Shifty-eyed resistance to change

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

Lecture 3, Part 10 of 13 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: Somebody had a hand up over there.

Student: See, on that note, I don’t feel as connected to people. It’s like I’m trying to be so aware or present that it’s like I lose a bit of connection with people in the room. I’m looking for eyes, but I can’t find eyes. And it reminds me of when you go through ski lessons.

CTT: Remember arms and legs (reminding students to practice SLL, not just get caught up in content of words).

Student: Yeah. Yeah. I just; it’s making me think, obviously, but – and I don’t see what’s wrong with that, actually – but I just; it feels like I’m so distracted by the practice and having to shift my eyes and do this mechanized…. I don’t know. It feels like pointing it out creates this misfunctionary component of it, dysfunctional component of it. Then I feel disconnected from people because I feel as though everyone’s trying to maintain this different habitual pattern.

CTT: That sounds like an accurate perception.

Student: Yeah. So I feel disconnected. I do. I mean, I think ultimately it would provide a greater awareness, but at the moment it’s so new that I’m like –

CTT: Yeah.

Student: I’m just trying to be a shifty eyed coke addict or something at the moment.

CTT: Well the coke addict part is optional, but…


CTT: Shifty eyed I like to hear. 😉


CTT: Yeah. Well, you know we all come in here with certain talents we’ve developed through life, and they all work reasonably well or we wouldn’t be alive. But you don’t want to stay stuck in having only those particular talents. So sometimes when you want to learn a new skill you really have to fight your way through an old skill that worked fairly well but is plateaued out and you can’t go any further if you stay stuck in the old direction.

Knowing you feel awkward about it is good. It means you’re paying attention! And this is something I’ll emphasis every once in awhile about this practice. This sensing, looking, and listening is a process, a practice, for becoming more aware, and it’s not an end…. I’m not saying this right.

It’s a way of learning a skill and using your attention that will produce a wide range of results. Sometimes those results will feel very good. There can be times when you do this process when you feel like, “Wow, I’m here. I’ve been asleep my whole life and now I’ve finally woken up and the world is beautiful. And I’m in touch and competent.”

And then you have to continue doing the process because otherwise, you shift over into “I’m going to do what makes me feel good.” And that’s one of our main problems, that we automatically do what makes us feel good instead of what gets us closer to clear perception. So sometimes this process will feel awkward, feel like it’s not succeeding, feel like it puts us in contact with feelings and experiences we don’t really like, or wish we could change. But actually if you’re clearly in contact with those things, you’re doing the process, you’re doing very well. You’re learning to expand that range.

So what did I learn in school today? I learned how to feel shitty with really great depth


instead of the shallow shittiness that I normally feel….


I should also say that if you ever get so seriously involved in this process that you never find anything funny anymore, you’re doing something wrong!


Student: I wanted to say I’ve been doing something similar without being able to assign a name to it, like Vipassana and the also the Gurdjieff. It started out about three or four years ago when I tried to be aware of my body.

CTT: Stay with the (SLL) process while you describe this.

Student: Thank you. I had shifted away from doing it… And I was trying three or four years ago to be aware of my body. I could only find awareness in one part, and ultimately through changes and understanding developed an ability to be aware of all of my body at once. And that caused me difficulty in the exercise because my mind actively will say, “Well, I can feel my whole body. Why should I pay attention to one part?” And my process was one of not being connected with my experience and not being connected with what I think could be my capability of being connected with what was happening right now. I went through the exercise, and it had a fair amount of meaning. It created connections to my past experience, but it was not replaced by that past experience, fortunately.

CTT: There’s a general principle here you can apply to all of transpersonal psychology: That making yourself or making somebody else do something in a different way from the habitual way they do it creates an opportunity for some awakening or some increased sensitivity. And I say creates an opportunity, because we’re very good at kind of hunkering down and going through changes that are forced on us, and paying as little attention as possible so that we don’t have to see ourselves in the new light, or see the world in a really new light. But change can always be an opportunity to grow. This is one of the things that happen when all the traditions say at some point life becomes your teacher.

If you practice this kind of process, just about anything that happens to you, even stuff we normally call bad stuff or tragedies, becomes a learning opportunity, becomes a kind of fuel for becoming more awake, and that changes your relationship to things. But it’s more comfortable to stay asleep, with the way you habitually, automatically are. But it’s in resting you’re more awake.

One comment

  1. I find that I’m OK when this process brings the bad parts of life into focus. It’s almost like bad stuff is easier to look at than good stuff. It’s when I start to see the true beauty of this world, the beauty that underlies all the terrible stuff… like no matter how much we mess up, this is still an amazing existence… That’s when I want to pull away from what I’m experiencing. That’s when it becomes too much, or maybe I feel like I don’t deserve it.

    Maybe I just feel guilty because I don’t want to go down a spiritual path. I’d really like to sleep just a little bit longer. There are lots of people who want to wake up, so what would be the harm in letting them be the advance party while I catch up on my sleep?

    I started doing this stuff just to be OK. That was all I wanted. But the process doesn’t let you just stay in one place, does it?

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