Each time this happens (even though it can be frustrating), you are getting some practice in "unhooking" yourself. In other words, you are practicing the skill of getting conscious control over your mind, unhooking it from wherever it has wandered. Now it's time to start doing this all throughout the day, even when you're not meditating.
You may not realize this, but there's a good chance you spend most of your time without conscious control over your mind—or, in other words, hooked. You are "hooked" whenever you react in a knee-jerk or automatic way, believing that you don't have any freedom of choice in how you react, or in what you believe.
Your reactions might be based on past experience. Maybe your parents taught you to react in a certain way. You might believe your reactions are self-evident or "obviously right." You might even have chosen friends who have similar reactions, so you get reinforcement for your point of view.
Whatever the source of your reactions, they are probably now just habitual. They are based on your history of reacting. Yet when you react automatically or habitually, you are acting more like a machine than a human. You are acting just as you were programmed to act (even if you were the programmer). As a result, you feel like the victim of circumstances, when actually you are only a victim of your own habits.
Although you may not have conscious control over the events that happen to you, you do have considerable freedom in how you respond to them. If you look carefully, I'm sure you can find an example of someone else who handles the same problem in a different way. The extraordinary opportunity of being human is that you can stop yourself from reacting automatically, and you can learn to respond consciously.
Unfortunately, most people don't seem to question their habitual reactions until they suffer a string of unfortunate events, experience a major crisis or at least get a lot of therapy. If you'd like to find some new perspectives right now, however, One-Moment Meditation can help.
The first step is to do a moment of meditation each time you find yourself believing the same old belief or reacting in the way you always have. Use a moment of meditation to unhook your mind from whatever it's hooked on. Don't judge that initial reaction as wrong—just unhook yourself from it.
Once you've unhooked your mind, do a moment of meditation to create some space in your mind, some space in which there is no reaction and no belief.
Then look for a new response or belief, or simply let a new response or belief pop into your mind. See if you can find one that seems more authentic, more helpful, more relevant, more effective or just more exciting and fun. Then try it on. Take that new option out for a spin.
If you practice One-Moment Meditation regularly, you will eventually realize that you have conscious control over just about anything in your mind, and that every situation is an opportunity to find the most creative or helpful response. You might even find that stress, which feels so immediate and visceral, is also optional; and you might even be able to choose to set it aside.
Over the next five days, you'll learn how unhooking can help with multitasking, insomnia, relationships, impulse control and anger. For today, just notice when your reaction is habitual...and see if you can let yourself off the hook. The only really useful habit is the habit of interrupting a bad habit.
Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
Find out more about the 30-Day One-Moment Meditation course
Don't miss a moment! Go to the archive page
Did you notice any habitual habits today? Did you practice unhooking? Let us know—leave your comments and questions below!