In the second half of The Whole-Brain Child we are introduced to a mental exercise called the wheel of awareness. Maybe I’m attracted to this exercise because wheels and circles are symbolic in Buddhism and Asian cultures. In college I took a few classes on Buddhism and learned about the wheel of Dharma, and in China I learned that the circle (圆) has several meanings such as “heaven,” “unity,” and “perfection.” What is this wheel of awareness?
It’s a sketch board of our mind that includes all our thoughts and feelings, and it’s depicted through an image of a wheel. The hub of the wheel is the “inner place of the mind” and our awareness is at this center. From the hub, we “can focus on the various points on the rim….” The points on the rim include everything we think about: dreams, memories, perceptions, sensations, thoughts, feelings. Here’s what the picture of the wheel in the book looks like:
The wheel is useful in conversations with your child because you can ask your child to talk about the different points or aspects on their wheels. In the book, they introduce us to a child who is anxious and tends to be a perfectionist. With the guidance of the author, the child identifies the times when he gets anxious. Then the author helps the child recognize that there are other points on the wheel, such as the times he enjoys being with friends, or playing a game or instrument for fun, so that he could remember these and “integrate” them with the other parts of his wheel. In other words, with the visualization of the wheel, the child can try to remember (be mindful) that there are other things in life that he enjoys, not just the things that make him anxious. The authors use the term “mindsight” to characterize this self-awareness or understanding of our own minds.
The wheel is also useful for us, I think. I tried to draw my wheel of awareness. For now I don’t have a ton of things that make me anxious, but I do have a lot of goals/dreams that I think about. What does your wheel of awareness look like?
If you want to take the dive, Dr. Siegel is the real deal and you can find him and his books and resources here (he has a book on teenagers, too!).