During the course of my life I have driven a car for over twenty years in Sri Lanka where traffic rules are observed as an exception! In a way, if you are not extra mindful you will never be able to complete the journey. That is the advantage in driving in places where traffic is chaotic. I have had three very small accidents involving another vehicle. On all three occasions – in fact, every time I had to apply the breaks suddenly – I realized that my mind was not on driving. I had been thinking of something else. So I always try to use my driving as an Practice to practice the skill of being mindful.
If we use the process of driving as the main objective of our awareness and bring the mind back to driving every time the mind wanders into the past or future, then driving becomes your mind gym with no membership fees to be paid!
When you drive you do not focus your eyes on a particular spot or an object. You keep the whole view in your focus. This is the art of being aware of driving. If you focus on one you keep the others out. But in driving it is important to keep everything in view and focus only when it is required. For instance, when overtaking a vehicle we need to focus our attention to a specific area in our vision. This is a very good analogy that can be applied in the process of developing the skill of being mindful.
Traffic jams and traffic lights provide very good moments for us to improve our skill of mindfulness. See what happens to us when the traffic light turns red.
Observe the thoughts that arise and the reactions towards it. If you are in a hurry then your reaction is different to when you are not. In Sri Lanka sometimes vendors try to sell things at traffic lights. For them the red light turns to green very fast but to us who drive it is very slow. This shows us there is no absolute measure except our mental disposition. You will learn to be mindful on your breath later in this book. Once you learn that, Red light can be a good moment to observe breath to come to the present moment.
Sometimes you come across a careless drivers on the road. They really annoy you. Become aware of how you feel when confronted with such undesirable drivers. I have seen many scold them while being in the car with all the shutters up…. What a silly activity.
As you can see driving is a very good Practice to develop mindfulness.