Our Mindfulness series; A mindful Life, explore the meaning and methods of
By Natalie Hodgson
There is nothing wrong with the autopilot feature on modern planes. It’s been a great innovation for aviation. The problem for pilots and passengers alike is the wonder and exhilaration of flying is lost in the white-noise drone of cruising at altitude. A jarring jolt of turbulence? Suddenly we are very aware we are in the heavens, and we actively look around the cabin to register each other’s concern.
Do you sometimes feel that you are going through life on autopilot? A pleasantly droning conversation is suddenly interrupted when the last string of words catches and focuses your ear. You’ve missed the whole conversation! But you were looking at them the whole time? Or do you reach down into the bag of crisps to discover you’ve already eaten them. Perhaps it should be a bag of peanuts to continue the air travel analogy.
Awkward surprise or unhealthy surprise, either way there is nothing sudden about it. This constant flow of actions or thoughts lay slightly beneath the surface of awareness and they drive 90% of our actions and behaviors. So how can we stop ourselves from defaulting to autopilot?
With Mindfulness. Yes, yes … a mindfulness practice is the key. Mindfulness is gaining increasing exposure in recent years, and even more so in the current times of C-19. Whatever your level of exposure or preconceptions of Mindfulness, the curious mind will find something to engage with in our next series of articles. We will share and explore the scientific data and research on how and why Mindfulness works, what it really is, and how it can offer you the skills to evolve you to a higher form of yourself.
We live in a world of constant buzzing, planning, creating, and doing. On a daily basis we tread, march or amble to society’s obligations. Chasing the dream, not necessarily your own, and yearning for more. Let’s move from airplanes to fishing boats.
Consider the story of The Rich Man and the Fisherman…
…where on holiday in Mexico, a business man complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.
The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years, then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
The fisherman looked up, waved both hands outward like a game show host displaying a stage full of prizes and said, “you mean, like this?”
Increasingly we swap real connection for material satisfaction, collecting objects in excess without any thought. And now in these times of COVID-19 we have little choice but to choose pastimes such as computing and online activities over person to person interaction and socialising.
The revelation the Businessman’s 5, 15, 20-year plans missed the real treasure in life, in embracing life’s seemingly mundane moments is key. Business plans or life plans, sensible or silly, project you away from the present to a future imagined profit – monetary or otherwise. But there is real value in the present. When you discover that aspects of your seemingly repetitive life are quite extraordinary. This is mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn from University of Massachusetts Medical Center introduces mindfulness as ‘The only time that we grow, learn and experience anything in life, is in the present moment and if we are missing the now, almost willfully, by not paying attention, then it’s time for us to stop and tune in to what is really happening before it’s too late’.
I wonder if the Businessman in the story experienced a change from reflecting on the Fisherman’s treasures of the present. The solution was standing there right in front of him “displaying a stage full of prizes” but I have my doubts.
Mindfulness is accessible but requires the payment of a ‘pause’ to give yourself “time to stop and tune in”. It does not require any equipment or years of experience. You have already utilized these skills before, but this process fine-tunes them for you to discover the treasures hidden in your own life.
With the practice of mindfulness and meditation, you can recognise your mind’s autopilot flight patterns and guide them back to keeping you present and awake, so you don’t miss a moment. Join me over the upcoming series of articles where we look at the lifestyle, the science, individual stories of fulfilment and gratitude that is Mindful living. So, switch off the autopilot, cast your nets wide, and pay attention. This is Mindfulness!
About The Author: Since starting a family in 2010 Natalie moved out of the corporate world and became a yoga and meditation instructor and freelance writer/consultant in the Middle East, freelancing for publications such as Emirates Women, Mother Baby and Child Dubai, Yogalife Magazine Dubai, Doha Mums and Pot Pourri Magazine, Seychelles. In 2017, she moved to Bristol, UK, where she is concentrating her efforts in a Masters in Mindfulness with Bangor University.