We live in a distracted world....
And living in a distracted, unconscious state does not create a sense of wellbeing or happiness. Instead, it produces a feeling of disempowerment and helplessness – a feeling that life happens to you rather than for you.
When we are living in a constant state of distraction and autopilot mode, we are likely to have thoughts along the lines of “I don’t have a choice; I’m stuck” or “I have to”. And these thoughts suggest we do not have a sense of agency over our life - that in the future we will be/do/have, but until then we are stuck. And while we are waiting for the future to happen, we end up sleepwalking through life, in autopilot mode with the incorrect assumption that we have an infinite amount of time to live.
To further compound the issue, many of us are living in the past and the future, but rarely, if ever, in the here and now. The voice our head (the ego) provides a constant running commentary of judgements, observations, and dramas based on the past and future projections which continues to ensure we live unconsciously.
To combat the issue we need to calm the mind.
For much of my career I was living in a state of autopilot mode - I was a robot and hurriedly moved from one task, call and meeting to the next without really thinking about what I was doing. I was not present in my own life – I was living unconsciously. The panic attacks I suffered from raised my awareness of just how unconsciously I had been living my life and served as an unexpected wakeup call. Yet, I didn’t know how to become conscious or mindful. All I knew was that my mind was full.
And so, to begin to clear my mind, I decided to give meditation a try – albeit with no training or guidance on how exactly I should meditate. I presumed I already knew how meditation worked – I assumed that all one had to do was sit on a cushion and think of nothing.
I am sure you can imagine how that worked out for a Type A personality jacked up on adrenaline. A typical 10-minute meditation practice saw me say a version of the following to myself:
Okay cool, I am meditating….
Do not think of anything…
You are thinking. You should not be thinking
Deep breath, okay, cool, I am meditating
Do we have bread? I think we need bread.
I think we might need milk too.
Okay, keep meditating — deep breath.
I wonder what else we need? I think we might need eggs too.
I wonder how long this meditation has been?
I think we need tea too.
When is this stupid timer going to go off so that I can go to the grocery store?
When does the grocery store close?
Maybe I should stop this meditation, so I can get to the store before it closes.
And then I would end the meditation session feeling frustrated and down on myself because I hadn’t done it right – believing that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t empty my mind of thoughts.
Ultimately through research, reading various books on meditation and attending classes, I became aware that the purpose of meditation is not to empty the mind and think of nothing. In fact it's the opposite. The purpose of meditation and mindfulness is to become aware and take stock of thoughts and feelings that arise in our bodies. It is to bring us back to the present moment.
Now I appreciate that mindfulness can sound mystical and may conjure up images of hippy dens, hot yoga studios and people walking around in catatonic, blissed-out states, and if this is what you imagine mindfulness to be, I imagine that for some it can sound off-putting. To get away from any negative images you may be feeling towards the word mindfulness, let’s start by defining it:
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
Mindfulness is a way to break out of autopilot mode and become consciously aware again.
Think of meditation as training for the mind.
To bring awareness into your life, I recommend that you implement a form of meditation into your daily life. This does not need to be time-consuming – even 5 minutes a day can help bring awareness back to you.
If you would like to try meditating on your own, then keep in mind and try the following:
With daily practice, meditation will increase self-awareness, emotional intelligence, reduce stress and anxiety; however, I want to reiterate that it takes time and patience. Like when we train our physical bodies, it takes time for the results to appear.
Key questions to ask yourself: