It’s not generally or easily possible to shift into a different mood by declaration – saying “I’m happy”, for example, doesn’t generally have me be happy.
It’s my experience that moods are much more subtle than that, more complex and sophisticated, and not so amenable to my attempts to manipulate them. It’s as if each mood is really its own complete intelligence or personality – and most moods are wise to my efforts to get my own way.
But I do think the capacity for a wider range of moods can be cultivated over time, by how I pay attention, how I choose to use my time, who I am in relationship with, and the actions I take.
Fascination or curiosity can, in my experience, be cultivated by taking on the study of something with sufficient regularity and sufficient openness – astronomy or cars, for example, or human personality, what happens in groups, mathematics, music, or the amazing animals and insects that live even in a small patch of the garden.
Study something closely enough, for long enough and – crucially – keep going through the uncertainty and difficulty of getting going and soon, as the subject’s depths are revealed, curiosity and fascination start to emerge as more readily available moods. And what’s more, the practice of looking with wide open eyes, cultivated in one domain, opens up the depth and endless mystery of almost everything else. Even the contours of something as mundane as boredom can be fascinating when looked at in this way.
Each mood has its own pathways of practice and observation.
And if study is the path that cultivates curiosity, then appreciation is the pathway to gratitude, and generosity is the pathway to love.
Photograph by Justin Wise, Monet’s Garden, August 2014