Concepts vs. Experience

Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,

Lecture 4, Part 12 of 17 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: You’re getting at the balance between an experience that is being relatively directly created by what’s actually happening at the moment, and starting to superimpose concepts of what should be happening over it. Those concepts can be very intriguing, but they’re never quite the same as the actual experience. So you can go through life, in a sense, ruining your actually experience.

..Okay, how do I want to say this…..?

One of my qualities that I’ve had to work with all my life is gluttony, to use an old-fashioned word for it. And for my particular personality type, gluttony manifests as, “Whatever experience is happening to me, it could be better!” Which means it’s never quite enough for what it is. For me to learn to simply accept experience as it is – which mindfulness practice is very good for – makes experience much more rewarding than constantly thinking, “This could be better!”

Knowing that you’ve turned your attention away from sensing what’s actually going on and are now investing in words about it or images about it – those are the main ways that concepts are done – allows you to not get so carried away by these things. But it’s so easy to get carried away.

An example came to mind while we were talking about it. There was a world religious leaders’ conference in Switzerland some years ago. One of the delegates there was a famous Zen teacher, who was quite old at the time. He looked so relaxed that everyone figured the old guy is dozing…

The person who was writing about it was describing an afternoon session. The delegates were all gathered around a long conference table in this beautiful room. The windows were open and someone was giving the most elegant lecture about the nature of spirituality and all that when a gust of wind blew in the window, took the speaker’s papers, and blew them down the table real fast.

While all these people caught up in their words did nothing at all, the Zen master simply reached out and caught the papers as they went by, because he hadn’t been caught up in the words.

Concepts, beliefs, ideas about reality vs reality….

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