Day 1: Awareness Of Your Autopilot


We're often stuck in a loop of actions and outcomes that are not fulfilling, and we may not even be aware of it. Today, we’ll be using the breath as a means to reconnect with our awareness. The first part of awareness is to recognize when exactly we are present and aware, and when we are lost in our thinking and conditioned behaviors.

By bringing awareness to our present moment experience, with kindness and non-reactivity, we can start to note body sensations, feelings, and our minds, which includes thoughts, emotions, and habitual patterns. We may discover where in the body we hold tension and what is our automatic reaction to discomfort.

Awareness allows us to see clearly and choose actions that fulfill our goals. 

After your meditation (Know Your Mind), remember to take a few minutes to reflect and discover insights (Disrupt Your Defaults). Then, choose one action to commit to for today (Take Action).

Know Your Mind

Awareness of Breath Meditation

Throughout this meditation, bring a gentle awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations as you follow the audio guidance.

By returning to the breath, we're learning to reconnect with our awareness of our experience. We can then gently note our reactions in the body, feelings, and mind—thoughts, emotions, and habits of the mind.

Choose from one of the following meditations. There is a shorter version, which is about ten minutes, and a longer version, which is thirty minutes. If you choose the shorter meditation and would like more guidance throughout your practice, the meditation labeled "More Guidance" has additional instructions and reminders.

Disrupt Your Defaults

Take a few minutes to reflect or journal:

Please take a few moments to reflect on your experience in whatever way feels natural to you. Sometimes freestyle journaling can help explore unconscious patterns.

If you don't know where to begin, use these questions as suggestions for a gentle inquiry:

  •  Intentions: What are your intentions for this practice or the experience that's monopolizing your mind today? Do these intentions align with your thoughts and underlying beliefs? 
  •  Letting Go: You can’t let go without knowing what you’re letting go. Here are suggestions to explore what’s keeping you stuck?

-What did you discover about your mind? Is it distracted or spacious? 

-What were the thoughts or a theme that your mind kept returning to?

-What are some assumptions or beliefs that are keeping you stuck in this thought pattern? 

Take Action

Commit to one thing you'll do differently today because of your practice and insights?

If you can't think of anything, here are a few suggestions:

  • Return to your breath regularly to reconnect with your awareness.
  • Notice when you're acting with awareness and when you're acting on default.
  • When you find yourself stuck or in a stressful situation: Pause; take three mindful breaths; and ask yourself, "What are my intentions and what can I do that's aligned with with my intentions"

Make a note of any breakthroughs - even the smallest change from default behavior - you had by bringing awareness to your experience.

An Example

Take the following as a simplified example of the above process: during meditation, Alex finds their focus wavering between their breath and a few different thoughts. They keep returning to thinking about how their partner has been acting distant and ignoring their needs, and this concern is causing Alex frustration and resentment. Alex has voiced concerns and tried talking to their partner, but nothing changes. 

As Alex becomes aware of the thoughts that come up during this meditation, they notice that they have been putting a lot of blame on their partner, assuming that they are selfish, don't care enough about Alex, or are choosing to give their attention to their work or other interests. From here, Alex uses the following prompts to question these beliefs and assumptions:

  • Is this person truly selfish or could there be other reasons like feeling overwhelmed at their job?
  • What might be going on for the other person? 
  • How am I contributing to this relationship struggle? When I voiced my concerns, was I being judgmental and aggressive in my tone?
  • Are my intentions for this relationship aligned with my beliefs and assumptions?

Alex can now see, more clearly, that there are other possibilities in this situation beyond their partner simply being selfish and uncaring. Further, Alex can see how their approach to voicing their concerns in the past generally entailed an accusatory tone or phrases such as, "You never listen to me anymore," which immediately put their partner on the defensive and prevented them from opening up. Next, as Alex looks at their intentions, they realize that their goals for a strong relationship are at odds with not only the beliefs and assumptions they held about their partner, but also the actions they were taking to resolve this issue.

Now, Alex can act mindfully based on their insight. Before Alex's next conversation with their partner, they take a few breaths and set the intention to really hear the other side of things. Alex starts the conversation with open ended questions while also validating their partner's feelings, and eventually, their partner shares that they've been on the verge of losing their job. They've not been sharing that their overwhelm and stress with Alex because they didn’t want Alex to get worried. Now that it's out in the open, Alex can support their partner through this difficult time, and in return, their partner can start paying more attention to Alex's needs as well. 

Of course, your own situations and processes for reflection, insight, and action will be different from the simplified examples I provide. The examples are here to give you an idea of what this process may look like. You know you best, so do what works for you!

Optional Reading

Please read the HBR article - Parable of the Sadhu.

Notice your immediate reactions to the article - what you think you would have done, your justifications for the same, other thoughts and bodily reactions.

Returning to your mindful awareness, make a note of what you see. How does clear seeing, without non-reactivity, change your response, if at all?

parable of the sadhu.PDF
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