Steady course on autopilot

At my previous employer’s, we made extensive use of unified communications solutions.  Both internally and externally. It was great to have an official corporate instant messaging system that we were actually encouraged to use rather than having to rely on my private Skype account.  The provided software solution allowed me to use instant messaging with colleagues, customers and business partners.  Absolutely perfect for getting a quick chat response to a question. Sharing a desktop or drawing on a virtual whiteboard to aid a spontaneous meeting. Adding another person to an existing conversation to get a second opinion.

However, the most useful functionality that I soon took for granted, was the ability to view people’s real-time presence information. I was basically able to browse the entire organisation’s employees globally. Based on the presence information of the desired contact, I could then choose the most effective way to communicate with them. Very productive indeed!

I could either set my presence status flag manually or it was automatic based on my calendar information or the activity on my pc, phone or browser. “Do Not Disturb”, “Busy”, “In a Call”, “In a Meeting”, “Away” and of course the sought-after “Available”, all enhanced with location information. If I wanted, I could be present at anytime, anywhere. But if I think about it, the software could only display my level of availability, not presence. Surely presence is so much more than just being there.

I got a reminder of that in my yoga practice last week. I made it to the studio, I made it to the class. I guess you could say I was present. A 90-minute Bikram session consists always of the same 26 postures in the same sequence. As each time, the class started with a breathing exercise. Focusing on the breathing grounds you for the imminent practice. Conscious breathing disconnects you from the external world. I’ve learned to like the Pranayama Deep Breathing and it seems to work in letting me drop all the worries and obligations I have outside the hot room.

Suddenly in the middle of the standing series, I find myself on autopilot. The familiar posture sequence and my lack of self-awareness have let my mind drift far away while simply mechanically and steadily repeating the physical poses. I realise that as soon as I turn on that autopilot, I voluntarily give up any opportunity to learn and develop.

Perhaps even more importantly, the autopilot prevents me from unlearning. The other day, one of my yoga teachers at BYR caught me measuring the distance between my knees with my fists in the Camel pose. She kindly called out: “Anu, let go of that! You don’t need that any more”.  Noticing and dropping those little, now unnecessary acts that may have been helpful to me at one point, is impossible unless I’m truly present. I need to make a conscious effort to be present throughout the practice. That is the practice!



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