April 9, 2013

Safe Driving is Practicing Yoga.

I’m sitting at my dining table with my perfectly made cup of coffee, relaxing into myself after yet another sunny practice in my yoga room.

I’m feeling grateful.

My already wonderful week is only just beginning.

My toddler daughter is back in school after spring break. (I know, I know, a two-and-a-half year old on spring break, but her Montessori school goes up through 6th grade, and trust me when I say that her teachers must need a spring break.) My husband’s work routine is also back to normal after his atypical last week—and, more importantly, he’s back on his road bike.

Like my happy cycling husband, this bright, warm weather is making me, too, realize that, although I do adore winter, I am absolutely ready to be back in my summer attire shaking my happy tail feathers out in this glorious sun. It’s also made me realize that my body both physically needs and craves this sunny, outdoor action. Still, there’s another, more unfortunate, thing that I’ve noticed this nice weather brings into my life—dangerous, seemingly unthinking drivers.

Yesterday, while driving on a beautifully winding country road, I had two (ahem, sports) cars cross the double yellow line, coming uncomfortably close to nipping my car head on. This particular road was also shared with numerous cyclists out and ready to ride. (My own husband would be one of them later on in the day.)

I’m well aware that these motor enthusiasts were equally excited to be out in their adorable toy cars. I, too, love driving now that I’ve discovered the joys of having a stick-shift. (Learn to drive one if you don’t know how; you’re never too old either—I was almost 30.) Yet, it’s important that we keep our awareness about us as we maneuver through life out in this toasty, springtime lane again.

Driving doesn’t have to be mindless, boring or part of our ordinary routine.

Of course, it should never be these things anyways, as we should always be paying attention carefully to our surroundings while driving, especially when the area is heavily populated with deer and outdoor enthusiasts like mine. However, how many of us change the song, check our hair, talk to our unhappy kid in the backseat or just plain don’t pay attention by letting our minds wander to extraneous thoughts that have nothing to do with our driving? If you thought to yourself while reading this laundry list that, “yes,” I certainly do think about at least one of these things, and at least on occasion, instead of focusing my attention where it should be—on the road—then welcome to human kind. We’re all guilty, at least part of the time, but driving doesn’t have to mindless or reckless.

Rather, your time on the road can, and should, be used for gearing up your yoga practice.

After all, yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. I’m not sure about you, but for me, I’m almost never actually practicing my yoga, quite sad to admit, I’m aware—yet it’s true.

My meditation practice in general took a severe nose-dive after my child was born. (Not that I blame her; I blame my subsequent lack of commitment.) Again, I’m not sure about you, but I do know that I spend time in my car basically every day. Even if my daughter and I are headed to the trails to hike, we’re still in the car to get there. So, to me, it’s a huge relief that I can use this time to focus on the now, and to let my mind think about only one thing—driving. Trust me also when I tell you that this is much easier said than done.

Enough of this lecture I hope you’re not saying by now, but, seriously, have you (as possibly an already regular yoga practitioner) spent much time pondering how much time you waste by not stepping up to your yoga practice ever single stinkin’ time that you hop into your vehicle?

It’s true. Americans have been surveyed to log as much average mileage as 13, 476 miles per year—and I’d like to see the stats on how many of these miles are spent thinking about at least one additional, unnecessary thought (like that fight with your spouse, if you’ll get to your destination on time, etc). My guess is that, for the average American, the answer would be 13, 475 (and that’s giving us the benefit of the doubt).

So when the sun whips your hair—and your brain—into a near summertime frenzy, and you find that you must be out and about in this gorgeous, sunny weather, please take a small moment to promise yourself that when you snap your seat-belt into place, you’ll also practice trying to snap your mind into place with it.

I know that as this beautiful spring dawns upon me, that I’m going to try committing to living a more mindful life overall—and what a perfect place to start, when I start my car.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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