5 Ways to Shift Out of Autopilot

On the daily grind, life can get bland—downright boring, when you think about it. So for a moment, stop thinking, and drop into your senses instead. Take three minutes with this mindfulness practice.

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Boredom is a sign that we’ve become habituated. We’re getting stuck on automatic pilot, and losing touch with actual experience, which can always be interesting if we bring our curiosity to it. By helping us shift modes of mind from thinking into sensing, this practice invites us to rediscover interest, beyond our expectations. Linger on each step for at least three minutes.

By helping us shift modes of mind from thinking into sensing, this practice invites us to rediscover interest, beyond our expectations.

Seeing anew

Take a familiar object from your home (such as a mug you’ve owned for years, an old photograph, a piece of clothing, or furniture) and examine it as if you’ve never seen it before. Let your thoughts about the object drop into the background as you offer it your full attention. Is there something you’d forgotten or never noticed before, or is your experience or reaction altered by your interest?

Feeling anew

Now, take a different object and this time offer attention to its texture, touching it as if for the first time. Or you could choose to work with an inner feeling, directing awareness to a part of your body, noticing what sensations (if any) are present. In either case, notice how the experience feels right now, as you interact with it.

Hearing, smelling, and tasting anew

Now, take your attention in turn to three everyday objects in your environment that you can hear, smell, or taste (for example, the ticking of a clock, a flower, a piece of fruit). Let go of expectations, and instead allow your senses to lead you into the direct experience of hearing, smelling, or tasting itself.

Once you’ve got the hang of dropping into each sense in turn, try opening to all of the senses together at moments of so-called boredom in life, such as when washing up, standing in a queue, or stuck in a long meeting. Can you offer a full, embodied interest to the people and places around you, as well as what’s going on in your mind and body?

This excerpt originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Mindful magazine in the feature article, “Is Boredom All That Bad?

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