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The Wheel of Awareness

This interview is from the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, on iTunes or Google Podcasts.


Could daily 'mind training’ be the simple answer to a life of health and happiness? Dr. Dan Siegel thinks so. That’s why he developed the “wheel of awareness” - a practice he outlines in his latest New York Times Bestselling book “Aware.” Join us as Dr. Siegel explains how he developed the wheel, and why he believes that mind training practices like this one are a giant piece of the puzzle when it comes to chronic pain.

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One of the concepts you reference at the beginning of "Aware" is neural integration. What is neural integration?

[I started on a journey long ago to answer the question ‘what is a healthy mind?’]. The end of that journey was the word ‘integration,’ which means ‘differentiated things being linked.’ When you are looking at the brain, how its differentiated parts are linked determines how well the brain functions, how healthy the body is, and how happy and healthy of an individual that person is. We call this measure “neural integration,” and it turns out that every study that’s done of either suffering or health point to integration. The lack of integration leads to suffering, and the presence and growth of integration lead to health and wellbeing.

When I was writing a textbook, I asked 16 of my interns to look for any evidence that contradicted the statement “integration is health.” They searched and searched, and they found a ton of evidence in support of that statement, but nothing to go against it. Now, 20 years after that, I can say there is a lot of evidence for that simple statement: wellbeing comes from integration.

This idea of integration is one of the key concepts in your book, and in the "Wheel of Awareness" practice that the book outlines. How did the "Wheel of Awareness" come about?

After integration became clear as a simple way of understanding the basis of wellbeing and health, another simple thing came to mind. There are 3 ways where we try to create positive change in people’s lives: one is parenting, the second is schooling, and the third is psychotherapy. All three of those things involve consciousness.

As I noticed this pattern, I thought that maybe it’s possible that intentional change requires consciousness. So I had two simple observations: 1. integration is health, 2. consciousness is required for intentional change. So I wondered: what if you could put those two simple statements into a practice? If you integrated consciousness, what would happen?

[this is an excerpt only - for full response, listen to the podcast at the link above]

What advice do you have for anyone who is in physical pain and suffering?

The research is clear: what you learn to do with your mind can change the health of your body and push things in a very helpful and effective direction. Mind training is kind of like brushing your teeth. If you have enough time to brush your teeth every day, then you have enough time to begin a basic practice of learning to focus attention. Then, you can move toward opening awareness. Once you do that, you’re going to start to feel this incredible shift in empowerment.

If a signal has been interpreted by your body and your brain as dangerous for a long time, it has taken you over. But your mind can shift how your brain functions, and you can make a more integrated life by building on focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention. The wheel of awareness practice is one way that you can start to do that.

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