11/25/2012 10:09 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2013

Flow Downstream

Why are we so afraid of change?

It's crazy that I've always sought self-development and deep change, but at the same time freak out about them regularly. Ever since I got sick in 2006, and healed myself over the ensuing three years, I have devoted my life to supporting others along their transformative journeys. I have at times forgotten just how radically I had to change to arrive at a place where I could even contemplate helping someone else do the same.

Why Buddhism appealed to me so young, and why zen practice became a haven in my life as early as my teens, was how fully I could relate to the idea that the only real constant is change. Self-destructive and hostile as I was back then, I must have thought: Hey, wow, Buddha, you are the only authority figure who I don't have a problem with, and how cool that you are speaking all about impermanence, a language I totally get!

Here's why: I never felt stable or secure in my house growing up. I didn't know what I would get when I walked in the door -- raving lunatic, eccentric nurturer, sad and hysterical wreck, or feverish poet. You can imagine, as a child this was terrifying. I wish I could say I was at ease with change as my mercurial mother was all I knew, but precisely because of my experience with no-ground, because of not having had a root, change has instead always made me desperately uncomfortable.

Though zen has slowly brought me around to the ever-fleeting nature of things, I still often feel like I'm swimming upstream. Right now, for instance, I'm back in another wild cycle of change. Over the past two weeks, I've found myself wishing pretty vehemently for plateau, if I could only cruise for a spell, while I take others through their stuff.

Ghandi of course was famous for his message on changing self first, and my wise yoga teacher has reminded me of this a great deal recently when I've complained about not getting a break and just wanting to help everyone else. Suddenly I feel like I haven't gone through a thing, like I am at the beginning of all the changing I have to do, that I haven't seen anything yet. And you know what? For the first time in ages, I'm pretty calm about it.

So, if you are either resisting or in a state of rapid change, here are four things that help:

  1. Let go of needing to know how everything will turn out.
  2. Take refuge in routine, do the practices you love daily, and stick with them.
  3. Talk and write about everything you are going through.
  4. Remember that nothing is permanent. This phase, too, will pass.

Most of all, I love what Norman Fischer says, "Life comes and goes. Life comes and goes very quickly. We don't need to worry so much." When in doubt, find your footing in change. Instead of fighting the current, take cue, and for once in your life, flow downstream.

In sweetness and change,


For more by Maggie Lyon, click here.

For more on the spirit, click here.