Is driving stressful to you? Are you frustrated by lengthy commute traffic, or how long it takes to pick up or drop off your kids as you get them to school? Do you get alarmed when you notice people next to you on the road looking down and texting while they drive? Do you find yourself rushing on the road and feeling angry at those who are going slow? Do you feel like more and more people on the road are exhibiting unkind behaviors (and maybe even yourself)?
There seems to be more traffic as the holidays are upon us. More people shopping, or engaged in holiday activities. More people socializing and drinking before getting on the road. It’s pitch black before 6 PM during these wintery hours, and there is more inclement weather. This means there are more drivers who are impaired, even slightly. Also there are more people on the roads who are more stressed and more distracted, creating a more dangerous situation for all.
I know of lots of people who have vowed to be kinder during these difficult times – an action I deeply respect and think is really helpful to this world we live in.
One truly kind act of kindness anyone can implement is that of being mindful on the road. No I’m not suggesting meditating while you drive, but being more present and calm. On the road, as in other important places where people connect, kindness has a ripple effect and spreads out. Not only can you impact your own journey and stress level as you try to get where you’re going, but you can also have a positive influence on the people traveling with you – in your car, or next to you on the road.
Driving mindfulness can be as simple as saying to yourself the following meditation as stated by Thict Naht Han: “Before starting the car, I know where I go. The car and I are one. If the car goes fast, I go fast.”… If the car is reckless, I go recklessly. If the car goes gently, I go gently. Repeat this every time you get into your car.
You might breathe and smile at the red light. Consider the red light to actually be your friend – not enemy – that helps you to become present. Use each red light as a cue to be mindfully present – a reminder to take a breath and come back to where you are right now. Check in mindfully and notice where your thoughts are, or how you’re feeling, or any tension in your body. Remember the red light is helping you to get safely to where you are going. You will get there, but right now you are here. Be here.
Be grateful to the red lights, the construction on the road, brakes, opportunities to slow down. Consider the remarkableness of how many millions of people are on the road at any one time and how despite all obstacles, more people move from one place to another without incident. There’s really more synchronicity and fluidity on the road than there is congestion. Be mindful of trucks carrying goods, ambulances transporting people who are injured, many parents picking up their children, endless others getting to work, everyone trying to live their lives in some meaningful way.
Tell yourself “Just like me, they want to be happy and have calm in their lives. Just like me, they want to arrive safely. Just like me they want peace on the road.”
Do your best to turn frustrations on the road into opportunities to show kindness. Wish others on the road well, especially those who are driving inattentively. Try to enjoy or at least notice the journey as you are en route. Be mindful about not contributing to the harm or loss of others.
Offer yourself the following intentions:
May I drive safely. May those around me drive safely. May I and others drive with alertness and presence. May I drive the way I wish others would drive. May I be kind as I go…
May your drives be free of road rage and mindlessness, and may you be safe out there. Best wishes for mindful driving for you and everyone else on the road with you.
Take good care.
For a free webinar about managing holiday stress, please click here:
PS: My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering any loss of friend, family member, colleague, community, home or gathering space due to the Ghostship fire in Oakland. May the depth of your grief be softened and met with kindness and caring as you move through your days.