The path of least resistance

Growing up, life was centered around imperative principles. There were the ten commandments, and many other rules from the bible one should follow. Not living up to them meant commiting a sin. Nowadays, I choose to live without principles. That doesn’t mean I dismiss moral imperatives as useless, I actually think most long surviving instructions are valuable pointers to living a great life, but to me, they have lost their black-and-whiteness. Following them doesn’t make me a saint, and not following them doesn’t make me a sinner, either. Come to think of it, my life is not completely ruleless. I actually have one principle I live by: nothing in the world is more important than that I feel good. This may seem like an extremely selfish way to live, but hear me out and see if this approach is as selfish as you think it is or if it just may work for you too.

Have you ever noticed how water flows? It flows to lower places, never goes upstream. It goes around obstacles, never over them, unless of course going over actually is the easiest way. It takes the most natural course over a terrain, which almost never is a straight line. Water takes the path of least resistance. This characteristic doesn’t apply to water alone, all of nature behaves in that way, with the exception of humans, who try to go upstream most of the time, and who prefer going in a straight line, even if that means colliding with whatever is in their way. What I have learned this last year is to be more and more like water and I want to share with you how it that is making a difference in my life.

You can do things because you feel you need to do them, because you feel you have to do them or because you feel you want to do them. Can you feel the difference? In the first two situations, you feel resistance and in the last you don’t. At school we have learned that resistance is the amount of opposition electricity, or energy, encounters in a conductor, in this case your body. Energy flows easily through materials with low resistance. But energy flows slower through materials with higher resistance and more power is needed to get the same result. Everything in nature contains some resistance, that’s part of being physical. The question is are you working with it or against it?

Our bodies respond differently to resistance and non-resistance. From that perspective, you can see our bodies like guidance systems. When our choices do not reflect our best selves, our bodies contract. And I mean that in a literal sense, our muscles and even our DNA tighten when we experience stress. Most of us have become so accustomed to this tense state that, to a certain degree, it feels normal, and we don’t notice how much energy we’re wasting. Resistance or stress, however, is an indication that we’re going upstream. When our choices are in our best interest, on an unconscious level we know, and we experience the sensation of relief. There is no contradiction, no pain, no difficulty, no stress. Our bodies soften, our faces relax and we can’t help but smile, even if it’s only slightly. Our breath is easy and deep. Feeling relaxed is the most clear indication that we’re going downstream.

By learning to feel the difference in your body, you can actually use it to solve dillemmas and help you make the right choices for you. I don’t only mean the big choices, like ‘Should I leave my current partner? or ‘Should I quit my job?’, I rather mean the small day to day choices we make. Let me give you an example.This morning, after a rather restless night, I woke up at 5:16am, 14 minutes before the alarm would go. I really wanted to get some more sleep, yet on some level, I also wanted to go running. Feeling grouchy about a perceived lack of sleep, I decided I would sleep some more and run after I had brought my daughter to school. So I crawled back under the cover, ready to go to sleep, when I felt a light, but unusual tension in my neck and shoulders and noticed that my heart was beating somewhat faster than normal. I tried to ignore this for a while, but it actually kept me awake. At that point, I didn’t directly decide to get out of bed anyway. I was resisting the idea of getting up, or better said, I was resisting the resistance I was feeling in my body that was telling me to get up and run. It is true that while laying with my head on my pillow, with my duvet at exactly the right temperature, I didn’t feel like running, but that was only part of me. My egoic self prefers self-indulgence anytime. My wise self, on the other hand, doesn’t care about likes and dislikes, its only interest is what is best for me. At 5:41, I finally gave into my body’s wisdom, got out of bed and ran. Strangely enough, it felt wonderful. I had a great start of the day and my day is unfolding perfectly. I know from experience, that if I had not gotten up, but stayed in bed for another one and a half hour, the resistance most likely would have persisted. Getting up, I most likely would have felt stressed, because of a perceived lack of time. I would feel like I had to choose between two things that feel equally important to me. Going for a run, would mean having less time to write, and not going for a run would result in feeling less energetic and less good about my myself and probably having a lot less inspiration. It’s a sure thing that I would have needed a lot more energy to create the same results.

My wise self is now telling me that doing some cleaning would be a good idea, but my egoic would rather sit on the couch and read a book. How to soften your resistance will be a topic I’ll discuss shortly. Wishing you an easy flowing day.