Mindful driving. Does that sound like an oxymoron? Can one be mindful when driving? Where does Dr. Bays come up with these practices?
All those questions went through my head when I read the title of this week’s practice. But the real purpose of this practice is to open up your beginner’s mind. That is, to switch from driving on autopilot and to return to awareness. Awareness of all the movements involved in driving.(For those who don’t drive, bring your awareness to being a passenger in a car, bus, or train. Or bring your attention to riding a bike, if that is your mode of transportation.)
Think back to when you first started driving. How did it feel to sit in the car as a new driver? What was it like to feel the car move beneath you? How did you feel when a large truck passed you on the expressway and the car wobbled a little bit in the draft?
Do you notice any of these things now when you drive?
Take a moment, right now, and picture yourself in the driver’s seat of your car.
Okay. So tell me, what is the first thing you do when you get in your car?
Which hand do you use to put on your seatbelt?
When you grip the steering wheel, where on the steering wheel do you place your hands ?
Are you sure?
I had to stop and think about this myself because getting into and driving a car is second nature to me. I’m sure it’s that way with you too. It is something we do automatically without really thinking about it.
That is the point of this practice. Becoming aware of what we’re doing.
And then there are the emotions that show up when we’re driving. The way we react if we get behind a slow driver. What we say if someone tailgates behind us. What we do when someone cuts us off in traffic.
Mindful driving requires relaxed, alert awareness. This isn’t about daydreaming and drifting off. Its about being aware of your surroundings and how you react to situations within that surrounding.
Mindfulness requires us to exam all aspects of our life, to become aware of habit patterns we’ve acquired, and to be willing to discard those patterns that no longer serve us.
This week, become aware of driving and your driving habits. Are there any patterns that you can begin to leave behind?