The Six Senses and Contact
The Six Sense Spheres
Mindfulness training involves an array of practices and contemplations that are designed to provide insight into how we relate to our moment to moment experience. This insight allows us to gain the wisdom needed to respond to life circumstances in skillful and healthy ways.
Mindfulness at the six sense spheres, is a powerful domain of practice. Please do not underestimate this practice. As simple as bringing our mindful awareness to the six senses may appear at first glance, know that there is a profound opportunity for insight and freedom here.
The Six Ways We Experience and Know Our Life
Take a moment to reflect on your experience right now. Where are you right now?
The answer to this question is relatively easy to find. All that you were required to do was tune into your five senses and take in sensory information. Your mind (the sixth sense) perceived/cognized this information, distinguished the unique set of characteristics of the environment, and recognized where you are. Easy, right? It is through your six senses that you are able to experience your life.
Because your life can only be experienced through the six senses, it make sense to apply our mindfulness practice there. Mindfulness at the six sense spheres allows us to "know" our life in profound and meaningful ways.
Identifying the Six Sense Spheres
Take a look at the diagram above. There are the conventionally recognized five physical senses as well as the sixth sense of mind. In the same way that eyes consciously receive visual events, such as colors and shapes, the mind can receive mental events, such as feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
The Three Components of the Sense Spheres:
For the purpose of practice, each sense is composed of three components. We can only be mindful of our sense spheres when these three components arise together.
- Sense Organ. The organs of eye, nose, body, tongue, ear, and mind. If the sense organ is not able to receive an object, the object cannot be known.
- Sense Object. An associated object or event that can me known. I.e., sights, odors, sounds, physical sensations, flavors, and mental events. If the sense object is not present, it cannot be known.
- Sense Consciousness. The mental process of being conscious of the associated sense object. If the consciousness isn't there to receive the object, even if the sense organ is healthy, it cannot be known.
Internal and External Sense Sphere Awareness
The five physical sense spheres are considered to be external senses and the mind sense sphere is considered to be an internal sense.
What can be sensed with the five senses are categorized as external awareness and what can be sensed within the mind is categorized as internal awareness.
Mindfulness practice invites us to cultivate our capacity to be aware internally, externally, and both at the same time. In other words, to be mindful of what is going on around us and within us.