Have you ever asked yourself: “Am I awake right now?” I have. Every now and then, I lucidly remember and relive a specific mundane moment from my childhood — walking to the bus stop, backpack and red lunchbox in hand, and all of a sudden being overwhelmed by this feeling like “is someone else walking in my body?”. Like my brain subconscious was playing tricks on me.
I used to get panic attacks when I was a 7 year-old. Not the crippling “I’m so anxious I can’t move kind”. More like “Wait – what was I just doing? Am I sleepwalking?” kind of moments. They’d inevitably end in confusion, unanswered questions, and then finally engagement with whatever challenge a 7 year old has next. Probably choosing a seat on the bus or looking out the window. I don’t think I ever asked any adults why it was happening — as a child I lacked the vocabulary to explain what was happening.
Of course as an adult, I now know that being absorbed in thoughts while some subconscious part of my mind controls the actions of my body is quite normal (and efficient). As a digital professional in the information age, I spent 80% of my day on my laptop, and thanks to the recent mobile revolution, there is a (increasingly non) cottage industry to fill every last moment of my day with the latest digital magic. The rise in popularity of yoga in major cities of the western hemisphere must be some sort of cultural reaction to this. Teaching us to unplug, forget the endless to-do lists awaiting us after class, and focus on the present moment.
This post is more about my brain subconscious than about the politics of the present vs distracted culture. But I would be remiss if I did not recommend a favorite song by The Flobots entitled “There is a war going on for your mind”. If you have 90 seconds (and can stomach the political lyrics),listen to it.
I don’t have some great insight or life-changing thought about this. I mean I try to practice focusing on my breath, but this still happens. I’ve found that watching youtube videos of the Dalai Lama can jolt you back to the present. I’ve organized my workspace so that it’s efficient and productive for an autopilot-@owocki. I can’t remember a time that my mind was as sharp as it was after my first zen retreat. There’s some great blogs out there too with things that work for others. It was really comforting for me to learn that others experience this, and that is in fact a normal part of human nature (perhaps amplified by the digital revolution), so consider this post one bottle in the ocean of the internet. Maybe it will wash ashore of some 7 year olds google results one day and he’ll feel a little less lonely and confused.