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Shifting Out of Autopilot

Most of our lives are spent living in autopilot mode, that condition where you are not thinking but doing. For example, you leave the gym to drive home, and you end up at work.

In our exercise-obsessed world, we work on our bodies without ever giving a thought to exercising our mind. But what if I told you there was a way to strengthen your mind, and have the ability to skillfully know where to focus your attention, while losing your preoccupation with negative thoughts and living in autopilot mode? 

Most of our lives are spent living in autopilot mode, that condition where you are not thinking but doing. For example, you leave the gym to drive home, and you end up at work. Or you might be sitting at your desk one-minute working, and the next check out with your brain wandering, thinking of memories or planning your next holiday. When you begin to realize what just happened, you understand your mind has “changed channels” switching to autopilot.

Our brains are wired this way, and it’s what we call the default mode of our mind. The default mode is associated with daydreaming, imagination, and self-absorption. Our brains are wired to be working and problem-solving, and when we are not working on a problem, our brain wants to find one. It’s the lack of external stimuli that causes our minds to go into the autopilot mode.

Strengthening the muscles of the brain allows us to view things from a different perspective and be more adept at what we would like to focus on. This is especially helpful when dealing with negative thoughts and helps us to understand that “thoughts are not facts.” Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to loosen the brain’s grip on negative thinking. It provides new ways for us to think and react while opening us up to stepping out of habitual old ways of thought. With practice, you can recognize and change old habits of thinking and behaving.

Practicing mindfulness cultivates qualities of curiosity, kindness, patience, and openness to everything we experience. Mindfulness encourages you to be open to all experiences, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. This quality of transparency allows you to shift from an automatic doing mode to an intentional being mode. This empowers you to be your best self in all situations.

Shifting from reacting to responding to situations allows you to live your life with intention from a place of your values. Living life from this place will enable you to achieve the goals and visions you have for yourself.

An exercise to help you get out of the autopilot mode:

To step out of living in an autopilot mode, let’s begin by taking a comfortable seated position. Now close your eyes, keeping them soft begin to drop in on your breath. Just follow your breath and count to 6 on the inhale pause and hold for a moment, release and exhale to the count of 8; pause and begin again. Continue this for 1-5 minutes and begin to understand the place of your breath is somewhere; you can come at any time to get centered.

Steps to apply the breath to stepping out of autopilot mode:

1. Pause

2. Take a breathing space of several breaths (outlined above)

3. Begin to have an awareness of any thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations you are experiencing

4. Bring your attention back to your breath

5. Expand to a broader perspective and apply to your experience

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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