A funny thing happened to me on the way to work the other day. No really. I was driving and stopped at a red light. The light just turned green and as I was about to step on the gas pedal the driver behind me honked. The immediate thought was, “What the heck is wrong with this guy, the light just turned green, people are so impatient.” My shoulders tensed and I was getting upset. “Let it go, let it go, he could be having a bad day already,” I tried to say to myself. As I started moving forward he pulled up to the lane next to me as if to pass me, but then slowed down next to my window. That’s where things got interesting.
Keep in mind that I grew up in Los Angeles where there used to be threats of people pulling up to drivers on the road of freeway and shooting into the windows. I don’t expect this to happen, but it clearly left a mark where it’s a quick thought when someone pulls up next to you. The next thought was he was driving by to give me the finger.
So I ignored him for a moment, but then turned my head and saw that as he was about to turn left he was trying to flash a “peace” sign at me, in a gesture to apologize. I laughed for a moment realizing that the honking was an accident probably and the entire story in my mind was bogus.
Even reflecting on it right now makes me laugh at how my mind just took off.
And so it is, we all get caught up with the stories of our minds, most of the time without any or much awareness that it’s actually happening.
That is why the term auto-pilot is so appropriate for how we conduct most of our attention.
One way to influence this is to keep the idea of auto-pilot and your mind’s storytelling in your short term memory. The best way to do that is to ground it with your own experience.
Practice: Take a moment to reflect on a recent memory or a moment in your life where your mind took off into a state of auto-pilot, perhaps weaving a story that turned out not to be true.
Really get a sense for how you felt, what thoughts were going through your mind, how did your body feel?
If you feel up to it, share your story below. Your interactions create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.