Back Seat Drivers
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
There is nothing like physical exercise to get those voices in your head chatting. From the moment my regular, steady breath changes its pattern, they seem to all chime in.
"oh oh, you are not breathing properly....what's wrong with you.... I guess you are not as fit as you thought, smarty pants.... did you really think this was a good idea.... look at you panting.... you can barely catch your breath... great this is going to be a suffer fest...perhaps now is a good time to slow down.... but if you slow down you are going to be left behind... you will never catch up....you better stop....look at your heart rate... you're going to combust... you need to stop.....this was a very bad idea....STOP!........Oh F**k... This is crap ...what is the point of this....why do you need to do this.....You are done... finished.... exhausted......STOP!!!!!!"
No matter how well intentioned and clear you are about accomplishing a challenge you set for yourself ... the committee in the back seat will say anything to sabotage your good efforts and plans.
So how do you take charge and silence those back seat drivers, so they do not control you and get you to turn around, and head in the opposite direction to where you had intended? How do you become the driver and come off of autopilot?
Firstly you need to develop your "inner observer", that part of you that is aware of these voices and thoughts that pass through your mind. That objective observer that part of your awareness that can notice thoughts as they float into your mind. You begin to realise these thoughts and feelings are separate from who you really are, they drift in and out like clouds on a horizon.. . What is consistent is that detached awareness, that inner observer. When our attention goes back to thinking, our sense of separate awareness dissolves and we go back to listening to the back seat drivers and lose that objectivity.
Developing a practice of self observation, is focusing one's attention inwardly to thoughts, feelings, sensations, recognising your recurring patterns that drive your outward behaviour.
So now when I engage in any physical exercise, I am learning to use this experience as a practice. Many times my committee wins, together they all shout louder than I do. When I am angry and upset, I know my committee has won. I say "learning" as it is a practice... it is challenging as it pushes all my buttons ... am I strong enough, am I weak... why do they leave people behind.. is that fair... I am not in control... How do I get in control?
Well what I am in control of is my thoughts, and regulating my breath.... So I observe the thoughts that come up, notice my breathing patterns, notice the different sensations in my body. I then consciously choose a positive thought to replace a negative one...
This is a challenge.. you can do this... you have done this before...breathe into your belly...regulate your breathing... take your time... you can reach your goal...stay focused... become one with your breath... enjoy the scenery, be grateful for all that surrounds you... be grateful for those who support you...be grateful you are healthy and strong enough to do this.
And so my practice continues and one day I hope to tell the committee, please can you get out of the back seat, the journey ends here, I am grateful for all your help trying to keep me safe, but I have it from here.