Doc, doc! It hurts when I sense my body!

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

Lecture 4, Part 2 of 19 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: So take a minute to look at the comments on your paper. You might not have a response to them. You might. It might also remind you of something that you wanted to bring up from the readings or the last class.

But remember to always try to keep some part of your awareness in your body in the here and now.

Now when somebody does ask a question or brings up a point, listen to what they say. Your thinking mind is obviously going to be engaged, but keep some of your awareness in body sensation: in the sound of their voice, in the sight of what you’re seeing, rather than just trip off on the concepts the way we so often do. We’ll see what that does.

Student: I notice when I’m trying or when I am more present that my contacts bother me, because I have a harder time seeing with lenses. If I’m doing Aikido, it’s better if I don’t have my contacts in. I can see much better when I’m being more present. So right now you told us to focus, and I notice them kind of start pulling out, like as a filter.

CTT: You think it’s literally a change in the muscular structure of your eye that’s forcing them, rather than just more awareness of a sensation that was there all the time?

Student: I wonder if my eyes are just more relaxed.

CTT: That could be.

Student: They’re not trying to see detail. It’s like the soft focus of the person, you know?

CTT: They do teach soft focus vision here as part of Aikido, yes?

Student: Yeah. And I have a wider perception, like trying to see everything in the room versus trying to read just that.

CTT: That’s interesting. I’d still raise the question of whether it’s an actual change in your eyes, it might be, or whether it’s a sensation that’s always there but normally you’re too involved in other kinds of things to notice it.

One of the frequent reports I get when I teach mindfulness and have people start sensing their arms and legs, or the more formal Vipassana sensing your whole body, is that some people say this is really uncomfortable or painful. Because some people discover that the ordinary, “normal” state of their body is tense painfulness. But normally they’re going too fast to notice it. They’re distracted from that. If they start bringing some awareness back to the present, to the body, they notice it. So the tendency, of course, is to not want to do it, to just continue to rush along, but that doesn’t really solve the problem of the body being uncomfortable and tense.

As I think we talked a little bit about last time, if you become more clearly aware of your body, even working on being equanimous toward it rather than trying to make it better or something, there’s a tendency for the body to relax and drop the unnecessary tensions just by being more aware.

The analogy often used is that the unconscious is psychological processes that go on in the dark, that we don’t have conscious awareness of, and when you start shining the light on them, they can be dissolved. Not all of them. Some of them take much more intense, therapeutic kinds of work, but there are a fair number of things which if you simply become clearly, consciously aware of them — habits, attitudes, stances, things like that — they dissolve away.

One comment

  1. I fell off the meditation wagon again. I’m trying to get back to doing it but I was surprised by what my body felt like when I tried to meditate today. I felt fear.

    I actually have a good reason for the fear, but I thought I was coping really well. My body still carries the fear, no matter how well I thought I was dealing with it.

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