photo credit: Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway
Last year I was involved in a minor car accident. No one was hurt (except my pride). It struck me at that point how bad I was at driving. Not through a lack of skills or reaction times, through a lack of concentration and focus. I would continually take my eyes off the road to admire the pretty sights around the city.
That crash changed me and the way I drive. In this post I want to show you how to meditate while driving and why this will make you a better driver.
How to Meditate While Driving
The phrase “meditate while driving” might seem a little dangerous to some. It might conjure up images of a monk sitting behind the wheel in the Lotus Posture with his eyes closed crashing in to anything that gets in his way. It’s not like that though… don’t worry.
Meditating while you are driving is, in fact, the safest way to drive. I would go so far as to say that if you don’t meditate while you are driving you are a dangerous driver. The reason I say this is because the ultimate meditation is all about being present. It is about being right here in the present moment and concentrating on the task at hand.
What I used to do while driving
Before my accident my time in the car was distracted. I would listen to the radio, play CDs, look at people walking down the street, watch the different buildings go past, etc. My time in the car was relaxing and fun but it was characterized by distraction. This is what lead to my car accident – I turned in front of another car that I simply did not see, even though I looked.
What I do now
Now my time in the car is characterized by concentration. I realized that I need to be more present in the car and focused on the act of driving. I now become aware of my thoughts when they try to distract me from the art of driving and refocus on the driving itself. An emergency kit with jumper cables, flairs, and a hand held tire inflator can help to make you feel safe and secure, knowing that you are prepared should something unexpected arise while on the road.
You see driving is a great meditation. You can improve your mind quite a lot by simply concentrating when you drive. Think about everything you have to do when you are in the car: check your blind spot, indicate, slow down, stop, don’t tailgate, defog the windows, watch that dog on the footpath, watch the speed limit, recheck your blind spot and so on. It is a long list of things. Staying focussed on all of these things is quite and effort and it takes a lot of mental discipline.
The art of driving meditation, as I have now termed it, is all about staying focussed on what you are doing. This is not a meditation on the breath or a meditation on some deity, it is a meditation on the present.
Why this makes you a better driver
Being aware on the road is the most important thing. You could be the best driver in the world in terms of skills but if you don’t focus and concentrate while you are doing it you are doomed to harm yourself or someone else.
Meditating and focusing in the car will improve your skills and reaction times. If you are fully present you will be able to react to a physical situation much faster than if you were daydreaming or writing a text message. What’s more, focused driving can protect your pocketbook. All around the country, the government is cracking down on distracted driving with the aim of reducing the number of deaths caused by distracted drivers. Besides being ticketed, the insurance penalty for distracted driving is up nearly 8,000%. That alone is enough incentive to change your habits.
In the state I live in the Government has a driving safety campaign aimed at reducing the number of deaths that occur due to distracted drivers. The campaign slogan is:
“Good drivers just drive.”
I think this slogan is also an excellent mantra for us.
Originally posted on August 22, 2008 @ 1:02 am
when i started riding a motorbike on the road for the first time it really hit me what most people consider the inside of their car to be.. a lounge room.. eating, drinking, reading, talking on the phone, telling stories, looking around at stuff.. it is funny.. in a scary kind of way.
The Daily Minder
JB – I think it was actually driving up the freeway to your house that I first started to notice how little I concentrate in the city. On the freeway things are much more intense and you have to concentrate hard.
I began meditating this spring. I read and listen to dharma talks a lot. I have a long commute and have been wondering about listening to these talks while driving vs processing stuff about work. Your post makes this issue clear. Thank you.
The Daily Minder
That’s great Scott. What Dharma talks are you listening to?
From http://dharmaseed.org: Jack Kornfield, Larry Rosenberg, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and Silvia Boorstein. Have ordered Pema Chodron’s From Fear to Fearlessness from the library on CD. I had ordered to listen to in the car; now not sure what I’ll do.
Two days of this driving practice: I arrive fresher, more alert, more energy.
When at long red light signals I move to metta.
Again, Thank you for this suggestion and your timely and helpful writings.
Thanks for this wonderful post. Will practice the same