The Wheel of Awareness
The Wheel of Awareness is the basis for a re ective practice which helps us direct our attention and improve our ability to focus on the individual aspects of our internal and external worlds, which are key components of a healthy mind.
In this practice, the center hub of our metaphoric wheel represents the “knowing” of being conscious while the ele- ments on the rim stand for the “known.” Known elements on the external rim include:
What we see, hear, smell, taste and touch
What we sense from our inner bodily sensations
What we experience with our mental activities, such as feelings, thoughts or memories
Our sense of relational connections—with other people and with the planet
How do I conduct this practice?
This practice can be done on one’s own or by listening to a guided practice. To practice on your own, we suggest the following approach:
1. Begin by getting into a comfortable position, and sensing the rhythm of your breathing
2. As you breathe in and out, begin by visualizing the wheel. The “hub” is at the center and four quadrants surround it with a rim encompassing everything you know and can be aware of. For each portion of this practice, you will send out a spoke from the hub to the rim to focus your awareness. After each part of this practice, we suggest you center yourself with a deep breath before moving on.
3. Now, turn your attention to the rst quadrant – your ve senses. One by one, take time to focus your awareness on what you’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.
4. Next, focus your attention on your “sixth sense,” the inner sensations of your own body. This is the second quadrant around the hub. Take a few moments to move your focus throughout your entire body, becoming aware of sensations you feel from inside your physical being, from the muscles and bones of your head, limbs, and torso, to feeling the sensations in the organs of your body.
5. Now it is time to focus on the activities of your mind itself. These include emotions, thoughts, memories, hopes, beliefs, dreams, images, longings, attitudes and intentions. This portion of the practice is separated into two parts. First, begin by just becoming aware of what enters your mind – invite any mental activity to come into awareness.
6. Once you have taken some time to do that, the next step is to pay particular attention to the characteristics of how these mental activities enter and leave consciousness. How do they arise and pass? Do these activities come up suddenly or gradually? Do they then stay constant, fade in and out, or reverberate? Then how do they leave? And are they replaced immediately with something else or not? If not, how does the gap feel between two mental activities?
7. Now it is time to try something a little different. As in other parts of this practice, send your spoke of attention out from the hub, but this time, bend it back toward the hub itself to direct your attention to focus on your awareness. With this part of the practice, you are work- ing on “awareness of awareness” and feeling what that is like. This will take some practice, so try to be patient.
8. The fourth quadrant represents our sense of connection to things outside of our body. Start with focusing your awareness on the people who are physically close to you, then expand to others who are further away. Next expand to those whom you feel close to – family and friends – and then to others whom you’re engaged with, such as co-workers, students, teachers and others. Then widen your sense of connection step by step to include those who live in your neighborhood, city, country, continent, in the whole world, and finally to all of living beings on earth.