Switching Off Autopilot

As the word ‘Mindfulness’ becomes more mainstream so is another, related word - 'autopilot’. 

What is autopilot?

Being on autopilot means that you are able to do things without paying any attention to what your doing. It’s like driving a car. When learning how to drive our senses are heightened to EVERYTHING… our hands on the steering wheel, the brake, the mirrors, the cars around us… it's a wonder with so much information we can learn anything at all! But with practice it all becomes more familiar, driving becomes routine and we are unaware of what’s going on unless something out of the ordinary calls for our attention - like a child on the road or a very big truck. Eventually we can end up driving on autopilot.

Autopilot can, in certain situations, be a useful skill by enabling us to bring our attention to other things. The trouble is when we live most of our lives on autopilot. We are aware of when things are fabulous or terrible but in between we are off some place else. Daydreaming about the future, regretting or remembering the past while ignoring what is happening now – our current slice of reality is lost. It’s a seductive mind pattern.

We spend time about 95% most of our thought-time either rehashing the past or rehearsing for the future, and only 5% in the present. 

To cope we often like to get preoccupied with projects. Putting things into boxes. For example, if we have a big project on we tend to put aside the things that we normally enjoy, promising ourselves that when it’s over we’ll do all the other nice stuff. But the end of one project is just the signal to the start of another one. And we never truly start enjoying the life that we promised ourselves.

So the question is, how can I nourish myself in the next hour? What can I do, some small thing, in the next hour or two that will actually make a difference? How can I practice at attending to my life in a more wholesome way? Not just giving my thinking a break but actually switching on a different mode of being.

If you are interested in exploring a new dynamic for living and changing life draining habits, comejoin the July Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.