The Obstacle is the Path

going beyond

If the door shuts, do not go away.
Be patient, even if every possibility seems closed.
The friend has secret ways known to no one else.

A while ago my friend Mary Jane Dodd reminded me of this Zen proverb: "The obstacle is the path."

Consequently, I've been meditating on it all spring and summer. What does it mean? How can I learn from it?

My first response was to examine my life to see how I have related to obstacles in the past. Do I try to remove them? Walk around? Hurdle over? Turn back? Chip away? Negotiate? Entertain? Manipulate? Listen? Ask for help? Give up?

I suppose I've tried all these tactics, and for me that's the message in the proverb: It's not that you chose the "right" strategy, but that you chose a path and experience it fully. Use your awareness to experience the discomfort, fear, and where it leads to the fullest extent.

Sometimes the challenges in our lives arrive as a natural consequence of our actions or inaction. These large obstacles or small hassles we experience can be incredibly frightening, downright annoying, and often get us thinking we are off our game. However, discomfort is a transforming force. Pain motivates us to change.

When everything feels easy sometimes you become complacent and comfortable maintaining things as they are. Discomfort prompts you to create change -- to invent. Our greatest human inventions came about because someone wanted to change discomfort into ease (e.g., the wheel and cart, light bulb, airplane, penicillin).  

If you can welcome obstacles and feelings of discomfort into your life you will be inviting in an opportunity for growth and innovation.


  1. Thanks, I needed this today. Dealing with a particularly difficult person who's been hurtful to my gay family members in a very public way. My instinct was to gently inform and I acted on that and unfortunately it was back lash that I got in return. It's painful. But this puts it in a new perspective and I can see several ways through and several paths to take rather than dwell on the pain. And yes, anger too.

    1. Wow, that sounds so emotionally challenging! Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I'm glad this post came at the right time and is giving you new ways to think about your path. From one soul to another, though, I do thank you for speaking your truths out loud. This kind of emotional bravery is inspiring.


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