Consciousness dynamics, Our Story Goes Round and Round

Dr. Charles Tart


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

Lecture 5, Part 2 of 18 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: The processing and abstraction and elaboration in the box right below that [see previous blog entry] is very much affected by your needs – your hopes, your fears, your habits. By your particular personal history that has taught you to see the world in certain kinds of ways; by the particular skills you have for coping with various kinds of things. All that is constantly affecting how you process your perceptions of the world around you, and your perceptions of yourself. Again, it’s easier to represent stuff coming in from outside in the figure, but this is about your perceptions of yourself also.

With all those needs and hopes and fears and so forth affecting perceptual processing, we reach some kind of final conscious perception – the big arrow up the top there, moving over from processing to final conscious perception. Our final conscious perception, then, is not a simple, straightforward grasping of what’s there; it’s a manufactured product. It has had all sorts of things taken away from it compared to the actual input at any moment, and it’s had all sorts of things added to it.

Now you see a circular flow of big arrows there, attention flow. For the primary simple perception, I’ve shown a very small arrow on the left, indicating we don’t really pay much attention to that kind of raw input in the now, but we have a constant circulating flow of attention – those big arrows around and around and around – that have to do with our “story,” our life, our world, our experience, and all those little squiggly things represent particular contents of that. The attention flow is the general sort of thing, and the squigglies are particular needs and fears, particular thoughts, particular images, particular desires, and things like that that are constantly in there.

What Shinzen explains so nicely is that this is not a clean, simple, efficient kind of flow, but rather – just drawing these things squiggly – if you actually would picture this as a series of pipes, with fluid flowing around through it, and all these odd shaped objects floating in it, you can see how they tend to bump and hook onto each other because they have hooks and curls and angles and bumpy things on them, and that’s what happens to so much of our ongoing experience. You think of something which automatically reminds you – which automatically brings up a memory that triggers off an emotion – which automatically reminds you – which triggers off another emotion – which distorts the next perception coming in to support the emotion – which triggers off …– and around and around. There’s a lot of turbulence. It’s a highly viscous, a highly sticky, chaotic, troubled kind of flow of our experience.

So we largely ignore the outside world around us, and a lot of our direct body sensations as far as that goes, and we’re constantly immersed in this flow of stuff going around and around and around, our sticky story.

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