Sensation and Awareness, the Yin/Yang of Consciousness
Awareness is permanent but the sensation is temporary. This is a recent conclusion of mine after many years of meditation practice. And it has become clear to me that the two form independent minds which through meditation practice can effectively cooperate to create a stronger, healthier, and more nimble mind.
The Sensational mind is in the moment and maintains a narrow focus on sensations in which I include the following: stimulus-response; reflexes; emotions; instinctual behavior; conditioned or learned behaviors; imagination; other thinking processes; and the sense of self. I think of the Sensational mind as though I’m in a boat floating on a river. One moment I’m here and the next moment I’m somewhere else and there are new thoughts and sensations from moment to moment as well as a strong sense of now and the past.
The Awareness mind has but a single focus and that is to collectively experience the totality of the Sensational mind with no regard for space, time or a self. I think of my Awareness mind as if it’s sitting on the bank of a river as my Sensational mind floats by. The Awareness mind is in a timeless reverie where there’s no particular attention paid to any individual part of the Sensational mind. The sensations of me in a boat on a river flowing overland under a blue sky is a single, unified experience, forever in the eternal now.
That would seem to illustrate a disconnect between the two but they are closely intertwined. The Awareness mind is like a vast database of every sensation as it occurs while the Sensational mind picks and chooses which sensations I should dwell upon and respond to. In other words, the Sensational mind picks up where the Awareness mind leaves off. Actually, the Awareness mind carries on since it’s viewing the flow of my entire existence as a single event.
Sensational Mind and the Awareness Mind during Meditation
I have felt the distinction between the Sensational mind and the Awareness mind during meditation. It occurs when the Sensational mind goes to sleep while the Awareness mind remains alert. It’s not so much that the sensational mind actually goes to sleep as it relinquishes control to awareness. What I sense is happening is my Sensational mind is paying closer attention to my Awareness mind. Studying the Awareness mind, if you will, rather than rushing headlong into performing all the other duties the Sensational mind has been trained to do. I think practicing meditation strengthens the connections between the Awareness and Sensational minds and improves the inter-operational efficiency of the two.
After meditation practice is over, all the habits and behaviors of the Sensational mind slowly return to control. But over years of meditation practice, more of the memory of pure awareness remains so that I’m not carried away as much by the passions of the sensational mind. I’m able to pause and ponder my intentions. And if, as the Buddha says, my intentions are my Karma, then meditation practice has given me control of my Karma.