Mindfulness and Words

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

Lecture 4, Part 1 of 19 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: All right. Just for the sake of upholding various spiritual traditions I’ll be traditional: (Rings bell). 😉

I’m inclined to do something different tonight, partly brought on by inspiration, partly brought on by who knows what? My first inclination was that it was jumping a little too far ahead too fast to do this already, but then I realized I don’t know that from experience. That’s just a belief I have. If I don’t test it out by experience, I won’t know.

What I’m talking about is that I will try to move us toward a condition in which we can both have a relatively intellectual discussion, a scholarly sort of discussion, while maintaining awareness in the present. The two don’t normally go together. Normally you get some ideas and you get drunk on them, and the body stays behind back there somewhere, with not much relevance. Normally I work up toward doing both at once after you’ve had a fair amount of experience with some Sensing, Looking and Listening (SLL), in everyday life. But I feel like jumping ahead faster on it tonight so, rather than give you a special experiential warm-up, I’m just going to ask that we begin directly doing it.

So, for instance, when I start the sign-in pad going around, get it mindfully, sign your name mindfully. Start a rumor that if you could actually sign your name mindfully you’ll become enlightened. 😉


Pass it on to the next person mindfully. I want to start that rumor because of my experience teaching at U.C. Davis for many years. The university required many, many signatures from me on various forms, most of which I considered meaningless. Consequently my ordinary mind, which was always in a hurry, learned to write my signature faster and faster until it became something that kind of started out looking like a C in Charles but then was just an almost straight line blur after that.

So on the humorous side I could blame the University for ruining my signature. But in point of fact, the desire for speed contributes to mindlessness, because you need speedier, more intense stuff to keep you stimulated if you’re not mindful, I just went on and ruined my signature. So maybe it’s actually a true idea that if you could sign your name mindfully, being conscious all the way, you might be significantly waking up.

I’m going to ask another question before I move to the main thing I want to do. Did folks get two or three emails from me by now?

Student: I got one.

Student: Just one.

(Unison of one responses)

CTT: Let’s have that pad start from back here again and everybody do your email address real clear again because something’s wrong. Normally I collect email addresses the first night of the class, I send out some kind of a test letter, two or three of them bounce because things weren’t written quite clearly, I get those corrected, and I can assume communication after that.

The inspiring email I thought I sent to everyone this week (Laughter) contains something I came across in my file while I was reading people’s papers. I keep it in there as a reminder to me. And remember, you’re keeping track of your arms and legs now, or at least some part of your body, all through the class even though we’re dealing with ideas. [Italicized phrases in this transcript are a reminder to actually do sensing, looking, and listening rather than just get lost in the content.]

This is something I got from one of the discussion groups I’m on. I’m in a group called The Forge, which is a relatively new organization, five or six years old, something like that, its purpose is to promote the idea of trans-traditional spirituality. The idea of a spirituality that goes beyond any particular tradition, since traditions, particular religions, tend to squeeze spirituality down and strangle it. I’m not quite sure why I’m on it, because it’s supposed to be for “spiritual leaders,” but I think I’m their token scientist. Anyway, somebody said something very useful on that which I passed on, and some of you’ve gotten an email and some of you didn’t, but I’ll read it to you. I read it to remind myself once in awhile.

Although I know they are not the truth, but only at best pointers to the truth, I’m in love with words and infatuated by my own ability to deploy them effectively. This is only ego. May all I say or write be in the service of the Divine, and not for the gratification of my pride.”

Sound familiar to anyone? Let’s see how many people. (Lots of hands go up) Wow!

Student: It’s posted on your office door. Yeah.

CTT: Okay. (Laughter) Yes. It is on my door. I’m glad to know someone read it.

All of you are going to be academics, therapists, and the like. All of you have good word power, right? Hopefully you have a lot more as a result of ITP’s education than just word power, but you’re all going to be good with words, and you’re probably all pretty excellent already. Watch out! They are so tempting and intoxicating.

If I can ever figure out the email thing, maybe I’ll send it around again.


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