Disengage the Autopilot

Ever get wrapped around the axle about something? You know what I mean. Your brain is like a hamster on a wheel, your gut is in impressive knots, you cannot sleep, your inner dialog never stops and it all looks dark?

Or perhaps you are noticing that you spend much of your time on auto-pilot with your mind miles away while the body scurries about. Numbing, numbing, numbing…

Here is what I am learning (and re-learning, and re-learning):

Take a breath.
And then another.
Perhaps another.
Notice the coolness as the breath enters the body.
Notice the warmth as it leaves.
Bring your mind back to this moment.
And this moment.
And this one.

This is your life. This moment. This breath. Here. Now.

I believe we are at our most resourceful when the mind, the body and the breath are all together in one place, in this moment. The past, which cannot be changed is firmly where it belongs. The future, which is entirely unknown, is yet to arrive. Live in this moment, here and now, and fully experience what it has to teach you.

The worries of the day will likely not vanish if we are present to them and, frankly, there might be pain. When we are present in body, mind and breath, however, we unite our immediate resources to function as one. We are fully alive.

From my 2003 memoir, Wednesdays at the Fluff ‘n’ Fold, Chapter 4 – The Change Machine.

Most people are creatures of habit, myself included, living life on autopilot. For example, we have conversations today that we had yesterday and may have again tomorrow. We drive our car across town or cross-country and arrive at our destination marveling at the fact that we don’t recall much of the drive. We have Monday meetings, Friday outfits, must see TV nights, a rotating meal plan, speed-dial, etc. While autopilot can serve us well at times, it can also create a dull, passionless, cookie-cutter life.

What would happen if we lived consciously? What would happen if we really took the time to listen to the voice inside and consciously choose our lives, rather than simply numbing ourselves into a passive prison of circumstance or programmed response?

When my husband, Charles, was diagnosed with cancer, we began to choose everything consciously. Our arguments became fewer and fewer, yet in some ways more intense as we rediscovered a passion for life and the stakes became significantly higher.

We consciously researched all our options, made different choices about how we spent our time. We were quick to forgive one another and we spent less time in angry silence. We made different choices about the food we ate, our financial matters, our daily exercise programs, and the quality of our time spent with Charles’s son, Christopher. We turned off the autopilot and made conscious choices.

Forgive me if I make this sound easy. It wasn’t. It is so much easier to simply go with the flow, to be numb and in a rut than to consciously choose life in each moment of each day. Yet, there was a distinct feeling of being fully alive when we stepped out of the rut and firmly grasped the wheel.

Friends, as you travel this path of life, I invite you to be awake and open to it all. Be present. Allow your experiences to touch you, to reach inside and mold you. Will it hurt at times? Yes, friends, perhaps unbearably so. But if you miss the pain, you will also likely miss the joy, the peace, the stillness, and the gifts.

Take a breath, friends. Then another…

Disengage autopilot


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