The Wheel of Awareness is a useful tool I’ve developed over many years to help expand the container of consciousness. I’ve offered the Wheel to thousands of individuals around the world, and it’s proven to be a practice that can help people develop more well-being in both their inner and interpersonal lives. The Wheel practice is based on simple steps that are easy to learn and then apply in your everyday experiences.
The Wheel is a very useful visual metaphor for the way the mind works. The concept came to me one day as I stood looking down at a circular table in my office. The tabletop consists of a clear glass center surrounded by a wooden outer rim. It occurred to me that our awareness could be seen as lying at the center of a circle—a hub, if you will—from which, at any given moment, we can choose to focus on a wide array of thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations circling us on the rim. In other words, what we could be aware of could be represented on the wooden rim; the experience of being aware we could place in the hub.
The central hub of the Wheel of Awareness represents the experience of being aware, of knowing that one is surveying the knowns of life. The rim represents that which is known; for instance, at this moment, you are aware of the words you are reading on this page, and now perhaps you’ve become aware of the associations you are having with the words—for example, the images or memories that come to mind. The Wheel was designed as a practice that could balance our lives by integrating the experience of consciousness. How? By distinguishing the wide array of knowns on the rim from each other and from the knowing of awareness in the hub itself, we can differentiate the components of consciousness. Then, by systematically connecting these knowns of the rim to the knowing of the hub with the movement of the spoke of attention, it becomes possible to link the differentiated parts of consciousness. By differentiating and linking, this is how the Wheel of Awareness practice integrates consciousness.
Here’s How to Practice it
THE FULL WHEEL PRACTICE
1. Breathe: Start with the breath to anchor attention and get grounded for the Wheel practice.
2. Tune in to your senses: Let go of the breath as a focus of attention and begin the focus on the first segment of the rim—the first five senses, attending to one sense at a time: hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch.
3. Focus on your inner signals: Take a deep breath and move the spoke over to the second segment of the rim, which represents the internal signals of the body. Systematically move the spoke of attention around the body, beginning with the sensations of the muscles and bones of the facial region, then moving on, one at a time, to the sensations of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, upper back and chest, lower back and muscles of the abdomen, hips, legs, pelvic region. Now move to the sensations of the genitals, intestines, respiratory system, heart, and whole body.
4. Listen to your mental chatter: Take a deep breath and move the spoke over to the third segment of the rim, which represents mental activities. First part: Invite any mental activity—feeling, thought, memory, whatever—into awareness. Many things may arise or nothing may arise; whatever happens is fine. Second part: Again, invite anything into awareness, but this time pay special attention to the way mental activities first arise, stay present, and then leave awareness. If a mental activity is not immediately replaced by another activity, what does the gap feel like before a new one arises?
5. Become aware of awareness itself: Before we move the spoke of attention over to the fourth and final segment of the rim, we will explore the hub itself. In other words, we will strengthen our ability to be aware of awareness. This can be accomplished by imagining the bending of the spoke of attention around so it aims itself back into the hub; some prefer the image of retracting the spoke or simply leaving the spoke of attention in the hub of awareness. Whichever notion or visual image works best for you, the idea of this part of the practice is the same: awareness of awareness itself.
6. Explore your connections with others: In this final segment of the rim review, we’ll explore our connections with other people and things outside of these bodies we were born into. Let’s begin with a sense of connection to those physically closest to you right now. Open to the connection to friends and family; to a connection to people you work with; to people who live in your neighborhood, who share your community; to those who live in your city, and then your state or region; to people who live in your country. Now open to a sense of connection to all people who live on earth—and see if you can open that sense of connection to all living beings.
7. Silently repeat kind intentions: Knowing that science has recently revealed what wisdom traditions have known for many years—that cultivating intentions of kindness, care, empathy, and compassion can bring positive changes into our inner and interpersonal worlds—I invite you to repeat the following phrases silently, in your inner mind, after me. We’ll begin with short, basic statements of kindness, and then move on to these same intentions stated in a more elaborate way:
May all living beings be happy.
May all living beings be healthy.
May all living beings be safe.
May all living beings flourish and thrive.
Now, taking a deep breath, we send those same wishes, now more elaborate, to an inner sense of who we are, to a Me or I:
May Ibe happy and live with meaning, connection, and equanimity, and a playful, grateful, and joyful heart.
May I be healthy and have a body that gives energy and flexibility, strength and stability.
May I be safe and protected from all sorts of inner and outer harm.
May I flourish and thrive and live with the ease of well-being.
Now, taking a deeper breath, we will send those same elaborated wishes to an integrated sense of who we are. Combining our inner Me with our interconnected We, we continue with statements of kind intention for We:
May we be happy and live with meaning, connection, and equanimity, and a playful, grateful, and joyful heart.
May we be healthy and have a body that gives energy and flexibility, strength and stability.
May we be safe and protected from all sorts of inner and outer harm.
May we flourish and thrive and live with the ease of well-being.
I invite you to once again find the breath and ride its wave, in and out. Then, letting your eyes open if they are closed, we’ll bring this Wheel of Awareness practice to a close.