7 Tips to have a Mindful Car Commute
Leading mindfulness expert, Eckhart Tolle, talks about how driving a car is a fabulous way to practice living mindfully. As many of our clients drive a fair amount we considered it time that we share some tips on how to drive mindfully. Please note that this is NOT meditation or mindfulness practice, nor a yoga nidra opportunity. Full awareness must remain on the safety of driving, this in itself is part of the concept of mindful living - being fully present to the task at hand.
Benefits of Practising Mindfulness in the Car
Mindfulness benefits have been covered in studies and various blog posts, like our Improve your Performance with Mindfulness post. Specific to driving a car, mindfulness can:
Improve focus and concentration on driving, and elsewhere in life.
Create a calmer and less anxious driving experience.
Build more compassion and tolerance of others, and of ourselves.
Train the mind away from unconscious thinking and being more aware of the present moment.
How to be a Mindful Car Driver
Here are 7 points in driving where a mindful choice can be made.
Get in the Car: Align the Spin
Take a few moments to come into the activity that you are about to commence.
Sit back in the seat with the head against the headrest.
Let the shoulders sink down the back towards the hips.
Take a few mindful breaths - how and where are you breathing?
Notice the view from the windows and mirrors.
Become aware of the sounds around the car.
Notice the physical sensations of the arms, feet, and sit bones in the position of the car seat.
2. How to hold the steering wheel
Hand placement during driving can really affect the mind and emotional experience, and decision making as a driver. This impacts how safe the choices are in every moment.
Gripping the wheel? Tense muscles generate tension in the body. The more relaxed that they feel the easier it will trace up the arms and into the heart. Reduce the tension and feel more compassion.
Shoulders rounding forward? Can you drop the hands around the steering wheel to ease shoulder tension. Let them ‘hang’ over the ribcage that supports them.
Head leaning forward? Bring the head back into the headrest brings the neck into the correct cervical placement. This aids blood flow for better decision making whilst driving.
3. Present Moment: Be Aware of Driving
Driving is a great example of how the neuromuscular training for coordination works. At the outset, it is very complex to coordinate the hands, eyes and foot movements, let alone to sense the subtleties of a car’s clutch. However, over time this apparently complex task becomes an unconscious act - so much that some people fall asleep at the wheel!
Drive in silence. Hear the sounds on the road around you.
When the mind begins to wander come back to the present moment.
Observe the other cars on the road and what they are doing.
Be aware of your attitude to other car drivers. What thoughts, judgments or beliefs are you creating about them?
4. Braking Distance: Share space with others
Allow sufficient braking distance for safety, but also as a way of respecting the energetic space of others on the road.
Remember that everyone is trying to get somewhere too and nobody’s is more important than another, unless an emergency service vehicle.
Permit others in front without bearing a grudge if they squeeze in. Accept their place in life, literally.
As others pass you say, “May you be well. May you be happy.” Say this especially if they cut you off.
5. Traffic: Take a Mindful Breath (with Handbrake ON)
Rather than rushing to make the lights before they change, slow down and allow it to be an opportunity to take a mindful break in the drive.
At red lights, with the brake on (preferably the handbrake), take a cycle of mindful breath as the lights are unchanged.
Become aware of any changes in the breath from when the drive began.
If anxiety levels have risen try to breathe a little slower and deeper into the belly.
This creates calmer driving that is safer and kinder to other road users.
If there is time, then notice the
6. Road Rage:
Road rage is often a fear-based response from a lack of awareness from a situation that arises. When fully present, it is possible to become aware of such risks and take avoidance steps prior to them taking place.
If you are present then what judgments are you forming of others when observing their driving?
Be aware of important safety considerations but do not deem either driver as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Be responsible for your position. If in doubt, slow down to get out of their way.
Get perspective on road rage and listen to Eckhart Tolle’s talk on road rage here.
7. End of the Drive
Take a few mindful moments in the car to check-in with how the drive impacted your breath, body and thoughts.
Physical movement practice:
Take the feet off the pedals and Roll the ankles a couple of times each way.
Lift the knee up one at a time for some gentle core engagement.
Soft cat-cow stretch in the seat.
Squeeze the shoulder blades together and open the chest. Let the sit bones sink heavy into the seat.
Shake off the wrists a few times.
Easy twist to each door window.
Enjoy some neck rolls forward to release the tension that may have built up.
Step out of the car and give the legs a little shake off.
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