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The wheel of awareness

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The wheel of awareness

Mindsight is a skill of the mind that promotes insight, empathy and integration. — Dr Daniel Siegel

  • 30 minutes
  • Medium



A time-in practice to integrate consciousness.

The following activity has been taken from Dr Daniel Siegel’s book Brainstorm: The power and purpose of the teenage brain. The book explores how we can turn one of the most challenging developmental periods of our lives, namely adolescence, into one of the most rewarding and thriving. Our goal is to integrate the concepts of “me” and “we” into “Mwe”.

This exercise helps you integrate consciousness, which means being aware of the many aspects of your conscious experience and learning to connect them so as to develop a coherent sense of self. Dr Siegel uses the image below to explain consciousness. The hub represents the sense of knowing in consciousness, the rim stands for the known, and the spokes refer to the process of attention that translates the known into the knowing. How can you integrate consciousness? He claims that “consciousness or being aware has two components: our sense of knowing and that which is known. We can use attention to link these differentiated aspects of consciousness to each other.”

He continues to explain that: “The first segment of the rim represents the first five senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The second segment of the rim contains the interior of the body – what is called the ‘sixth sense’ – that includes the inner sensations of our muscles and bones, and of the internal organs such as intestines, lungs, and heart. A third segment represents our mental processes of feelings, thoughts and memories, intentions, beliefs, and attitudes – our ‘seventh sense.’ And a fourth segment can also be differentiated and represents a kind of relational sense, our ‘eight sense,’ where we perceive the connections we have with other people and with out natural environment, our planet.”

To find out more about Dr Siegel’s work, please visit his website: http://www.drdansiegel.com.




You can record this practice yourself and listen to it, or you can simply go to DrDanSiegel.com and download it. This practice takes about 20-30 minutes.


Familiarising with the wheel of awareness

Take a look at the wheel, and let's review its parts. The hub represents the experience of knowing within awareness. The rim represents anything you can be aware of, such as sights or sounds, thoughts or feelings. And the spokes represent attention, they way you can stream energy and information from the rim into the hub.


Focusing on the breath

Let's focus on the breath for a few waves of the in-breath and the out-breath. Sense the breath wherever you feel it most naturally. Now that deep place beneath the surface of the mine, the place where sensing the breath can take you to notice whatever arises on the surface, is like the hub of the wheel. And just sensing the breath brings you to the hub of the mind. Now let the breath go, and simply visualise or imagine the idea of the Wheel of Awareness, with its central hub of clarify, the spokes of attention, and the rim. We'll now begin our rim review to explore each of its segments.


Exploring the first segment of the rim

Imagine sending a spoke of attention to the first segment of the rim, that part that has sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Let's begin with hearing, letting any sounds in the room fill awareness...

Now more the imaginary spoke over a bit in this first segment and let the light coming in through your eyelids, or slightly opened eyes, fill awareness...

Now more the spoke again and let any odours fill awareness...

And now move the spoke to the sense of taste, letting any tastes fill awareness...

Now let anywhere where skin is touching something, touching clothes, touching a chair, touching skin, let the sense of touch fill awareness...

Now taking a bit of a deeper breath, we'll let this first segment of the rim go and move to the spoke over to the second segment of the rim.


Exploring the second segment of the rim

Let's begin by focusing attention on the facial area. Let the sensations of the muscles and bones of the face fill awareness. Now more attention to the scalp, and let the sensations from the top of the head fill awareness. And now focus attention on the back of the head and sides, filling awareness with those sensations. Now moving attention to the muscles and bones of the neck and throat, fill awareness with their sensations.

Let attention now go to the shoulder area, letting the muscles' and bones' sensations fill awareness. And now stream attention down both arms, to the elbows... wrists... and the ends of the fingers... Now bring attention to the muscles and bones of the upper back and the chest... And now to the lower back and the abdomen... Now send attention to the hips, and down both legs to the knees and the ankles and the ends of the toes...

Now bring attention to the pelvic area, filling awareness with the sensation from the genitals... and now move attention inward, to the intestines, letting these gut sensations fill awareness... Now let attention go to the stomach... and now up to the interior of the throat... And now let attention move to the interior of the lungs... And now center attention in the heart region, and just let those heartfelt sensations fill awareness...

And now let awareness become filled with the interior of the whole body, from head to toes...


Exploring the third segment of the rim

Knowing that the body's signals are a deep source of wisdom always available to you, we'll let this segment of the rim go as you take a deeper breath and move the spoke of attention over to the third segment of the rim. This is the segment that represents your mental life of feelings and thoughts, memories and intentions. Whatever the mind can create is represented here. For this aspect of the rim review, we'll have two parts.

In the first part, send the spoke from the hub to the third segment of the rim. Then simply invite into awareness in the hub whatever may arise, whatever comes up to enter awareness. Here you are simply being open to whatever mental life may or may not come into awareness. Just sense whatever may arise in awareness. Do this for a few minutes...

For the second part of this aspect of the rim review, you again invite anything into awareness from this third segment of the rim. Now, though, also study the ways in which a mental activity is experienced in awareness. How does it first come into awareness? Does it come suddenly or gradually? From one side or another? And once it is in awareness, how does it stay there? Is it constant or vibrating, is it steady or intermittent? And then how does it leave awareness? Suddenly, or gradually, or is it just replaced by another mental activity, another thought or memory or feeling or image? If it is not replaced by another mental activity, what does the space feel like between two mental activities in awareness? Continue this practice for a few minutes.


Exploring the fourth segment of the rim

Now find the breath, in and out, and take a deeper breath as we let this segment of the rim go for now and move the spoke over, one more time, to the fourth segment of the rim. This is the part of the rim that represents our sense of connection to others and to our environment.

First, if there are any people in the room near you, let the sense of closeness to them fill awareness. Now let that sense of connection expand to your relationships with friends and family... Now let that sense of connection move out to your classmates if you are in school, or to your work colleagues... And now let that sense of connection open to all those who live in your community... in your city... in your state or province... in your country... on your continent.

Now let that sense of connection open up to all people who share this home we call planet Earth... And now see if you can expand that sense of connection to all living beings, animals and plants, who share our common home, this planet, together...


Sending loving kindness

Knowing that scientific research has validated what wisdom traditions throughout the world have taught for centuries, that positive intentions and wishes for the wellbeing of others lead not only to positive changes in the world but also to health benefits to yourself, imagine yourself sending wishes of kindness for health and happiness, safety and wellbeing to all living beings on Earth...

And now, taking a bit of a deeper breath, sending kindness and compassionate wishes of health and happiness, safety and wellbeing to your own inner self...

When you are ready, find the breath again and ride the wave of the breath, in and out... And taking now a more intentional and perhaps deeper breath, we'll bring this Wheel of Awareness practice to a close.

Greta Rossi

Chief Empathy Officer at Akasha Innovation. Co-founder of ImpactAimers and Recipes for Wellbeing. Regional Coordinator for Ashoka's ChangemakerXchange. Youth coach and FRSA.

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