On the Path of Possibility

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to put ourselves in the path of possibility.  We’re always either moving towards possibility, or away from it.  I’ve come to envision this as a stream – clear, blue, lucid, always flowing. We know when we’re in that stream – and we know when we’re not.  When we’re off course, life feels like a slog.  We’re impatient, accident-prone, frustrated.  Nothing seems to work out.  We don’t know why, and we blame ourselves, or everyone else, for our woes.  But when we’re in the path of possibility, everything feels suddenly slightly…easier.  Coincidences abound.  Strange, serendipitous encounters.  Overheard conversations.  Signs and wonders.  My friend Sylvia Boorstein tells me the Buddhists call this the effortless effort.   The effortless effort is unmistakable.  Those of us who are writers feel it when we’re deep in the work and the world falls away.  It’s a hard, hard place to get to, and once we’re there, we want to find a way to stay there forever.

My husband and I have spent the last couple of weeks in LA.  In fact, I’m writing this from the middle seat of a bumpy Jet Blue flight on our way home.  My husband is a screenwriter / filmmaker and we made the decision years ago to not to move to LA, which is a bit like an astronaut making the decision to not board the space shuttle.  My husband has  gotten work, because he’s really good at what he does, but he has most definitely not been in the path of possibility.  He’s been a lone wolf on top of a hill in Connecticut.  He hasn’t been running into studio executives at cocktail parties, or in line to pick up coffee at Intelligentsia, or at the gym.  Example: last week, we were waiting for friends at a bar in West Hollywood when two gentlemen offered to buy us a drink.  Out of nowhere. Like, totally random.

“What brings you here?  What do you do?”  My husband asked one of them.

“I have a fund and I invest in independent film,” he replied.  “And you?”

“I make independent films.  And I’m looking for investors.”

That kind of thing doesn’t happen in Connecticut.

Again and again, the universe shouted, hello!  hello, are you getting the drift?

We were getting the drift.

I am always aware of cultivating a witness consciousness.  I want to be awake to my life.  Awake to my family’s life.  To the lives of all those I love.  To the world around me in all its wounded splendor.  If I am wide awake – not anxious, not fearful, not hesitant, not impulsive – through my open eyes I begin to see the paths of possibility, almost as if they were outlined in neon. It’s hard work – paradoxically – to reach that place of effortless effort.  It requires discernment, and a willingness to take risks.  To leap, with no safety net.  To say, yes, we are grown-ups with grown-up lives and responsibilities.  But we are also willing to shift and change in order to align ourselves with what the path presents.  Shoulds are deadening.  Shoulds put us in a box and close the lid.

This week I spent time with a remarkable array of people – friends, old and new.  One in particular is relevant to this essay, a woman who’d had a big, glamorous job in the fashion world, and one day she was in her car, stuck in traffic (this being LA) and she realized she was done.  She no longer wanted to do that kind of work.  And in the space that suddenly opened up in her head where all that noise had been, she came up with a brilliant business idea.  She didn’t stop herself.  She didn’t listen to the shoulds.  She detected that gleam of light that flashed across her own mind – as Emerson writes about in “On Self-Reliance”– and didn’t dismiss the thought because it was hers.  In fact, she ran with it.  And the path unfurled before her.

It’s a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but chief among mine is to continue to seek out that effortless effort, to do the hard work of finding the path of possibility.  Whether we stumble upon it or tirelessly search for it, when we arrive there, it’s unmistakeable.  The signs and wonders light the way.



  • what a timely piece and I thank you. Getting back to my artistic roots 4 years ago was like receiving a huge gift with an even bigger bow. There are days when I wonder “when” but most days I say, “because this is the gift you give yourself and the people who love your art.” And it does feel like “effortless effort.” Happy 2015!

    • Danishapiro

      Happy 2015 to you too, Elizabeth!

  • Lynnda

    I’ve been feeling stuck too…for quite a while. What I’ve finally realized is that I haven’t actually been stuck. I’ve been changing, and my ego was perceiving this as being stuck because it didn’t want to change. We are so used to moving at a certain pace that when we don’t continue at that pace we perceive it as stagnation. But maybe its just our higher consciousness waiting for our conscious mind to catch up and move in a new direction. Now I’m sitting in that empty space I used to call being stuck and accepting it. Suddenly, I see everything there that I didn’t before and its wondrous. I see where I’m going.

    • lolshelley

      I absolutely love your view on being stuck Lynnda, especially your line “it’s just our higher consciousness waiting for our conscious mind to catch up and move in a new direction.” Shell.x

      • Danishapiro


    • Danishapiro

      A great distinction, Lynnda. Thanks:)

    • V cool, L. Reminds me of that old saw, ‘what we resist, persists.’ XOXO E.

  • lolshelley

    Oh Dani, talk about the universe and serendipity sending us messages!! I wrote a blog post on this very thing last Sunday. In it I refer the Tibetan tradition of ‘Ordinary Magic’ which is auspicious coincidence and a path that unfolds before you (I love your term Path of Possibility). I have twice been blessed to enter the sacred place you describe where everything just flows as it should, where I have such clarity in all that I do, where serendipitous moments are everywhere. There was no thinking ‘what should I do next?’, I already knew with every essence of my being. Both instances followed an increase in my meditation practice. I have included the link to my post and would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it if you have the time. Shell.x

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for sharing this, Lois! I look forward to reading when I can. Off to teach a workshop on writing through the chakras now:)

  • lemead

    I love that gleam you describe (and love her concept too, incidentally!). And love what you say about remaining open to your life. I have the same goal. It strikes me that finding the effortless effort is another way of letting go. xox

    • Danishapiro

      So lovely, Lindsey. And so true. xxx

  • MsRebecca

    Accident-prone, distracted and frustrated: sadly too familiar right now! Desperately seeking that effortless effort stage. I hope the different surroundings of LA helped!

    • Danishapiro

      Oh, yes, for the effortless effort. The truth, though, is that the path to the effortless effort is hard work. I just know you’ll feel unstuck soon:)

  • Alexis

    When you’re stuck do you go see a therapist?

    • Danishapiro

      It depends! I certainly have, in the past. I’ve also gone to healers — in recent years I’ve found the somatic more helpful than psychotherapy. But that’s also because I had years of psychotherapy to back it up.

    • jenna

      Hi dani, I finally got the Own channel and saw you on it today. I have read some of your work and you truly inspire me. I would love to take one of your workshops. This last year has been hugely challenging in so many ways, and I’m sad to admit that fear has been guiding my actions, or lack thereof. So my leap is going to be to step out of the safety of my home base and spread my wings by taking a workshop with you. It would be a true blessing. You have a glow that pulls at my spirit. Blessings to you, and hoping we meet this year.

  • ayala

    I love what you say about remaining open to your life. I have always told my sons to follow their hearts which is another way of remaining open, listening to their intuition. We can’t always be right but failure is a lesson as well. You are kind and wise and you will know to listen to the voice within and continue to seek and to find the path of all possibility. xo

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Ayala.

  • Stacey Bloomfield

    Thank you as someone else said this is timely. I have one of those shoulds boxes, although mine is also filled with opportunities that were said no to. But lately I am trying to avoid saying no and let the opportunities open up.

    • Danishapiro

      You’re welcome, Stacey! Here’s to opportunities.

  • Sarah Saffian

    Reading your posts is like turning to a new month on my Pema Chodron calendar: inevitably, it is, somehow, utterly relevant, exactly what I’m thinking about or need to hear in that moment. Thank you for your wisdom, eloquence, and humanity, as ever.

    • Danishapiro

      Oh what an amazing compliment, Sarah. Thank you! It’s so important for us to hear when our words land.

  • Courtney Lund

    Dani, this was a lovely, insightful piece. Sometime, though, LA is just the smoke and mirrors, and if you are in it for too long you see the man behind the mirror. You seem like a beautiful person and I’m sure Connecticut has something to do with that. Bless the effortless effort and luck to the year ahead.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for these words, Courtney:)

  • Finished this with tears in my eyes. I swear you wrote these words just for me this week without knowing it. And yes, I’m sure there are lots of “me’s” out there:). It is terrifying, the decision to follow a strong internal voice rather than the world’s common sense. And I still struggle, even in my 40s, with the choice. You’d think I would have learned by now. I’ve not been let down yet–ever–by listening to that voice. Thank you for upping my courage yet again. Beautifully put.

    • Danishapiro

      I’m so glad to hear this, Kristine. Thanks for writing.

  • Melissa Cronin

    Thanks, Dani, for sharing. It’s never too early for New Year’s resolutions.

    • Danishapiro

      You’re welcome!

  • Pamela

    I am always looking for effortless effort and I love those moments when I am in the flow. My “shoulds” get in the way all the time and it’s been a process for me to put more emphasis on faith and trust in gut feelings than what I should be doing. It’s a lifetime process …I really needed to read this, and as always, you articulate nebulous concepts so beautifully. Thank you.

  • I totally love your perspective on being stuck Lynnda, particularly your line “its simply our higher cognizance holding up for our cognizant personality to make up for lost time and move in another course