Observing the Mind: Basic Training in Skillful Introspection

Charles T. Tart

In the nineteenth century, psychologists tried but failed to develop a science of the mind using introspective data. A major reason for failure is that the ordinary mind has little skill at observing itself, as well as being very active and "noisy."  Further, our "normal" state of consensus consciousness is like a virtual reality, generating apparently real experiences based on cultural conditioning and personal biases, and often distorting perceptions to support these scenarios. After conceptual material to fit introspective observations into the paradigm of essential science and scholarship, this workshop will introduce two fundamental  techniques for calming the mind/noise reduction (concentrative meditation) and developing deeper understanding of the mind (insight meditation, vipassana). Emphasis will be on introduction to actual skills, not reviewing the research literature. These skills can make us better scientists, therapists and conceptualizers, improve our ability to obtain data about consciousness, and can have personal benefits such as stress reduction, clearer reality contact, and improving the quality of life.  Prior reading of Tart's books "Waking Up" and "Living the Mindful Life" is recommended, but not required.  His recent "Mind Science: Meditation Training for Practical People" is based on an earlier version of this workshop at Tucson III, and would be useful, but not required, reading (see www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ for finding all books).  But remember, the guided practice of the skills in the workshop and your later practice is the essence, reading and conceptualization is secondary to skill learning.

Charles T. Tart, Ph.D., is internationally known for his pioneering psychological work on the nature of consciousness, particularly altered states, and as a founder of the field of transpersonal psychology.  His two classic books, "Altered States of Consciousness" (1969) and "Transpersonal Psychologies" (1975), became widely used texts that were instrumental in integrating these areas into modern psychology, and his The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences (TASTE) (http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/tart/taste/) website is beginning to bring scientists' transcendent experiences into public view.  Full biographical information and many of his publications are available at www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/.