Modern life is full of stress and anxiety. It’s no wonder that many people seek out ways to bring calm and quiet into their lives. Meditation provides an opportunity for clearing the mind of daily troubles and distractions to achieve mindfulness, focus, or true silence and relaxation. The problem is finding time in a jam-packed day to devote to meditation. Some people are turning to their daily commute as an opportune time for meditation.
Meditating and driving may seem initially to be at cross-purposes. There are plenty of stories out there about people who were carried away by meditative music that they crashed into another car while driving. Other stories warn about the dangers of drivers closing their eyes to focus on their breath and rear ending the car in front of them or driving off the side of the road. Whether these stories are true or not, they raise real concerns about mixing meditation and driving.
Keeping those caution tales in mind, it is possible to practice some forms of meditation while driving. It just takes careful thought and choosing safe modes of meditation.
Benefits of Driving Meditation
Few things are as stressful as a long commute. Between slow-moving or standstill traffic and other drivers making sudden lane changes or otherwise acting unexpectedly, a commute is likely to make a driver irritable or anxious at best and enraged or neurotic at worst.
Practicing some form of meditation can relieve all that stress and anxiety and diffuse situations that might otherwise frustrate or enrage a driver. Studies have proven that meditation relieves stress and increases both empathy and forgiveness in practitioners. The latter two are extremely useful in dealing with fellow commuters. As a bonus, meditation can improve blood pressure and improve overall mood. All of these are good reasons to consider incorporating a limited form of meditation into the daily commute.
It is obviously not a good idea to attempt deeper forms of meditation that change perception or pull attention too far inward. There are meditation practices that instead center on mindfulness, awareness, and focus and these can be beneficial when operating a moving vehicle in heavy traffic.
Here are a few basic meditation practices for use while driving:
- Body Awareness — the simple act of being aware of breath, body position, and tensions within the body can lead to release of stress and relaxation of the body
- Sound & Silence — experiment with driving in silence or with calming music as opposed to talk radio, loud music, or audio books. Turn off the blu tooth and just experience the ride.
- Expand Awareness — instead of focusing only on the cars to the front, be mindful of all traffic including behind and far ahead.
- Attitude Awareness — note, but do not judge, attitudes about other drivers and any emotions that come up as a result of the way others drive, and then release them rather than holding onto to anger, frustration, etc.
- Mantra — create a mantra for the drive that serves the goal of mindfulness or awareness
- Generosity Practice — yield to other drivers to make their commute easier and to every car that passes by or does something irritating say “May you be well. May you be happy.”
Using any of these practices on a daily basis can literally transform the commute from a dreaded part of the day into something restorative and enjoyable. Some great sports stars such as race car driver Scott Tucker (see website) uses techniques like this and in the arts Richard Gere is a proponent.