So, we’ve done it. We’ve made the decision to start making some changes in our lives. Not only that, but we’ve finally decided to start working with those big areas — Core pieces. Yes! Awesome! We congratulate ourselves for making the decision to wake up around our habit patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, and we get started with a bang. It’s great. We feel good because we’re eating better, making better financial choices or keeping the house clean, and we’re feeling good because we’re sticking with the plan. We’re awake, and we’re cruising along making value-based choices.
Autopilot kicks in. We go back to sleep.
Here’s what happened to me. Maybe you can relate. I started the year determined to address my poor eating habits and my less-than-healthy financial patterns. I got off to a good start. I began an autoimmune protocol to ease inflammation in my body, and I began looking at my buying/saving financial patterns. The food piece went the best. Every day, I planned out what I would eat. I cooked for myself. I ate at the table. I kept a food/body diary to track what foods felt good and what foods seemed to cause my body a little discomfort. But I was hungry. That was the big piece. I was hungry. And, though I didn’t really see it at first, I was also feeling deprived. I was deprived of certain textures because of the food I WAS NOT eating, and I was deprived of social interaction and social energy because I was no longer going out to write and draw and chat in coffee houses. I decided to consciously go out with a friend and eat in a local healthy restaurant. It was fine. I was mindful when I was eating, and I took note of how my body felt afterward. I did the same thing again the next day. And again the next day (see where this is going? I went from not going anywhere to going EVERYWHERE). Before I knew it, I was leaking money that I’d been saving, AND I started venturing into eating old trigger foods. A little at a time. Until…
I was binging on carbs. I am a compulsive overeater. I’ve known that for a long time, but when Autopilot kicked in this time, when I discovered how unconscious I’d become, it was after I almost made myself throw up medication so that I would be awake long enough to eat an entire bowl of popcorn. Yeah. It was that bad. I went from being mindful, awake and conscious to being in a complete dream state, just like that. It only took a few days to get there.
I dove immediately into another habit pattern. Shame. I beat myself up. I called myself lazy. I told myself stories about how I would never get this right. And then I woke up again. Even my self-shaming was a part of the Autopilot that took over.
So, I’m awake again, and I’m remembering that these are BIG CHANGES to BIG habit patterns. My brain is used to doing certain things around food including consuming heavy carb loads that kick off even heavier cravings. It is also used to numbing out on food after feeling deprived. My brain likes to take everything to the next level. That’s just the way it is. When I’m unconscious I can’t accept that, and that means I drop into shame, and shame just keeps me spinning in the same patterns.
Here’s the truth. The decision to begin consciously changing the BIG things, is great. And, we don’t go from a life on Autopilot (a life in the Matrix, if you’d like) to 100% AWAKE, MINDFUL, CONSCIOUS life immediately just because we say we’re going to. Autopilot is a natural periodic state for animals, and we are human animals. Living consciously means practicing coming back to consciousness when we figure out that we’ve gone back to sleep. It means gently reminding ourselves where we were going and then taking steps to get back to what we wanted to do. Consciousness does not mean perfection, and for some of us, that’s a real bummer that we must work to accept.
I bet that even folks we think of as super conscious — Thich Nhat Han, Siddhartha Gautama, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama and even Jesus — had moments that were unconscious. They’re human.
The difference is after lots of practice, waking up probably came faster.
We may want to keep this in mind: Every time we fall into Autopilot, we have a new opportunity to Wake Up.
- If you’ve ever fallen back into Autopilot again and then found your way back into Mindfulness, leave a comment below, so that we can learn from your example!
Tara Moorman is a freelance writer and Licensed Professional Counselor with 19 years of experience in the fields of mental health and personal growth and development. She specializes in writing blog posts and articles related to mental health, addictions recovery, and personal growth and change. You can see more of her work at https://taramoorman.contently.com/