Excerpted with permission from "The Gift of Change" by Marianne Williamson, published by Harper SanFrancisco.

I've often heard people say they're afraid of change. But I'm someone who grows nervous when things don't change. I think at times I thrive on it.

People are always walking into my house and saying, "Wait didn't that picture used to hang in the other room?" I'm so obsessive about moving furniture (particularly pillows) around that once I actually lifted up a chair while my friend was still sitting in it!

But I have also been done in by change, overwhelmed by changes I myself set in motion, casually releasing energies that were not casual at all. I've judged certain changes to be light spring showers that turned out to be hurricanes. I have underestimated the force of change. And so I've been humbled on the subject, having learned the hard way how important it is to move slowly on the inside when things on the outside are moving fast. While I don't fear change in and of itself, I fear myself when I'm not slow and conscious and prayerful while it's happening.

In 1992, my first book, "A Return to Love," was published. Thanks to Oprah Winfrey and her generous enthusiasm for the book, my world changed. Money came that I had never had before, along with press attention and a slight celebrity status. I didn't think of it as incredible; I just thought of it as lots to do! I became a chicken with my head chopped off, no longer taking as much time to listen, to reflect, to meditate, to think. At a time when I most needed to repair to my inner room, to ask God to enter and explain things to me, I was beginning to forget. I was moving too fast. I put some second things first and some first things second in ways I would come to regret.

I remember receiving my first royalty check, more money than I had ever seen. And perhaps particularly because I was living in Los Angeles at the time, I bought into the notion that if you have the good fortune to have money, you must buy a house. But I remember praying about this, and my guidance was clear though it seemed odd to me: "Redecorate your condo."

I kept having that thought: "Redecorate your condo." But people around me laughed at such a thought. Why would I redecorate my condo when I could afford a house? A "Course in Miracles" states that the Holy Spirit often gives guidance that sounds startling at the time, but I guess I forgot that part. I went with the voices of the world instead of the voices of my heart.

In the greater scheme of things, whether or not you purchase a house is not what matters. But it matters indeed when the voice in your heart loses volume in your head. Why was the Holy Spirit directing me to redecorate my condo? Because I needed time to adjust to the new turn my life had taken. I needed time to grow into my new circumstances, to inhabit emotionally the space I was already inhabiting materially. I needed time to think about what things meant and how to deal with new situations in the most mature way. Sometimes change lifts you up like a tornado and puts you down someplace you've never been before. Tornadoes are fast, and they are also destructive. Speed can be the enemy of constructive change.

Another reason I was being inwardly directed to remain in my condo, I think, was in order to say good-bye. I needed to say good-bye to parts of myself that were being called to transform into something new, and I needed to say hello to parts of myself that were being born. The biggest mistakes I have made in my life I would not have made had I taken more time. Time to think. And meditate. And pray.

Perhaps you were one thing and now you're another: perhaps you were in high school and now you're entering college; perhaps you were single and now you're getting married; maybe you were married and now you're single; perhaps you were childless and now you're a parent; perhaps you had a child at home and now you no longer do. Whatever door you've walked through, your life won't be quite the same as it was before. The room you were in is behind you now.

The emotional ground underneath your feet is different, and you need time to reorient yourself. Rushing through change is an unconscious move, and it's a setup for mistakes.

When one stage of life gives way to another, it's the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. How we navigate such transitions spiritually will determine the joy or despair that comes next. In navigating any change, we may be tempted toward either of two extremes-resisting the change, on the one hand, or being reckless toward it, on the other. These extremes are really the flip sides of an ego-based reseponse to change. The deeper spiritual task is to achieve moderation by avoiding both extremes.

Moderation is emotional sobriety, bringing a deep and considered awareness of both the pitfalls and the opportunities inherent in any situation. It implies a capacity for reflection, an ability to stay aware and act responsibly no matter what's occurring. Without moderation, change can be more damaging than miraculous. But no matter whether a change is happy or sad, it can be a sacred experience if we're spiritually awake.

If change is happy, you remain awake by being grateful to God and to the people who have helped you make this happen, by remembering those who haven't been quite this lucky lately, and by not allowing yourself to get cocky or giddy. If you do, you're liable to blow it. You remain awake by praying to be worthy of your good fortune, now and always.

When a positive change is occurring in our lives, it's a good idea to take the time to sit quietly and breathe it in, literally and figuratively. In your mind's eye, see a picture of the new situation, and imagine yourself functioning at your best within it. Now with your eyes closed, breathe deeply and feel yourself inwardly expending into that possibility within yourself. Such exercises are not idle fantasies but actual powers of the mind.

If you don't make such efforts, the ego will do everything it can to sabotage you. That, after all, is its raison d'etre. Unless you firmly establish your emotional center in the midst of a new condition, you remain psychologically outside it although within it. If you're not yet dwelling within it from your own spiritual center, you'll neither take full advantage of the situation nor behave in the most centered and powerful ways. Psychic space is every bit as real-and on a certain level, more real-than physical space. If you're here, and psychologically a condition is over there, then the split between the two will be reflected in the circumstances of your life.

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