Mindfulness: Turn Off Autopilot

This morning I’ve looked at the next section within my mindfulness module. As you can see from the title of the post this section was about being on autopilot. I tend to live most of my life on autopilot. I suppose you don’t really notice it until you’ve had your day and wondered what you’ve actually done.

I have a few of them. I even can be on autopilot when driving. End up at my destination and wonder how I got there. Which is not a good thing. Turning off my autopilot is what I need to learn.

What does it actually mean when you’re running on autopilot? 

It is doing things automatically without paying attention to your experiences. You’re not focusing. Meaning the negative thoughts and worries can easily start to build a life of their own.

What does becoming aware mean?

Learning to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Being in tune with what you need and want. Hopefully, to guide your actions.

My module gave me two exercises to try to help me become more mindful; The Raisin Exercise and The Body Scan.

The Raisin Exercise

This exercise you really do need to embrace the silliness of it. As you’ll see from my reflections on the exercise, I felt silly doing it. It’s called the raisin exercise but if you don’t have any or don’t like them (like me) then use another food. I chose grapes.

This exercise is to show you how it feels to be fully present in the here and now. If I felt silly during this exercise does this mean I feel silly when it comes to being in the here and now? 

You have to focus your attention on eating the raisin (or food choice). Involving being aware of the smells, images, sounds, feelings or tastes. Most of all try experience without the judgement. If your mind wanders, just bring it back.

The module gave seven steps to complete this exercise. I’m not going to detail them all. I’m just giving each step the title. It’s self-explanatory really. Just focus on that part of the food at the time of you completing the step.

  1. Find a spot
  2. Hold
  3. Smell
  4. Hear
  5. Taste
  6. Eat
  7. Swallow

I’m not gonna be mindful if I don’t put in the work, am I?

Here’s my reflection from completing this exercise:

  • I could feel the weight of the grape in my hand
  • I could smell the sweet smell of the grape
  • I noticed saliva in my mouth
  • I could hear my stomach grumbling
  • As I swallowed the grape I could feel it move down my throat

Where you able to be open to the experience and not be judgemental?

No

Did you allow yourself to be curious during the exercise?

Yes

How you found the exercise overall?

I felt silly about doing the exercise. I sat in my room where it is quieter. It got me to eat the grapes only (I don’t like raisins). I tend to eat while doing something else. When I smelt the grapes I always thought of wine. When I listened I heard what was going on around me. The washing machine going, my mum getting herself a snack and drink and a plane going over. Tasting I felt strange holding it in my mouth before I chewed it. When I swallowed, I realised I don’t think about that part before. As I continued to eat my grapes I tended to miss out steps 2 and 3. I did listen to what was going on around me. I slowed my eating down instead of rushing to eat the grapes. I think when eating I need to be more present. I may find I can enjoy food that way. Hoping it can encourage me to eat better again.

The Body Scan

This helps you experience thoughts, feelings and physical sensations as they are. Being aware what happens in your body, without trying to change anything. By focusing on each part of your body, you become in tune with your whole body.

Your body can give you loads of information. Whether you’re mindful of it or not. When I was asked which information do you remember your body giving you, I was like what you on about. Thankfully there was an example. Here is mine:

  • When I have a headache, it’s often because I’m stressed
  • When my chest hurts, it’s often because I’m anxious
  • When my shoulders hurt it’s because I’m feeling tense
  • When my stomach is noisy, it’s because I’m hungry
  • When my eyes start to feel heavy, it’s because I’m tired

To complete the body scan I listened to the audio that was about 15 minutes. To sum it up you find a spot you won’t be disturbed, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Lie down, be comfortable. Just try not to fall asleep. Be open to the experience and not be judgemental. Focus on one part of your body at a time, going from your toes to the top of your head, slowly.

My reflection:

What did you notice?

That parts of my body were tense and others ached. I found it nice to be laying there not doing something taxing with my mind.

What went well?

I really liked having the audio there. It made me go back to doing what I needed if I did get distracted. But I did find that I was being distracted less.

What was difficult?

Unsure if there was actually something I found difficult. Yes, I got distracted but because of the audio, I was able to go straight back. I have saved it to listen to it again at a later date when I’m completing a body scan.

Coming to the end of the module. It gave me homework. I felt I was back at school. My homework is this:

  • Pick one daily activity that you will complete with total awareness. (Try a simple activity) > I’ll choose brushing my teeth
  • Pay special attention to the 1st bite of your dinner
  • Practice the body scan at least 4x a week
  • Fill in your mindfulness diary each time you practice

I was gonna see how many sections I could get done today. But now that I know I have homework and I should be taking everything slowly. I will do a section a week on my mindfulness day.

Then in between, I can carry out my homework. Putting the work in to be mindful.

 

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