According to classical Buddhist teachings, we experience the world through six “sense doors,” or perceptual gateways.

They are:

  • seeing
  • hearing
  • smelling
  • tasting
  • touching
  • mind

The door of mind refers to our thoughts, emotions, and mental images. The Buddha taught that these six modes of perception define the totality of our experience—in other words, every moment of our lives involves experiences that are known by way of one of these sense doors. Further, the Buddha said that each experience received in this way is colored by a feeling tone, which is either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

Understanding our experience in these terms reveals the importance of bringing mindfulness to every moment of our existence. Without it, we become mere creatures of mental conditioning, constantly trying to manipulate our experience so as to increase our pleasure and minimize our pain.

Adapted from Insight Meditation: A Step-by-Step Course on How to Meditate with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, an interactive learning program from Sounds True.

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