Practice in the “real” world

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

Lecture 3, Part 12 of 13 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: You’ll find the sensing, looking, and listening especially interesting to do in difficult situations.

Student: I was going to ask if you have any advice on how to maintain that during a stressful situation.

CTT: Try it.

Student: Yeah.

CTT: Yeah. Even if you could do it for a couple of seconds in a stressful situation, it’s like: here comes the stress, the tension level is starting to build up and oh. I know the stress comes back, but instead of having it build up to here (holds hands up very high), the tension level is only built up to here (holds hands up less), because you have a little spaciousness for a moment, and you may have learned something about your feelings.

In terms of its formal structure, Sensing-Looking-and Listening (SLL) seems like a sensory awareness exercise. Look at the world around you. Listen to the sounds around you. Keep a little bit of attention in your body. But in terms of its effects, while it does make you more sensitive to those external things, it also sets the stage for a lot more self knowledge and insights. Again, it goes back to that thing that patterns and feelings in our body reveal a lot. As we get more sensitive and able to practice equanimity, and kind of listening to the whole message from the body instead of reacting on the first part of it, we pick up new stuff.

SLL can be very different for different people. So one of the things I’ll ask when we start off our class next week is going to be, “Is anything interesting happened to anybody as they’ve practiced this in the outside world?” By sharing these kinds of experiences, you’ll get some very interesting ideas and insights. So you’re actually exploring, not just following a fixed path.

So I invite you to wake up for the rest of your life, or at least for a few minutes at a time every once in awhile, and I think most of you will find you like it. But don’t give it up if there is an occasional bad experience doing it. You’re seeking truth, or at least greater truth than we ordinarily have, and sometimes that means getting your nose rubbed in it.

Any other questions on how to do it, before we get into the business stuff of exchanging papers and all that?

Now your first practice of sensing, looking, and listening in action will be to exchange papers with people and hand them in to me in a mindful fashion.


  1. “I was going to ask if you have any advice on how to maintain that during a stressful situation.”

    It seems to me that sometimes in stressful situations people do sll automatically.

    “Depersonalization (or depersonalisation) is a malfunction or anomaly of the mechanism by which an individual has self awareness. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation.[1] It can be considered desirable, such as in the use of recreational drugs, but it usually refers to the severe form found in anxiety and, in the most intense cases, panic attacks.

    Individuals who experience depersonalization feel divorced from their own personal physicality by sensing their body sensations, feelings, emotions and behaviors as not belonging to the same person or identity.[3] Often a person who has experienced depersonalization claims that life “feels like a movie” or things seem unreal or hazy.”

    Maybe sll is helpful because it is a deliberate extension of a natural process?

  2. You know, the idea of waking up – or even being mindful – doesn’t suck so much lately. I’m actually been pretty OK about everything since I tried to watch the colors of birds and write down what I was seeing. I tried doing that again yesterday. Similar results. It seems like I have to be truly happy/joyful in order to see colors and think about them analytically at the same time. Like I have to really care about what I’m doing and be happy with both sides of the experience for it to work.

    Trying that out seems to have somehow flipped a switch in me. I’m still seeing things that I don’t understand, but I don’t need to cry about it right now. I saw a ghost this morning, but things were OK anyway. I felt myself get bigger than my body for a while, but I could still function just fine. I enjoyed all the colors and smells, and how stuff feels, and all the great noises… I don’t feel like I need to shut them down today to be normal. This just feels like my normal. If this is being awake, or aware, or whatever… maybe I can handle it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *