Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Embracing Transformation: Just Take the First Step in Faith

Monarch Butterfly with Its Reflection

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Galen Pearl.  It’s part of my occasional series Stories of Transformation.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” – Richard Bach

Years ago, I was a mess. Chronic fretting and stress were affecting my health. My determination to control my world was wearing me out, and of course it was a complete failure. I yelled at the kids…a lot. I didn’t sleep well. Relaxing and having fun were out of the question.

After ending up in the emergency room twice with excruciating pain that had no medically detectible origin, I knew that this was my wake up call from life. As Step One of the Twelve Steps says, my life had become unmanageable, and I had to change or die. So I set about to transform my life.

From Fear to Joy:  The Year of the Workbook

I got serious in therapy, I went to an energy healer, and I soldiered through what I remember as the Year of the Workbook. I did workbooks on anger, forgiveness, fear, codependency, control, gratitude, emotions, and I don’t even remember what else. I studied A Course in Miracles, the Tao Te Ching, and other wisdom teachings. I lit candles and chanted. I meditated and prayed.

I was, to understate it, highly motivated. And you know what? It worked. My life was transformed from one driven by fear to one grounded in joy. I quit yelling, slept better, and began to love my life. Miracles indeed.

Since then, life has continued to get better and better. I look back and just shake my head at the way I used to live. I don’t know how I held on so long. Or why.

A Different Transformation:  Coming Home

Now I appear to be in a completely different transformation process. So different from the one before. That one was triggered by desperation and characterized by singular determination and effort, lots of effort.

This one is more mysterious, triggered by…what? I’m not sure. A calling inward, a remembering, an invitation. And it is characterized not by effort, but rather by the absence of effort. In fact, effort seems to hinder it rather than speed it along. It is a releasing, a falling away, a yielding. My role is simply not to interfere.

And the end result? I can describe the first transformation as a shift from fear to joy. This one? I have no words for it, but the image that keeps coming to me is home. I may not have words for it, but I know I want to go there. I know I already am there. There are no workbooks for this one. Only faith. It is enough.

Transformation Happens in Many Ways

I guess my point, if I have one, is that transformation can happen in many ways. There is a story about a zen master whose disciples were gathered around his deathbed. He motioned them closer and they leaned in, thinking that he was about to whisper some last great pearls of wisdom. Perhaps he was going to tap them gently with enlightenment.

Imagine how they startled and jumped back when he started flailing and screaming, “I don’t want to die!” Then he quieted and told them that there was no right way to die. He died peacefully soon after.

I love that story. It makes me laugh every time.

Like dying, there is no right way to transform. We sometimes seek it, and sometimes it seeks us. Sometimes it happens in an instant, and sometimes gradually over years. Sometimes it requires effort and sometimes we need only allow it.

The only thing I know for sure is that we need not fear it.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Galen Pearl is the author of the book 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), and writes a blog with the same title.



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  1. A touching post. You described your journey so clearly and truthfully. Thanks Galen. I’ve prefer the surrendering approach, but sometimes I seem to need to effort, at least to wake myself up! Brad

    • Brad, It’s interesting, isn’t it, how different approaches work at different times in our lives. Surrender seems to be my approach right now. Thanks for your comment.

    • This is a good point, Brad. I definitely need a mix of effort and surrender at this stage of my process. Thanks for sharing your approach.

  2. Hi Galen….This post is so realistic, so authentic that it went straight into my heart! We feel so disappointed with ourselves sometimes, that we keep going downhill until a wake up call shouts at us. I know the power of that inner voice which guided you to transform. It has nudged me too, whenever I felt depressed…it has often dragged me out of those bouts of sadness to enlighten.

    The year of the workbook is quite interesting! It’s a very good idea to maintain a workbook to keep track of our emotional journey.I truly enjoyed this post. Thank you Galen for describing it so well and thanks to Sandra for sharing it!

    • You’re welcome, Balroop! I’m so delighted to share Galen’s story. She shows us that we’re not alone if we hit bottom, and we can still rise up.

    • Balroop, We have an inner wisdom, I think, that can be very persistent in getting our attention. For the first transformation I described, I definitely needed a dramatic wake up call because I was not listening! Now, I seem more attuned to what I’m being called towards. How wonderful that you can hear your inner voice when you begin to slip into depression. Thank you for sharing your own experience.

  3. Lovely post, Galen! I think you’re right where you need to be for the moment, and it does feel very peacefully productive to me. Keep calm and carry on! 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Galen. I find it so encouraging to hear about your journey into joy. I love the phrase “I knew that this was my wake up call from life.” I’m always fascinated to hear about those profound moments that completely change a person’s life. It seems to be different for every single person.
    I have also found that effort tends to hinder the transformation process – things change when I am ready and no amount of striving can force the process. I am s-l-o-w-l-y learning to trust my higher power to orchestrate those moments. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of the way though 🙂

    • Sharon, I love your phrase about learning to trust your higher power to orchestrate those moments. Yes, it is hard to get out of the way sometimes. Awhile back I was thinking about the phrase “do not interfere,” and it occurred to me that it sounds just like “do not enter fear.” I think it’s hardest to get out of the way when we are fearful. So your learning to trust is exactly what is needed to counter that fear. Thanks for your comment.

    • Sharon,

      I also find it so true that things change when they are ready and striving does not always help. I love the sense of an open receptivity you allude to when you talk about getting out of our own way.

      Thanks for encouraging me to do this series. It’s so meaningful to read about other peoples’ process of transformation.

  5. Hi Sandra,

    As always, your posts are heartfelt and most inspiring.

    The part that resonated the most with me was “there is no right way to transform. We sometimes seek it, and sometimes it seeks us.”

    I would maybe add to that… sometimes your transformation enables you to discover and uncover your authentic self, the part of you that may have had to be buried/hidden for a variety of self-protective reasons.

    This uncovering can be both painful [acknowledging the feelings… and the whys your authentic self had to go underground] and freeing [as you are able to express more of your feelings, you are also able to experience more joy].

    Wishing you courage, compassion and connection on your transformation travels,

    • Dorlee, Thank you for adding your thoughts about transformation. I agree that sometimes transformation isn’t really a changing from one thing to another, but instead can be a “falling away” of everything that is not your authentic self, an uncovering, as you say.

      Michelangelo said that when he was sculpting the statue David, he just chipped away everything that was not David. Your comment reminded me of that story. Thanks for expanding the concept.

    • This is so insightful, Dorlee. I think it’s so true that we are often attempting to protect ourselves and a spectrum of emotions can arise when we start to let the layers of unnecessary protection fall away. Our best protection is really being our authentic selves. And, eventually, we discover there is nothing to protect in a certain way. Thanks for adding this dimension to the conversation.

  6. You have written here, Galen, the words which lay upon my heart. Until I truly trusted the Lord, I was so lost, so angry, so defeated. To transfer from fear into joy takes faith in what only He can offer: The peace which passes all understanding.
    It is not an easy journey; there are plenty of speedbumps and potholes in the road. But, when we follow in faith, the red lights and the detours lessen, and we see our way in His light.
    And, ever ready for the next transformation . . .
    Blessings and love!

    • Martha, Your comment is a perfect example of how transformation can come to us in various ways. I like your phrase “ever ready.” Indeed, when we accept transformation as part of the inevitable changing of life, then we can be ready to welcome the gifts it brings. Thanks for commenting.

    • Dear Martha,

      It’s a huge leap to go from lost, angry, and defeated to joy. I’m so happy you have found your refuge and are navigating the speedbumps and potholes so well. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Teacher Galen, how beautifully you present a profound topic and leave me feeling reassured that I am quite alright! 🙂 It is the fact that there’s no right way that is soothing and keeps me going on.

    I am truly blessed to have you as my ACIM guide. I sense another book brewing in you. 🙂 Hugs!

    Sandra, thank you. I look forward to reading the series. Love, Vidya

    • Vidya, You are more than alright. You are perfect just the way you are. You inspire transformation in others through your loving, generous spirit. I see that your recent post is about gratitude, so thank you for the light you shine into the world, and for your lovely comment.

    • You’re so welcome! I too loved Galen’s practical and profound perspective on transformation. And, I agree, you are more than alright. Your light shines brightly.

  8. Karen S.

    Amazing post, today. Always, well within, WOW! Those words really hit home. That is the key point for all.

  9. Galen — your post is a welcome reflection, so timely for what’s going on in my life right now. Though I’ve known and embraced for many years the joyous letting go you describe, there have been some notable blind spots in which my path is darkened by fear at what I see as loss of control. I’m working on those now.
    I take your thoughtful words as great encouragement. Thanks.

    • Jeffrey, I’m pleased that this is timely for you. We often get “stuck” or blinded when we are trying to control things we can’t control. The fear creates a loop because our lack of control frightens us, and then in turn we try to escape the fear by controlling things! If you are working on these issues, you are in good company because most of us are, too. I certainly am! Thanks for commenting.

    • Jeffrey,

      Your thoughts coincide with my recent reflections on how we all live with some level of self-deception (what you’ve called “blind spots”) even though are aim is to be as conscious as possible. They unfold in the right time, giving us the opportunity to remove even more layers of deception so our true essence shines through. Thanks for your honest sharing.

  10. Wonderful wisdom here, Galen! It’s good to be reminded that transformation doesn’t have to be a big “aha” moment, but can be quiet and gradual. I feel like I am in a time of transformation, but I can’t put my finger on any one event or realization that set me on this path. I think I just reached a place where it became necessary–or desired so much that I couldn’t turn away from it any longer.

    • Hi Tina,

      My heart is with you in this time of transformation. May it unfold perfectly for you. I like the idea of quiet and gradual, myself!

    • Tina, That’s the key, isn’t it–desiring the transformation so much that you can’t turn away. Regardless of whether it happens in a flash or gradually, we have to be open to the gifts that transformation will bring. Your current path of transformation might not be entirely clear until one day you realize that things are very different and you’re not sure how it happened! Thanks for your comment.

  11. Wise words woven in with your personal experiences and humor. I can relate in having gone through a transformation process, Galen. I didn’t do it so willingly though. I fought, kicked and cried against transformation.

    But time, profound loss and pain gave me no choice but to embrace the transformation process. Took me to the depths of myself and I had no choice but to come to terms with myself, reflect, change, transform into an entirely new person.

    Now, I wonder why i was fighting change so much? Why was I pushing back at life which was doing its thing. Just have to step out of the way and allow life to take us along for the ride (transformation and all) And realize that transformation is life’s gift to us.

    Loved the zen master story! Thank you for having Galen here, Sandra.

    • Vishnu, I hear you! Although I said I wanted to make changes in my life, I did everything to block those changes (because I was terrified of them) until I ended up in the hospital. Then my motivation swung 180 degrees! Like you, I now wonder why on earth I resisted what turned out to be wonderful changes in my life. Now I am not so afraid, so when transformation invites me along for the ride (loved that image you used), I jump in the car! Thanks for sharing your own story.

    • My experience is similar to yours, Vishnu! I’m so glad you shared your experience here as I’m sure many people will relate to it. This is a beautiful perspective: “…transformation is life’s gift to us.”

  12. Such wise words Galen. These might be my favourite:
    There is no right way to transform. We sometimes seek it, and sometimes it seeks us. Sometimes it happens in an instant, and sometimes gradually over years. Sometimes it requires effort and sometimes we need only allow it. – So beautiful.

    Thank you Sandra for inviting Galen to share your space.

  13. Hello; thanks for sharing their post and the link to their book. I too have had a transformational experience. Mine started when my mom finally got me to see a doctor about my health. A lot changed after being diagnosed with high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Once I got on the cpap machine i had the energy to try to get in better health. And last year i culminated my journey towards good health by having gastric surgery, losing over 240 pounds, and no longer having to take any medicine. I have to take vitamin supplements and eat right, but those are things we all should be doing. Many people have called my physical transformation inspiring. I never thought of it that way but I am glad to be an inspiration to friends family and people i know through social media. Best of luck with your continued growth, max

    • Maxwell, thank you for sharing your inspiring story of very tangible transformation. That took a lot of courage and dedication to persevere through all those stages. I’m sure you are indeed an inspiration to many people. And congratulations to you on your achievement.

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