(1) The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is...
In an earlier article I offered you a mindfulness practise that I use and that is based around deep acceptance of how things are right NOW in this present moment.
In essence this practise means consciously exercising deep and intense acceptance of exactly what feelings are present in the moment – including and especially all resistance and negativity and fear about accepting what is present.
So can I change my mind? Well, with increased mindfulness practise, you will become more aware of what is going on inside of you most of the time and you discover that you are almost continuously in varying degrees of resistance to something (or at least I know and accept that I am!)
(2) Here is another approach to the "can I change my mind" question – but this time coming at it from a cognitive perspective.
This process is known as "The Work" and was created by Byron Katie.
Personally, I not do find myself drawn to Byron Katie as a person; in early interviews via podcasts I initially felt that she sounded strange and a little mad, to put it bluntly!
After several years of being familiar with her material I am still not sure. Like Eckhart Tolle and a number of other people out there on the new age / spiritual circuit who claim a "spontaneous awakening" she comes across as – how shall we put it – "not on the same page that I’m on"!
I am also uncomfortable with the extent to which she (or her advisors) have commercialised her offering. But this is a fairly common thing in a US culture.
(My issue with this is that Buddha didn’t charge, Jesus didn’t charge and having recently returned from Thailand I notice how that their monasteries do not charge people for advice and training in their meditation techniques.)
But, my own personal issues to one side, her basic process is challenging and very powerful and can be very helpful in dealing with the "can I change my mind" question - so here it is:
In its most basic form, "The Work" consists of four questions and your turnarounds.
(1) Is it true?
(2) Can you absolutely know that it's true?
(3) How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
(4) Who would you be without the thought?
Teaching a cat to bark
According to Byron Katie, the only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is.
When the mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, "Meow."
Wanting reality to be different than it is - is hopeless.
And yet, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that you think thoughts like this dozens of times a day:
"People should be kinder."
"Children should be well-behaved."
"My husband (or wife) should agree with me."
"I should be thinner (or prettier or more successful)."
These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you’re right.
All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.
"The Work" is a simple but powerful practise that addresses the "can I change my mind" question for many people.
I use it, and in my experience it is powerful, and I commend it to you.
(3) Can I change my mind? Learn to work with your many selves...
Each one of us has within us many different voices, or selves or what are sometimes referred to as sub-personalities.
What we are talking about here are the many different aspects of our "self" that go to make up the whole thing that we conventionally refer to as "me".
From now on, I am going to refer to these aspects as "selves".
Most of these selves are invisible or unconscious to us at any one time and they are often in disagreement or conflict with each other.
When denied a voice or direct conscious expression they seek expression in unconscious ways – out of our awareness – and frequently in ways that are negative, resistant, unresourceful and sometimes downright destructive.
These negative hidden selves are often referred to as our "shadow" side.
So the whole "can I change my mind" question now takes on a different complexion - er who am "I" and what is "my mind"?
The world of therapy devotes an enormous amount of time and clients’ money to attempting to get in touch with these hidden parts of us, and to bringing them into conscious awareness and giving them a voice. There are many different therapeutic approaches that attempt to help people to address this fundamental question of "how can I change my mind?"
As I said at the outset of this short series, I am not a therapist nor am I a counsellor nor am I qualified in any way to offer advice on what I am about to share with you. So please take this in that spirit. If what I share with you resonates and you have an "aha" moment and would like to explore further this approach to how can I change my mind, then you may find this extremely helpful and another important part of your "tool kit" for successfully addressing the "can I change my mind" question.
However I do realise that not everyone reading this will find this accessible or helpful. (Horses for courses and all that!)
This practise is another approach to the deep acceptance mindfulness practise that we have explored and the cognitive approach of Byron Katie.
Ok let’s look a little deeper into what lies behind this, and why we’d want to do it, and what this has to do with the "can I change my mind" question.
Then I’ll give you a couple of real examples directly from my own experience of using this process. And I’ll leave you with some links to excellent resources that will in the gaps and show you how to do it for yourself (if you want to).
Hal & Sidra Stone and "Voice Dialogue" therapy
Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra Stone, Ph.D. initially developed in 1972, Voice Dialogue, Relationship & the Psychology of Selves (also known as the Psychology of the Aware Ego) – it is now known as Voice Dialogue.
The basic premise of Voice Dialogue is that we are made up of many selves or sub-personalities and we identify with some and reject others.
This over-identification with some selves and the loss of wholeness that comes from the rejection of others can create imbalances and blind spots and in the context of the current discussion these manifest in immunity or resistance to change
Do not be put off by the therapeutic context, framing and language – this is very powerful material.
At root, Voice Dialogue is a facilitated process whereby we can communicate directly with, and as, these many and varied sub-personalities.
The Stone’s work was, in my view, taken to another level through the work of American Zen Master Dennis Merzel aka Genpo Roshi who took the insights of traditional Zen practise and combined these with central discoveries of western psychology - especially Voice Dialogue therapy and sub-personalities to create the "Big Mind" process.
"Big Mind" represents a major breakthrough in the development of a simple powerful process and practise for accessing these "hard to reach" parts of ourselves.
I have used the Big Mind process many times as a simple and self facilitated technique for accessing "hard to reach" parts of myself for breaking and changing habits, for identifying inner resistance and for accessing higher or transcendent selves as part of personal spiritual growth.
As with all of this material, this is easy to filter out - maybe on the basis that "I don’t do Zen" – you don’t have to, to benefit from this simple process.
See here for full details on the process and the book: