I recently got a car… a wonderful yellow, Fiat 500 convertible that zips around, sipping delicately on gas. And it’s a manual drive. For those of you who have been driving automatic vehicles, driving a ‘stick’ adds an extra level of involvedness to the mix, an alchemy of driving gold (or lead). For those of you who know how to drive a manual car, but haven’t in a while, you might say it’s like riding a bicycle but at other times it feels a bit more like falling off a bicycle…
However, the experience has allowed me to reassess the power (or limitations) of the mind, our habits and the way we process habits, patterns and memories.
The third pedal
Every car has a clutch, however a clutch pedal doesn’t exist on automatic vehicles (hence automatic) while it does on a manual car (hence, you have to work it out yourself). The clutch is actually a useful device for something that has two rotating shafts, to either lock them together at the same speed or decouple them so they can spin at different speeds. Now before I get to the spinning engine and the non-spinning transmission, let’s look at this in mind terms. The subconscious mind, with all its connectors and links within this storage space, automatically shifts gears for us in ways it thinks is best for us based on our history and patterning. So, even before we know it on a conscious level, the subconscious has made a connection without our participating directive. Neat. At the same time, we can find ourselves automatically processing something in a way that might not work for us in the here and now (that was learned and practiced at another time when it helped us to cope in one way or another).
The power of memory, the friction of change
So if the mind works by association and can link things together mechanically, then our habits are driven by the automatic transmission of memories, beliefs and patterns. Add a manual clutch and you have to do it more deliberately. You have to deal with the peaks and valleys of the clutch plate and fly wheel, you have to personally deal with two mechanical parts that may be going at different speeds, not in alignment. Which is why change feels uncomfortable at times. Because you have to shift and play with the levels – the dance of knowing when to brake (stopping what isn’t working) and accelerate (engaging in something that works better for you), all the time, making sure that you don’t jerk or stall while you’re shifting gears yourself. Change is not for the faint of heart, it requires a responsibility and commitment to feel a little out of your depth until you can shift into a better gear for yourself.
Manual becomes automatic
So why would anyone drive a manual when you could cut yourself some slack (and save your clutch) with an automatic car. Personally, I love being engaged in the process of driving. As I watch others on the road, smoking cigarettes, eating their lunch, talking or texting on a phone, playing with the radio – yes, often two at a time – I know that if I did that, I’d crash the car. So I need to be present, I need to focus on where I am and what I’m doing, to actually drive. How does that align with life? How many times have we gone through aspects of our day distracted, without really being where we are? And I realize that my history of driving manual cars will quickly merge with my present situation, making my current conscious driving more seamlessly automatic. Even now, after a few weeks of driving in this zippy little wonder, I’m finding that there are fewer jolts, less ‘ooppps’, and that shifting is becoming more natural. Our huge, powerful, flexible minds are just the same – when we focus with some determination we can learn and process with increasing ease.
What drives you?
This question can be taken on a number of levels. I know that my ‘Little Beast’ could be called a mid-life crisis – I could have had something much more moderate that would still get me from point A to point B. I admit, as we sometimes find ‘things’ representing concepts, that it represented a joie de vivre, a fun and sunny, a little in a place of huge, different vehicle (practically, I can find it in the parking lot much more easily, except when it’s between two SUVs). Do I need ‘this’ car? No, but it works for me. What drives you doesn’t need to actually drive you, but it’s good to take a bit of time and reassess what we do automatically which works, what doesn’t work, what puts on the brakes for us, and what accelerates us forward. The ‘manual’ part of changing our lives for the better start with a simple question, “what do you want – what do you really want?”, understanding that there may be some automatic driving that can challenge that change, but then wholeheartedly take that responsibility to get behind the wheel, set the new direction for your life and drive.