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Become More Present by Using the Wheel of Awareness

Purpose: Being more present may increase feelings of kindness, empathy, and compassion for others, oneself, and the environment.


Being aware is the act of knowing that thinking, feeling, or sensing is occuring. What a person is aware of consciously changes moment by moment. Daniel Siegel, MD a Clinical Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine has created a mind-training practice called the Wheel of Awareness that can help bring awareness to things that increase kindness, empathy, and compassion for others, oneself, and the environment. The Wheel of Awareness is shaped like a wheel and has an outer rim which represents all that a person can be aware of, a center which represents the experience of being aware, and one spoke that extends from the center of the wheel to the rim and represents one thing at a time that a person can be aware of. The rim of the wheel consists of four different areas of things that a person can be aware of at a time, which are: 1. sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste of the external environment, 2. sensations happening inside the body, 3. mental activities, and 4. a sense of being connected to others. By focusing on these different areas of the rim, the awareness patterns of the brain may become more integrated. An integrated brain is a brain which is regularly aware of all four areas of awareness, instead of being overly focused on only one, two, or three areas.


Before practicing the Wheel of Awareness, it may be useful to understand the three terms: mindsight, three pillars of mind-training, and integration.


Mindsight: Mindsight refers to how a person perceives or thinks about something that they are aware of. Since perception of something is shaped by expectations, one way of improving mindset is by letting go of expectations, so as to be more receptive and accepting. Another way of improving mindsight is by being able to observe something before forming a narrative about it. A third way of improving mindsight is by understanding that how people understand or relate to an experience is not set in stone but has room to change and evolve.


Three pillars of mind-training: Every effective mind-training practice contains the three pillars of: focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention. These three pillars help to set an intention for where to direct attention and connection. Focused attention is the ability to sustain concentration, ignore distractions or let distractions go as they arise, and refocus attention on the intended object of attention. Open awareness is the ability to be receptive to objects without getting attached or lost in them. Kind intention is the ability to have compassion, positive regard, and love for others, oneself, and the environment. When these three pillars are sustained during mind-training practice, the brain strengthens its pathways that produce intentions of kindness, empathy, and compassion.

Integration: Integration occurs as the brain rewires to produce intentions of kindness, empathy, and compassion. The brain is similar to a muscle in how it will grow and become more integrated depending on the amount of training that is done.

Practice: This practice may help someone to become more present.

The Wheel of Awareness mind-training practice was created by Daniel Siegel, MD. Please review the Wheel of Awareness graphic on Dr. Siegel's website, by clicking here, before proceeding with the practice.


To practice the Wheel of Awareness, please try the following:


Step 1: Start by taking a breath to anchor attention in the present moment. 


Step 2: Let go of the breath and use each one of the five senses, one at a time, to focus on sensing the sound, sight, scent, taste, and touch of the external environment.


Step 3: Then, bring attention to the internal sensations of the body, one part of the body at a time. For example, focus on the sensations of the muscles or bones and then bring attention to the sensations of the internal organs.


Step 4: Next, bring awareness to mental activities. Start this by allowing any feeling, thought, or memory to come into awareness. Pay attention to how the mental activities arise, remain present, and then leave awareness. If there is any gap between mental activities, notice what the gap feels like.


Step 5: Take a break from the rim of the wheel for one minute and try to focus on the awareness of being aware. 


Step 6: Lastly, return to the rim of the wheel and focus on connections with other people and things outside of the body. To do this, start by sensing a connection to those who are physically closest in the environment right now. Then, open the connection to friends and family, and then to colleagues or classmates, to people who live in the same community, who live in the same city, who live in the same state, who live in the same country, and then extend this connection to all people and living beings on Earth. The sense of connection may be strengthened by doing a kind intention meditation. A kind intention meditation may begin by wishing all living beings happiness, health, and safety. The kind intention can then be brought inward, to wish oneself happiness, health, and safety. Then, the kind intention can be expanded to wish for happiness, health, and safety for others, oneself, and the environment.

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