Skip to main content

Change your mind

Let's face it, we all want to control our minds in some form or another. The good news is: you can! The bad news is: it takes a lot of preliminary work.

It's a tricky business but here's a few ideas to get you started.

The first thing you need to do is establish that the thoughts in your mind are not who you are - they are product of various circumstances, they are a process of your mind. The modern way of seeing this clearly is mindfulness. You can do it now - observe your internal dialog, watch it change and repeat itself, watch it wander off, etc. You may have noticed that there were your thoughts (which may or may not have been useful) and there was the wider observation of those thoughts. Perhaps you noticed that this observer was not affected by the thoughts, that it was behind experience, that it has been there all your life. Let's not get into the existential nature of this aspect of your life - just acknowledge that you have one.

To summarise then, establish the observer. This is very useful indeed. Having a shit day - go into observer mode. Feeling depressed - go into observer mode. Feeling euphoric - go into observer mode. You get the idea.

Now let's use Buddhist theory to break things up a little bit. We are all built the same way - we have bodies, we experience pleasant/unpleasant sensations, we have mind states, and we have various mental functions like thoughts and so on. Let's focus on the state of our minds. The first thing we should realise is that it is basically invisible - the mind that is happy will not be thinking that it is happy, it will just be happy. However (this is the long winded bit), if we use mindfulness to observe our state of mind over a period of time we begin to recognise times when it is happy, times when it is sad, times when it is angry, times when it is euphoric - we recognise the difference through the contrasts in the mental states.

Here's the important point, become familiar with your moods and feelings and label them appropriately.

The final stage is learning what conditions your moods (because they are conditioned). Now, the interesting thing about moods is that they can change in an instant (and you'll know that because you'll have been watching them). Here's the other interesting thing: people have the most influence over your moods. So a shitty person can make you feel bad instantly, but you probably knew that already. Conversely a delightful person can you feel good just as quickly (even when things are crappy). So, choose your friends carefully.

This post is getting a bit long so I'll just list off some other mood modifying tips:
 - music is highly conditioning
- the way you speak is very important
- the way you act is also pretty significant
- what you read and watch is important
- what you do matters
- what you eat makes a difference

Clearly, now we have a choice. We begin to see how are moods are shaped and then we realise we can do things to shape them.


Popular posts from this blog


I'm not even sure if nituke is a proper word - it's a dish I came across when looking at macrobiotic cookbooks. Anyway, I like cooking things with weird names and this side dish has become a regular fixture in my meal plans. It's basically braised vegetables and it's very easy to do. I like to cook it with carrot, celery and Chinese leaf. Here's what I do:


3 carrots, cut into chunks
4 sticks of celery, cut into chunks
1 clove of garlic, mashed
1 red onion, cut into chunks
1/2 a whole Chinese leaf, chopped up
some chilli sauce
olive oil
soy sauce of some kind
toasted sesame seeds (if you can be bothered)
a splash of water


1. Put a splash of oil in a saucepan or casserole dish.
2. Add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery
3. Turn the heat on, put the lid on
4. Let the vegetables fry gently for a minute or two
5. Add all the other ingredients apart from the Chinese leaf and sesame seeds
6. Let the vegetables steam gently for 10-15 minutes in the pan …

A standard view of the Jhana states (what happens when we meditate)

Here is a diagram of the Jhana states as they are generally explained. The first row consists of the Jhanic factors (I have compressed the first two, applied and sustained thought, into one called "Settled mind" to make the diagram more consistent). The second row are the first four Jhanas, and the bottom row are the formless states of mind. (If you click the image, it gets bigger).

So then, how do we use this kind of information as we meditate. Well, I spent many years wondering about various experiences that occurred during meditation and only when I discovered this information was I able to get a sense of the whole map. This was helpful.

Generally, I like to use these states not as a list of achievable things but as a conceptual map of what is possible with the mind. As you meditate, it can be useful to incline the mind towards contentment and wide open space rather than simply counting 10 breaths. Even though the depth of the actualized Jhana states is tremendously profo…

A nice exercise in whole body awareness

It all starts with the body. Your body is your greatest asset.

Take a seat somewhere. Go inside your body and take a relaxing breath. Become aware of your body. Start at the feet and then expand from there. Sense your awareness of the body growing - become aware of the feet and legs; then feet, legs and torso; then feet, legs, torso, arms and hands. Have a sense of energy growing through the body.

Finally, as you breathe, hold your entire body in awareness - feet, legs, torso, arms, hands and head. Feel into a sense of openness and clarity. Notice any blockages in the flow of openness. Then enjoy three or more clear breaths. Nothing outside the present moment, you and your body.

During the day: try it standing up, or in everyday situations. Notice what undermines your attempts to do the practice.

Quick fix: attempt one full body breath before you begin your next task. Do it as often as you can.

How do I fix myself with mindfulness

This appears to be a common pattern. We do our mindfulness course expecting to be transformed, we feel a bit better on the course, a week after the course we find that nothing has changed. There's also the case of people who have been doing meditation for ages and yet they still feel as depressed and angry as they did when they started.

So then, what is going on?

The mind is a tricky beast. It is used to taking action and seeing immediate results. Mindfulness is more subtle than this. It is about seeing the relationship between body, feelings, mind and thoughts and how they come and go. There is no explicit result to be found, just an on going relationship with the thing that is us. However, the longer we observe ourselves the more likely we are to see wisdom arising. That is to say, we begin to see what is beneficial and what is harmful to us. We begin to take responsibility for ourselves and our own happiness - we are no longer simply victims of circumstance. We know what we nee…

Bare attention and clear comprehension

Here are two key cconcepts that you might like to immerse yourself in once you've been meditating for a while. It's a way of breaking down mindfulness a little bit and is onward leading.

Firstly, we might ask ourselves: what is mindfulness?

There are lots of mindfulness experts out there nowadays who could help with this but generally speaking it is: paying attention to something without effort. You could call this bare attention or choiceless awareness or open awareness. We hear a sound, a sound is heard - it takes no effort. It arises and passes away.

Bare attention is a skill that requires practice. The more we practice, the easier it becomes to stay with bare attention. If we do lots of body scans the mind will relax and this will happen naturally: we fall into a state of: in one ear and out of the other.

So, let's say we have been sitting in a state of bare attention for 10 minutes or so - it's pretty cool, relaxing, and we're grooving along quite nicely in …

What is mindfulness?

I like to have a crack at this every now and again because my appreciation of it seems to change as the years go by. This time I'll do it through a series of questions.

How do I know I'm being mindful?
The simplest way to do this is to label your experience as it happens. Keep it casual. Pay attention to what is going on and give it a label - sitting, seeing, thinking, feet, pressure, breathing. If you are able to label what is happening then you know what is happening. This knowing is mindfulness.
Is that it?
That's the beginning. Once you know what is going on you can begin to explore experience and what your mind is doing. This gives you some space around experience and this gap is where the freedom happens. This space separates out the details of your life from what you really are.
Why does it come and go?
The mind is a complex instrument that is rapidly switching between different modes of operation (for want of a better phrase). Mindfulness is not a mission critical thi…