I’m not going to recommend that you head down the highway, kick it into high gear, and slip into meditation. That is not what mindful driving is all about. (And that would be a really bad idea.)
But you can practice being mindful while you drive. The act of driving can be incredibly stressful, and practicing mindfulness is a way to cut the edge off the commute and arrive to your destination with more focused attention.
The idea with mindful driving is that you really have to tune in and focus on—driving. That’s it. But it’s not as easy or common as it might sound to pay complete attention while you’re behind the wheel. How many times have you arrived at a destination, but didn’t really remember the drive there? We get lost in thought, in music, in phone conversations (over blue tooth, I hope,) and all of a sudden, we are there! Or we are lost … either way, we realize our mind was not present while we were driving.
Next time you head out on your morning commute or take off on a road trip, see if you can tune into all the details from behind the wheel.
Mindful Driving Practice
- Get in your car, but before you put your key to the ignition, sit for one full minute with your eyes closed. Tune into your breath and your internal space, noticing how you feel and setting the intention for a mindful car ride.
- Start your car, turn off your music, silence your phone, and ease into a state of complete attentiveness.
- Keep your focus on the road and observe the sounds you hear as you drive, the people, buildings, and landscapes you pass … notice the wind on your face if your window is down, the temperature, the whole experience of driving. Even if you’ve taken that route 100 times before, I bet you’ll notice something new when you set the intention of driving mindfully.
- Each time you notice that your attention has shifted away from driving to other thoughts or sensations, gently bring it back to the car, and continue to observe, listen, and feel as you drive.
- Become aware of any emotions or urges that surface as you drive—notice how you respond to that someone who cut you off; notice if you find yourself speeding up at a yellow light; notice if you want to reach for your phone at a red light. Try to remain in observation mode and resist any temptation to act. Just focus on the experience of driving.
- Notice if you are speeding, and ask yourself “why am I in a hurry?” It’s always best to leave yourself a few extra minutes to get to your destination so you don’t feel the need to speed. Slow down.
- When you arrive, turn your car off and take another minute of silence before dashing off into your day.
This type of mindfulness practice can not only lower your stress levels on the commute, but also help you become more focused and present when you’ve arrived at your destination.
*This post was adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.