Mindfulness practice can take place anywhere, and need not involve a specific time of day, quiet environment, cushion, or even closing the eyes. Cars are, in fact, an ideal place for informal mindfulness practice. Chances are, the next time you get behind the wheel, you will experience something that you find annoying, inconsiderate, infuriating, or maybe even alarming. This can be a perfect opportunity to practice:
- Notice what thoughts arise when you see driving that takes you out of your peaceful, or just benign place. My mind starts sending me thoughts like: “What’s wrong with that person?” and “What a jerk!” or “Why are people able to get away with driving like that?!!”
- Notice what feelings you experience in your body. Where in your body is the tension most prominent- your jaws? neck and shoulders? chest? What do you notice about your breath? Notice any change in temperature?
- What urges do you experience? The urge to yell? lean on the horn? wave your fist? accelerate until you are virtually on top of the car in front of you?
Noticing, or being “mindful” of the ways in which we react to situations allows us to respond in ways that are more effective and less stressful.
- Dwelling on, ruminating about, and continuing to justify our anger about these momentary experiences keeps us anchored to an event that is over and done with, and over which we have no control.
- Focusing attention on the thoughts, feelings, and urges, which are happening in the present, is the beginning of being able to move forward.
Allowing thoughts, feelings, and urges to control us is like being “hijacked” by some random stranger, encountered on the road, who will never be seen again. The stranger is none the worse for all of my seething and ranting, but I no longer have the benefit of enjoying my commute, or arriving at work in a calm, relaxed state of mind.
Notice what happens to the thoughts, feelings, and urges when you just allow them to be there. Bring a sense of curiosity to what is happening “under the hood” of your own “vehicle”, notice the feeling of your hands on the steering wheel, talk a few deep, conscious breaths, and then redirect your attention to the road ahead – looking through the front windshield rather than being fixated on the rear-view mirror.