Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence--The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice

Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence--The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice

by Daniel Siegel M.D.

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Overview

New York Times bestseller · This groundbreaking new book from New York Times bestselling author Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., introduces readers to his pioneering, science-based meditation practice.

Aware provides practical instruction for mastering the Wheel of Awareness, a life-changing tool for cultivating more focus, presence, and peace in one's day-to-day life.

An in-depth look at the science that underlies meditation's effectiveness, this book teaches readers how to harness the power of the principle "Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows." Siegel reveals how developing a Wheel of Awareness practice to focus attention, open awareness, and cultivate kind intention can literally help you grow a healthier brain and reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in your life.

Whether you have no experience with a reflective practice or are an experienced practitioner, Aware is a hands-on guide that will enable you to become more focused and present, as well as more energized and emotionally resilient in the face of stress and the everyday challenges life throws your way.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143111795
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 173,646
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, founding codirector of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute. He is also coauthor of Parenting from the Inside Out, The Whole-Brain Child, and Mindsight and the proud father of two children in their twenties.

Read an Excerpt

There are three learnable skills that have been shown in carefully conducted scientific studies to support the cultivation of well-being. When we develop focused atten­tion, open awareness, and kind intention, research reveals we:
 
1. Improve immune function to help fight infection;
 
2. Optimize the level of the enzyme telomerase, which repairs and maintains the ends of your chromosomes, keeping your cells— and therefore you – youthful, functioning well, and healthy;
 
3. Enhance the “epigenetic” regulation of genes to help prevent life- threatening inflammation;
 
4. Modify cardiovascular factors, improving cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart function; and
 
5. Increase neural integration in the brain, enabling more coordina­tion and balance in both the functional and structural connectiv­ity within the nervous system that facilitates optimal functioning, including self-regulation, problem solving, and adaptive behavior that is at the heart of well-being.
 
In short, the scientific findings are now in: your mind can change the health of your body and slow aging.
In addition to these concrete discoveries, we have the additional, more subjective, yet equally powerful findings that cultivating these aspects of mind—how you focus attention, open awareness, and guide intention toward kindness and caring— also increases a sense of well-being, connection to others (in the form of enhanced empa­thy and compassion), emotional balance, and resilience in the face of challenges. Studies reveal that as a sense of meaning and purpose increase, an overall ease of being— that some call equanimity— is nurtured by these specific practices.
 
These are all outcomes of strengthening your mind by expand­ing the container of consciousness.
The word eudaimonia is derived from the Greek term, and it beautifully describes the deep sense of well-being, equanimity, and happiness that comes from experiencing life as having meaning and connection to others and the world around you. Does cultivating eudaimonia seem like something you’d like to place on your to‑do list in life? If you experience this quality of being already in your day‑to‑day living, these practices of training attention, awareness, and intention may enhance and reinforce where you already are in life. Wonderful. And if it feels like these features of eudaimonia are distant or perhaps unfamiliar to you, and you’d like to make these more near and dear to your everyday existence, you’ve come to the right conversation.
 
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— 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.
If I could teach people how to expand that container of con­sciousness by more freely and fully accessing the Wheel’s hub of awareness, they’d be able to change the way they experienced life’s tablespoons of salt, and perhaps even learn to savor life’s sweetness in a more balanced and fulfilling way, even if there were a lot of salt present at the time. As I looked down at this table, I saw that the clarity of that glass hub might represent how we become aware of all of these tablespoons of life, each of the varied experiences we could become aware of, from thoughts to sensations, which we might now visualize as being placed on the circle around this hub—the table’s outer wooden rim.
 
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 could 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 became possible to link the differentiated parts of consciousness. This is how by differentiating and linking, the Wheel of Awareness practice integrates consciousness.
 
The essential idea behind the Wheel was to expand the container of consciousness and, in effect, balance the experience of conscious­ness itself. Balance is a common term that we can understand scien­tifically as coming from a process that can be called integration—the allowing of things to be different or distinct from each other on the one hand, and then connecting them to each other on the other. When we differentiate and link, we integrate. We become balanced and coordinated in life when we create integration. Various scientific disciplines may use other terminology, but the concept is the same. Integration—the balancing of differentiation and linkage—is the ba­sis for optimal regulation that enables us to flow between chaos and rigidity, the core process that helps us flourish and thrive. Health comes from integration. It’s that simple, and that important.
 
A system that is integrated is in a flow of harmony. Just as in a choir, with each singer’s voice both differentiated from the other singers’ voices but also linked, harmony emerges with integration. What is important to note is that this linkage does not remove the differences, as in the notion of blending; instead it maintains these unique contributions as it links them together. Integration is more like a fruit salad than a smoothie. This is how integration cre­ates the synergy of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Likewise, this synergy of integration means that the many aspects of our lives, like the many points on the rim, can each be honored for their differences but then brought together in harmony.
 
In my own journey as a clinician, working within the framework of a multidisciplinary field called interpersonal neurobiology, reflect­ing on our mind as a self-organizing way we regulate energy and information flow inspired me to try and find strategies to create more integration in my patients’ lives in order to create more well-being in their bodies and in their relationships. When we integrated consciousness with the Wheel of Aware­ness, people’s lives improved. Many individuals have found the Wheel of Awareness a skill-building practice that empowers them in quite profound ways. It transformed how they came to experience their inner, mental lives— their emotions, thoughts, and memories—opened new ways of inter­acting with others, and even expanded a sense of connection and meaning in their lives.

Table of Contents

Part I The Wheel of Awareness: Idea and Practice

An Invitation 3

Cultivating Well-Being by Developing Attention, Awareness, and Intention 4

A Practical Tool 6

A Travel Guide to the Mind 12

Stories of Using the Wheel of Awareness: Harnessing the Power of Presence 15

Billy and His Return to the Hub 16

Jonathan's Respite from His Emotional Roller Coaster 16

Mona and the Sanctuary of the Hub 17

Teresa, Trauma, and Healing with the Integration of the Wheel 18

Zachary: Finding Meaning, Connection, and Relief from Pain 22

Preparing Your Mind for the Wheel of Awareness: Focused Attention 25

Building the Regulatory Aspect of the Mind 25

Some Starting Tips 27

A Mindsight Lens 32

Breath Awareness to Stabilize Attention 34

What Is the Mind? 40

Three Pillars of Mind Training 46

Focal and Non-Focal Attention 50

Monitoring Attention and Awareness 53

The Basic Wheel of Awareness 59

Maps, Metaphors, and Mechanisms 59

The Basic and the Full Wheel of Awareness 61

A Map of the Basic Wheel of Awareness 65

Practicing the Basic Wheel of Awareness 68

Reflecting on Mind: Your Experience of the Basic Wheel 72

Kind Intention 78

Weaving Kindness, Empathy, and Compassion into Your Life 79

Integration, Spirituality, Health 91

Our Inner and Inter Selves 93

Building Compassion with Statements of Intention 95

Reflecting on Kind and Compassionate Intention 102

Deepening the Wheel Practice 105

Open Awareness 107

Exploring the Hub 107

Reflecting on Knowing 111

Energy Around the Wheel 112

Consolidated Wheel Practice 117

Part II The Wheel of Awareness and Mechanisms of Mind 121

Mind and the Energy Flow of the Body 123

Minding Your Brain 128

Your Head Brain in a Hand Model 130

The Default Mode Network 135

How to Integrate the DMN 138

Loosening the Grip of a Separate Self 143

Clinging Versus Attachment 146

The Fourth Segment of the Rim and the Relational Mind 151

Growing an Integrated Brain with Mind Training 156

Integration in the Brain and the Spoke of Focal Attention 160

How and Where Does Awareness Arise? 160

Awareness and the Integration of Information 166

Attention, Consciousness, and the Social Brain 169

The Hub of Knowing and Possible Mechanisms of the Brain Beneath Pure Awareness 174

The Nature of Energy, the Energy of Mind 183

Science, Energy, and Experience 183

The Energy of Nature 186

Energy as Probability 202

A 3-P Diagram of Energy Flow 214

Mapping the Mind as Peaks, Plateaus, and a Plane of Possibility 218

Awareness, the Hub, and a Plane of Possibility 231

Awareness and the Plane of Possibility 231

Brain Correlates of Pure Consciousness 234

Filters of Consciousness 238

Filters of Consciousness and the Organization of Experience 238

How Top-Down and Bottom-Up Shape Our Sense of Reality 243

Plateaus, "Self," and the Default Mode Network 248

One Personal Set of Filters 253

Pure Awareness and the Filters of Consciousness 256

The Oscillatory Sweep of Attention: A 3-P Loop, a Spoke of the Wheel 258

Sweep Ratios, States of Mind 264

Awe and Joy 274

A Table of Correlations Among Mental Experience, Metaphor, and Mechanism 276

Part III Stories of Transformation in Applying the Wheel: Harnessing the Hub and Living from the Plane of Possibility 279

Offering the Wheel as an Idea to Children: Billy and the Freedom of the Hub, the Spaciousness of the Plane 282

Teaching the Wheel to Adolescents: Jonathan and Calming the Roller Coaster of Plateaus and Peaks 288

The Wheel for Parents and Other Care Providers: Mona and the Freedom from Recurrent Plateaus and Peaks of Chaos and Rigidity 295

The Wheel in Healing Trauma: Teresa and the Transformation of Traumatic Filters of Consciousness 301

The Wheel, Professional Life, and an Awakened Mind: Zachary and Accessing the Plane 320

Part IV The Power of Presence 331

Challenges and Opportunities of Living with Presence and Being Aware 336

Freedom: Transforming into Possibility 344

Presence Beyond Methods 347

Mindful Awareness and Integration 350

Linking from the Plane 352

Laughing, Living, and Dying from the Plane 354

Leading and Loving from the Plane 359

Acknowledgments 363

Selected References and Reading 367

Index 369

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