Effortless effort, or, “But I feel too good to do homework!”

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

Lecture 4, Part 11 of 17 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

Student: Recently I’ve been feeling like I can be in that sort of peaceful place, but when I’m there, I can’t get out of it. Like I miss the state of being mindful, but when I’m there, I can’t get out of it. Does that make sense?

CTT: I’m not sure yet.

Student: I’m not always in a state of peace, but I’ve found that doing this mindfulness practice has gotten me more aware of my body and more aware of my emotions all the time. But it’s been increasingly more difficult to come back and start reading for school and doing papers.

CTT: Is that because you like the state you’re in?

Student: I do like it.

CTT: And then all this school stuff is work.

Student: But I like school too. I love learning.

CTT: Mindfulness does not mean guaranteed happiness.

Student: Right.

CTT: Or always knowing the best thing to do in each and every situation. Sometimes you still have to make yourself do something that one part of your mind knows is what you should do, and the other parts of your mind aren’t interested.

Student: Right. So I guess my question is I know that last week you talked about getting into your body when you’re doing a paper, but how do I get to the paper when I’m paying attention to my body?

CTT: That’s an interesting way of thinking about it. She’s succeeding too much at not writing her papers, but she’s happy.


Well, you can think about all the money you’re spending to come here to graduate school!

Let’s let that one float for a minute. I don’t have a good answer for your question.

Student: I think that peace is a by-product of other activities and not something that should or can be pursued directly, and that mindfulness results in a feeling of peace. I’ve been working hard this year to test it out on the racetrack with my motorcycle, and it is possible to feel peace and comfort and waiting for what’s happened next, even if you’re in a slide at over 100 miles an hour.

So they don’t seem to go well together, but then it fits into what you were saying about slowing down. The very fastest people are moving the slowest. Things are happening without expectation, only adjustment to what’s happening. So you talk to somebody that’s really fast, and they’re not doing very much in the controls. They’re there for the experience and looking forward to what’s happening next, so everything slows down. And yet they’re faster than everybody else, so I don’t think that slowing down…. It means doing less than what you were explaining, but it doesn’t mean accomplishing less. That actually there’s a way to accomplish more.

CTT: Yeah. Seeing peace as a side effect is a good way to look at it.

Student: That reminds me of orgasms.


Student: It’s weird, because what you’re describing sounds like having really good orgasms. One of the things I realized a while ago, after looking at tantric stuff, is that when you relax instead of turning sex into having a goal at the end of it, or the climax, the more you relax into the experience, the more amazing the experience is.

Another Student: Yes.

Student: In fact, the first time I got on the racetrack with my bike, years ago, I actually said, “This is the next best thing to sex, except that it lasts all day long.”


There is a real sense of just waiting for what’s coming next and not trying to orchestrate an experience.

Another Student: Right!

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