Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Autopilot to Engaged

I have a theory. I'm sure someone else has voiced this theory somewhere, but I'm too lazy to do the research. So, here we go.

Most people walk around on autopilot. Yesterday's behaviors predict what we'll do today. We have free choice (I think), but for the most part, human beings operate like machines. Wake up, eat breakfast, check email, shower, get dressed, drive to work, park in the same spot as always, grab a cup of coffee, say hello to Sally, work until noon, get that sandwich I like from that restaurant I like, work until 5:00, drive home, take the dog out, walk the same loop we always walk, get mad when she takes too long to poop, eat dinner, watch the television shows I like, goof around on the Internet, kiss my wife, go to bed, repeat.

That's not actually my life. Parts of it are true (I do kiss my wife). Parts are true for most people. But regardless of how we spend our days, most of our hours seems to be spent on autopilot. Ever drive somewhere, arrive at your destination, and think, "How the hell did I get here?" You have no memory of the trip itself because our brains do actually operate on autopilot sometimes. Scary, but true.

I wonder if the switch is flipped to autopilot more often than we realize.

Something weird happens every time I fast from food. Something magical. I become more aware of what's happening around me. My brain seems to focus better. I'm more alert and, ultimately, more alive. Is this because fasting is a spiritual discipline borrowed from Jesus himself? Perhaps. Many would argue that's the case, and I'm not sure I disagree. But there's another explanation. Maybe shaking up our routine flips the switch from autopilot to engaged? Maybe breaking our predictable patterns wakes us up?

I've been fasting from alcohol for 14 days now. Almost halfway done with my 30 days. (I even had a dream last night that I had a couple of drinks and felt guilty afterwards. It's probably a bad sign that I'm dreaming about beer, right?) Right from the beginning, I've felt the same clarity I feel when fasting from food. It's as though consciously making a decision to do something different from my normal routine has stirred parts of my brain that are normally dormant.

It makes me wonder if this shouldn't be a monthly ritual. (You may be asking, "What if breaking from routine becomes a routine itself?" Good question, Mrs. Smartypants.) Maybe I should choose something every month (or week, or day, or whatever) to keep the switch permanently locked into the "engaged" position.

Maybe I'll do sweets next. Or social media. Or television. Wait, the new fall season is starting soon. Never mind. I'll stick to liquor.

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