Living life like a river flows

For this week’s article, I share an experience I had with my mom this last weekend where I ask the question: What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you expect?

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This past weekend, while visiting my mom in the San Francisco Bay Area, we decided to take a bus to a gaming casino. I’ve been familiar with these buses but never rode them before.

Apparently, different casinos have arrangements with chartered buses where people congregate at certain locations, usually a shopping parking lot somewhere.

This particular bus arrives at its first destination at 7am, then stops at three other locations, and eventually drives everyone to the casino a couple hours away. After a few hours at the casino, the bus leaves at 3pm and drives everyone back to their original spots.

All this for a round-trip total of $11 (not including whatever you spend on the slots or the tables, of course).

On this particular bus ride, there were eleven of us waiting for the bus at its third stop in Fremont, California. We didn’t really know where to stand, so we waited in my mom’s car. Soon enough, the bus came and we lined up at the boarding door.

Upon entering the bus, we could see most of the seats were already filled.

My mom turned to me with a look of dread. “Oh no, it’s never this filled.”

The driver then made an announcement.

“I only have seats for 7 people.”

7 seats. 11 people. Not everyone was going to make it. All of us started to scramble, looking for any empty seats.

I saw my mom towards the back of the bus, asking a man if the seat next to him was empty. She moved into the row and shot me a pleading look.

“Are we going to make it?” her eyes said. Without a word, I could read her mind. “Find a seat!”

At that moment, the driver said out loud, “I have one seat left up front here.”

Immediately, I yelled back, “I’ll take it!”

Up I walked through the aisles and plopped myself into the empty seat. I looked back at my mom and signaled to her that we were good to go.

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Here’s a picture of me sitting at the front of the bus to the gaming casino.

Sadly, the remaining four people trudged off the bus, knowing that they had to make other plans for their Saturday.

I bring up this story because sometimes, life doesn’t always turn out how you think it will.

I had imagined my mom and I sitting next to each other for the ride, eating the snacks we brought to share, and talking away for the next two hours.

But that didn’t happen. She sat towards the back of the bus, and I sat in the very front.

I bet that the people who didn’t make it also thought they’d be spending their weekend a little differently. The bus even had to skip another stop after ours, where I heard there were thirty people waiting to get on.

In this story is a universal life question: What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you expect?

If life doesn’t turn out the way you expect, you can copy what water does.

When water is flowing and reaches a barrier, like a big rock, it moves to where it can flow next. Water continues to move until it can’t move anymore.

Water doesn’t suddenly stop at the rock and say, “Oh no, there’s a big rock in the way. What am I going to do? I’m so disappointed!”

No, the water simply encounters the obstacle and turns to where it can move next.

The truth is, if my mom and I didn’t make it on to the bus, we would’ve figured out something else fun to do.

On the bus ride, my mom actually fell asleep and napped most of the way. I ended up having really great conversations with the people around me. I didn’t expect for this to happen, and I was delighted to meet some wonderful people.

Poet John O’Donohue captures the lesson of this whole story in his insightful quote:

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

What if you could live like a river flows? Can you be carried by the surprise of life’s own unfolding?

With this story in mind, here’s your coaching assignment this week:

Ultimately, inherent in this approach is being open to trust Life itself.

This is the key to living like a river flows.

Are you open to the idea that Life truly is unfolding perfectly for you, no matter what it looks like?

Here is my prayerful offering for you, if you choose to receive it:

May life unfold for you with grace and ease. May life’s rivers carry you to places and experiences where your heart smiles with ever-greater delight and joy.

Abundant Blessings and Namaste.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s post. Please leave a comment below. Feel free to give some “claps” while you’re at it!

And if you’re feeling the need for guidance or support for a particular area of life, I offer a complimentary life coaching consultation where we can chat. You can learn more about these life coaching consultations by clicking here.

Note: This article was originally published at

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I’m a spiritual life coach at where I help people create a practical and joy-filled spiritual path to career and financial freedom.

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