The Gap Chart is a very simple model of the mind.
From our environment, we get various sensations – the light reflected off the paper you’re reading this on, the sounds around you, the feeling of the chair you’re sitting in, maybe some lingering tastes from what you last ate or drank,….
Each of these sensations has qualities. A taste might be bitter or sweet. A light might be bright or dim. A touch might be rough or smooth. In particular, these qualities may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Sensations and their qualities are a given – we can’t control them. But we can have some control over how we respond. The more of a gap we can create between stimulus and response, the more chance we have of responding well.
Our response comes in the form of thoughts, emotions and impulses. These aren’t separate - emotions have a cognitive component to them, thoughts have an emotional component, and so on. (If you don’t believe me, try feeling kind and gentle when your head is full of thoughts of what other people have been doing wrong!). To recognise how thoughts, emotions and impulses are all interlinked, we call them cittas – a word which includes all 3. (It's pronounced "chitta" as in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"....)
Cittas have direction. Some cittas lead to suffering, while others lead to enjoyment and happiness. In the heat of the moment, we often make unwise choices, and end up creating unnecessary suffering. But with a gap between sensations and response, we can make wiser choices. In this way, we can start to guide ourselves away from suffering and towards more enjoyable and happier states of mind.