It seems odd to think that you can meditate while driving. When it comes to meditation people still think you need to be seated and cross legged with your eyes closed. However, there are many different forms of meditation and mindfulness is one of them.
Mindful driving is driving with full awareness and it can transform the way we look at our daily commute. Driving is something we all have to do in our everyday lives, it’s also one of those things that can create a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety for us.
“Meditation should be done with care. While driving we use our eyes and hands and legs. We do not drive with eyes closed. Similarly with meditation the person needs to know how to meditate correctly”
The average person spends about 50 minutes a day driving. This drive to and from the workplace can be a tense and frustrating experience. It’s a time of day filled with erratic drivers, road construction and gridlock traffic. Stone-faced people behind their wheels cocooned inside of their vehicles, everyone’s in a rush and everyone seems to be on edge.
Have you ever found yourself trying to get a few things done while you are stuck in traffic. Perhaps its a shopping list for later or a quick reply to an email, maybe you’re checking the news or browsing social media.
Driving Meditation – A Better Use Of Your Time
In the chaos of our daily commute I see an opportunity to practice mindfulness while driving. In fact, I can think of no better time to be mindful because operating a vehicle requires so much focus. To be a safe and responsible driver we need to be awake, we need to be paying attention to our surroundings and we need to be alert.
A driving meditation brings us to the present moment and allows us to experience life as it is, it makes us aware of whats happening around us. How many times have you arrived home form work and not remembered the drive, autopilot kicks in and we just do. Our minds are somewhere else and our body just does what it’s use to doing. I would argue that driving on autopilot might be the unsafest form of transport known to man.
By becoming a mindful driver you will develop your focus and create calm within yourself. Imagine arriving at your office feeling relaxed, refreshed, calm and ready for your day. This is a powerful strategy to help you form new habits because you already have to drive not only once but twice a day.
How Can I Be Mindful While Driving?
Here are a few tips and guidelines to get you started on your mindful driving journey. These aren’t written in stone but merely what I use when I’m about to hit the road.
1. Take a moment
When you get into your car just take a moment. Whether its 10 seconds, 1 minute or 2. Use this bit of time to breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. Bring yourself to a place of calm and rest, prepare yourself mentally for what’s about to happen. This will allow your mind and body to accept the transition from being at home to leaving home.
2. Relax into it
Feel your body in the seat and take note of smells and sounds as you are driving. Keep relaxed and simply do what you’ve always done, drive. When you realize your mind is starting to wonder, bring it back gently. Focus on the task at hand and all the intricacies that come with operating a mechanical vehicle.
3. Stay focused
Always keep note of your speed. Driving the speed limit is a great indicator of whether you are driving mindfully or not. In my case if I am over the speed limit I am not being mindful and along the way I’ve lost my focus. Bring your focus back as often as possible. Find the thing that you do which can alert you to the fact that you aren’t being mindful.
4. Empathy and compassion
When someone cuts you off or drives like a lunatic it’s easy to blow up in anger and frustration. When this happens I want you to try and show empathy or compassion toward the offender. We don’t know their story, what might be going on in their lives to cause this obnoxious behavior? When we empathize we can remain calm and mindful while driving.
5. It is what it is
The weather, the car, the people, the quality of the road, it is what it is. You can’t change anything. If you’re stuck in gridlock traffic you cant change it. The next best thing you can do is accept it, stay calm and know that it will pass. Bring yourself to the present moment and stay calm.
6. Take another moment
When you arrive at your destination and switch of your car, take another moment to appreciate the fact that you are safe. Take a few deep breaths before getting out and continuing with your day.
When you practice mindfulness while driving you have a great advantage of starting your day in a mindful state. You might find that you have set the foundation for the rest of your day to be be more calm and present in anything you do.
If everyone was a little bit more focused on the road we wouldn’t see as many accidents as we do. Which brings me to my next point. In order to be a mindful driver you have to prioritize your safety. Here is a list of safety tips every driver should know and practice.
- Before you start driving make sure you are comfortable. Adjust your seat, mirrors and temperature. Have items you need within easy reach. Buckle up your passengers and yourself.
- Don’t multitask, put your phone or any other kinds of electronics away while you are driving. You want to minimize your distractions.
- Slow down, speed kills. Enough said.
- Drive defensively and be aware of what other drivers are doing around you. My mom always told me that you have to drive for other people too, what she meant by this is that you must anticipate what the other car might do.
- Make sure you are always rested and refreshed, don’t drive when you are tired.
- Drive sober and drug free. Uber is a popular alternative when you might of had a few too many.
- Make sure your car always has enough fuel before any journey.
This video about mindful driving gives us a good explanation of what the essence of driving mindfully is.
4 mindful commuting tips
Many of us may not drive to work but have to rely on alternative modes of transport such as trains, buses and taxis. This way of commuting comes with it’s own set of challenges. You might be uncomfortably packed into a train sharing space with complete strangers, or deal with rush-hour gridlock traffic and delays you have no control over. I have had the unfortunate experience of having to wait in long queues to end up standing for long periods of time on a train, and dealing with other stressed out commuters. It’s a nightmare.
This type of travelling doesn’t have to ruin your day, because you can be mindful while commuting. Here are 4 easy ways to make your journey to work less stressful and more enjoyable:
- Intention: Start everyday with the intention to be mindful. Consciously become aware of your thoughts, emotions and feelings. Remember everyone who commutes to and from work is under some sort of stress. We are all annoyed and in a hurry, so your first step is to acknowledge this in yourself and in others. Notice where in your body you feel tense, is your jaw clenched or your shoulders tight?
- Breathe: Accept your feelings and thoughts and just breathe. Take a deep breath in through your nostrils and mentally say to yourself that you will be mindful during this trip. Then slowly and deeply breathe out of your mouth and imagine all your frustration leaving your body. Do this 3 or 4 times.
- Be Kind: Now, smile at a stranger, or let an elderly man pass or give up your seat to a pregnant woman. Notice the reaction you get. Become aware of how you just made someone else’s day a little bit better. Acts of random kindness will always positively impact our mood.
- Open your awareness: An easy way to practice mindfulness is to stop what you are doing and take in your surroundings. Put your phone away and leave the emails for work. Consciously notice what is happening around you. Look at your fellow passengers, what are they doing? Look at the trees and buildings you pass, what can you see? Is it cold or hot? What aromas can you smell? Can you feel the wind in your hair or the rain on your skin? Take time to simply observe.
I hope you will try and practice mindfulness while driving on your next commute. Take this practice and allow yourself to form it into a habit, become a mindful warrior. When we can conquer our morning routine we will conquer our entire day.