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What Is The Wheel of Awareness and How Is It Useful?

What Is The Wheel of Awareness and How Is It Useful?Updated on January 1, 2021 | Published on May 17, 2020
Reviewed by Dr. Johanna Lamm, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist

Wheel of Awareness

A healthy mind is determined with proper integration in your brain. The robust connection between the differentiated parts of your brain defines the well-being of your mind and body.

But, how do you stimulate this power of integration? The answer is Wheel of Awareness. How? When? What? Why? All your questions are answered below.

What Is The Wheel of Awareness?

The wheel of awareness is a tool or a practice to direct awareness and promote more well-being in our lives. It’s a visual metaphor of a bicycle wheel, where the awareness is lying at the center and all along the rim there are ‘known’ elements where you can direct your focus.

If you practice meditation, you must already be aware of the power of consciousness. Along with that, integration in the human mind is capable of enabling harmony in the lives. Thus, to help you leverage the power of both, the wheel of awareness practice was invented.

In everyday life, while we are all trapped in the cycle of ‘what should happen and ‘what has happened’ – the wheel of awareness teaches you the art of integrated consciousness.

It is built on the concept of open awareness, a state where you are aware of awareness. It’s often also called mindfulness where you are just in the present without judgments or expectations. It seems difficult and bizarre in the beginning but the tranquillity achieved in the end line is worth the drill.

Now, before we discuss the elements of the wheel of awareness in detail, lets first take a glimpse into history.

History of Wheel of Awareness

The wheel of awareness practice was introduced by Dr. Daniel Siegel, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is also the co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. That’s not it. Dan is also the executive director of the Mindsight Institute. In the institute, he advocates for the development of mindsight with its unimaginable benefits and combines all sciences under one framework called Interpersonal Neurobiology.

He explained that what goes in the mind has multiplied impacts on your physical and emotional being. Thus, mind training that integrates consciousness can help you regain peace and tranquillity. The wheel of awareness meditation detailed by Daniel in his book Aware is a kick-start into a mindful life.

Components of the Wheel of Awareness

As explained the wheel of awareness is a visual metaphor of a bicycle wheel. In the center of the wheel is the hub of awareness where all the experiences begin and end. It is the place of utmost calm and serenity where you become aware of things. The source of attention who is also the experiencer of all the activities that is YOU is at the center of this wheel. It is also denoted as the ever-present ‘I am’ without which the whole concept will render useless.

In the surrounding area that is the rim have elements where you can direct your focus with the “spoke of attention”. The spoke can be shifted to different elements on the rim at will.

The rim is divided into 4 quadrants, each with several elements about which are aware of also denoted as the “known” elements:

1.  Sense perceptions or first 5 senses

The first quadrant or segment (top right in the picture) represents everything that you take in via your sense perceptions. That is what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

2.  Inner body or 6th sense

The sensations of your inner body which is also known as the ‘sixth sense’ in science belong to the second quadrant in the rim (top left in the picture)

3.  Mental Activities or 7th sense

The third quadrant (bottom left) represents all the mental activities of feelings, thoughts, emotions, images, memories, and anything else that appears in your mind.

4.  Interconnectedness or 8th sense

The ability to connect to others and yourself or the sense of connection is represented in the fourth quadrant of the wheel (bottom right). This is in relation to even objects outside your body like nature, planet, animals, and others.

The wheel of awareness is an attempt to integrate consciousness in a way that it creates optimal self-organization in the human brain. The conscious decision to differentiate the hub from the outer rim and linking various elements with the spoke of attention can free your mind from the deep-rooted limiting beliefs.

What is The Wheel of Awareness Meditation?

As the name suggests, a meditation practice performed by complying with the wheel of awareness is the wheel of awareness meditation. After prolonged practice of this mindful meditation exercise, people around the globe have observed significant development in their emotional self. 

After all the detailing of this one-of-a-kind concept, most of you must already be wondering about the benefits it has to offer. So, here’s the list!

Benefits of The Wheel of Awareness Meditation

The wheel of awareness like every other meditation practice is a tool to improve your focus, cultivate peace, and amplify your sense of awareness. It allows you to experience the state of being present also known as open awareness. Apart from that, these are the mental health benefits it has in store:

  • Your emotional intelligence and sense perceptions will be significantly improved.
  • The stress levels are reduced to a great extent along with a noticeable reduction in depression and anxiety.
  • Your flexibility or resilience will improve.
  • You become more observable about your intuitions.
  • Cultivates empathy and positivity in your daily lifestyle.
  • You experience a constructive shift in your mental and emotional well-being.  
  • Develops your social and communication skills

This is all because the wheel of awareness trains you to control your awareness. At every point when you are stressed, it teaches you to step back and reflect upon the causes of the negativity and redirect your focus on the other experiences happening at the moment.

Besides the innumerable mental health, the wheel of awareness also has a positive impact on your physical health. There are some sources that advocate for the following physical benefits of this meditation practice:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves immunity
  • Slows the aging process
  • Improves heart health
  • Stabilizes blood pressure
  • Maintains cholesterol levels

The star-feature about the wheel of awareness meditation practice is that everyone can benefit from it. Irrespective of age, caste, creed, belief, race, or religion. From the children as young as kindergartners to the oldies in the later phases of their lives – everyone can experience the magical

Now that you are aware of the benefits, here’s moving on to the most important section of this think-piece.

How To Practice The Wheel of Awareness Meditation?

As explained above, the wheel of awareness is divided into 4 quadrants. Thus, to enable maximum understanding, I have also divided this process into 4 phases along with a prelim and wrapping-up phase. However, to obtain maximum benefits, it’s essential that you follow all these steps in order.

Phase 1: Prelims

This phase talks about the initial preps of this mindful practice.

Step 1: Sit up straight

Every meditation practice begins with a good posture. So, relax your shoulder, straighten your spine, and sit upright. Don’t be hard on yourself. Meditation must bring ease to you, not discomfort. You can also lie down straight if you think that it will help you leverage the most from the practice.

Step 2: Be prepared

All the steps after this will cumulatively take about 15-20 minutes. Dive into the practice and experience each step for a few seconds or minutes as long as it doesn’t render any discomfort. Don’t push any of the steps and don’t try to match the defined ideals.

Step 3: Visualize the wheel

Before you dive into the practice, let the wheel of awareness appear in your mind just like we explained above. The hub of awareness in the center followed by all the “knowns” in the outer rim. Understand that you need to move the spoke to redirect your attention to different elements of the wheel.

Step 4: Feel yourself breathe

Observe the air come in and go out of your body. Visualize the beautiful synchrony of all the bodily functions and how your super intelligence self naturally inhales and exhales the air. Feel all the sensations from the breathing: swelling of the chest, rising of the belly, the gaps in between, or the expansion of the nostrils. Don’t let anything go unnoticed.

After 1-2 minutes, take a deep breath and close this breathing exercise.  

Phase 2: Sense perceptions

Centering the first quadrant of the wheel of awareness, this phase talks about the sense perceptions.  

Step 5: Be mindful of the sounds around you

Irrespective of the source, let all the sounds in the surrounding come to your conscious self. Listen to all that is happening in the present moment and pay attention. Right from the cars honking to the birds chirping – don’t miss out on anything that reaches your ears.

Step 6: Pay attention to what you see

Perceive the power of your sense of sight. Focus on what you can see around you, from the green nature surrounding you to the wall colors of your house. However, if you wish to experience this practice with closed eyes, shift your focus to what you can see with closed eyelids, even if it’s just a plain black cloak.  

Step 7: Become aware of your sense of smell

Now, move your attention to the different types of smells that surround you. Let the beautiful aroma fill you with a sense of awareness. Closely observe the subtle smell of the floor, the air, or even your own self.  

Step 8: Let your taste buds fill awareness

Let your sense of taste fill you with a sense of awareness. Even if you are not eating anything, be mindful of the taste in your mouth, even if it is of your own saliva.

Step 9: Feel the touch

Now move your attention spoke to one of the strongest yet undermined sense perceptions: Touch. Become aware of the floor that you are sitting on, it’s a touch on your skin. Feel the touch of your hands on your own body, your legs touching the floor, and everything else that is in contact with you at the moment.

Finally, take a deep breath and move onto the next phase.

Phase 3: Inner body

In this phase, we will discuss how to be aware of the interior body parts.

Step 10: Focus your attention on the head

Now, without the touch focus on your interior body parts. Starting with the head, focus on your forehead, scalp, ears, neck, shoulders.

Step 11: Listen to your upper body

Move to the upper section of your body – Arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, palms, fingers, even the tips. Let the awareness follow to the upper chest and upper back.

Step 12:  Move to the lower body

Visualize your attention streaming to the lower back, abdomen, hip, and finally to the legs. Thighs, knees, calves, ankles, or even the end of your toes – don’t leave any section of your lower body. You must also be aware of the pelvic region and the genitals.

Step 13: Observe all your interior systems

Once all the physical body parts are covered, it’s time for the interiors – respiratory organs, heart, and even the interior of the abdomen. The esophagus and the throat, the beating of the heart, the sensation of the lungs – focus your attention to each of the interior body parts.

Step 14: Feel the whole body

Finally, scan your entire body as a whole. Feel the joy of being alive and open to the signals of the body and don’t dodge the message it is trying to send you.

Finally, take a deep breath as you finish phase 3 and move ahead!

Phase 4: Mental Activities

Moving ahead, this phase focuses on the third quadrant of the wheel that discusses the mental activities of the human body.

Step 15: Focus on your mental activities

Pay attention to everything that your mind has to say. EVERYTHING. The thoughts, visuals, emotions, sounds, preconceived notions, and everything else rooted in your inner conscience.

Simply observing and accepting the norms, helps it dissolve naturally. This is mainly because you recognize that the real reason behind the limiting belief is ‘You’ or an illusionary mental image on yourself that exists with various idealized norms. During this step, ask yourself various questions like ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What does it feel like to be me?’ and reflect on the answers.  

Step 16: Observe the appearance of all the mental activities

Pay close attention to the characteristics of these thoughts and feelings. Notice the thoughts and the space between them. Analyze how a thought presents itself, the duration of its awareness, and finally the mode of its exit.

Find answers to the questions like: Is the thought immediately replaced by another? How does the gap between the two thoughts feel like? Whether it fades gradually or suddenly disappears? Basically, be aware of your thoughts in detail.

Step 17: Become aware of awareness.

This step is a little advanced and might need a bit of practice to master. On the contrary to the other steps where you send out the spoke of attention to the rim, this step wants you to bend it back to the hub of awareness. It’s like being conscious about your state of awareness.

Here’s how you can manifest this state of being aware of awareness. Ask yourself questions that answer ‘I am’. For instance, when you are angry, who is aware of the feeling of anger or agitation? or when you observe a bird chirping, who’s mindful of the sound? The knowing or ‘I am’ is pure awareness.

Don’t dwell on the past happenings, because the reactions don’t help you get better. It just stays unshaken in the form of undesirable situations and mental patterns. Focusing attention and the acceptance of the present can bring an inner-shift and will eventually free you from the conditioned mental patterns, limiting beliefs, and negative thoughts.

Finally, it’s time to take a deep breath and get ready for Phase 5!

Phase 5: Interconnectedness

In the wheel of awareness, the fourth quadrant capitalizes on the power of connection with others or interconnectedness. Similarly, this phase also demonstrates the same.

Step 18: Feel the sense of connection with your closest

Become aware of the connection you share with your people – your partner, parents, or the people who belong to your inner circle.

Step 19: Remember the outer circle as well

Now, go beyond your immediate circle and open awareness to all the people who belong to the outer circle – friends, siblings, close relatives, colleagues, etc.

Step 20: Experience all the connections you have ever had

Don’t fear to extend this awareness to the people in your neighborhood. Be aware of the people residing in your city or province followed by the state, the country, and finally the world.

Finally, take a deep breath and enter into the final phase of this practice.

Phase 6: Wrapping up

As we are headed towards the end of this practice, this phase explains the power of positive thoughts and prayers.

Step 21: Repeat positive wishes and truths to yourself

Like every meditation practice when ended with a subtle prayer or a positive quote amplifies the experience. The wheel of awareness practice is no different. So, silently narrate a positive phrase to yourself.

It can improve health, cultivate happiness, and embrace peace in your lives. You can either create something of your own or find something on the internet. You can also combine it with a wish for yourself and for your family members.

Step 22: Say a prayer for everyone

Now, repeat another prayer for the well-being of everyone. Recognize the power of the word ‘we’ and optimize all your prayers with ‘mwe’ that is a combination of the words me and we.

Step 23: Take a deep breath and open your eyes

In the end, whenever you are comfortable, breathe, and open your eyes. Let this take its own sweet time and finally allow this guided meditation to go.

The wheel of awareness, if endorsed appropriately can help you reconnect with your formless consciousness. It is one of the explicit guided meditations that can train you to be mindful in life.

Things You Must Know About the Wheel of Awareness Meditation Practice

1. You can be aware of more than one ‘present moment anchors’

Meditation is about being in the present, it cannot be guided by a routine. This means, at one moment, you can be aware of one or more ‘knowns’ in different quadrants whatever comes naturally to you.

2. Your level of consciousness is not the same at all times.

There will be times in the day when you feel more awake in comparison to the others. For instance, at some time you might feel more mindful while doing a productive task while at other times, you might be more aware of your sense perceptions and mental activities.

3. It’s okay to be ‘not present’ sometimes

You are a human and there might be times when you will experience bad days and strong emotions like anger, pain, or fear. Don’t beat yourself and allow yourself to be unhappy. Guilt has the power to defy your mindful purpose.

4. Practice amplifies your power of being present

Every meditation practice can be perfected with time. Since it puts you in a state, unusual than the daily self, it is difficult in the beginning. Gradually, with practice, the power grows within your mind, and you win over several negative emotions.

5. Meditation is NOT thinking.

All these above-mentioned steps are neither an all-inclusive list nor a definite guideline. This means when you are pointed to pay attention to the sounds around you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will just focus on the sounds.

You can instead be aware of the taste first. If you compel yourself to follow the defined flow, the mind will interrupt in the process which will defy the foundation of meditation. Because meditation doesn’t work where the mind is involved.

6. It comes naturally to some people

All the basic principles of guided meditations like focusing attention, opening awareness of practicing integrated consciences are more convenient for some people in comparison to the others.

7. Being aware is more than enough

A detailed insight into the processing of mind and ego can enlighten you about its operations. Further, there’s not much left to explore. At these times, being in-the-moment is more than enough.

Tips for An Unforgettable Experience of Wheel of Awareness Meditation

1.  Practice each step of every phase for a few minutes or seconds, whatever seems comfortable to you. Don’t push the time frame because the ideals tell you otherwise.

2.  Don’t resist or try to analyze when you are put in a difficult state. Instead, immediately remove yourself from the situation or shift your focus to the present moment.  

3.  Allow the natural appearance of emotions and thoughts. Don’t try to push them away. Acceptance can make your presence more powerful.

4.  Be patient. Nothing good comes easy. So, believe in the power of awareness and keep practicing the wheel of awareness meditation. The benefits will make the drill worth it.

5.  Always remember, problems of the mind cannot be solved at the level of mind. It requires the involvement of something that goes beyond the mind, i.e. the soul or your inner-conscience.

Some Prayers To Recite During The Wheel of Awareness Meditation Practice

  • “May all living beings be happy and live with a playful, joyful, and grateful heart.”
  • “Let ‘mwe’ be happy and have a playful, grateful, and joyful heart.”
  • “May all living beings be safe and protected from all sorts of inner and outer harm.”
  • “May ‘mwe’ flourish and thrive and live with the ease of well-being.”

Over To You…

The wheel of awareness has empowered people around the globe, in various ways.

It has redefined their connection with their inner-selves.

And transformed their thought process, and expanded their sense of connection.

Above all, it helped them discover a new way of life – a way which is more positive and much more ecstatic.

Now, it is your turn to leverage these benefits!