do we do it? Because it gives us the illusion of more control so we can have an effect on the results next time. But expectations are not our friend for the most part. Neither is our understanding of where it went wrong. It won't bring us any closer to happiness neither will the expectations for "next time".

Does it mean that we can't have goals and dreams? No, it simply means we need to practice doing our best in every moment and excercise non attachment to the result we want to see so we can be open to all experiences that can bring us joy.

Remember, the treadmill is never ending so understanding it is irrelevant and takes away from living our lives fully.

What we need to do is get off the treadmill and realize there is a world outside of living with expectations. A world where you exist without having to try to exist. A world of least resistance.

There is a Taoist story that goes like this...

"There was an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids which led to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life.

Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.

“I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”


In this story, we are the old man and the river is a metaphor for life. The best way to experience the unexpected fall in the river is to have little to no expectations and to do your best to navigate with what is happening, letting life shape your moments, and trying align yourself with the path of least resistance. Let your inner compass be your guide.

In this way, we not only survive the rapids, but they shape us and mold the moments that build our character, our resilience, our bridge to enlightenment.

Most of my favorite moments in my lifetime have been the gem of a surprise event. Something I could never plan and could not exist in the realm of expectation -the conception of my daughter, the meeting of my husband and closest friends, the moment I heard my inner voice.

We have to open ourselves to the possibility of surprise or we can miss out on these magical life changing moments. Sometimes I wonder how many moments I have missed when I was living in my head and not in my heart.

So what can we do?

We can be active observers in our lives and ask the questions. Communicate with our feelings and tend to their needs.

What expectations in your life are you creating that is holding you back from experiencing ultimate truth?

What can you do to let go of the thoughts that take away your energy?

What are some habits you can cultivate today to experience more presence?

How can you transform expectations into understanding?

What is creating friction in the story you are writing that is your life?

The zen way reminds us to live a life of least resistance. What does that mean? It means to let go, to release, to remember that the only real thing that exists is the the present moment, the miracle of right now. Is it easy? By any means no.

Our only job is to do our part, do our best, and release the attachment to the result and open the door for wonder. When we attach, we lose sight and become blind to the journey, only hoping for something that might cause us more resistance, and eventually become an energy leech in our lives.

Try holding a glass of water up that is half filled. Easy right? Try holding that water up for 10 minutes, it will feel a little heavier. What about one hour, one week, a few years? Heavier, heavier, heavier.

What would take almost no effort in the beginning begins to reveal itself as a huge burden.

What is the glass of water you are holding up that is no longer serving you?

All change requires of us is to notice our feelings and to be mindful enough to act towards them. 

You don't have to be brave, but you have to face the monster of the ego, the illlusion of control, so you can experience the beauty of the flow.

Try to journal and see how you would like your story to pan out this year.

What steps could you take that can help get to where you want to be?

Notice the things that are popping up in your mind as you read this post.  Write them down. Is something popping up that is bothering you? Pay attention. That is friction. That is resistance.

The transition to being more aware and taking action towards how we approach our lives is where real lasting change happens. It will be terrifying, it will require strength and sacrifice, but the effort will be worth it.

You owe it to yourself to make the change and write the next chapter of your story. True enlightenment and true lasting personal freedom can only come from a place of love and understanding and living that is our only duty here on Earth.

Make the shift. Take the step off the treadmill, and float in the flow of the river.


Book Recommendations:

A NEW EARTH by Eckhart Tolle



  • Cecilia Gabriel

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