Interrupting Automatic Pilot – the STOP Technique

I have just returned from a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. I have completed this retreat a couple of times before, however even after completing them, I am continually amazed how our mind can go on autopilot (you know a bit like the movie Groundhog Day?) or associate with distorted thinking patterns.


The STOP Technique

One strategy I continue to use to interrupt these thoughts so I can choose to respond rather than react, is the STOP technique. Maybe the following activity can help you interrupt the ‘automatic pilot’ by bringing you back to the present moment.

  • S – stop and interrupt your ‘automatic pilot’ by concentrating on the present moment
  • T – take a breath and bring your experience of the in-breath and the out-breath
  • O – open to observation. Connect to the experience of this moment and inquire with a sense of curiosity –
    • What am I seeing?
    • What am I feeling?
    • What am I sensing?
    • What am I hearing?
    • What am I smelling?
    • What am I thinking?
  • P – proceed and reconnect with your surroundings and with your activity in the moment.


Over to You…

I hope this has given you some insight in to how you might be able to interrupt the automatic pilot. Please note – this process is one of the things we refer to in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course and has been adapted from a handout from the Centre for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts.


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