Autopilot, Habit, And Deep Breathing

Welcome to the first instalment of my journey through mindfulness training. I am embarking on this course and I intend to write a blog on each step along the way. These are the points I was told about at the start:

Just as our lives have many difficulties, so too does our mindfulness training and practice. Our problems come and sit with us during our meditations. We hope to CONFRONT them rather than AVOID them. We might be able to escape a few unwanted experiences, but we cannot avoid them all, particularly the most unpleasant ones: sickness, old age, and death.

Problems turn out to be stepping-stones to mindfulness mastery. To face and accept difficulty requires COURAGE.

What is courage? It’s NOT the absence of fear. Fear is a component of courage. You feel fear and then you stand your ground, this is courage.

Dealing with concentration and discouragement are musts if you are to succeed in mindfulness.

Focusing your attention on your breathing is the basic exercise for maintaining concentration.

We have to remind ourselves that the only way to fail at meditation is not to do it. So, you don’t want to get discouraged. Discouragement is just an emotion. It will pass.

You have an AUTOPILOT that kicks in when you are thinking about ordinary concerns, you then are oblivious to things happening elsewhere.

The autopilot allows us to extend our working memory by creating habits, such as brushing your teeth. You do these things without thinking. But if you are constantly on autopilot you lose your awareness of the present.

What do you do to regain your innate mindfulness? The answer is to focus your awareness on one thing at a time.


Here’s an exercise I did: It’s sort of a Grape Meditation.

Take a grape and hold it in the palm of your hand. Can you feel its weight? Do you see its shadow on your palm? See its shape and touch it to explore its texture. How does it feel? Smell it, does it have a scent?

Now, place the grape in your mouth, explore it with your tongue. Start chewing it, notice the taste of the juice. Finally, swallow it and be aware of the swallowing process.


You’ve just tasted this one grape more than the bunch you usually stuff in your mouth without thinking!

How many times in the past have you paid so much attention to what you were doing?

The main point here is: You only have the present to live. But we tend to live in the past or the future. We hardly notice what’s happening in the present moment.


You need to focus your scattered mind on a single object like your breath. Be aware of your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Take a deep breath and hold it for 1-2-3-4-5 seconds and then exhale slowly. Do this for 5 minutes and you feel relaxed and your mind won’t wander so much because you’re focusing on your breathing.

After moments of clear awareness with your deep breathing you may slip back into your streams of random thoughts. What to do?

Just notice your thoughts as thoughts and bring your attention back to your breathing.

Congrats, you’ve just taken the first step back to full awareness.

Doing your breathing exercises at different times during the day will provide you with a quiet refuge from the noise of everyday life.

When you’re feeling stressful and anxious just do your 5 minutes of deep breathing and you will feel better right away. With your deep breathing, you will have your anchor to hang on to always.

With each breath of air, you obtain oxygen and release the waste product carbon dioxide. Good breathing habits can enhance your psychological and physical well-being.

The best breathing pattern is deep diaphragmatic breathing. This breathing is slower and deeper than shallow chest breathing.

As you breathe sometimes your mind wanders. If you count your breaths it will help your mind and body calm down.

Inhale—exhale (one), continue up to four and start over. Make sure that your exhale is always longer than your inhale. This will prevent you from taking short shallow breaths.

Continue counting your exhales in sets of four for ten minutes.

This exercise can also be used to help you go to sleep!




Also published on Medium.

5 thoughts on “Autopilot, Habit, And Deep Breathing

  1. Very interesting piece, the breathing part is a Yoga exercise I think which I did many years ago, the article renewed my thoughts on it and certainly helped me relax. Looking forward to next part.regards

  2. Wonderful exercise. It keeps you in the “NOW”. The present, where we live. I plan to do some breathing today. Maybe later when I have more time. Right now I have to wake up and go to a rehearsal. So, I am looking forward to the next episode. Did I ever tell you that you are a very intelligent man? No? Okay. I’ll do that later too. When I start breathing.

  3. I’m glad the first instalment helped Carlene to relax.
    As for Tom, I hope he starts breathing soon!
    I will leave you with this thought:
    The mind and body are in a constant state of change.
    But mindfulness teaches us that we don’t have to live at the mercy of an untamed mind. With this mindfulness training we can cultivate a wholesome mind that will produce thoughts that contribute to our well-being.
    Our minds are malleable and can be reshaped in ways that we choose.

  4. Found my Ladybird book of #Mindfulness [ present from my son]

    Here’s a quote :

    “People learn a lot abt themselves from mindfulness.

    Mindfulness has taught Django to live in the moment.

    He used to live in The Peak District ”

    Sorry,Dave …i’m not into this topic !!

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