A Conscious Commute
by Buffy Owens
Are you one of the many that commute to work every day. I do. My office is nearly 25 minutes from my home. At first, I dreaded the commute, but now I LOVE it.
You see I figured out that this time is a FANTASTIC opportunity to practice a bit of mindfulness. Plus, it has blessed me with the time to develop several simple everyday awareness practices that can help you reduce your stress and find greater comfort. Now doesn’t that sound like a nice way to start and end your workday?
Obviously, when you’re driving it’s not recommended that you close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Rather, I invite you to explore expanding and contracting your awareness as a sort of mindfulness practice. As you may know, mindfulness according is a state of “active, open attention on the present.” So to drive mindfully, you apply similar principles on the road. You drive with awareness of and respect for yourself, your vehicle and your surroundings—including other drivers.
Take Your Seat
Here is the funny thing about our cars. When we first start driving them we adjust the seat so that it seems comfortable. We nudge and fudge the mirrors until they are just right. Then that’s it. Every time we get into our cars after that, we adjust ourselves to our cars and to the way we were on that one day.
Stop this nonsense! When you get into your car, consciously take your seat. Adjust your mirrors, you steering wheel, your seat and find what is most comfortable for you right now—in this moment, on this day.
Mind The Gap
Not long ago, a fellow meditation practitioner at the Treehouse Sangha in Cohoes, NY spoke about creating a sense of spaciousness while driving by simply allowing more space between your car and the car in front of you. I like to think of this as minding the gap. You see one of the wonderful things about mindfulness based practices like mediation and awareness based practices like the Feldenkrais Method, is that we literally grow our ability to pause and respond to life rather than always reacting. Now don’t get me wrong, there are times to react and react fast. But the more we can mind the gap and ‘respond’ in daily life, the better we will be able to react when that time comes. So, the next time you are on the road give a little more space and see what shifts in your own experience of yourself and of driving.
Become One with Your Car Obi Wan Kenobi
Our ability to extend ourselves beyond our flesh is incredibly complex and wonderfully dynamic! Neuroscientists call this space around you the peripersonal space. The neurological systems that map this invisible bubble allow you to do such things as hammer a nail and successfully parallel park your car.
However, these neurological maps also impact how you move and they play a big role in your ability to infer the intentions of another person, anticipate a threat or experience empathy, and even mirror the activity of others in your own nervous system for assistance in learning things like language and movement.
I know, I know, it sounds a little like science fiction in the flesh. But having an integrated neural representation of your body (the ‘body schema’) and of the space around your body (‘peripersonal space’) allows you to navigate through this crazy and complex world with fewer personal collisions. So the next time you drive that dandy car of yours, give a little loving attention to how you and your car become one. Explore the following when you are parked or not moving: Can you feel the size of your car? Do you know where it ends and begins? See if you can start to get a clear sense of the boundaries of your car.
Begin with these three practices and over time you might become pleasantly surprised to find that your daily commute can have a positive impact on other areas of your life.