Category Archives: Automaticity

Mindfulness and the Now

The relationship we have with mindfulness is a present event. It is Now.

We are stuck with our automaticity – our brain as it is – and when we choose to be mindful we attempt to move away from the mechanics of our brain, into the mind. In other words, we seek to experience the world from a mindful place, not a ‘brainful’ place.

The brain collates. It marks down our experience. The recording of experience is memory. When we think of that recording in a mindful sense, memory forms a narrative of ourselves to ourselves.

Memory has other realities as well – the biological reality, which is the chemical reality, the electrical reality, the neurological reality, and the connectedness that exists in the world right now that allows us to interact with others.  These are all automatic functions that are in the brain. Using imaging technology, we are able to see the various functions light up areas of the brain as they become active. In these images we don’t see the mind. We see the brain.

The sum is greater than the parts. The mind is greater than the brain, but the mind is dependent on the brain. Without brain, we have no mind.

Our narratives move from brain to mind, and mind to brain.

The brain will insist that things haven’t changed, because that’s what the brain does, while the mind says, “That’s not how I want to store this stuff. I want to reorder it in some way so I’m not depressed or anxious all the time” – or whatever the issue might be.

In mindfulness, in the Now, we can attempt to change our automatic narrative by keeping the information our brain has stored out of mind for a few moments.

Automaticity and the growing brain

The brain grows in size, limited by the physiological space of the skull, and so it grows connections between parts of itself. Even the shape of the brain as it curves in on itself and folds, allows it to make maximum use of its limited space.

When the brain is new it has connections everywhere and it has room for everything. As information comes into the brain, the brain drops some of what it has previously captured in order to make room for new information.   

Since some information has more relevance to what our needs are the brain gradually starts to build up patterns of response to perceived behaviour as it prunes certain connections and collates others. Thus our brain’s preferentially of collated, stored information is the basis of our automaticity.

Mindfulness, automaticity & curiosity

We have combined the singular concepts of mindfulness, automaticity, and curiosity in a reiterative way, back and forth, among all three.

Each of these ideas inter-operate with the others.

Now as we isolate into context the core concepts of mindfulness, automaticity, and curiosity, the connection between them remains visible.

Much like looking into the same room through different windows, when we combine these concepts we become aware of a more complete view.

Challenging our narrative

If our mindfulness doesn’t include the ability to challenge our own narrative, it will make us anxious.

Mindfulness is a deliberate act.

We can’t do mindfulness intuitively. Our narrative won’t let us. Since we know everything already, why would we examine what we don’t know?

That narrative, our automaticity, has been with us all of our life. It gets in the way of learning. It also allows us to acquire new learning, if we have an attitude of curiosity toward something new that affirms, “This is fun. This is something I don’t know – I’m going to try and know it”.

Most of us have anxiety about not knowing, though, and that is the problem with automaticity. When we withhold our curiosity, we don’t know that we don’t know, because we don’t easily move towards what we don’t know.

There is a paradoxical nature to challenging our narrative. If we are not curious and willing to listen to ideas that are not congruent with ours, how will new ideas come in?

To start, we need to have a fixed sense of self and a stable place to stand in order to provide comfort to ourselves. This enables us to move through our world and interact, perhaps drive a car, attend an event, or even engage in conversation about politics with someone.

And in order to explore the perspective of anyone else, we need to free up our own self.

At the very base, each of us makes that decision ourselves.

Being curious and mindful

One of the tenets of Interactive Mindfulness is curiosity.

Being curious, though, is a risk to the stability of our automaticity. There is always a threat when we learn something new.

Perhaps the other person has agenda that we don’t feel is in our best interest, and we feel that we are going to be shamed or blamed. We require within us that safe, secure base that attachment talks about, to be willing to explore relationship, or to have a new experience that we view as an adventure, not a threat.

We construct a sense of self, this narrative of self, this automatic self – and everything about the construct is a double bind. If we want to learn something new we have to put our narrative at risk because we are going to have to add something new to it.

After we spend a lifetime trying to get our narrative set down in a way that reduces our anxiety and makes us feel capable of taking a risk, we mess with it!

We have discovered some safe ways to mess with it. We know that examining ourselves through meditation allows us to be with ourselves in a way that we are safe with ourselves. We are not provoked by anxiety and we try and let our thoughts settle. We try not to ruminate. We just be in the moment.

The mindfulness concept is becoming more and more critical for health and understanding.

Our mindfulness allows us to see the rocks in the way.

Resistance to new ideas (automaticity)

We are not aware of how automated our thinking and doing systems can be.

Our narrative is in place to protect our sense of self – having a sense of right and wrong, an ethical position, and ideas – the whole construct that makes up our personality.

Our sense of self comes under attack when we question bits of it, or question our decision making, or question our process.

Without a stable sense of self, a number of disorders may arise.

For instance, it is easy to see anxiety in the context of not having a  stable sense of self. Some people fear specific events in the future, and may be afraid something bad will happen to them. They see events about to tumble out of control. Any of us might think or say, “I am an anxious person.” That self-talk becomes the narrative in our head that we play back and forth, which eventually becomes part of ourselves.

Sometimes our automatic thinking causes us to attack the relationship we have with another. We might question, “Am I good enough?” when the other person makes a minor comment. We might ruminate, and turn their comment into something more than it is, and threaten our stability of self.