December 19, 2007

Now let’s take another perspective. Instead of our ordinary experience, let’s look at what we might call cultivated experience or disciplined experience, the kind of perspective people who systematically practice a meditative discipline designed to get deeper insights into themselves discover. I don’t mean merely thinking about ourselves — one of the too common but highly inaccurate ways people use the word “meditation.” I mean the kind of meditative discipline where you learn to still the agitation in your ordinary mind in order to perceive internal and external reality more directly.

If we ask most people who practice these kinds of disciplines who they are, they get behind their ordinary identities of father, mother, or citizen because they have realized that their fundamental identity is something like a capacity to experience, rather than any particular manifestation of that capacity. We might say, in a sense, that I am nothing, no thing — that I am not frozen into any one, concretized pattern, but that there is fluidity underneath these patterns. Spaciousness is found — a capacity to experience particulars, to experience change, and to flow with change, although the ordinary identities are still there. And when this is experienced, there is a little more choice about “putting on” personas, deliberately using them and then setting them aside. It’s like having a variety of uniforms, recognizing that they are uniforms, not really you, and putting them on and taking them off whenever appropriate.

Some people call this spaciousness “detachment” — although that word has pathological associations that I am not talking about here. The pathological form says, “I do not care about anything, and so nothing can hurt me.” There is another kind of detachment: a healthy spaciousness that comes from teaching ourselves to be more objectively aware, not to be so caught up in or experience but to pay clearer attention to all events, which makes life more vivid and clear. We then have a clearer understanding of the particulars of the moment along with the spaciousness, this basic capacity to experience that is a more fundamental identity.

As I said, from the perspective of cultivated experience, I am nothing: I am not a thing but a process that is open to change.

– Charles Tart

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