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Awareness as a Three-part Experience

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The Zones

The middle zone is comprised of our thoughts and mental processes. It’s the zone where most of my clients sit with their experience of awareness. Judgment, interpretation, anticipation and remembering all occur in this zone. While the mind is the seat of logic and reason, it is complex, complicated and often cryptic, which leads our clients to that inevitable sense of being stuck. Phrases beginning with “I think” or “I can’t figure out” are clues that often point to middle zone awareness.

The outer zone is where we objectively observe the world around us through our senses. It’s the zone we most commonly strive to settle into when we engage in meditation. In this zone, we are merely witnessing the present setting. Judgment and interpretation are absent. Phrases that begin with “I see” or “I hear” without a narrative attached demonstrate outer zone awareness.

The inner zone is made up of emotions and physical sensations within the body. Like the outer zone, the inner zone is also a place of witnessing without judgment and interpretation and can also be a useful zone for meditative focus. Phrases beginning with “I feel” often signal inner zone awareness.

Applying the Zones to Coaching

In the coaching space, when we work with clients to develop awareness, they are typically well-versed in the middle zone experience and looking for support around mindfulness, so it’s helpful to build a practice around shifting from the middle zone to the inner and outer zones. However, the full experience of awareness relies on a balanced integration of all three.

Developing presence using outer zone awareness is particularly helpful if clients are encountering challenges around leading/managing others, social problem solving and relationships—all of which require using the senses to notice body language, movement, facial expression, tone and volume of voice, appearance and setting. Developing a greater capacity to understand one’s emotions and physical sensations using inner zone awareness can be helpful when working with clients around uncovering values and learning to identify physical and emotional clues for harmony, which occurs when we are acting in alignment with our core values, and dissonance, which occurs when we are acting out of sync with our core values.

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