George Carlin makes a good point when he implies that anyone driving other than how we do has got it wrong. Clearly he is poking fun at us but have you ever thought of your car as a mobile learning laboratory and the roads upon which you drive as the place where great discoveries about yourself and others can be made? If we are fully conscious, the discoveries we make about ourselves often have less to do with how we are driving and more about the fact that sometimes our conscious mind is someplace other than in our body which is piloting tons of metal down a concrete launching strip often at an accelerated rate of speed. The point is, we have to be mindfully conscious and present in the moment to catch ourselves in the act and opportunities to do so are abundant, especially if we have a cell phone and drive a car.
While driving in California the use of a cell phone (as a "handheld" device) is illegal and yet it is not at all uncommon to see a person zooming down the highway, cruising through an intersection or sitting at a stoplight either texting or talking on their cellphone. I believe we have become addicted to cells phones; they offer a form of instant gratification that creates an immediate diversion from being fully present in the moment. The diversions that keep us separated from the present moment are legion and the cell phone is but one of them. I find this to be a curious thing given the fact that most of us know that anytime our focus of attention is divided we are less effective at everything we are doing and driving is certainly no exception to the rule. While multitasking may be considered a great skill there are times when it can also be a less than productive endeavor if it severs our thinking mind from our body and what our body is doing in any given moment.
While this may seem like a diatribe regarding "our" driving skills, (please notice I include myself in this category) I hope you’ll see that it is far more than that; it really is a reminder about practicing mindfulness everywhere in our lives--it’s about developing the skillfulness to be 100% present in the moment with whatever we are doing. The same mindfulness practice can be applied to how, when, and where we eat our meals, or how present and engaged we are in our relationships with people when we communicate with them, and so on. Because most of us can relate with it, I offer the example of using cell phones while we drive only as a method of hooking your attention to examine the larger issue: Having our conscious mind present and accounted for in our body is a wise practice regardless of where our body is or what it may be doing--we’ll always be better off for it and so will all of those around us.
When we are mindfully present in the moment energy seems to flow with a greater sense of harmony, grace and ease, which ultimately manifests as a sense of inner peace. If harmony, grace, ease, and inner peace appeal to you, I invite you to join me in the following mindfulness practice:
- As challenging as it may be, the next time you get in your car turn off your cell phone and put it in your glovebox, pocket, purse, briefcase, or any place of your choice where you will not be tempted to use it. The same practice applies even if you have a hands free device and this includes the use of any type of headphones--we're talking total disconnection from anything but driving the car: This is about being present with the experience of consciously piloting your car; in truth it’s about being present with yourself--your car just happens to be one of those places one seldom thinks of practicing the Presence. Are you already feeling the separation anxiety?
- Make a commitment to yourself not to use your cell phone until after you have stopped and parked the car.
- While driving, take note of how seductive the wandering mind can be. If the urge arises to reach for the cell phone, take a deep breath and bring your full attention back into your body...imagine yourself as being "one" with the automobile knowing it requires your total integrated attention to function properly and safely.
- When you park your car and shut off the engine, just sit for a moment and breathe. Then notice how much more present you are...and how much more peaceful you feel.
The happy result of this mindfulness practice is that not only is the road a more pleasant and safe place to "be" but you’ll get an opportunity to share some quality one-on-one time with the person whom you probably spend the least amount of time--yourself--and that’s always beautiful thing.
Honk if you love harmony, grace, ease and inner peace on the highway!