Collective wrote:This is very interesting to me as I've experienced this and I also labelled as 'going to the store on auto-pilot'. Like arriving there and wondering how I got there.
It's probably important to distinguish automatic functioning of certain activities from absent-mindedness. There are plenty of body functions that are always on autopilot. In particular, these are the functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system. For example, one is normally not consciously aware of the heartbeat (unless feeling the pulse), or of digestion, or of salivation. The breath is an interesting exception, because the breath is an autonomic function that one can -unlike other autonomic functions- control consciously. Then there are motor actions and motor control. The brain has the capacity to store and recall patterns (programs) of complicated motor action, such as riding a bicycle or playing a piece on the piano. Once these motor control programs are learned through repetition, they can be executed with reduced involvement of consciousness, which is an immensely useful survival feature. Obviously, this is what one would call "conditioning". The object of meditation is NOT to unlearn such conditioning, but to become aware of conditioned patterns by piercing through them. The object of mindfulness is to prevent conditioned patterns from causing inadequate or undesirable responses and to keep body and mind alert, malleable, sensitive, and responsive.