By Maggie Lyon

Many kids say, “My mom is crazy!”

Usually it’s a joke—and about something pretty mild in the grand scheme of things—like her freaking out about a B minus on a test, or not putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

In my case, my mother—literally—was crazy, meaning she was psychotic and un-medicated. My childhood, instead of being fancy-free, was troubled, burdened, and weighted by unadulterated amounts of pain and fear. While other little girls were going to ballet and playing with Barbie dolls, I was terrified and ashamed of my life.

What is astonishing is that—gasp!—thanks to my volatile mother, by the time I turned seventeen and left the house for good, I was already interested in, and convinced of, the need to look inwardly to heal, find peace, and eventually thrive out in the world.

What I credit most with getting me into a therapist’s office, onto a meditation cushion, and a yoga mat within my first year away from my mother, was the much earlier arrival of a deep faith that took root when I was still living in her house.

The faith I’m talking about was in my capacity to profoundly change, the belief that I would one day triumph and live free from the hurt of my youth. I gathered strength from this faith. I guarded it fiercely until I could actually do what I had to do, not only to recover but also soar—and I mean really jump up from the darkness into the glistening light of being alive.

Fast-forward twenty years. I live in Manhattan with my husband and two blossoming children. I am a writer, a holistic lifestyle consultant, a practicing Buddhist, and yogi. Though I still sometimes struggle with echoes of my past, I am happier than I ever imagined possible. Most importantly, I am intensely devoted and continually inspired to help others transform along their tumultuous life journeys.

Whether you are in major upheaval or mild distress due to your past, here are the four crucial steps I’ve found in my own intimate work that will hopefully support you in triumphing through your pain:

1. UNDERSTAND that the past cannot and will not take you down. If it didn’t then, it certainly can’t now. Nor does it own or define you. However habituated you’ve become to blocking the past out, you are no longer prey to your difficult history.

2. SEPARATE yourself from the story of your past. Give it its own distinct body and name. Visualize unsticking yourself from its suffocating taffy-like drama. With this new space created between you and the past, you can swivel your attention to the genuine brimming goodness that is the essence of you.

3. CONNECT with the magical moments in life when you have felt deeply in touch with your authentic, impassioned self. It may be as simple as walking down the street licking an ice cream cone on a beautiful summer day, laughing until you cry with your oldest friend, or singing at the top of your lungs to your favorite album. What’s important is your re-absorption of this meaningful sensation, and that you have located the feeling essential in guiding you to further resuscitate your unique spark.

4. BELIEVE that you can and will one day be that happy-hearted person full time. Find comfort in your capacity to change and unfold into that person. Change is, after all, the root of what drives this wild thing called life. You might as well dive in headlong, join the stream, and have faith in consciously doing it.

Buddha said, “Faith is the beginning of all good things.” The cultivation of your faith in changing into a truer, brighter, and lighter you is indeed the start of an insanely good thing. You can evolve into this luminous version of yourself. You can reclaim the abundant joy that is your birthright. Faith is that powerful. It lights the path. And wow does that taste sweet.

Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, a motivational speaker, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. A practitioner of Zen Buddhism and Iyengar yoga for the past twenty years, Maggie is committed to guiding others on their individual quests to awaken to the sweetness in life. For more on Maggie, check out her blog or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.