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Cultivating Awareness Makes Change Possible

What we are not aware of, we cannot change.

Once we become aware, then change is possible.

And we often don’t realize the blind spots we have.

This morning I want to briefly share a tool that I have found helpful from an author and the pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, Dr. Daniel Siegel.

Siegel defines mental health as integration. The differentiation and linkage of various parts of the mind. This is also true for the health of relationships. We need to be differentiated and linked. Too much linkage without differentiated and we become enmeshed. Too much differentiation without linkage and we are isolated. This dynamic also occurs in our mind.

The tool is called ‘The Wheel of Awareness’. It’s a practice to help us differentiate the experience of awareness (or knowing)(represented in the image as the hub of the wheel) from the various knowns of life (represented in the image as the rim of the wheel).

There is a singular spoke coming out from the hub and extending to the rim. This represents our focal attention and our ability shift where we place our attention on the rim of the wheel (the various knowns of life).

There are four segments. The first segment represents what we know from our 5 senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching). The second segment contains what we can know from our interior sensations of the body - muscles, bones, internal organs. When we focus on the third segment - it’s time to focus on mental activities - thoughts, ideas, images, feelings, hopes, dreams etc. And the fourth and final segment of the rim of the wheel is for focusing on our relational sense, our connectedness.

The idea is that with practice we can strengthen our ability to

  1. Differentiate knowing from the knowns (helping us be less reactive among other things)

  2. Differentiate the knowns from each other (different segments of the rim)

    1. Note on this one - We have so overemphasized in our Western society the third segment - the knowing via mental activities. And really just the thinking part of mental activities. We have ignored and forgotten about the other ways of knowing that give us access to so much more information.

As a result, when we do the Wheel of Awareness practice, over time we strengthen our awareness of ourselves and other people, and our relatedness to them.

What we know from science is the brain is not just in the head, but we have neural activity in our spine, in our gut. So developing and fine tuning our awareness allows us to be more fully aware of ourselves and others around us.

What we are not aware of, we cannot change.

Once we become aware, then change is possible.


Want to actually do the Wheel of Awareness practice? If you're like me, it's helpful to be guided through it to keep my focus. Dr. Seigel has a generously made available 4 different guided meditations taking you through the Wheel of Awareness practice.

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