Holding Experiences Lightly

Dr. Charles Tart


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

Lecture 4, Part 13 of 18 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

Student: So would it be hurtful, though, or pathological to do what Bob was talking about and really glean from that experience what seemed to be a significant portion of truth there, and to sort of work back towards that in the future and in the present. Constantly, I guess. Or would I constantly be setting myself up for disappointment and having expectations that are maybe unmeetable or maybe just undesirable?

CTT: You’re asking good, tricky questions tonight.

Student: I really am a little bit shaken up and I don’t know what to do about it. I mean, I don’t know how to re-frame my experiences.

Another Student: I’d like to respond to that.

CTT: Okay.

Student: I would suggest holding the experience as an inference, meaning that it can have many, many possible meanings. Usually, we really only need to come to a judgment when some action is required specific to that judgment. So within your experience, there’s probably numerable aspects of it that are more inferential and could mean something years later. And so, as much as possible, just hold it as an inference.

CTT: That means the next time you go down some path, you’re not actually expecting to experience something because of the judgments you’ve made. The inferences you hold might open up a whole new avenue that wasn’t even present in how you can process the information now.

Student: Have you written about it too?

CTT: You’re taking yourself some notes on it?

Student: Sort of. I wrote a paper about it for another faculty member’s Ethics class, and now I’m just… yeah, taking notes.

CTT: The point Jospeh made about seeing some of it as inference is a good one too. Because we have experiences sometimes which you might say are sort of “pure experiences.” We’re not talking to ourselves about it at the time – the experience is so strong, it does it.

But boy, give us a microsecond afterwards and the old inference machine will start up and try to fit it into a framework! But that’s all right. That’s one of the things we human beings do. We come up with theories about what things mean. But distinguish between that and the actual experience, and be careful about getting carried away with the inference, the theory, the belief.

Student: Yep.

CTT: Because you might see it in a different way at some later time.

Again, it’s going back to this Tibetan thing of learn from these experiences, but hold them lightly somehow. Don’t throw them away. Don’t disrespect them, but don’t get overly attached to them.

Now this goes against what a lot of people want to do. Because a lot of times, you’ll have a certain kind of experience and it’ll seem like the best thing that ever happened in your life, and you want to get back to it and go that way. And that might be a legitimate opening on certain spiritual paths. It might mean that yes, you’re making progress, and this is a manifestation of it, and maybe having that experience again would open up even more of it.

I don’t know how to advise people on that kind of direction. I don’t feel very knowledgeable there. But I do know that, in general, getting too attached to anything can create all sorts of troubles.

And take good notes!

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