December 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm #46489
More than a year ago I was walking down the street and all of a sudden had an epiphany. I realized that I was a person inside of this body, with thoughts and ideas and a voice. Upon this realization I came to a dark conclusion, where has my mind been the past 17 years of my life? How have I functioned my whole life without actually being mentally here? Lots of thinking on this topic lead me to decode the link between this mental disconnect and my past. I believe I developed this way of being due to a messy and unfortunate childhood, this disconnect is a coping mechanism to never have to think of what happened. Now a more than year later I have had multiple times where I feel infinite and in the moment, something I had never felt before because the fact that my mind as never been consciously thinking or active. It is however, only selected moment where I have felt this way and that is frustrating me. I have conversations and share moments with people on auto pilot and though no one else can notice I personally do. Most of the time I am able to reflect on the moments that I am on auto pilot, and I note that the things I said or did. They were not things I would say or do if I was actually mentally present, it is important to mention that the things I do and say on auto pilot weren’t negatively received. I’m not being nor presenting myself to my true potential, as my true self. When I am at my true potential and completely in the moment I frankly amaze myself with my wonderful social communications, witty mind, intellect, free will decisions, and natural confidence. My problem is I’m scarcely that self… I need to find a way to connect to myself and stay connected because I cannot take this anymore.December 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm #46496MattParticipant
Becoming mindful, or developing the quality of concentration seems to be what you’re looking for. It very naturally waxes and wanes as we begin to blossom, and is quite often the spark that precedes a life of practice and study. It may seem mysterious right now, why it comes and goes, but its actually not random at all. Something brings you to alertness, such as the realization of your place in spacetime. A body, making choices, feeling desire… I’d call that being “in tune”. Then, a distraction comes up, and it pulls at your concentration, and you fall “out of tune”. When we’re out of tune, it is like watching a movie. We get distracted away from ourselves and swept up into the fantasy around us. Usually, if you’re living in the west, the distraction is materialism. Sporting events, shiny toys, news, gossip, sexual craving… getting swept into emotional and mental fixation on these types of things pulls us away. Much like when we are sitting at a movie theater watching an engaging movie, we are usually not conscious of our breath, that we are sitting, that we are watching. Instead, our minds are spun into the fantasy of the story, pulling our attention away from what we are actually doing.
The good news is that you’re coming to this so young. It means that your habits don’t necessarily run too deep. If you think you’re getting sucked back into mindlessness powerfully now, imagine how strong the pull would be 30 years into life. Anyway, to strengthen your mindfulness is not difficult, but it does require consistent practice.
If you’re sick enough of the mindlessness, then starting a practice will be easy. The ick of it naturally moves you toward a mindful life. Consider checking out a local Buddhist sangha and taking some meditation classes. They’re usually very low cost or free, and meditation is the exercise that increases mindfulness. If you don’t have a local sangha or conditions otherwise prevent it, consider learning from some guided meditations on YouTube. My suggestion would be to start with metta, then go into breath meditation. Perhaps 15 minutes of metta, the 15 of breath if you can sustain your attention that long. Even starting 5 and 5 would help. This provides a “basic sanity” or “groundedness” that makes the moments of mindfulness the norm, and the mindlessness the exception. Perhaps now it is more random or unknown how to get there… much like a broken clock is right twice a day?
Good luck, friend! Feel free to ask more questions if you have them! Also, teachers at local sanghas are also a great resource to finding a balanced and awake life.
MattDecember 9, 2013 at 7:31 pm #46509JosephParticipant
I would like to learn more about your life on autopilot. When are the times that you do reflect?
One book I read (that deals a lot with meditation and mindfulness as a means to help with deep seated issues) is this book: http://www.amazon.com/Presence-Process-Healing-Journey-Awareness/dp/0825305373/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386646216&sr=1-2&keywords=the+presence+process
Check out the reviews and see if you think it may be a good fit for you. I agree with Matt, mindfulness will help, this book will teach you that but in a way that will also help you face the issues of your past gently and integrate them so you can ultimately be the person you want to be.December 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm #46511EllieParticipant
though i do not have the time to respond with a thoughtful and complex answer, i would just really like to let you know that you are not alone here. reading this passage made me feel so relieved- you were able to put in words what has been bouncing around my mind for so long. to be honest i do not know completely how to connect with the person you want to be. it is easy to say it, but to really do it takes time. Matt had a wonderful answer, i suggest you take his words to consideration. i am only here to say, i feel the same way! good luck on your journey to connect to yourself through mindfulness and i encourage you not to lose confidence along the way.December 10, 2013 at 5:19 am #46518
Your answer really took me to a place of hope, and opened my eyes to a bigger perspective. I am sad to say I live in a small town where sanghas are not present but needless to say my path to mindfulness will begin regardless.
Though I am nervous to start I am ready and I greatly thank you for your insight.December 10, 2013 at 5:30 am #46520
I very much appreciate the suggestion on this book, it seems reading about mindfulness is a useful tool to reach it. I really think using both meditation and reading will bring to be mindful in a matter of time.
As for my life on autopilot, the times I found myself reflecting were usually as soon as I was removed from the moment and alone. As time went on and I became more conscious on how I was acting I could actually hear and feel myself on auto pilot in the moment but didn’t know how to escape it.December 10, 2013 at 5:38 am #46521
No complex answer needed, you took my breath away by simply saying you have had thoughts such as these as well. I have searched for guidance from friends or family and although most of them were attentive no one understood and couldn’t grasp what was going on inside. Though it is probably different in ways for both you and I to know I am not alone is a relief for me as well.
If you ever have any of your own thoughts or problems about this that you cannot bring an answer to please ask. There is power in numbers especially with those who directly know or understand. I do hope Matt’s words may also help you as they have helped me.December 10, 2013 at 7:13 am #46524MattParticipant
I’m glad for the hope you feel, its well deserved. Luckily, we have many ancestors that have explored before us, and they have passed their teachings down through time. The trick is only in application, which becomes simpler with practice.
The main reason I responded though is the notion of strength in numbers. That is well observed! Buddha taught that the sangha was one of the three pillars of mindful development… for precisely the same reasons. As we dance with one another, our energies mingle, and hand in hand we rise and fall. Said differently, you may have to accept that those around you pull at you with their mindlessness, but as their friend and family, reaching out to them with hope and creativity will help them, and you, grow more peaceful and happy. We all have the potiental to wake up to mindfulness… and those of us who have an easier time of it become stronger and happier as we share what we’ve learned. This doesn’t even have to be through words… just being mindful helps… which makes our practice much more than wanting to feel the buoyant energy. Rather, we practice for the benefit of all beings, collectively raising the mindful energy of the planet through our practice.
Taking this lesson deep into our heart helps us avoid the trap of spiritual materialism, or turning our practice into a new shiny thing to experience. Its more than that, friend, its about freedom and peace for all of us… through each one of us adding to the strength of our collective mindfulness. Strength in numbers, huzzah! 🙂
MattDecember 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm #46568JosephParticipant
When you are removed from the situation and alone, are you good at creating a plan for how to handle similar situations (or future situations). For example. Say you have an encounter with a co-worker, once you are removed and you have time to think about it, are you good at following through with a strategy or do you end up on autopilot the next time you see them?December 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm #46616EllieParticipant
well i am very glad i was able to help you to not feel alone! one question though- do you happen to have ADD or ADHD? because i am amazed at how much i can relate to your story and i myself have very bad ADD; people with ADD are known to usually always have many thoughts going on in their heads and often zone out or lose focus, which could be an explanation for the “autopilot” you mentioned here. however that is only just a thought that occurred to me, and most likely is not the answer… hopefully learning to be mindful, as Matt said, will solve the problem you and i are both experiencing!
“I’m not being nor presenting myself to my true potential, as my true self. When I am at my true potential and completely in the moment I frankly amaze myself with my wonderful social communications, witty mind, intellect, free will decisions, and natural confidence. My problem is I’m scarcely that self… I need to find a way to connect to myself and stay connected because I cannot take this anymore.”
the particular quote above was especially relatable to me! what you described is probably not all that uncommon or unusual- what makes it seem that way is a matter of people not really realizing when it happens or even recognizing that they do it at all. like you said, it was a sudden “epiphany”.