Two hours of driving time in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon or early evening.
I live in The Netherlands and work as a language instructor at the Dutch Police Academy; however, my job is roughly 160 kilometers (100 miles) away from my house. It’s a part-time job, although there are moments when I need to go to work four days a week. To make it a bit cheaper, I bought a car that runs on diesel, but hey—we’re talking about 1000 to 1300 kilometers a week sometimes. I’ve had it now for five years, which means a whopping 247,000 kilometers because of meetings that are held all over the country, team-building seminars, etc.
At one point, listening to the radio no longer brought the pleasure I was used to. I had already started to listen to New Age music at home, so decided to use that in the car as well. There are warnings on the C.D. jackets that the music might induce drowsiness in the car, and I can well believe that, but it keeps me awake…and slows down my driving. Speeding tickets are a thing of the past.
It also induces meditative thinking. And with 1000 kilometers (about 16 hours) a week behind the wheel, that sure is a load of meditation.
In the beginning, it was a distraction. I had to keep my eyes and mind on the road, and so meditation was easiest on the longer stretches of highway. The A15 between Dordrecht and the Valburg intersection might be the Dutch version of Highway 66—it is one long and practically uneventful drive, barring the occasional road repair slow-down.
Because the bit where I drive leads away from major cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague, there are hardly any traffic jams, even during rush hours. In short, a real dream of a highway, and good for some real deep thinking and rhythmic breathing. The rest goes on automatic pilot.
Moreover, because of the meditation, I get to observe more—those four windmills near Echteld are facing north today and are turning rather slowly; there’s only one truck in the lay-by, hopefully its driver is getting some much-needed rest; the migratory birds are back; there’s some new graffiti on the sound shields near Tiel…don’t they ever get to catch who’s putting it there?
After a while, I started using other kinds of roads for other kinds of meditation.
The exits and access roads signaled the need for more concentration, so at those junctions I would change topic, or shift to an issue-solving mode—still meditating—but now with some questions that needed answers. However, these answers were not necessarily the solutions. Everything stayed open.
Another car might suddenly enter my field of vision or there might be ice on the road in the winter, so the topic change can never be abrupt. Sometimes the roads dictate my mood and my thoughts. I let them come. I let them go. Or, rather, I approach them and then leave them behind.
The whole trip is a combination of all kinds of thought, expressed in various forms of breathing.
When I finally turn off the highway and enter a provincial road, I’m starting to wind down the meditation—conclusions (if any), reminders for next session, what I am going to do today and how I will conduct that coaching hour I scheduled with a difficult student…
Then, 10 hours later, I’m back on the road again. It’s always exciting to find out where my breathing and my thoughts will lead this time. I arrive home tired but relaxed. Tomorrow will hit the road again—peacefully and mindfully, another 320 kilometers of restful driving.
Editor: Kelly Brichta
Born in The Philippines way back 1961, Ella Wagemakers emigrated to The Netherlands in Dec 1988, married husband Adrian in Jan 1989, and live in West Brabant. No children, but a score of hobbies — poetry (‘Sorrows of the Chameleon’ was published in 2007 by online publisher Xlibris), painting, genealogy of the Wagemakers family up to 1525, stamp-collecting, travelling, photography, reading, computer games, jewelry-making, plus a wee bit of piano. Education = Bachelor of Arts in Manila, Bachelor and Master’s degree in Education in The Netherlands. Job = language instructor at the Dutch Police Academy, headquarters Apeldoorn.