Mindfulness: using your clutch

Like a car, we need to be able to change gear smoothly. Photo by vasudhavan T on Unsplash

What’s the function of a clutch in a car? It disengages the engine, so that a driver can change gear, or have a rest. Without a clutch, a car’s engine finds it difficult to change smoothly from one gear set to another. And without a clutch, a car engine cannot smoothly go into neutral mode.

It is the same with our human minds and bodies. In order to avoid getting stuck in one gear, we need the mindful equivalent of a clutch pedal. Just like a clutch mechanism, we need to be able to detach from one mindset or gearset, and a moment later re-attach ourselves to another mindset, without it grating too much.

For instance, when we are focusing on one activity, and we are interrupted, we often get uptight. Witness, for instance, a mother trying to talk on the phone while her young child is also trying to talk to her. To stay calm and relaxed, we need ways to remain patient through changes of flow.

We also need to learn to go into ‘neutral’ mode more often. Instead of being too attached to our own opinions and habits, we can become skilful in dismantling, or dissolving, our narrow perspective. If we can do this, we will be better able to help others, to socialise, to enter new experiences, and to listen to other people’s worlds.

In counselling, for instance, a good counsellor has to learn to ‘bracket off’, or lose attachment to, their own self-oriented troubles and concerns, in order to hear the client better. In the same way, a good friend can park their own concerns for a while, in order to empathise with someone they love.


Today I will try to develop my internal ‘clutch pedal’.

  • When someone needs help, I will practice dissolving my attachment to what I am doing, so that I can attend to what they need
  • After some time in an activity, I will practice dissolving my attachment to it, so that my body can rest for a while

Overall, I will practice the art of smoothly transitioning between activities, and between levels of activity.