Step 1 in 2017: Take Life Off Automatic

It is 2017. I have decided on a theme for the year: CONNECTION. Now what? As I was thinking about that, I remembered something that happened to me a few years ago. That something is STEP 1 for 2017:  TAKE YOUR LIFE OFF AUTOMATIC

It was about five years ago when my son was ten years old. Although my now x-husband had a driver's license, he refused to drive. I had spent those tens years driving everywhere and all the time: every vacation, every grocery trip, doctor appointment, school event, and drop-off and pick-up at the private school 15 miles from home; every sport practice, game, party, airport run, and even date-night. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.

One rare evening to myself, I picked up a friend for an even rarer chance to have coffee and catch up. She was well aware of my driving predicament and when she got to the car she asked me if I wanted her to drive. I threw my arms around her and said, "Absolutely!"

I got into the passenger seat and shut the door. I felt like an alien in my own car.  "I have never sat in this seat," I said. "Not in ten years." 

As my friend pulled from the driveway toward the street, she braked for an oncoming car.  As she did, my right foot automatically lifted and pressed an imaginary brake pedal -- without my even noticing.

My friend stared over at me and then started down the street. When she braked for a stop sign, again, my right foot lifted itself up and pressed that imaginary gas petal.  And again, I did not notice.

"What are you doing?" she laughed.

"Doing what?" I said. 

"You keep braking! Like you're driving," she smiled.

"Very funny -- really?" I said. I noticed my foot had shifted to the left.

"I'm serious," she said.

I only half-believed her but became aware of my feet as we continued on our way. We were chatting when she braked again, and this time I watched my foot lift automatically and press the imaginary brake without my consciously instructing it to.

"Oh my gosh, I just did it again," I said. It was actually terrifying to witness how disconnected I was from my own actions. And then I had an LBA -- lightning-bolt-awareness!

As humans, we are truly creatures of habit. There is safety in doing the same thing over and over because we know the outcome. There is no risk. No uncertainty. AND no possibility of growth or CONNECTION. My foot was braking even though I was totally disconnected from driving. And if driving had become so automatic that I was doing it from the passenger seat without even being aware of it, where else in my life was I doing the same thing? 

I thought I was pretty good at taking risks and trying new things. But at that moment I realized there must be deeper ways I was holding myself back from living. That moment, I vowed to take my life off automatic. To become AWARE. To CONSCIOUSLY do something new, exercise new metaphorical (and literal!) muscles. To CONNECT. HOW? Baby steps.

Get your coffee at a different place once in a while; park somewhere else; roll out your mat on the opposite side of the room at yoga class. Smile at a stranger. Tell a friend what you love about them. Sleep on the other side of the bed. Anything small thing to shake up your system. Any small thing to CONNECT to what you are choosing through out your day.

And as with everything, those little steps begin to add up to big change. Mine have literally added up to a new life -- since that awareness in the car, I have gotten a divorce, become a yoga teacher, am creating a new business, have found an entire community of loving, wise souls, have a new circle of friends that keeps expanding, and I have strengthened my circle of old friends. I found a path for growth and loving support on that path. My body and soul have never felt stronger and I literally feel younger every day. I am not saying it is easy -- connection is fraught with risk and fear -- but like yoga, the practice of awareness, of connection, as best you can in the moment, creates change. Take a breath and try it.

I have zillions of stories of how my life has been enriched and broadened by simply paying attention to where I am on automatic and making a tiny change. I could tell you those stories  but at the moment, I'd love to hear YOUR stories! What happened to you today when you took a moment to take your life off automatic?

Let me know! I'm gonna walk to yoga today instead of drive! Namaste!