Sense modalities - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.09.05

Comments and Expansion

Sam Harris

The moment you notice you're lost in thought, see if you feel any judgment at all which is itself another thought.

This meditation could lead to a discussion of self-judgement, or of how reflections about the meditation process themselves are just appearances that are particularly hard to catch.

But I want to focus on something else: the concepts of sense systems.

Remembering my NLP training about sensory modalities, I am not sure how consciously Sam Harris has chosen the wording of "see (visual) if you feel (kinesthetic) what is a thought (conceptual)".

For some people, it may be difficult or impossible to "see what they feel". To follow this instruction, one has to translate a kinesthetic perception into a visual image of the feeling. What could that be? A colour, like red for anger or green for glad?

And how does one "feel a judgement" if the judgement is a thought? Is it a body sensation like a contraction? People may do this very differently.

But maybe it is easy for Sam Harris is a very visual type who automatically and unconsciously maps everything to an internal image. This might explain why the verb "see" is so prominent in his word cloud.

Or, Sam Harris intentionally switches the listener between what Buddhism calls "sense doors" to open them all simultaneously, which is the topic of today´s meditation.

The Mind Model and the Senses

When I learned the NLP concept of "modalities", and how different people have different ways to experience the world in these modalities, I loved it.

What are modalities in NLP?

Modalities in NLP refer to our internal representations, which relate to the five senses (Visual, AuditoryKinaesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory) plus our internal dialogue. (NLP World, 2019)

NLP teaches how to be very perceptive about how people experience the world in their specific modalities.

For example, I am a very visually oriented person. Others are more "feely-touchy". One notices how people process the world by how they speak.

For example, someone might say "I feel that this does not do me any good". A sensory person. Another person (perhaps of the Sam Harris type) might say "I can´t see how this does me any good".

As an NLP practitioner, one then learns how to use sense modalities in communication to become more effective at influencing people. For example, if one notices that a person is more visual, one will communicate in images with them. One may also consciously switch between talking in different systems in order, for example, to get the mind out of a rut.

It is interesting, that in many or most of his meditations, Sam Harris switches sense systems when he comes to the end of the meditation.

For example, the mediation may have been visually oriented (as in "open your eyes and gaze into the field..."). He will then say "In the last minute of this meditation, just take in everything you hear".

While I do not know whether this is intentional, it is regular.

The components of mind in the Buddhist mind model

Here is a model of the mind, as represented by Yates (Culadasa) & Immergut, 2017).

Of course, this model is a simplification, as today one recognizes internal senses as the sense of balance etc as additional senses.

This model of the mind is a modern interpretation of the Buddhist mind model. It is enhanced by cognitive science and neuroscience.

For example, the concept of a "binding moment" is an addition. A binding moment "binds" together several preceding moments and sends them as a package to consciousness. In the picture above, the first binding mind moment combines the visual and emotional content into one binding moment ("I like the bird")


Yates (Culadasa), J., & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.

Gebel, T. (2022k, September 3). Sam Harris Daily Meditation - Just notice appearing thought. Intro to Sam Harris. Till Gebel.

NLP World. (2019, April 12). NLP Modalities | NLP World - Glossary.

A thought on...