Dr. Charles T. Tart on August 13th, 2010

Some thoughts after a meditation session August 10, 2010.

Observation reveals…

My mind has scenario generators and there’s practically always one running, either as thoughts (verbal talk/words to myself) or imagery.

The imagery is easy to see as I drift toward sleep, but, while less intense in terms of perceptibility, seem to be there all the time I’m awake.

There’s internally generated imagery, i.e., I don’t know why the particular image/dreamlet should come up at that time, there’s imagery generated by previous imagery or talk of body feelings, and there’s constant imagery in response to sensory input.  I hear a sound, e.g., and even if I don’t consciously want it, a faint visual image of what the object making that sound probably is occurs, and it’s accurately, spatially located in a usually implicit visual map of the space around me.  Like my perceptual processes are getting an image ready if I need it, perhaps to speed other info retrieval in connection with it.

If I’m not exerting some intention to organize my talk and image so they have a goal in mind, they wander all over the place.

If their content were analyzed, I’m sure they would be only partially random or of unknown provenance.  Generally they would reflect my usual personality and concerns, a kind of statistical distribution of “me.”  So I’m not just a random generator, but the lawfulness is hard to see sometimes – why in the world am I thinking about X?

So what is the “I,” the “me” behind this?  I automatically label all this stuff “my” experience, but that’s not just a post hoc intellectual thought, it “feels” like “me” in some hard-to-define sense.

So what might survive death?  A variegated collection of memories held together by intention?  In my alive state, my body must hold a lot of “me” together, as well as habitual and transient intentions?  The body as concretized intentions?

Funny, will, intention are the big things missing from modern psychology.

If intention can hold my current body, thoughts and feelings together, could sufficient intention “possess” a complex computer and organize it into a living, conscious being?

I’m going to go to sleep soon, that means I stop exerting specific intent to be “me,” to be organized, to be anything in particular, and the images will increase, the dreamlets start, and I’m gone….

To be continued some day….

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3 Responses to “Reflections on My Mind – August 10, 2010”

  1. Sandy says:

    Dr Tart, when I had my NDE, I was gone. But I was also still me. :-)

    • Good points. I imagine people who succeed at various spiritual practices naturally assume that what worked for them is The Best Way and prescribe it for everyone. There’s lip service to adapting practices to individuals, but I don’t know how much actually occurs.
      Hopefully Transpersonal Psychology will investigate these kinds of issues, using the best of real science as well as drawing from various spiritual traditions, and someday – probably at least a few generations down the road – procedures will be prescribed which have been found to work for particular types of individuals…….My vision.
      Meanwhile Transpersonal Psychology remains a too tiny field with almost no resources to do much of anything, no matter how desperately we and the World needs this kind of development. If any of you know any rich individuals able to do things like endow the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology so more research can be done, please speak up! Yes, I’m begging. Developing effective spirituality is so important….
      I see this at the Tibetan Buddhist retreat I’m on now – methods which may work real well for some types of people don’t do much for people like me…..

  2. Etheleona says:

    Dr. Tart,

    It sounds like you’re a high imager with high spatial ability, and probably highly dissociative and hypnotizable — your mental experiences show high levels of automaticity, things that happen by themselves without conscious effort or intent.

    I am the polar opposite — a nondissociative- nonhypnotizable- nonimager. I do not experience spontaneous “scenario generation”; for me, thought always requires conscious effort. When I sit still with eyes closed, the inside of my head remains black and empty, silent and still. My sense of space is very vague; when my eyes are shut, it’s like being in a cocoon with only a rudimentary awareness of external space.

    My greatest challenge in meditation is not distraction but boredom. Instead of “mind chatter”, I suffer from lack of stimulation and often feel the need to “scratch the itch” by generating voluntary thoughts.

    I’ve noticed that traditional approaches to meditation often assume that everyone is a high imager, and techniques are geared to people with this type of mental functioning. There may be ethnic differences in this respect; Eastern populations may have higher average levels of hypnotizability than Westerners, and so these assumptions have become worked into the techniques mainly derived from Eastern philosophies.

    I’d be curious if you’ve noted individual differences among your students.

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