Lesson One – Stepping Out of Automatic Pilot
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” Sylvia Boorstein
We will start by turning off what we call “auto-pilot” by turning on Mindful thinking.
When we are very busy or stressed, we can act without thinking and find ourselves doing things without realising we did them. Have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrived at your destination, realised that you did not remember large parts of the drive? In a similar way, in our own lives we sometimes cruise along doing our daily activities or chores, not really paying attention to the task in hand. From a mindfulness perspective, this is what is known as being in ‘Auto-Pilot’.
Mindfulness will help you to switch on your brain and to become fully conscious of what you are doing. It will help you to connect with how you feel as you do each task. It’s important to remember that a certain amount of auto pilot is useful, it helps us to get the job done, but it’s important to learn how to switch it off. Auto pilot can be unsuitable for managing your emotions and it can lead to tensions and damaged relationships.
Remembering to come out of auto-pilot is the key to your happiness, and mindfulness will help you to do this. To balance your mind when you feel yourself drifting towards auto-pilot you will need to follow the steps of this mindfulness exercise.
Ideally this exercise needs to be listened to while you are outdoors. When you find a suitable space outdoors that is safe and quiet, press play on the Routine Activity file below. Use headphones if possible. Alternatively, listen to and follow the instructions indoors but remember to repeat the exercise during the next few days when you are outside.
Allow fifteen minutes to fully practice this exercise each day.
Complete this exercise for three days before moving to the next topic.
Each day, after this exercise, answer the following questions in the ‘Take Notes’ button on bottom of each page.
- How are you feeling right now?
- What did you notice about your body as you walked around?
- Did it feel heavy or light?
- How was your breathing?
- Was it fast or slow?
- What sounds did you hear?
- What smells did you notice?
Assignment: Choose one routine activity in your daily life and try to bring awareness to it each time you do it in this first week. It might be brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making coffee, or starting up the laptop. See if you can be really present, fully aware of what you are doing each time.