Are you living your life on autopilot?
Here are a few signs you might be. You find yourself waking up and worrying about your to-do list straight away. You reach for your phone as soon as you step out of the shower.
You’re constantly multi-tasking and never quite getting anything finished.
You find yourself rushing through the day from one appointment to another, from one project to the next, ticking off items on our to-do lists. And all too often, putting others’ needs first.
Wake up, rush around, fall asleep exhausted (or sleep fitfully because your mind won’t stop ticking over). Wake up and repeat and repeat and repeat…
I know it can be all too easy to let each day slide past like this! I’ve been there myself (and if I’m not careful still find myself slipping into this habit).
Which is why I love the practise of mindfulness. It helps us to switch off autopilot and switch into now.
Mindfulness enables us to rest in the present moment. To experience life as it unfolds.
Mindfulness is paying attention, without judgement. When we can learn to do this mindfulness helps us to find refuge from stress and anxiety.
But how do we do this in our over-stimulated lives?
This Zen saying sums it up beautifully: “When you drink, just drink. When you walk, just walk.”
Becoming aware of our senses is a simple way to anchor into the present moment, after all we can’t experience our senses in any other time except the present. You can’t taste something now you ate yesterday. You can’t feel with your hands something you’re going to touch tomorrow.
Experience mindfulness NOW
Try this now. Sit quietly… Take some deep breaths to settle. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
And let yourself tune into:
Sound… Become aware of the sounds around you. Just let them drift in and out of your awareness. There’s no need to name them even. Just let pure awareness take them in and let them go.
Smell… Now notice any scents or odours in your environment – and notice any strong emotions or memory associations which may come up. Smells can evoke strong reactions. Whatever arises, let it be and let it pass.
See… What can you see? Don’t stare or peer or scrutinise. Instead, let your awareness softly rest on something in your field of vision and just take in the colour, shape, size, textures… Then let your awareness soften and broaden to gently take in what’s in your peripheral vision.
Taste… Now turn your awareness to any tastes in your mouth. Just notice your tongue. Your saliva. Run your tongue over the back of your teeth and your cheeks to help you become more aware.
Touch… And now bring your awareness into your body and notice the sensations of your feet on the floor… the sensations of the chair beneath you. The feel of the fabric against your skin. Notice the coolness or warmness of your hands and feet. The air against your skin. You might like to pick up something which is near to you and feel the shape and contours of the object. How it feels in your hand and against the skin.
Mindful acceptance and contentment
With each sense, invite a sense of acceptance as to what you’re experiencing here and now, in this moment.
So, if you’re feeling on autopilot or pulled this way by all the demands on your time, or anxiety is rising, tune into your senses to come home to the present moment.
Yes, pain and discomfort may be there too. However if we resist the existence of pain or discomfort we cause ourselves greater suffering through the thoughts our minds get lost in about how we shouldn’t feel this way.
So, when we learn to cultivate a sense of acceptance for what we’re currently experiencing we can feel much lighter in spirit as we let go of the mind-forged manacles which tell us things should be different to how they are.
And this in turn leads to a sense of perspective about our lives, and contentment, as we notice and relish the simple pleasures and beauties around us – the clouds passing across the sky, beads of rain on flower petals, the sounds of birdsong, the breeze against our skin.
Come home to now
When we’re aware of and alive to the simple pleasures around us we feel a greater sense of contentment.
Cultivate a daily mindfulness practice: it will give you a new way of experiencing your life.
It’ll switch off autopilot and place you at the helm, at the controls, of your life.
You’ll learn to know deeply that you can choose where to place your attention.
And with that awareness comes great freedom and joy.
Live with mindfulness. Come home to now.