How To Change


“One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you’re wanting yourself to get better, you won’t. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.”

~Pema Chodron

That which is not used becomes obsolete, whereas what is resisted is kept in the forefront of attention. Thus, the creative principle of change initially entails a thorough recognition and consequent discarding of old “tapes”, or storyline scripts, that we have used to assemble, reinforce, and perpetuate our sense of self, the one we have taken to be the central character — “me”. In other words, it involves identifying and then eliminating what doesn’t work, including our neurotic personal self-images that keep us fixated in dysfunctional relationships to life.

To illustrate with one example, I spent a part of my professional career conflicted about living and working in the world, rather than isolated in some “spiritual” community, where I imagined I would be able to make more “progress” towards liberation. It was this very story I kept telling myself that robbed the life I was actually involved in of any power to awaken me, since I was always projecting the real work to be “elsewhere”.

Of course, the more I reinforced my fixed idea, the more self-confirming it became. It was only when I was eventually able to recognize how I was seriously limiting myself by clinging to a narrow “either/or” position that I was finally able to discard the old presumptions and allow my present circumstance, whatever it might be, to serve as the fuel for real liberation.

Rather than waging a prolonged battle with this fictional entity we have created over the course of our lives, we can simply cease granting it any enduring and concrete reality by shifting our attention to awareness itself — in other words, shifting our attention to being aware of being aware, prior to the whole narrative and architecture of personhood, as well as the ensuing complication that artificial edifice implies.

This “house-cleaning” can be initiated by first developing the capacity for calm abidance in silence, where we can better inspect the subterranean elements of our psyche that have been driving behavior and affecting our relations without our conscious knowledge or consent. As we become more accustomed to calm, silent abidance, there is more possibility of open space between perception and reaction, and it is in that spaciousness that we are able to detach enough to begin to “see the forest through the trees”.

From the detached vantage point provided by such stillness, we can then delve into our original motives that led to the creation of our current circumstances. Without clarity here, any effort to make substantial life changes that we might undertake will be tainted by old uninspected and chaotic influences, which will in turn hamper our necessary clarity and integration, compounding our sense of frustration and inner division. The entire structure of our desires and their ramifications needs to be confronted, seen through, and released, to avoid the classic trap of “spiritual by-pass”.

We need to honestly and thoroughly inspect what it is that we have we been doing which is chronically sabotaging our core heart yearning. Once any conflicted programming is recognized and the “bugs” eliminated, we cease to fuel dysfunctional patterns. For that reason, all unconscious mental and emotional habits and their causal negative conditioning need to be brought into the light of day and revealed for the obstructions that they are. In this conscious process, “old tapes” naturally become obsolete when we cease investing in them. This is why the wise suggest that we “empty the teacup” before filling it again with the fresh tea of projected changes.

Once re-aligned with our heart’s true desire, we are ready to combine sincere intent with undivided attention. Solidifying this combination through persistent positive reinforcement is the key to success in terms of making skillful changes in our life and relations. It is an uncompromising yoga in that respect, which requires steady devotion in order to reap results. With the noisy onslaught of conflicting messages and the relentless bombardment of media-driven distractions that characterize today’s social environment, honing one-pointed concentration is more of a challenge now than ever, but what is the option?

Certainly, establishing relationships with those who will support our goals is a great help, and hence the Buddhist ideal of “sangha”, or community of truth lovers. Shared spiritual intimacy with good friends has real power to carry us through the ups and downs which we are bound to encounter. A qualified guide who has already traveled the path we wish to tread can also be helpful in terms of pointing out blind spots and potential dead ends.

Furthermore, wedding our refreshed and awake intent to the “Cosmic Will” can help to insure that our motives remain pure and on-track. Such “union” is no obscure mystery, but really a matter of aligning thought-energy with the order of the universe. This can be done by us “stepping out of the way”, so to speak, and letting ourselves be lived by Love. After all, what other force in the universe would have our best interests at heart more than Love?

Letting oneself be lived does not mean that we must rely on some higher power outside of ourselves, however. On the contrary, to let go and embrace the unknown is most intimate, since it involves relaxing into full acceptance of the Love that we already are, and always have been. It is an act of genuine humility, without which, no real transformation is possible. Such humility is the red carpet to “getting back into our right mind”, in other words, but is only genuine when it is based on the recognition that all methods, schemes, and escape plans one has employed are destined to fail, as long as one is basing them on the presumed reality of a permanent and substantial person, a “me”.

This genuine humility is not a matter of neurotic self-humiliation, nor does it consist of humbling oneself before some external divinity, as many of the man-made religions would have it. Rather, it entails the recognition that I do not really know what anything is. In fact, I exist in a total state of not knowing, this is my fundamental condition, and so ego-mind has no place to plant a flag and turn my efforts at change into just another vanity project. It’s what real freedom is all about, in that respect, since there is nothing there to manipulate or corrupt.

From that “place” of not knowing, we can see things as they are, without the superimposition of provisional knowledge, beliefs, or conditioned programs, and it is only when we are able to see clearly that we are capable of making the changes in our attitudes and behavior that truly serve us and our relations. Paradoxically, it is only by virtue of this clarified vision that we may ultimately come to the direct recognition that there is nothing and nobody to change. As Sri Nisargadatta points out:

“Nothing you do will change you, for you need no change. You may change your mind or your body, but it is always something external to you that has changed, not yourself. Why bother at all to change? Realize once for all that neither your body nor your mind, nor even your consciousness is yourself and stand alone in your true nature beyond consciousness and unconsciousness. No effort can take you there, only the clarity of understanding. Trace your misunderstandings and abandon them, that is all. There is nothing to seek and find, for there is nothing lost.”

Indeed, at this stage we can recognize that all of our fuss and bother, all of our self-concern and busy efforts to modify, please, and perfect ourselves, has been based on a case of mistaken identity. The direct recognition of the emptiness of the personal self is a great relief, liberating us from the endless “me-project” that has so occupied our life and infected our relations with its insistent demands for confirmation and feeding.

Freed from the heavy weight of the self-fixation, we need not worry about changing a person who, after all, is merely a bundle of thoughts and memories. Whatever is in need of change will happen spontaneously, without the superimposition of a make-believe doer to complicate life’s flowing functioning.

Indeed, it is only by seeing through and surrendering all of our previous identifications with the body-mind-self (as well as its need for validation, preservation, and enhancement) that we are finally available to be changed by the universal intelligence which is always manifesting as that very life and love from which we have never truly been divided.

“You need not do anything,
remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary
and the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.

It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

~Franz Kafka

Nondual Forum

About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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20 Responses to How To Change

  1. January Springs says:

    You really know your stuff, hrtbeat7!

    Spot on and thank you for your help..

  2. Kaye White says:

    It is a gift to run across this article as I have been dealing with this issue for some time. I can have long periods of being conscious, but then when the old addictive habit begins, I completely surrender to unconsciousness. I realize that these are old thought patterns, tapes, habits….but their strength overcomes my awareness. Your article is giving me renewed hope that by deepening my practice and my intent, I can finally be free of this diversion. Thank you.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      The great Avadhut Bhagavan Nityananda noted that “Even sages and seers are constantly being challenged by this encroaching ego and need to keep a watchful eye on all their motives at all times.” Sri Nisargadatta told us that these things came up for him too on occasion, but the difference was that he instantly recognized them for what they were. In doing so, they were not able to establish a beach head, so to speak. As long as we are fused with the human vehicle, we will experience all that comes with that, but we can develop the power of recognition to the point where we are the master, not the slave. Granted, it takes effort, but eventually there is spontaneity. All of us will come through. Much Blessing!

  3. VERY insightful, Bob. Thank you!!!

  4. lucey001 says:

    Bob, fantastic moment to read this! Thanks you for all that’s given through your essays!

  5. lucey001 says:

    “This genuine humility is not a matter of neurotic self-humiliation, nor does it consist of humbling oneself before some external divinity, as many of the man-made religions would have it. Rather, it entails the recognition that I do not really know what anything is. In fact, I exist in a total state of not knowing, this is my fundamental condition, and so ego-mind has no place to plant a flag and turn my efforts at change into just another vanity project. It’s what real freedom is all about, in that respect, since there is nothing there to manipulate or corrupt.” Bob O’Hearn

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    “What you want to do is unlearn that which has become your mindset, your attitude and your behaviour program. You will then have a clean canvass to paint a new mindset, attitude and program from the wisdom of your spirit and strength of your heart.

    You will also find that repetitious surroundings are influencing you, and not in a good way. If you want to experience more sunshine and sandy beaches, you do not stay rooted in some snow covered cold barren landscape. If you want to be that which you aspire to be, then seek out others who also aspire to be that and build your strength on the pillars of their support. Do not stay bound among those who are simply satisfied with being just a man, or women. Follow the stream of influence which propels you closer to who and where you aspire to be.

    You will also find that self-neglect creates stagnant energy and lack of progress. If you want to progress and grow into a spiritually fluid, placid, love-motivated and peace filled being you need to spend quality time with yourself alone. Without the opinions or expectations, or responsibilities of others on your mind. If you do not make this time for yourself, then your inner-self will have no time for you.

    So then, this forgetfulness is basically a result of all these things. It is not because you do not have the heart to apply them to the real world, or lack the belief. It is that you rely too much on these illusions you still assume is the real reality, when in fact the real reality are those things you feel are so removed and mystical to be lived true. The true perspective of things is what you keep forgetting, and it is because it is so very much easier to simply rely on your learned illusions of the here and now, rather than make the extra effort to change permanently.

    If you want to remember. If you want to have the attitude and outlook you aspire to have. If you want to embody all those qualities, gifts, insights and principles you have read about, seen, heard and felt, then stop pretending to be someone who you are not. Someone you have pretended to be for so long, for the sake of pleasing others. This is the time now, to be who you really are. To recognise the illusions that surround you, that work against you, and for you. To recognise the reason you think and act as you do, and to think yourself into someone you really are. That someone who in truth does embody all of those qualities, insights and abilities. You are your greatest obstacle to your greatest dream. Yet you are also your greatest force to create your greatest reality. Have the courage to stand up for what you believe, and make every intention through thought, word and deed be a statement to that.”


  7. Bob OHearn says:

    “When you are dreaming of what is possible for your life, you should know that anything is possible. You may not always feel it or see it, but you never for a single moment lack the capacity to change course. Your life is subject to infinite revision.”

    ~17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

  8. Bob OHearn says:

    Do Positive Affirmations Help Us Manifest?

    Several of my readers have asked: “Does repeating positive affirmations do any good? Do they help us manifest a better life?”

    “I believe repeating positive affirmations to yourself is an important part of breaking a bad habit because they serve as a reminder of what you want your new habit to be. A recent change in the advertising industry provides an excellent example of the power of repetition of healthier attitudes. Years ago, women who did not look like anorexic fashion models beat themselves up with thoughts like: “I’m fat,” or “I’m ugly,” or worse, “I’m worthless.” Self-deprecation became a habit with some women. Thanks to courageous normal-sized models and celebrities speaking out, today’s ads believably portray all body types as beautiful. A woman repeating the ads’ positive message of “I am beautiful just as I am” can break the old habit of negative self-talk.

    However, I learned in the afterlife that simply repeating positive affirmations does not change anyone’s core beliefs about life or himself or herself. Humans first and foremost believe their own personal experiences. We souls do too because we think we’re human. A woman who has been bullied about her weight or ridiculed for her appearance will believe she is not beautiful. Repeating positive affirmations will not change that belief because they contradict her firsthand experience.

    We manifest into our own personal physical reality what we truly and deeply believe about ourselves and life. The woman in our example will continue to manifest opportunities to have her self-esteem deflated due to her size until she actually does accept and love herself as she is. Only after she changes her belief about herself will she change what she manifests to experience. This statement applies to all of us and our efforts to consciously manifest a better life. We must change our harmful core beliefs, not just our self-talk, in order to create a new reality for ourselves.”

    ~Nanci Danison

  9. Judy says:

    Bob, establishing relationships with truth lovers is not easy. Everyone I know is either steeped in religious beliefs, or materialists with no interest. The only person I had to discuss these things was my beloved husband, whom I lost to cancer almost two years ago. I am alone on the path and reading/listening to those such as yourself is the only motivation that helps. Are some just destined, like maybe it’s a karmic thing to have to go it alone, do you think?

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Dear Judy, I am sorry that you cannot find like-minded people in your sphere, I understand that challenge. I am grateful that I have discovered a few in cyberspace with whom I feel a resonance, and can share considerations on the nature of our appearance here, and its implications. My sense is that we are always given the circumstances which the soul requires in order to expand in Self-awareness, even if it doesn’t seem that way to the human persona.


  10. Judy says:

    Thanks, Bob. Yes, I’m so grateful for the internet. Apparently where I am is where I need to be and I do realize that our life is our path. Thanks again for all your writings and your prompt replies!

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