“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” – Fred Devito
Becoming a more mindful-kindful driver has been a BIG challenge for me. Maybe the biggest challenge I have taken on. I can feel so righteous about my anger and resentfulness at some drivers.
I had to continually come back to my WHY. (See Part Two)
The following are two tips that I believe will help you become a more mindful-kindful driver.
Tip #1 – Bring awareness/mindfulness to your current habits and thoughts while you drive.
This may seem simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. When I first started bringing more awareness to my inner (or not-so-inner), dialogue I could see how negative and nasty I could be.
That’s hard to see.
But I kept with it to see the real extent of my aggression. THIS is where it is super important to also bring in compassion for yourself.
There are two sides to mindfulness – The awareness piece and the compassionate piece.
Try to not let that inner critic (we all have one) get the best of you.
We are not our thoughts.
But they do cause physical reactions in our bodies.
Which is why it is important to notice these thoughts without judgment. It is simply a “note to self” so we can then decide how we want to move forward. Also, note how thinking negative thoughts is felt in your body.
So that is the first tip. Awareness and compassion.
Tip #2 – Change the stories to something positive
What I believe you will notice are the stories that are made up in our heads about other drivers. This is something all humans do.
There is a very strong tendency for our minds to make up stories about what could possibly be going on in our world.
Brene Brown says that in the absence of enough data we will make up a story. It’s a human trait.
Once again, a “note to self”.
Then, see if you can make up another story that would leave you calm and not triggered.
For example, someone is turning a corner at the speed of a slug. Instead of the story about how that old person should have their license taken away, my story could be, oh, they must have plants in their car. Which is what I do coming home from the plant store.
That feels much better in my body also.
Here are some of my stories and how I’ve changed them.
Old Story New Story.
|Oh my god, could you turn any slower||I hope your plants continue to be safe.
|You’re not even going the speed limit!
|Guess the Universe wants me to slow down|
|You f%*ing idiot, you turned your car in the middle of the fricken road!!||I wonder if you got the news of your child going to the emergency room right now.|
|Get off the fucking road to figure out where you need to go.||Sending you lots of good energy. I know what it’s like to be lost|
|Get off the fricken phone!||I’ve been there, done that. I hope you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else because of that choice.|
|Hello!! It’s green. Do you need a particular shade of green!||I’m going to take one deep breath in before beeping lightly|
At some point, you may not even need to change the story. There is just acceptance of what is.
Tip #3 – Think about red lights and what they mean to you.
You’re driving home for work, looking forward to getting home …. And the light in front of you turns red.
What is running through your head?
I discovered, for me, that green lights have value and red lights are limiting. Of course, the lights are just neutral, but we can tend to, again, have a story around them.
Now, red lights are a time for me to breathe deeply and get grounded and centered.
I hope these tips will be beneficial for you while driving (and in everyday living)
To your health and well-being,
Connie M. Warden
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Awesome post Connie, being on the road is always a great time to grow and work through stuff! I have learned that for me when driving, I am very reactionary and take other driver’s behaviors as a personal affront! Then one time I was at a green light waiting to turn left in the outer of two left turn lanes; cars were whizzing past me, honking like crazy. I was wondering what all the commotion was about. Finally, there was enough of a gap in the traffic that me and the guy next to me could make our left turn. About halfway through my left turn, I realized there was only one turn lane, not two. I was the “idiot” everyone was honking at! I was almost undone by how oblivious I was to what was going on but decided it was a good lesson; don’t always assume the driver is intentionally trying to piss me off!
Also, since then, one of my practices for red lights is an acronym I came up with in a class. S.T.O.P. Smile (it really does diffuse the tension), Take a deep breath, Observe my surroundings (sky, flowers, trees, people) and Pray (or be reminded of my Oneness with Life).
I don’t always remember to S.T.O.P. and kind thoughts aren’t always my first thoughts when I am around other drivers, but these two things have helped me in my driving habits. I think I am almost ready to graduate from Kindergarten and move on to First Grade in Mindfulness while driving!
I love the S.T.O.P! I have also been in your shoes. All the times I’ve said, “Get off your phone” and the other day I was on my phone and the car behind had to beep because the light had turned green. I sure had to eat humble pie!