In an interdisciplinary field that combines all sciences into one framework called Interpersonal Neurobiology, we see the mind as an emergent, self-organizing process that regulates the flow of energy and information. This definition reveals how this aspect of mind is both within and between us, and helps us clarify how a healthy mind is one that moves these inner and relational movements of energy and information flow toward integration.
Integration is the linkage of differentiated parts, like connecting the left and right sides of the brain, or embracing and honoring differences and cultivating compassionate linkages among people.
When we view energy and the essence of the mind, we can turn to physics to explore in depth how our mental lives can move toward this healthy flow of integration, which creates harmony in our lives. When not moving toward integration, complex systems like our lives move toward either chaos or rigidity, rather than the flexible harmonious flow of integrative wellbeing.
One way to promote this integration is with a reflective practice I created at first for my patients, and now for a wider general audience, called the Wheel of Awareness. In this practice, the center hub of a metaphoric wheel represents the “knowing” of being conscious while the elements on the rim stand for the “known.” Known elements on the external rim include:
A scientific explanation of this Wheel experience is found at what physicists call energy’s probability curve, which moves from the extremes of certainty on the one end, to open possibility or uncertainty on the other end. In this way, the hub of knowing is akin to a plane of possibility, while elements on the rim are plateaus of probability or peaks of certainty.
The power of doing the Wheel of Awareness practice is that even children as young as kindergartners can benefit. From learning to move their repeated peaks and plateaus of certain thoughts and probability moods down toward the open plane, to feeling the liberation from engrained patterns of cognition and emotion that emerge with a more expansive sense of awareness.
In many ways, the Wheel practice integrates consciousness by differentiating hub from rim, and systematically linking these various elements intentionally with the movement of a spoke of attention. This integration of consciousness allows us all to surrender from the peaks and plateaus of the mind that imprison us from the freedom of having freer access to the pure awareness of the plane.
A regular, reflective practice, such as the Wheel of Awareness, strengthens the minds by integrating our consciousness and empowering us to live a full and vital life.
Daniel Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. He is also the executive director of the Mindsight Institute, which offers online learning and in-person lectures that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families, and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. Dr. Siegel has published extensively for the professional audience.