Week 1: Waking up the Autopilot
‘We seemingly miss obvious things through automatically paying attention somewhere else.’
Although this makes “sense”, as I read this, I still thought,
“Hmmmm.... how much of my life have I missed by paying attention to my incessant thinking, to something else?”
Our thoughts are so powerful and can take us places we never even intended. Like when a couple of weeks ago, when I went to the grocery store to buy bananas and ended up with Ben & Jerry’s as well. My thoughts of having something sweet took over, if you will, and present was anything but what I was. I don’t even think I was present while eating the ice cream. My thoughts were somewhere else, I think. But I don’t know because I was on autopilot and not ‘there’.
As much as we may still believe in the effectiveness of multitasking, we can really only concentrate on one thing at a time or at least pay attention to a small number of things at one time. What this means with our thoughts is that one thought seems to drive out another. If there’s too much swimming around, then we can overflow and this can lead to feelings of stress. As said in the book, our autopilot allows us to extend the working memory by creating habits to ‘help’ us not crash and be stressed so quickly and often. A good thing, most of the time.
“Habits trigger thoughts, which trigger more thoughts, which end up triggering yet more habitual thoughts.”
What a cycle.
I am looking at my habits this week and looking at what habits I could release. And you?
What stuck with me from this chapter is understanding what mindfulness is NOT. It is NOT about getting rid of your thoughts. How would you do THAT? Mindfulness does not say, “Don’t send emails.”
Rather, it reminds us to check in and ask ourselves, “Is this what I intended to be doing?”
And in this exact moment, we are present. And we have a choice to leave our autopilot and choose something new.
For me, this brings up a few meaningful questions I’ll be reminding myself of this week:
- Is this was I intended to be doing?
- Is this how I want to be reacting and responding?
- Is this how I want to remember this ** moment ** after it’s gone?
This chapter lists several every day habits we have where we can practice being more mindful. Washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, drinking, eating. For me, this week it has been ironing.
The next time you are in the shower, ask yourself: Are you really in the shower? Or are you somewhere else? Already riding to work? Crafting the email to send before 9.00? Thinking about what you’ll have for lunch?
So often we’re really not where we actually are. We can be though. It’s a choice we have. Every. Single. Moment.
What about you? What have you learned about your own autopilot?
Tip: If you don’t have any raisins at home, pick some up this week. You’ll need one this week!
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