Is Your Life on Automatic Pilot?
Strike up a conversation with your mind.
Published: January 18, 2013
Let mindfulness heal old habits.
I refuse to accept the idea that we have an unconscious mind that defies us by being completely inaccessible. To me, this is a prescription for believing that for the major portion of our lives, we’re controlled by unseen and unavailable forces residing within us. I recognize that we’re often totally unaware of why we’re behaving in certain ways, but this implies that we have no choice in the matter. Awareness is the simple key for alleviating this condition.
Have regular conversations with your subconscious—remind it that you don’t want to go through life on automatic pilot. Discuss your unwillingness to be a victim of the whims of that “ghost in the machine” of your body, whose orders originate in the mind viruses and thinking habits that were programmed into it by people who are either long dead or no longer play a role in your adult life.
I usually tell my own habitual mind things like this: “I know that I have some really silly leftover habits that were instilled in me a long time ago, and I want you to know that I’m no longer interested in having my actions dictated by you. I’m bringing all of those old habits of thought to the surface, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more aware of all aspects of my life.”
I had a conversation like this recently regarding my inclination to misplace my keys. I treated the ghost inside of me that always seemed to place my car keys in difficult-to-find locations as if it were a real person. While this may seem like an insignificant little habit, for me, changing it was huge. Now I rarely misplace my keys.
Initiate a conversation with your subconscious mind in which you make it clear that you’re not going to let part of your life be run by an invisible stranger who acts and reacts on the basis of memetic or genetic programming. Instead, decide that you’re no longer going to allow (or excuse) behavior from an unconscious part of yourself.
I encourage you to begin a practice of being more mindful. This is in fact what I did to end my lifetime habit of being forgetful, particularly when it came to where I placed my car keys.
At one time, I simply excused my can’t-find-my-keys behavior with this label: “I’m forgetful.” I can recall both my mother and my wife often exclaiming, “Oh, that’s Wayne, our absentminded professor!” Memes buried within my subconscious became useful excuses for explaining my habit of being forgetful . . . but then I discovered how to be mindful. I began to practice being conscious of what I used to do unconsciously, and it worked!
Each time I came into the house, I made a decision to be aware of my keys in my hand—to feel the texture and shape of each one of them, to hold them with awareness, to listen to the jingle-jangle sound—and then place them in a special spot reserved just for them. And lo and behold, an old unconscious habit had been brought to the surface and into my conscious mind, causing that old excuse of being forgetful to be eradicated. (On the rare day when I can’t find my keys now, it only serves to reinforce my commitment to stay mindful.)
By the same token, there was a time when my yoga practice could deteriorate into a boring routine and I’d become frustrated with myself; or while swimming in the ocean, running along the beach, or even sitting and writing, I could get lost in my old forgetfulness and lose sight of the glorious feeling that’s available in all human activity. I found that practicing mindfulness in many ways throughout my day helped immensely.
These days when I swim, I experience my arms moving, my legs kicking, my shoulders stretching, the feel and taste of the salt water, my fingers cupped and moving the water, my breathing, my heart rate . . . all of it. Practicing mindfulness has taught me how to be in the moment and find my self as well as my keys!
Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D., is an internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development. Wayne holds a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University and was an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York.