Day ten: How do you turn off your autopilot?

Oh, this is a topic I speak about quite frequently in my yoga classes. I see it all the time–long-time yogis who have a strong physical practice show up and tune out. And I totally get it. It feels good to feel like you know what you’re doing. When the teacher cues Warrior 2, you know exactly what to do. I’ve got this, you think. And you do.

But it could be so much better.

I do it, too. Whether it’s ordering the exact same thing at the same restaurant every time or taking the exact same route home or practicing my Sun Salutations precisely the way I have for the past ten years, I, too, get stuck on autopilot. Autopilot is a byproduct of our hyper-busy lives. We’re always looking for efficiency and proficiency. How can we do it fast and well?

Slow the fuck down, I say.

When I’m teaching a class and see a bunch of autopilot lights on, I slow everything down. Transitions from one pose to another feel like moving through sweet, thick honey. No more is it about simply making the shape of the pose because we know exactly what the shape should look like, but instead it’s about the journey. The sweet journey as we feel our hips move from square to open and how that translates into our feet. Connecting the four corners of one foot before we even think about lifting the other. Taking three breaths to move from downward facing dog to high plank.

Sweet, not dull.

And when we do this, when we slow everything down and be so very present, stuff comes up. Augh! This sucks! Why can’t we just do it like we always do? This is hard! My muscles are shaking! I just want it to be over with!

I get it. I really do.

But what if we just let that be and do it anyway?

Whether it’s the meal you’re eating or the road trip you’re taking or the Christmas shopping in the chaotic mall you’re doing–slow down and pay attention. Notice that moment when you hit autopilot and cruise mindlessly through your dinner, your travels, your errands, your yoga practice, your conversations with people you love. Notice and turn it off. Open your eyes and connect with something. The way your meal has been artistically plated, the subtle change in topography as you head north or south or east or west, the smile that the weary clerk in the department store gives you, the way your quadriceps warm and buzz and tingle with energy in that long Warrior 2 hold, the unique color of your friend’s eyes as you talk about your day.

Sweet, not dull.

And sure, there are times when life demands that we move efficiently and proficiently through our tasks. But probably not as often as we think it does.

Like so much in life, it’s a simple choice we make.

I don’t know about you, but I’m dismantling my autopilot button. I’m yanking those wires out. I can’t think of any better way to guarantee my 2014 will be sweet, not dull.

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