Are You Running On Autopilot These Days?

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Are you running on autopilot these days?

You know the feeling: distracted, absent-minded, forgetful, foggy, disengaged, disconnected.

It's easy to slip into this way of living without even realizing it, especially during months like December (can't imagine why!).

But what does running on autopilot really do for us? And how can we switch back into manual mode?

Shauna Niequist, in her book, Present Over Perfect, describes the soul as our connection point - to God, to life, and to the world around us. It’s with our souls that we really feel, that we love, that we ache, and that we feel God’s presence the most.

But, like anything, if we don’t pay attention to what our souls need and crave, we slowly lose that sense of connection. We start doing things for the sake of doing them, uninspired, distracted, and numb on the inside.

We start running on autopilot.

Shauna writes:

“Many of us, myself, included, considered our souls necessary collateral damage to get done the things we felt we simply had to get done - because of other people's expectations, because we want to be known as highly capable, because we're trying to outrun an inner emptiness.

And for a while we don't even realize the compromise we've made. We're on autopilot, chugging through the day on fear and caffeine, checking things off the list, falling into bed without even a real thought or feeling or connection all day long, just a sense of having made it through.”

Sound familiar?

We might have that sense of having made it through, but what do we remember? What did we learn? What did we experience or encounter? Did we even notice?

Unlike the practical, physical needs of our outward selves, the soul often requires something slower, things that are less tangible, and sometimes overlooked.

Simply put, “The soul and the schedule don't follow the same rules.” (Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

This quote is an invitation to slow down and listen to the quiet, inner murmur of my soul. It's a gentle reminder that hustle and a relentless striving for achievement and worth has a negative effect on us in the long run; a quiet urging to pay attention to that small, truthful voice within - my compass, my anchor.

I believe more and more that finding intentional ways to connect is an important spiritual practice. I was talking about this with a friend the other day: it’s unlikely we'll find everything our souls need in just one thing or person or place, and I don't think we should; instead, we look for small points of connection, small moments that feed our souls in the various things and people and places we encounter as we go about our days.

This is what it feels like to run in manual mode.

Taking the time to notice, to listen, to be present, to connect; finding those things that make us come alive and making time to do them - not out of obligation or guilt or because someone else is asking us to, but simply because it’s how we were created and it’s vital to our souls’ health.

Here are three things that are inspiring me (and helping me break out of autopilot mode) lately:

01  |  Emily P. Freeman’s new-ish podcast, "The Next Right Thing.”

I’ve long been a fan of Emily’s writing, her thoughtful perspective on faith and living and soul-tending and her new-ish podcast is definitely feeding my soul this season.

Each episode is short (20 minutes or less), but her conversational story-telling, spiritual reflections, and simple prayers, and the space she creates for you to breathe and soak it all in feels like you’re sitting down for coffee with a friend.

It has been life-giving and soul-filling for me these past few months, so if you don’t already know about it and listen in each week, I encourage you to look it up on iTunes and see what you think.

02  |  The slow practice of writing by hand.

A few times a year, I have the desire to write. I pull out a small notebook and a pencil, step away from my desk, and sit in the chair in the corner or the bench outside.

It’s a discipline in focus, reflection, and patience. Sometimes, it’s reflective writing about a situation I’m in or something I’m learning. Sometimes, it’s a short lyrical poem that may become lyrics for a piece of music someday.

The important thing is not the product as much as the process - quieting my mind, stepping away from my work, and connecting to something deeper, creative, and fulfilling.

03  |  Playing Christmas piano music for fun.

’Tis the season, right? I wrote recently about why playing your instrument for fun is vital to your career. But at Christmastime, this takes on new meaning.

Christmas music is tied to memories, to people, to churches I’ve been a part of in years past. And hearing and playing those oh-so-familiar carols and arrangements that I pull out every year brings me back to all those times and places. And that, in and of itself is soul-filling.

A few of my favorites:
Christmas Solitude by Jay Rouse
Well-Tempered Christmas by Mark Hayes
Carols A to Z compiled by Larry Shackley

Looking for some inspiration of your own? Here are a few of my favorite soul-filling resources:

Soul-Filling Books

Soul-Filling Reads From Around the Web

Soul-Filling Music

What’s feeding your soul these days? I’d love to hear.