Mindfulness

Fighting auto-pilot

Talk about a gorgeous day...

Thoreau said to live deliberately. He went to the woods to do so, and while going to the woods is good for you, living deliberately is something you should do every day, wherever you are.

I call living non-deliberately “auto-pilot” for the obvious reason. Auto-pilot is a mode where you punch in the destination and your vehicle takes you there without a bit of effort on your part. Unless you’re in a car and think that cruise control is auto-pilot, that is, but highway fatalities are a subject for another time.

What is the fatal flaw in not deliberately living the journey? If you said, “for people, the journey is more important than the destination” you are correct, and I award you a gold star. We would be splitting hairs by arguing the relative importance of getting to where you’re going, but you might agree that you should continue living deliberately once you get there.

Different folks might give slightly different answers to what “living deliberately” means to them, but if you don’t, you’ll know on your death bed. Is it focusing on the wrong things? Or is it not focusing at all? Maybe a bit of both. I’m not the guru with all of the answers, I’m someone pursuing truth just like you, like a man walking toward the light of a candle in the darkness. But don’t we all have an idea of what is truly important in life?

Auto-pilot is what robs us of pursuing those important things. I can tell you three things with certainty:

  • If you spend any significant amount of time watching television or scrolling social media (ouch!), you’re on auto-pilot
  • If you aren’t infusing daily life tasks with meaning through association with their end results, you’re on auto-pilot
  • If you don’t nourish both the life of the mind and the life of the body, you’re on auto-pilot.

The ordinary is where living deliberately thrives, not in the pursuit of the extraordinary. Focusing on other people and on experiences both ordinary and extraordinary are what deliberate living is all about. Ordinary means usual. Say that you go to a shop where you are known and walk up to the counter. “What can I get for you?” If they know you, they already know, and when you say, “oh, the usual,” they get right to work. You don’t order the usual because it’s boring, you order it because that is what you like! The familiarity with which you order that ordinary item is also part of the magic of the usual. Even the unusual and the extraordinary, when they happen to us, eventually become ordinary and usual. Again, not because they’re boring, but because we like them.

Force yourself out of auto-pilot. Thoughts don’t always lead to actions, and we filter a lot of static out of our brains on a regular basis, but when your thoughts present you with a gift, grab it and act on it; we were meant to spend ourselves on others. There’s a rush and a buzz as satisfying as a back rub that we get from “paying it forward” and being grateful for the encounters we have every day. Deliberately live the ordinary and the extraordinary; the usual and the unusual. Infuse yourself into them and bring them to life. Your life. Your ordinary and extraordinary life.

 

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