Monthly Archives: September 2014

Shifting Gears from Automatic Pilot to Mindful Attention

iStock_000002128470XSmallI  neglected this blog for the past few months and it is time to get back on track. I had to add one more task to my routine because of the need to prepare for a major presentation and I discovered that it felt very much like trying to rub my belly and pat my head while juggling, all at the same time. I couldn’t keep up the regular discipline of all four activities I had added to my schedule–blogging, meditation practice, exercise, and brain training–with presentation preparation added to the mix.  I was able to keep doing brain training and exercise, although not as frequently, but meditation and blogging fell by the wayside.

 I continued to do informal mindfulness practice, but cut out formal meditation. I was self-aware enough to realize that I was operating on automatic pilot, driven to finish the presentation, and had a vague sense that I was avoiding meditating to avoid facing emotions that felt like obstacles to success. So I didn’t realize that my need to do all the preparation on my own, without the guidance of mentors who had helped me in the past, was due to how unrealistically high I had raised the bar for measuring my success.  I got it into my head that it was time for me to fly solo, that I didn’t need guidance this time, that asking for help would be a step in the wrong direction, away from self-reliance.  Boy was I wrong!

 The night before the presentation, when it still wasn’t flowing, I had to admit to myself that I needed some last minute advice. I called a good friend who talked me through it and helped me to see that I was making it too complicated.  So I cut out some unnecessarily elaborate explanations of concepts and then it all started to flow.  The presentation was a success and I learned some valuable lessons. 

 According to Ronald Siegel, Psy. D., author of The Mindfulness Solution, mindfulness has three main components: focused attention, open monitoring (of any inner thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and urges that come into conscious awareness), and compassionate acceptance of our inner experience.  In this situation, I only had guarded monitoring, limited attention, and compassionate acceptance that I was doing the best I could at that moment. However, I was not open to all emotional experience, because I needed to believe I was more self-sufficient than I really was.  I had climbed way out on a limb and needed to recognize and admit my human limitations in order to get back to solid ground.  Being more realistic about my capabilities and limitations helped me to shine  as a presenter, instead of being handicapped by my unrealistic expectations.

 Did you ever try to go it alone instead of seeking guidance? Did it make it harder to accomplish your goal? Please share your experiences below. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in reading: Balancing Mindfulness of Emotions with Lovingkindness.