The Laboratory of the Mind
A laboratory is traditionally a place to experiment, research, and otherwise explore different things. So where do we go to experiment on, research and explore ourselves? Well, we need only find a place where we feel comfortable enough to take a step back and watch how our minds work. For me this place is my car. Since I drive several times a day and am usually alone, it is a perfect opportunity to use the experience of driving in my car as my laboratory.
Usually my mind wanders when I drive—to the past, projections of the future, emotions, and thoughts. If I can set my intention to observe myself, not react, be in the now as I drive, and pay complete attention to the current moment—I can learn a lot about myself.
First and foremost I pay complete attention to my driving in the moment. I feel my hands on the wheel, see the traffic around me, hear the sound of my tires on the road, sense the temperature of the air on my nostrils, see all of the movement of the other cars around me. In this way I am a safer driver than I would be if I were day dreaming. It also gives me the opportunity to bring my focus into the now and away from my normal egoic thought patterns.
The real learning occurs when I drift off of this attention of the current moment and back into my thoughts. I can recognize that I have fallen away from the reality of the now and just observe where my mind is going. The past? Fantasy of the future? Emotions and the physical reactions to those emotions? Few people become good at observing themselves in the day to day activities of their mind, this practice can change that.
Once I am aware of my reactive, emotional thought patterns, I can bring my attention back into the current moment and realize at my core that my thoughts are not reality. They are not me. I am the one who observes them and then can bring myself back into the reality of the current moment. This can be a very powerful realization.
This is where the idea of developing a practice comes in, and it is also where these experiences can be life changing. We practice, we learn the truth about ourselves, and it becomes a part of how we operate. Once we are able to recognize the truth about our thinking egoic minds and the reality of the current moment, we can learn to temper our reactions, deal with our fears, and stay grounded in the reality of the now.
Some have called this a spiritual experience. We learn to live as our higher-selves and minimize our egoic ways. No matter what you call it, it can be the change you need to live a more balanced and serene life. Enter the laboratory of mind—you might be surprised at what you find.
To learn how to put a driving meditation practice into action read Solan McClean's "Learning to Drive into the Now:PRND" a practical guide to developing and maintaining a Mindfulness Driving Meditation practice.