Are You Stuck On Autopilot?

September 16, 2016

All of us can remember moments where we feel we are living on automatic pilot: we get used to our routine, we wake up, brush our teeth, eat breakfast, go to work, and sometimes, we get to work only to realise we haven’t noticed anything we’ve done. I had days in my life that I couldn’t even recall what I had for breakfast. I believe that living on autopilot becomes a habit, we just get used to do things without any awareness whatsoever. When we go in the car and we don’t notice the journey, we eat our meals and we don’t realise when the food has finished, we have conversations without really listening to what the other people is saying… and we end up living a very stressful life.

In our everyday life, we experience situations that cause us distress, and our inability to deal with our emotions, and the lack of awareness that we have in order to respond to our stressors, makes everything even more difficult. Snapping out of the automatic pilot can make you realise that you are in control of your own life, and it can make you understand that not every fight needs to be fought. The sooner you become aware of the moment you are living, the happier your life will become.

I’ve been reading about mindfulness and I’ve been trying to live a more mindful life for a few years now. I remember that when I was first trying to be more aware in my everyday life, sometimes I got overwhelmed by outside stimuli and I found very tiring and unpleasant to keep trying to redirect my mind to my breathing, and to the moment I was in. I believe that I had some idea of what mindfulness was, and what I should be doing, and I was trying to do things following a certain sequence for inner peace, but I got frustrated because it wasn’t happening the way I imagined. With meditation practice, I began to understand that the only reason I was getting frustrated and overwhelmed was because I was trying to control the mind, instead of being aware of it. If you are trying to be present, but you start daydreaming, you can choose to continue daydreaming if you wish. As long as you notice that you are daydreaming, you are being mindful. If I am practicing mindfulness and my mind wonders, now I know that I have the opportunity to make an intentional decision about whether to continue in the daydream, or to return to whatever it was that I was concentrating on before it happened. Understanding this principle was really important to my personal journey to a mindful life because I was trying so hard to keep that sense of calmness that I would attain during mindfulness, that I experienced a negative feeling coming from trying to shut certain stimuli out so I could focus on my breath, body or whatever I was trying to focus on. Now I am able to be fully present In the middle of an on-going situation or process, or in moments of calm. I’ve learned to bring attention to my breath, or to the sensations arising while doing a task, eating a meal, walking the dog, and not fight against the external stimuli. I believe that the secret to a calmer and mindful living is to stop trying to make yourself aware, and instead gently bring yourself back to the present. If you try to control the mind with the mind, it will only end in frustration. Just breathe and don’t be worried if your mind wanders, sometimes it will wander, and it is fine, as long as you notice it. The key is to be aware of the wandering while it’s happening.

Practicing mindfulness is simply becoming more present. It consists in allowing yourself to be with what is there in front of you. It’s amazing how rewarding it can be to pay attention to the present moment without trying to change anything. You suddenly become more deeply and completely aware of your feelings and yourself. Sometimes, just one moment of mindfulness during your day, one long breath when you are completely present, can inspire you, and impact your day in a very positive way.

Here is how mindfulness can help your everyday life:

You minimise negative feelings of fear and anxiety;
You feel peaceful and calmer;
You can examine your own behaviour and realise that you are able to be in control and decide the best way to act;
You learn to take your time to understand a situation and state your needs clearly with assertive communication;
You gain the ability to keep your cool, no matter the response of the other person;
It helps you to pick your battles, and learn about your emotional triggers;
You learn how to be more rational, instead of reacting immediately in a situation;
It increases your tolerance to frustration;
It helps you to nurture positive feelings like gratitude, in your everyday life;

We can constantly seek peace; but until we realise that we create the chaos, we will not understand that peace was there all along. So live your life observing everything intently without judgement, and you will be surrounded by calmness.

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