19 Jun
Posted in: Groups, Talks
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Consciousness, Mindfulness and Awareness

Last Monday night, the Dharma Seed KM Group began its “Virtual Retreat” by listening to the first talk given at The Nature of Awareness: Insight Meditation Retreat for Experienced Studentswhich was held at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) on April 12-18, 2013. By “Virtual Retreat” we mean that between June 17 and Aug 12, we will listen to all the available talks from that retreat…one at each of our twice-monthly meetings…and that we will listen to them in the order they were given, so we’ll have some sense of the arc of the teachings as they were presented.

The first talk, The Attitude in Awareness, was given by Guy Armstrong. Guy talked about bringing a Relaxed, Observant, and Accepting attitude to our meditation practice, but he also spent quite a bit of time discussing the difference between three words that I’ve often heard used interchangeably: Consciousness, Mindfulness, and Awareness.

I was pretty clear on Consciousness….but Mindfulness and Awareness….those two have always been kind of a muddle.

If you want to know all the details, listen to the talk. But in summary:

Consciousness (vinnana in Pali) is the activation that takes place when the brain is “impacted” by a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or mental “sensation” such as a thought or emotion. One has to be alive (and not sedated) to be conscious, but one does not necessarily have to be intelligent, thoughtful or even attentive.

Mindfulness (sati in Pali) is the activity of the mind that knows when something is being sensed, perceived, understood, etc. There has to be an understanding present for mindfulness to be happening…an intention to be attentive and a knowing of it. One has to be conscious, also, but consciousness alone is not enough.

Awareness (there is no equivalent word in Pali) is a term that is used much more loosely. Sometimes it means mindfulness. Sometimes it means conscious. And sometimes it means something in between.

Hmmmm. So what IS this “Nature of Awareness”? Good question. Guess that’s why it’s the title of the retreat.

Stay tuned.

(image from: Creative Whack Pack, by Roger von Oech)


1 Comment

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