Yesterday I got a text from one of my friends, who is my meditation accountability partner.
We text each other daily about our practice. The whole exchange usually looks something like this: Her: “Sat 20.” My response: “Thumbs up emoji.”
The texts are simple, a bit of a kick in the butt, some motivation to meditate.
Neither of us needs to do this. We have both been practicing for a long time, and it is an ingrained part of our lives. It is a way of staying in touch with a friend more than anything else.
Yesterday she wrote, “did 20 minutes in the car, not while driving of course.” The implication that it would be way too dangerous to meditate when driving.
This text got me thinking. I meditate all the time while I am driving. Yup. That’s right. You read that correctly. I meditate all the time while I am driving.
Are you scratching your head in disbelief?
There is a misconception about meditating. You do not have to be sitting on a cushion on the floor with your eyes closed in a full-lotus position to practice Mindfulness.
You can do it while you are; driving, walking, eating, showering, waiting for the elevator, being intimate. You get the idea.
One way to think of Mindfulness is, “the practice of cultivating a higher level of awareness… awareness of thoughts, feelings, emotions, body sensations, the breath, surroundings.”
To develop that greater sense of awareness, one needs to, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “pay attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” He would even add to that, “as if your life depended on it.”
So here is how I put it all together and meditate in the car. I state my intention. (A lot of meditation is about intention.) “I am going to practice now.” I turn off the radio, shift my focus to my breath, and bring awareness to all the sensations associated with breathing correctly. I pay attention to my belly rising and falling. Perhaps I bring awareness to the feeling of air entering my nasal passage, going down the back of my throat and then exiting back out through the nose.
No doubt, my mind will wander and move to thoughts about later in the day, or drift to worries from the past. When I realize that my mind has wandered away from the present, I label the thought and bring my attention back to the breath.
As I continue on my drive, I will move my present moment awareness away from the breath, and maybe start to observe the sounds and vibrations of the car and the road. I just listen. I just feel. I am just present with what is. When my mind wanders away, and I catch it, I label it. The label could be anything, “thinking,” “arguing,” “obsessing.” Then I escort my attention back to what my present moment focus was — the breath, sounds, vibration.
It doesn’t matter if your mind wanders 100 times in five minutes, just label the thought and come back. As one of my teachers says, “congratulate yourself for noticing that your mind has wandered.” The most experienced meditators’ minds wander. We are human. It is what we do.
The seminal moment in meditation is when we recognize that the mind has drifted and we bring it back to the present.
By continually doing this exercise, we are training ourselves to become aware of the many useless thoughts that consume us throughout the day. These thoughts are just thoughts and typically do not come to fruition. I read one statistic that 80% of our thoughts are negative and recurring. So we continually obsess over tomorrow’s test, next week’s meeting, yesterday’s argument, last week’s interview, the party we attended, the party we did not attend.
As we practice more and more, we learn to quiet the monkey mind and be more present.
The funny thing is, when I do this type of Mindfulness practice while driving, I am a lot more aware of everything around me — the road, the other cars, the signs and the lights. I am not “zoning out,” and I am sure I am a much safer driver.
So give it a try. Meditate while you drive. I promise you will arrive at your destination much more present and relaxed… and that alone is worth a lot!
Originally published at medium.com