Yesterday I was feeling calm having just come out of a favorite Yoga class and was seated at a light in a turn lane behind two cars. My calmness was quickly challenged when the driver of the car in front of me began honking and waving his arms at the other driver every time he felt that person should have taken the risk to turn. It made me begin to think about how to apply Mindfulness to driving. We spend many hours in our cars commuting, running errands, shuttling our children to and from events and often we can feel rushed or frustrated by traffic. In the summer many take to the roads for summer vacation. While vacation is a time to relax and renew, the time in the car can be stressful. Mindless driving is on the rise with the distractions of cell phones and other electronics, road rage, eating in the car and other tasks as we race from place to place and having too much on our minds. Adding Mindfulness to your drive can lead to safer driving, less stress and better relationships with those in the car and in the car next to you! 
 
5 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness In to Your Drive 
 
1. Turn off the cell phone! Cell phones have become a way of life but are dangerous while driving. You miss a lot when glancing at your phone not to mention trying to text or dial. Pull over if you need to but try to get in a habit of letting the phone go while you drive.  
 
2. Use red lights as a time to STOP. At the light:
• Stop
• Take a breath
• Observe how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally.
• Proceed on green
Maybe this is a good time to relax your shoulders if you have your hands tightly grasping the wheel. Much of mindfulness practice is about noticing without judging. When you have been stopped for several red lights in a row, notice your response. Are you automatically judging that “the lights are out to get me” or “I am not lucky” or can you let it go? 
 
3. Let the other driver’s behavior go – stop auto reaction of getting annoyed or angry. This is a chance to practice letting go of reaction and then letting it be. How important is it? Ultimately it is a choice about whether you will allow someone else’s behavior on the road to cause you react physically, mentally and emotionally. This can also be a practice in compassion. You might decide that you don’t know what is going on for them that they need to drive in a way that bothers you. Maybe you can even wish them well. This practice can open space in our heart and relax us. No one feels better by yelling, waving their arms or obsessing over being cut off. Now you are not only upset about being cut off but have added these secondary emotions. One suggestion is to decide you will give 6 driver’s “the benefit of the doubt” before you allow yourself to get upset. 
 
4. Turn off the electronics – many times we make our stressful drive even more stressful by adding loud music or talk radio that is upsetting us. Try turning off the noise and instead notice your surroundings. How does it feel to drive in silence? Notice what arises for you. Or use the time to talk to others in your car. Many times we ignore others in the car because we are talking on the phone or listening to something on the radio. This is a great opportunity to connect and improve relationships.  
 
5. Play “I Spy” – just as we do with our children on car trips, play I spy by taking in your surroundings. Looking around at our surroundings can open our eyes to things we have been passing by every day but not noticing. Notice license plates, street signs, scenery or anything else you might have missed in the past while of course keeping your eyes on the road. Being curious about your surroundings can help the ride be more enjoyable and stress free.
Have a safe and mindful July!

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