I have always been attracted to meditation. I have had some success with practice when I was single, and before having children. Sitting meditation takes time. I also explored mindfulness meditation with a Vipassana teacher and found that it was the type of meditation that made the most sense to me. Then life got lifey. A business, marriage, kids...I remember never having meaningful time to sit down in a quiet place for any amount of time to meditate. So, guess what happened? I couldn’t put together a meaningful practice. So, it didn’t come to fruition for me. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. In fact, at one time I did make the time and it worked quite well. All it means is that my priorities were not in line with what I wanted to achieve through the practice of quiet, sitting meditation. So, it didn’t work...for me at that time.
I noticed when I decided to practice mindfulness while driving that it was a good fit because I was in my car several times a day and usually alone. I was used to zoning out to music and thoughts in my head while I drove so I felt my time could be better spent. My thoughts usually drove me to agitation and anxiety anyway so I was not really giving up much. If you are in the same situation...developing a driving meditation practice can be a really great thing for you. If not...it can still be a really great thing for you.
I wrote the book “Learning to Drive into the Now:PRND” based on my experience and success developing a driving mindfulness meditation practice.
All we are seeking to do is to use the experience of driving your car to learn to quiet the thinking (egoic) mind and open up the compassionate self (the real you) that lies beneath everything you think and do. I think that once you make contact with “the real you” you are going to want more. Our “real you” is someone we always felt we could be but could never quite hang onto. We caught glimpses. When we helped someone in need, when we did the right thing even though no one was watching, or when we taught someone something that made their life better. The only thing standing in the way of you being “the real you” is your egoic mind.
“The Real You” or the spiritual you, or the compassionate you, or whatever you would like to call it has a way of knowing and calming. Some refer to it as your “gut”, your instinct or your unspoken mind. This is as a result of feeling or listening to your inner voice or...the Real You. Driving meditation attempts to reveal more of that “Real You” to you! If you can quiet the analytical mind with its judgements and opinions, and open up that inner you who doesn’t judge, watches with attention, and acts out of compassion... you will have come a step closer to what eastern religions have called enlightenment, Christians have called Christ consciousness, and Western culture has called serenity.
Once you experience being in the present moment with no concepts, thoughts, or words you will be amazed. It cannot be described, only experienced. Usually just a glimpse at first, but that taste is enough to take you further into your practice. This is the real you, in the real world, in the present moment only. Our human minds have been trained to ignore it, but it is the only real truth we can experience.
It’s the feeling of ease without any feeling. It is the clarity of mind with no mind. It is our true nature and it is liberating.
We can learn to focus this attention to the present moment by practicing conscious driving. Many people have practiced it using conscious breathing. You can do this too. You can even do it while driving. In fact, that is a great starting point for you to begin your conscious driving practice.
We can learn to focus our attention on our body, breath, senses, awareness of the road and other drivers, the weather and road conditions, and most of all our experience in the present moment while driving to bring about a shift in our human experience.
In all of this we can practice to become more compassionate drivers and more compassionate human beings.
When I first started developing my driving practice I noticed that as soon as I sat in the driver's seat, right in front of my face was a great tool to remind me of my practice and the important keys to staying on track. It is PRND. This usually stands for park, reverse, neutral, and drive and is found on your dashboard, steering column, or perhaps on your center console gearshift. I use it to remind myself of the some of the keys to action of my practice, and refer to it several times a trip....sometimes more! Here is my breakdown:
P is for PRACTICE.
When I first sit down in the driver's seat I make it a point to look at the PRND on my dash. I focus on “P” for a moment and move my attention to awareness of my intention to practice mindful driving. In this way I “set” my intention for the trip. I know from experience that I will have to “reset” this intention several times if not more on my drive.
R is for RELAX
After my intention is mentally set I then move onto the next reminder on the dash console....”R” for relax. I scan my body for any tension points and consciously release them. I take a deep breath and rescan until I am pretty sure I am as relaxed as I can get at the moment.
N is for NOW
Once I have focused my intention and relaxed my body, I bring my attention into the now. I observe my surroundings visually without mentally narrating what I see. I feel my hands on the wheel, I hear the starting of the engine as I feel the turn of the key. I smell the air and feel its temperature on my nostrils. I do all of this while remaining relaxed and keeping my focus on the unfolding moment.
D is for Drive
Everything we have done up to this point has been leading up to this moment. The moment when we put the car and our practice into drive. As your vehicle moves through space in the present moment, so do you. This is your time to focus all of your attention on the experience of driving and experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tactile sensations, smells, movements, stillness, and freedom of driving in the now.
Now, exist in the moment like you are riding a wave. Don’t try to hang onto the space you're in. Just surrender to the moment and drive. If thoughts arise, notice them and then bring your attention back to the present moment and let the thought fade. Keep your attention in the now. It is this process of noticing distractions and letting them go, then returning to the present moment that is your practice.
If you start and restart and restart again...you are developing a current moment mindfulness driving practice! Stick with it and you will see the results.