There are many more ways to meditate then we initially think. And yes, I am entirely serious when I say that driving is one of them.
Meditation has been around for centuries, but cars are a rather new invention.
Our vehicles are a mechanical tool that most of us use every day. Unfortunately, many of us have begun to resent them. We begrudge the time we spend inside of them, because unless we have our tunes pumping just right, the traffic is in a smooth flow and we are on time with our schedule, driving exhausts us—especially that regular commute to and from work.
Those slow, creeping, rush hour lines are challenging, often causing unconscious anxiety that leaches into the rest of our world.
Do we often get out of our car with our heart racing and our thoughts flying? I know I do. I regularly feel like I am so pressed to get to my next destination that I don’t remember the drive that got me there.
Kind of a scary realization, right?
Not only that, but by resenting the time I spend in my car, I also miss out on the opportunity it gives me to spend time with myself, feel aware of my world and, most importantly, enjoy my life—even my commuting one.
I have learned that mindfulness practices are designed to allow us to be with the reality of what is.
As we come into the present state of our experience, we realize there are things we can appreciate in it, always. What if getting from point A to point B were an opportunity to tune into our life, rather than zone out from it?
Driving could be our sacred time to get in touch with our environment and touch base with ourselves.
Maybe we’ve been meaning to learn how to meditate. Our yoga instructor tells us it will help us manage our stress, but we immediately dismiss their statement with assumptions that they must not be balancing children, work, partnerships, fitness and attempts at a social life too.
But, they probably are.
There are ways to practice meditation throughout our day that don’t involve sitting on a hard cushion and repeating “om” (although I personally love that way).
We’re busy people. There’s not usually a way around this fact, unless we move out to the woods and decide the homestead life is where it’s at. But, I bet even then our world would flash us by if we didn’t set an intention to notice, and really live in it.
Here is an easy way to raise our consciousness while we are moving forward—literally. Some of the best advice I received from my meditation teacher is that we must learn to take our practice from the cushion into the rest of our world. Meditating while driving has become one of my cherished ways to do this.
Mindfulness does not distract us from the task at hand; it actually increases our ability to perform it.
The Auto Meditation:
1. Become aware of the car.
We begin this meditation as we get into our car, noticing first how our key slides into the ignition. We listen for the noise the car makes as the engine starts up. What does it feel like to sit in it? Is the seat soft, hard or just right? What part of our back is touching the upholstery? What does it smell like? How do our feet feel on the floor and on the pedals as we touch them?
2. Notice the outside world.
Now we do an easeful scan of the world outside of our car. Is there someone parked in front of us? Is there a tree beside our vehicle? What color is the sky? Is there a lot of traffic on the road? What is the name of the street we are on? What driving regulations do we need to attend to right now?
3. Check in with ourselves.
Before we drive onwards, we can notice our breath. Is it shallow, or are we holding it or breathing quickly? What’s going through our head? The practice of meditation is to notice without judgment, so don’t try to change what is happening inside—just become aware of it.
4. Practice this in motion.
As we drive off to our destination, we can try to stay aware in each moment. We notice the traffic signs, the exact color of them. Their shape. Our breath. If our mind starts to plan or worry, we bring it back to the previous three steps: awareness of the car, noticing the outside world and checking in with ourselves.
As we become more embodied in our life, we naturally engage with a richer experience of it. We often arrive with stress and anxiety because we’re already ahead of ourselves in time.
We can bring ourselves back. Right here.
By making use of our senses, by noticing what we see, hear and feel, we can reach our destination in greater contact with our world and self. We also become better drivers.
Check that one off your, “meant to do but don’t have time,” list. Meditate while you drive.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Henning Witzel/Unsplash