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The Buddha

I have made a mistake that I now need to correct.

I have said that I will use “mind” to refer to everyday, or monkey mind, the mind we all have before we start to practice, and “consciousness” to refer to the supervening, transcendent awareness that we all have access to and which is the larger experiential framework that monkey mind operates in.

But a lot of Buddhist teachers talk about “heart mind,” or “heartmind.” If you listen to enough of them, you will hear some say that, while we think the seat of our minds in the United States and western cultures is our brain, in Asian cultures, they tend to see the seat of the mind as the heart.

This heartmind exists somewhere between monkey mind and consciousness. As you become more aware of consciousness through your meditation practice, you should also begin to have some awareness of heartmind as a distinctly perceptible sense of awareness in the middle of your chest, roughly where your heart is.

Medical researchers have clearly shown that the vagus nerve, which connects the heart, among other organs, to the brain, has an impact on brain function and consciousness. In speaking of the heartmind, Asian cultures generally and Buddhists in particular have a superior understanding of awareness, or what we might call consciousness in the more ordinary sense.

The heartmind is an important concept in Buddhism, one we should all be aware of.

And the Buddha’s prescription for how best to achieve full awareness of this transcendent consciousness is meditation, where you sit still and watch your breathing as an obvious way to start to watch your mind in all senses, in order to learn what it is and what it does.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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