Embrace Change

“Put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward.”

These words are from Zen teacher Dogen Zenji who lived in Japan during the 13th century.  I mentioned this “backwards step” to a friend recently and he replied, “but be careful; don’t take it when you are standing at the edge of a cliff.”

We laughed, and in thinking more about his comment, the problem, when it comes to change, is that we always think we are standing at the edge of a cliff, though, of course, we rarely are.  Letting go of the known, familiar and comfortable is difficult.  What we don’t know feels dangerous.  This, I think, is why we hold on so tightly to what we have and know, even if it is not serving us. This must be where the expression “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” comes from; reinforcing the idea that change is always bad.

Finding Light in Transition

A simple model of change that I find to be useful, for myself and in the teaching that I do, is a three step approach:

1)      Letting go of what is either gone or needs to be let go of.
2)      Being in a place where we don’t know.
3)      New openings and new beginnings.

Next: How to let go, not know, and create new openings

Letting go – This is what Dogen Zenji was referring to as the backwards step, at least in part.  Sometimes this happens to us beyond our choice – people leave us, people die, property is destroyed or any number of changes happen beyond our choice.  We can also choose to make changes – letting go of routines and habits, changing course in relationships or with work.

Not knowing – Most of us want to skip this step.  I do.  I’d rather be comfortable and know then uncomfortable and not know.  Many times we don’t have a choice.  Yet, how valuable, though painful it can be to stay in this place of not knowing.  Another wonderful expression from the Zen tradition proclaims that “not knowing is most intimate.”

New openings – Often beyond our planning and our control, new possibilities, new openings, and new beginnings emerge.  This may take time, or not.  The process may be painful or joyful.

I find myself asking the question, What do I need to let go of?; in my routines, my relationship, and my work.  Just asking this question helps make room for change and growth.

A great place to begin is with the question – What do I need to let go of?

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Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago


Zee NoPetitions Kallah
.4 years ago

My horror scope tells me change is good for me.

I usually benefit greatly.

I stay unattached.

Everythng will change.

The way I live today determines my tomorrow.

Let God's will be done.

I try not to get trapped in desire.

Be happy.

William Ford
William Ford4 years ago

I agree with the change when most time I see a person who refuses to change, hard time for a better life.

Norma Johnson
Norma Johnson4 years ago

Embrace our i am presence

heather g.
heather g.4 years ago

When doing deep-breathing exercises I find it helpful to feel myself releasing what doesn't work for me in my life while exhaling. Give it a try !

Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

I have so much I need to let go of it is almost sad. I have phicical stuff and emotional stuff and even stuff.

irene fernandez
irene Fernandez4 years ago

I need to let go of the notion that doing the same thing over and over again might work this time.
Going into the same line of work where I already know how much I dread the kind of responsabilities bestowed upon me.
Expecting things to be different in my relationships when I´ve made no effort to change the way I relate.
etc etc etc
My biggest problem is knowing what the problem is and not doing a thing to change it

carlee trent
carlee trent4 years ago

noted thx

Gaby D.
Gaby D.4 years ago

Good article...good advice! Although it is a whole lot easier said than done at times. I've noticed that it's not so difficult to agree and' know' these ideas are 'spot on' when your life is sort of smooth sailing at the time. It's when things get topsy, turvy.....high waves of change to be navigated ......that's when the going gets tough...and you realize that 'change' doesn't come without a sometimes tough birthing process. Painful, scary....and the whole time of pregnant expectation of the unknown child that Change is -- you hope and pray that Change may be born healthy and happy. Trust the process and know that all change must be inherently good and healthy and happy seems to be the answer to that feeling of insecurity. Once you firmly believe that all newborn change is good - even though the birthing process may be tough - than it becomes easier. Experiences teaches us that often our 'darkest' hours are the ones that evenntually lead us to the brightest days. Have a wonderful day!

Diane Wayne
Past Member 4 years ago