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Why Is It That When We Are Mindful, We Are at Peace— as Opposed to the Constant “Pinball Game” That Goes through Our Mind When We Are on Automatic Pilot Listening to the Voice in Our Head?

Yesterday I was in an important negotiation meeting and reminded myself that I must “let go of my attachment to my point of view, listen to what the other side is suggesting, and be open to possibility!” In other words, I was telling myself to be mindful.


Being mindful means actually being in the here and now, without the baggage of the past. It’s the opposite of running on automatic pilot.


When we’re on automatic pilot, the voice in our head takes the controls, using our past-based judgments and interpretations to make our decisions. I call this being run by our default programming.


While on automatic pilot, we believe we’re making conscious decisions because we’re aware of the thoughts that pass through our head. But these thoughts—like, “This is good,” “This is bad,” “I’m right,” “He’s wrong”—are colored by and viewed through the filter of our interpretations of previous experiences, and they, in turn, color how we see things in the present and influence how we respond.


Thus, if we are on automatic pilot, we are not really in the present moment; we are not experiencing what is actually happening here and now, and, without realizing it, we are letting our default programming make choices for us based on something we experienced in the past. This keeps us responding the same way we did in the past and thereby repeating our past in the present and carrying it forward into our future!


Dan Siegel, M.D., author of The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, calls operating in this fashion “mindless.” The bottom line is that running on automatic pilot creates unnecessary frustration, stress, and pain. And it limits us.


How Being Mindful Opens Us to Possibility

My coauthor Mark Bruce Rosin shared a story that explains the difference between acting mindfully and acting on automatic pilot while doing a yoga practice. His class had just completed a pose that many found difficult, and in preparation for the next pose the teacher told the class, “It’s very important not to hold past limitations in your mind, so please start the pose anew now.”


When past-based judgments and interpretations pass through our minds while we’re in a state of mindfulness, we can simply see them as similar to clouds that pass through the sky with no lasting effect. We let go of them and start anew just as the yoga students did with the challenging pose. When we live mindfully, we experience each situation as if it’s the first time and we are open to new possibilities.


Being Our Best Self

Yesterday in my meeting I stayed mindful, and by doing so I was able to hear anew what was being asked of me without needing to take an adversarial position or say that my previous position was “cast in stone.” This left a tremendous space for the two of us who were negotiating to move around in.


Further, I felt no need to be either argumentative or adversarial; I had no trouble saying, “What I’m hearing from you sounds interesting, but you’re making statements as if they are facts and I think they are simply your feelings about the matter. And I will consider your position.” I left all options open, and everyone left the meeting feeling that progress was made.


Being mindful allows me to be attuned to others, which makes resolving conflicts much easier.


Every situation is, in fact, a new situation. When we are mindful, we allow our “higher self”—the present, non-judgmental, reflective, emotionally intelligent part of us—to be in the room. When mindful, we bring our best self.

Steven J Fogel by window

  • 27 Feb, 2014
  • Posted by Steve Fogel
  • 3 Tags

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