Fresh Air Intake
“The true journey of discovery does not consist in searching for new territories, but in having new eyes.”
— Marcel Proust
Along side the driveway outside of the cafeteria at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, where I periodically teach a one-day stress reduction retreat, there is a sign that reads:
FRESH AIR INTAKE
No Parking or Idling Engines in This Area
Each time I see this sign it is a helpful reminder of how easily I get caught in and recycle my thoughts and behaviors, and how this keeps me stuck: parked or idling. Most of us have patterns of thoughts and behaviors that cycle through our minds over and over, much like tapes that we replay once they get triggered. Although this is a common human condition, it leaves us little chance for new responses and, more often, we find ourselves reacting automatically out of these conditioned thoughts and behaviors. At times, our automatic reacting causes us a great deal of stress or suffering, even if we are not aware of it at the time. More effective responses may arise if we can free ourselves from these automatic thoughts and patterns to see new options.
Just as most cars have a button on the dashboard which allows the driver to manage whether the air in the car is “fresh” (coming into the car from outside) or recycled (reprocessing the air already inside the car), each of us, too, can learn to chose whether we allow ourselves to take in new information, experiencing each situation with a “beginner’s mind” (seeing it as if for the very first time), or whether we merely react to each situation based on our preexisting thoughts, out of what we already think we know about the situation.
- In what way(s) might you be recycling old thoughts and behaviors as you react to situations/challenges in your life?
- Can you shift to a “fresh air intake,” allowing yourself to see these situations/challenges from a new perspective – to perceive new options for your response?