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Just notice - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2023.02.05

What is so special about a seemingly mundane act like noticing something?

Sam Harris

What we are trying to do here is discover what the mind is like when it's truly at rest, when it's not doing anything apart from noticing what is appearing in the stream of consciousness
See, if you can notice everything there is to notice about the breath (2022.10.30)
Simply notice what you notice in each moment (2023.01.23)

You are very likely thinking without noticing it (2022.09.14)


The term "to notice" is one of the 3 top most used words in Sam Harris´ Daily Meditations. That is no accident: noticing describes the very act of recognising a mental event as an object. It is like internal seeing, or looking.

When a mental event such as an emotion occurs without it being explicitly noticed and thereby brought to consciousness as an object of awareness, one is identified / merged with it. The event has a "grab" on the meditator (in Daniel P Brown´s terminology).

In Sam Harris´ meditations, "noticing" is used in various flavors, for example:

  • As an act of meta-cognitive awareness ("notice what you notice")

  • As focusing the attention on the meditation object for characteristics ("notice everything there is to notice about the breath")

  • As the mind being "at rest" while just noticing (ie in a receptive mode, non-conceptual, and not wanting to change the experience)

These meanings are not all the same. For example, "notice everything there is to notice" describes paying attention in a focused, precise, and conceptual way. Whereas noticing while the mind is "at rest" cannot have this subject-object oriented, explorative nature.

Implicitly, Sam Harris uses the term "to notice" as another term for "view", or perspective. For example here:

when it's not doing anything apart from noticing what is appearing in the stream of consciousness

This view is what in Tibetan Buddhism is called the natural state, and it it an aspect of the "meditationof non-meditation".

Automatic emptiness of whatever arises immediately upon arising is important because automatic emptiness serves as a clearing agent for all residual instances of doing anything during meditation, and all residual attempts to conceptualize about state or outcome. As a result of automatic emptiness, the mind returns to its natural state of simplicity (absent of all doing) and freshness (absent of all conceptualization). ... This natural state is also referred to as "non-meditation meditation". (S. T. Gyaltsen et al., 2022)

Other meditation teachers´ use of the term

Rob Burbea

Rob Burbea´s term for noticing is "looking" ("Seeing that frees", Burbea 2015). The Kindle index counts 500 occurences of "looking", which is the maximum display - likely there are more. In general, Burbea uses the term "way of looking", which is his term for "view".

Shinzen Young ("noting")

"Noting" is a term used by Shinzen Young (2016). Noting is a rather complex process specific to Shinzen Young´s meditation system, including labelling etc. It is described here.

Daniel P Brown

In Daniel P Brown´s major work, describing the stages of Mahamudra meditation, the term "to notice" is used only 9 times. At no time is it used in the meaning given by Sam Harris.

Culadasa (John Yates)

The term "to notice" is used relatively frequently in "The Mind Illuminated". It has no special meaning other than "to become aware of".


Brown, D. P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated). Wisdom Publications.

Burbea, R. (2015). Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising (English Edition). Hermes Amāra.

This book is praised by Michael Taft, one of the best contemporary teachers, in is "Best meditation books of 2020"

Gebel, T. (2022h, August 1). The view is the meditation. Till Gebel.

Gyaltsen, S. T., Gurung, G. S., & Brown, D. P. (2022). Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment: [of Bon Dzogchen Meditation] (English Edition) (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation.

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.

Young, S. (2016). See Hear Feel Introduction. Shinzen Young. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from


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