Hello! Seiiti Arata. Waking up, checking your phone, being stuck in traffic jams, working, getting stuck in traffic jams again, checking your phone, sleeping, waking up, doing it all again, in a distracted way, as if you were on autopilot. When you are on autopilot, you are performing actions with a low level of awareness. On autopilot, you can make poor quality choices and later regret it.
The solution to get out of autopilot is mindfulness. Being fully aware means that you have the ability to know what is going on in your head at any given time without letting your automatic thoughts control you.
Autopilot is being at a low level of awareness. This makes us inattentive to something important.
The problem with the low level of awareness is that we don’t realize that we are making bad choices. To live unconsciously is to be unaware, it is to be inattentive to something important. Let’s look at three examples to illustrate.
The first example is when you are watching your favorite show until very late and suddenly it looks like it’s past your bedtime. You were unconscious about the time. You were watching your show on autopilot, one episode after another, and you stopped being aware of something important: what time it was.
Second example: If you are playing with your children, but are thinking about a problem from work, you are on autopilot. You are not fully present. And this autopilot makes you stop paying attention to your own children, it makes you stop experiencing the moment fully.
When you least realize it, your child has grown up and you regret that childhood passed so fast that you didn’t even notice. In this case, the important thing is to live with your children, which you missed by being on autopilot.
The autopilot removes the necessary awareness between stimulus and reaction.
The third example shows that living on autopilot means reacting without thinking. And this increases our suffering and stress.
Imagine that you receive an unwanted call from a company doing telemarketing. As soon as you realize that this is a company offering a product or service that you are not interested in, you try to hang up but the person on the other end keeps insisting.
Right now, in the face of this STIMULUS, you will have a thought that this situation makes you nervous. And your autopilot will then initiate REACTION, it will lead you into a really nervous emotional state. And if you go on autopilot, you can also change your tone of voice, hang up and be upset for a few minutes.
You may even be rude to a colleague or friend around you who has nothing to do with this story. And then you will need to apologize saying that you were nervous about receiving the telemarketing call. In this case, the autopilot has damaged something important, which is your emotional well-being and has also caused stress in your relationship with other people.
If you live on autopilot, you have less freedom as you will react immediately to external stimuli. When you cultivate mindfulness, everything around you seems more manageable. Life looks like a river that you can navigate.
Lead life with mindfulness to reduce automatism and suffering.
Think of life as a river with a current. If you fall into the river, you must first understand what the current’s true strength is. Perhaps you have the strength to go against the weak current and get out of the river in the same place from which you fell. But you cannot try to swim against the current if it is stronger than you.
Trying to swim against the current will only waste your breath and strength. There are times when you need to know how to swim along with the current, with patience and knowing how to identify the next place on that river that you will cling to a nearby tree branch, you will ask for help from someone who is walking nearby, save yourself on an islet temporarily to regain your strength.
Some call it equanimity, others simply mindfulness. You can be a little more mentally free every day, leading life with the least friction and the least possible suffering.
Mindfulness is a method to help people eliminate the suffering created by the automatism and conditioning of the human mind.
This is important because there is a strong connection between our mind and our health. A large part of the diseases we are facing today are initiated or made worse by stress. And stress is preventable, optional. You can choose to live with less stress, using mindfulness tools to overcome mental suffering.
How to have more attention on a daily basis.
When we talk about mindfulness, many people immediately think of meditation, of Zen people with their legs crossed and their spine erect in absolute silence or doing OHMMMMM. But this is only part of a specific practice. Of course it is very important, but this is just the training. The real game is to maintain that state of attention on a daily basis.
To maintain this state of mindfulness, we must first realize, notice reality. If I am physically in one place, but my attention is elsewhere, I am divided. I’m not realizing what I’m doing. What I’m doing loses quality because I just don’t pay attention to the activity performed.
I’m washing dishes and thinking about work. I’m walking to work and thinking about a fantasy in which I’m scolding my boss. And so I am never really aware of the present moment.
Meditation is a training of attention.
Meditation has several beneficial effects for getting off autopilot. When we are meditating, we are training our mind to pay attention to the present moment. We sit in a comfortable position and in a peaceful environment and begin to pay attention to a specific point, usually our own breathing.
A few seconds later, our mind is already thinking about something else. When we realize this, we gently bring the mind back to that specific point. And the cycle is repeated, because the mind is like an agitated little monkey that jumps from branch to branch.
With training and patience, we can manage to keep this attention focused for longer. And we manage to take that into the real world. We pay more attention to what we are doing, to what others tell us, to our own feelings. In other words, we left the autopilot.
Mindfulness is the way out of this autopilot. It is to activate your attention without making judgments, without making mental comments, without suffering because we are in one place and our mind is in another.
Observe more and judge less. Practice observing an object without judging.
Look at an object. For example, a flower. You can simply observe the flower, you can even see the details, of how some petals are more open or more closed, how some leaves can be smooth and other leaves can have marks because they’ve been bitten by some insect. Observe, but don’t judge. To judge is to say that the flower is ugly, it is dying, that the damned insects spoiled the flower that could be perfect. That is judging.
When I’m watching, I don’t want to make judgments. Just watching is an activity of immense value for your peace of mind.
You can observe the flower without saying “what a beautiful flower! I think I need to give the flower more water. Gosh, what a pity that the insect ate a part of the leaf. How sad that the flower is dying ”. These are all judgments, which we are not going to do in this mindfulness exercise. You can even make all this kind of judgment, consciously, another time, but first we are training just to observe. Can you do it?
Don’t just passively watch me speak. Take a break now. Choose some object and just observe. You will experience what it is like to just observe without comment. Depending on the amount and intensity of thought flow you have, perhaps this is the first time, after a long time, that your mind will just observe without judging, without commenting.
Did you like the activity? You can do this exercise of observation without judgments with anything: an object, a person, an event and mainly with a thought or emotion of yours. Whenever you find yourself judging, evaluating, you don’t have to be angry. Just realize that you were judging. And go back to just watching, just observing. And that makes the judgment go away.
After practicing observing objects without judging, now observe your life without judging.
Observe your life. You completed your studies in that year. Then, you started working at company Z. You met a special person. Today you wake up at this time, usually eat those foods, do physical activity such days a week. This is just watching.
When a thought like “I’m fat, I should stop eating sweets” appears, understand that this is a judgment and in our activity we will just observe, but without judging. Over time, we will see that most of these thoughts do not get us anywhere, they are simply background voices, like having a radio always on. Let the judgment go. Just observe.
Observe for a moment this movement in your head, without judgment, without saying that what you are thinking is good or bad. It is simply perceiving. This may be the clearest and most practical definition of mindfulness: a moment when I observe that river of automatic thinking in my head and when observing, I leave the river.
This is not being apathetic or being submissive with what we don’t like. Of course, you can make plans to improve your diet. You can and must act in order to pursue your goals. In this activity of observation and full presence, we will learn not to be controlled by the thoughts of autopilot with judgment. Please pause the video and do the activity now so you can feel how it is.
Congratulations! We are in a learning process working on a skill, that you can observe without making comments, making your mind calmer. Living in greater harmony with your own thoughts, without letting your thoughts overwhelm you or cause you anxiety.
Just wash the dishes.
There is an ancient Asian text that says that while you wash the dishes, you should only wash the dishes. At first it may sound silly: why give so much importance to such a simple thing?
The problem is that if we wash the dishes and think about the cup of coffee we are going to have afterwards, the task of washing the dishes becomes a burden. We will automatically try to clean the dishes in a hurry to get rid of the hassle.
What’s more, we won’t be alive during the time we’re doing the dishes. We will be unable to recognize the miracle of life while we are at the kitchen sink.
And if we are not able to wash the dishes just by washing them, it is unlikely that we will be able to fully enjoy the next cup of coffee. For when we drink coffee, we will be thinking about other things, unaware of the fact that we have a cup in our hands. In this way we will be sucked out of the present reality, and unable to live in full even for a minute, always thinking about what we are going to do next.
Living in the present moment is the most practical, quick and easy way to get off autopilot and thus suffer less and have more happiness.
This can be our first exercise: just watch, see, realize that our head is all day long like a radio that keeps on transmitting and, no matter how much we change channels, we always hear a voice that takes our mind to a place that it is not the present moment.
We are not looking for anything special to happen, we are not wanting to stop the thoughts, we are not even wanting to be happier. We are simply observing, perhaps for the first time realizing that there is a river of thoughts that does not stop and that we can, for a moment, observe them as what they are.
You can be happier when you learn to get out of the river of uncontrolled thoughts. To do that I invite you to visit this link.