Who chose your breakfast this morning?
You may answer: I did.
Are you sure?
You grew up in an environment in which people such as your parents started a day with a meal called ‘breakfast.’ And they chose certain kinds of food for that meal. Therefore, you learned to start a day with a breakfast and you learned a repertoire of breakfast choices. You got programmed by perceiving your peers have breakfast every morning.
If you would have grown up in an environment with different breakfast habits, such as Japan, your breakfast program would be different and you would have chosen different this morning.
Therefore, with a probability bordering on certainty your breakfast program chose your breakfast this morning.
You may argue that your breakfast program at least gave you a range of choices and that you chose from that range and from what was available to you this morning.
Maybe yes, maybe no.
To find out, you need to look at your breakfast choices of the previous, say, one hundred days. In case there is a pattern, such as coffee most mornings, you did not choose but this pattern chose. This pattern can be a habit or an addiction. In any case it is a program that you had learned from others or that you had developed by yourself. And this pattern/program also made you buy the food supply that you have at home.
Having breakfast is only one of countless activities you perform every day.
If you apply the above reasoning to all of your daily activities, you will find that you have a lot of programs and that most of your daily choices are from these programs.
Other people in your social groups (culture, religion, nation, clan/family, etc) have similar programs. Therefore, everybody behaves similar in like situations. This makes everybody predictable. This is why everybody wants that all other members of their social groups follow the programs. And since people learned to want to belong to these social groups, they do. (From the perspective of a group, programs are but rules.)
Reflect about this for a moment.
We are full of programs – and our programs choose most of what we do every day. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer phrased it as follows:
Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.
In other words: We can follow our desires, (and usually we do,) but we cannot control our desires (rather our desires control us.)
“Desire” is just another way of looking at this, for most desires come from programs. A breakfast program creates a desire for a (certain) breakfast. A coffee program creates a desire for coffee. An alcohol program creates a desire for alcohol. A smoking cigarettes program creates a desire for smoking cigarettes. A yelling-at-people-who-don’t-obey program creates a desire for yelling at people who don’t obey. Etc. 1% or less of our desires do not come from programs and, therefore, are truthful. (This number is the result of five years of intensive research. I will elaborate on this in a future article.)
We follow our desires most of the time. In other words, we perform our programs most of the time. In other words, we are on autopilot most of the time.
To be on autopilot means to function. Functioning comes down to meeting the expectations of others – of partners, parents, neighbors, friends, colleagues, bosses, etc; as well as our own expectations. This is because everybody expects that everybody follows the programs (group rules).
Does this sound more familiar?
It is utterly challenging to accept being on autopilot. I know this from experience. I am not talking about a superficial approval of a statement that we are used to hear, a statement that has become a kind of commonplace. I am talking about an acceptance that comes from a deep understanding of what this truly means; an understanding that brings up the question “Is there a free will after all?”; an understanding that creates a feeling between shock and despair; an understanding that wants to stop being on autopilot – or at least wants to know if this is possible.
Can we stop being on autopilot?
Yes, we can.
Being on autopilot means to follow those desires that come from our programs. And, usually, that’s what we do most of the time; day in, day out.
But we can choose to not follow a desire; such as not drink coffee; not drink alcohol; not smoke a cigarette; not yell at somebody who did not obey.
Having this choice is what makes us human. Having this choice distinguishes us from all non-human life forms on this planet. (I explain this in detail in my book “Consciousness: Its Nature, Purpose, and How to Use It.”)
There are two challenges to this:
First, how do we know that a desire comes from a program? While most behaviors/desires come from programs, there are a few that are genuine and thus truthful. Those we should follow. Therefore, we need to find the programs behind desires, so that we can choose between following and not following. This is everything but easy. It requires a great deal of self-honesty. This has to be learned; and trainedW. Even after five years I am anything but done – and never will be done.
Second, to not follow a desire also is anything but easy. Everybody who went through getting free from an addiction or stopping an inappropriate behavior/habit knows that from experience. And since every single program is like an addiction, stopping the autopilot demands to undergo a long series of program/addiction withdrawals.
What to do with this insight?
You could just ignore it and continue to live the life that you live.
Or you accept this perspective and say: Isn’t it amazing (or whatever word you want to put here) what I achieved with being on autopilot most of the time? What could I achieve when I stop being on autopilot?
This is not a question of right or wrong, good or bad. It’s just a choice.
I chose the latter because I was curious. This started the most exciting voyage of my life: an expedition of finding out what I am without my programs. This is exciting! My life got upgraded by this.