Autopilot culture: being mindful and pressing pause

Our every day lives seem to just fly by. We wake up, have breakfast, commute, go to work, school or university, we have lunch, come home, eat dinner, and we go to sleep. We seem to live our lives on auto-pilot and never take time to stop and relax. We say we relax occasionally, but what we’re actually doing is watching TV, or spending time scrolling on our phones. Our culture seems to be driven by this constant need to be doing something all the time, with our only breathing space being sleep.

Thinking about this, I realised that from a young age we are taught that we must always be doing something, otherwise we’re not being productive. In school I was a high achiever: I have memories of primary school, where if I had finished a piece of work, the teacher would give me more to do. This carried on throughout high school and I notice now that I have a huge pattern of feeling like I need to always be doing something – if I am not, I’m being lazy. Wanting to achieve things and being productive aren’t bad qualities and teachers only want to push their students to get good grades – it’s their job – however, it’s all rooted in how our society is moving much more quickly than it used to, and we don’t seem to be allowed to stop.

To live like this is extremely exhausting, and we don’t realise it until we pause and realise how tired we really are. How unaware our senses are of the actions we take.

I’ve recently started a mindfulness course to help cope with anxiety and one thing that really struck me during my first session was a poem that our mindfulness coach told us.

“What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?” – Phillip Larkin ‘Days’

It struck me because what he is saying is so true. Our days are there to be lived and to be happy. Despite how we all may agree; our actions do not reflect such thoughts. I know how much I personally go through the motions. I don’t even think about what I’m having for breakfast anymore, or appreciate the walk through the park to university. I may go to the gym some of the days and I feel like this is the only time where I’m more in tune with my body as I can really feel the use of my muscles. We don’t have time to really be mindful about what we’re doing.

From my course, I hope that with each session I can become more aware and mindful of my actions, to live a calmer lifestyle. Mindfulness is something that we can all reflect on in our daily lives, to reverse our auto-pilot culture.

Natasha Zack

Photo credit: Pixabay