One of the big themes in the MBSR courses is Automatic Pilot and its opposite counterpart Being in the Present Moment.
For newcomers it is entertaining to gradually realise that we are very rarely present – just doing what you’re doing, being where you are. Doesn’t seem like a big deal and yet we spend so much of our lives time-travelling – rehearshing the future, rehashing the past. How often have you finished a cup of tea and the only evidence of having drunk it is that the cup is nearly empty, just a dreg of cold tea in the bottom! Nobody else was in the room, so you must have drunk it! Like I say, this kind of realisation is amusing for beginners and humbling of the more experienced – yes, no matter how long we practice mindfulness, yoga and meditation, most of us find that we still have frequent and long lapses in our awareness.Nobody – I’ll guarantee – is mindful 100% of the time!
The other morning I had a ‘eureka’ moment getting out of the shower – is there something about water that leads to realisations?
As I stepped out a little voice asked ‘How was your shower?’ You know what – I hadn’t a clue! I was wet all over, so was the shower, but I hadn’t really been there at all. I hadn’t enjoyed the gush of warm (expensive!) water – I hadn’t smelt the gorgeous shower gel my sister had given for recent birthday, nor did I feel the ‘rich luxurious foam’ of carefully chosen shampoo. I hoped that I had washed all the important bits and hadn’t used body wash on my hair. Most likely I hadn’t – I guess most days I shower on automatic pilot – very skilled at washing myself while I sort out the big issues of my life, or more likely lose myself in daily trivia!
So, the little voice was a wake up call. While the long-term aim is to be with our experience while it is happening – wake up and smell the coffee, shower gel or whatever – sometimes it’s easier to do it in retrospect. Try tuning into a recent experience… For example as you get up from the table ask yourself ‘How was your lunch?’ Perhaps like me getting out of the shower, you haven’t a clue. But you know, the more we ask ourselves, ‘How was your drive?’ of ‘How was your cake’, ‘How was your walk?’ the more our attention might just perk up and begin to notice more and more of this wonderful life as it is actually happening!