“Priming the Pump” for Mindfulness in Life

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

Lecture 3, Part 6 of 13 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: So I’m going to introduce you to the primary technique that Gurdjieff taught people to develop mindfulness in every day life through a systematic practice. It is like Vipassana, but you don’t need to sit in a special position or keep your eyes shut or any of those sorts of things. You can apply this in any activity of life, which is what makes it really valuable.

I’ve already talked several times about the importance of the body, not just as a source of sensation, but as a source of sensation in the here and now, that the body keeps you anchored in the present. The kind of people that Gurdjieff attracted, for the most part, were people like you folks: intellectuals, intuitive, creative people, people with good imaginations, great thinking processes, tremendous talk power – but who, by and large, were not anchored in the sensory reality of the immediate here and now. So he taught them an exercise generally called the morning exercise, or sometimes I call it the priming exercise, to sort of “prime the pump” to get you ready> It is practiced first thing in the morning, before you engage your mind otherwise.

And the “before you engage your mind otherwise” is important. If you’re the kind of person who wakes up and can barely get out of bed to crawl to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and don’t actually turn your mind on for a half an hour, you don’t try this before you have your coffee because you’ll just fall back to sleep. On the other hand, it’s really important to do this before you listen to the news or pick up the paper or begin remembering all your troubles and tasks, because you want to prime your mind with the values, the goals, of becoming more present, becoming more awake. That’s why I like calling it the priming exercise.

You can do this preferably sitting up, but it’s possible to do it in bed if you’re not going to fall back asleep. You can be propped up in bed or something like that. I generally do it while having a few sips of coffee propped up in bed, but I’m lazy. It would be better to actually get up and sit. If you’re going to sit, you sit in a comfortable posture like you were going to do meditation, so you don’t particularly have to twitch, and you systemically run your attention through your limbs in various ways. And we’re going to do it together now so you get a feeling for it. Okay? And understand, I’m giving you the traditional practice for doing this. It doesn’t mean it is the only way it can ever be done but it’s a generally applicable way.

(continued next week – enjoy sense of anticipation) 😉

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