The day I got my driver’s license was one of the happiest days of my life. Growing up I always seemed to feel somewhat trapped in a way, this could have been because I wasn’t exactly the most social child or the fact that I struggled so deeply with anxiety. However, having the ability to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, was one of the most liberating feelings.
I got so excited to go wherever I wanted, I got way too in over my head and decided to drive to Southpark mall about two weeks after getting my very first car. It was basically my dream car at the time and, long story short, it was totaled with the paper plates still on it.
After this terrifying ordeal, driving put a different taste in my mouth. I started to become anxious to drive and I did far less than before. I would essentially only drive to places I need to go, work, school, etc.
Once I finally got my confidence towards driving back, why don’t we all take a guess as to what happened? That’s right, another accident. This one was much smaller and my car wasn’t totaled it just needed repairs, but the anxiety process towards driving started all over again. I was now practically terrified to drive, I was jumpy and nervous, and I kept envisioning myself crashing all the time as I was driving.
There was no quick fix towards my anxiety about driving, I just forced myself to keep doing it, and I became a more confident and aware person and driver. Over two years later, and now my perspective on driving is completely changed. Driving has even become somewhat of a spiritual practice to me.
Today I want to discuss some feelings I have towards driving and I want to discuss some reasons why even a simple act such as driving can become a grounding experience. Driving has been a winding journey for sure and will continue. Drivers and their behavior can always be surprising, but most dangerous of course when they are unpredictable or lacking conscious awareness. Driving is an excellent example of how we can bring spirituality and mindfulness to every activity if you open your mind and live in the moment.
- Be Present. I always tend to see people doing the strangest, and most random things while driving. I have seen a woman curling her hair with heated tongs, people eating, and the worst new dangerous habit – texting or talking on a non-hands-free phone. I often hear many people say that they don’t have a free moment in their day to be mindful and in the moment, and I believe while you are driving is a perfect place for just this! We can utilize this time for our benefit by making your car a mindful place and deciding to be present in the moment while driving. Driving can already be so stressful due to other distracted drivers, traffic, etc. when you add in additional distractions, this is a recipe for disaster, anxiety, and anger. This can even become a form of meditation, and over time your mind will associate driving with being a peaceful activity.
- Look around. I feel like most people when driving tend to completely glue their vision to the road, to the point where they are unaware of their broader surroundings. Now, of course, you should use this with caution, don’t look around to the point where it is becoming a distraction, or could be dangerous. However, while we are driving is an excellent time to look around at your surroundings, to take in everything around you, and use this is as a grounding experience. I always seem to find new restaurants, stores, etc. just purely from keeping my eyes open while I’m driving and being curious and open to the world around me.
- Feel the presence of others. When I’m driving, especially on busy roads, such as highways, I always tend to feel this overwhelming sense of peace at all of the movement around me. I see all of the other cars, or their headlights if it is nighttime, and my mind tends to drift into thinking about the simple beauty behind it. Everyone in their cars has a starting point and a destination, we are all sharing one road but will eventually split off and go on our separate paths. This thought, I believe, is a parallel to life itself. We are all just cars on the road, sometimes sharing the same path, but eventually all heading in separate directions, to entirely different destinations. It is a truly humbling thought, and something I believe we all should remember to think about while simply driving our cars.
- Music. I don’t know how else to describe the act of blasting my music in the car, and whenever possible, rolling down the windows and letting the fresh air flow through the space of my car and into my lungs. If anyone else has such a deep passion for music as I do, I don’t think you will argue that this is one of the most joyful and liberating feelings you will ever experience. This simple activity brings me so much joy, I sing as loudly as possible and soak in all of the beauty that is flowing through my ears, and through my consciousness. These are the type of moments I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. For the simple fact that I can hear such beautiful sounds and that fact that I am alive and I am free.
- Kindness. I know everyone says this about where they are from, but North Carolina drivers are ridiculously distracted, terrible drivers. I used to become so angry and anxious at the fact that I could not control how other people drove, and the fact that I could not control when I would get to my destination. However, I have changed my thinking behind this and I now respond very differently to other drivers mistakes. This is a great way to practice kindness, even when others have made a mistake, sometimes one that even endangers you. We have to learn to let go of and accept that what other drivers do is not for us to control. The only thing we can do is be ready to react. Same goes for life, we cannot control what it throws at us, only how we react and respond.
- Patience. If there is one thing driving has taught me, it is patience. I live in an area where there seems to constantly be traffic, at all hours of the day. It can become so frustrating when all you want or need is to get to your destination quickly, but you are completely restricted by other drivers. Traffic sometimes induces a load of anxiety for me, especially when I am running late. It used to make me feel trapped as if I am going to be in the same place forever. Now, I have tried my best to let go of my attachment to my time and accept that I cannot change the pace of the flow of traffic. I use this time to my advantage by playing some music, listening to an audiobook, or just take some deep breaths and a moment of silence. This allows me to reconnect with myself and find peace within. Just as I cannot control the flow of traffic, I cannot change the flow of life. I am still learning this lesson, and I often find myself also becoming impatient at life and not giving me what I want when I want it. But, time and time again life proves me wrong and gives me exactly what I need on the most divine of timetables, one that is much wiser and adjusted than my own.
Overall, Driving is just one example of how we can bring mindfulness and a spiritual aspect to almost everything in life. I often find that people believe that becoming more spiritual and connected requires you to take yoga 3x times a week or meditate for an hour a day. Although these are fantastic practices, and will most certainly help you become a more spiritual person, you can integrate the deepest message of spirituality into almost anything. Keep your mind open, and be present throughout all of your day and your life. This is the best way to become more connected to your deeper self, and grounded into the roots of the universe.
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