I love to drive. Road trips are a way for me to satisfy this urge. Behind the wheel, favorite music playing and sat nav to tell me where to go, equals a strange form of relaxation. Then I meet traffic and the ever increasing presence of competitive drivers (of course I am not included in this group).
First there are the ones that have to pass by even though I am doing the speed limit. Signs posted everywhere warn about mobile speed cameras. Don't they get it? Inevitably the great equalizer called stoplights and school zones and the occasional camera zone bring in some fairness.
I don't have to get anywhere soon.
I have no self imposed time limit to which I am beholden.
No, time is on my side for a change!
I notice after awhile that whilst I am driving forwards I keep focusing my energy and attention on the cars behind. I become glaringly aware of this persistent behavior pattern. Why am I giving away so much of my power and pleasure to other drivers?
I adhere to being mindful but not having my mind full of negative energy. So I practice putting my mind elsewhere. It actually amazes me how difficult I make this seemingly simple task. When you realize that my experience is the product of my thoughts- well at least in this instance-it should be easy to change my experience. I revisit suggestions from the bookshelf of stored author wisdom so readily available in my head. I tap into my own wisdom just to make sure. Conclusion, I know my thoughts are the problem here, not really the drivers. Plus I could do a little work on changing my body state, but for now lets work on the thoughts.
Type of thinking matters
Ok thoughts, what next? Well the first layer are some friendly nice caring thoughts about my fellow drivers sharing the road with me. These thoughts start out like: "oh, so you just wanted to let me know you were there before you zoomed out from behind only to settle less than one car length in front of me. Be my guest and enjoy your travels" "maybe you can't read the signs that say school zone 40km area or see the big flashing lights. That's ok I'm sure the kids will get out of the way." "(what's a highway doing in a school zone in the first place?!?!?!) "yeah I know you drive a bus but so wish it were a sports car so you pretend it is one"
There is a simple solution
Ok. So I can even think with sarcasm. Not really the warm, loving, spirit inspired idea I had in mind.
Enough with the thought reprogramming. Let's just say there are drivers I enjoy sharing the road with and there are those I don't.
So after sending loving thoughts, or at least trying as much as humanly possible, I need to switch tactics. It's really simple and obvious to you, I know.
Stop looking in the rearview mirror all the time.
I got it.
How simple. How obvious. How missed.
A little insight
Here I was driving and already experiencing a lesson on this 'me retreat'. I hadn't even been out of the house for more than an hour.
The secret is to not just change my thoughts but also to change the direction of my attention. To shift a fear, or non supportive behavior pattern, as I was experiencing, required double tactics. So I consciously stopped my rear view mirror obsession. I then consciously started to pay more attention to the scenery along the way. I needed something else to focus on.
Scenery with a message
Aside from keeping my eye on the road my attention moved to the scenery. Rather than engendering a negative reaction the view lifted my spirits, relaxed me and filled me with wonder. I noticed as well that the scenery was passing me by, rapidly whizzing in and out of view. Yet really I was passing it by. All relative of course to my perception and the way I saw the situation - ie me or the scenery being the object. I was choosing to drive past rather than the other way around. To me this meant I was in control of my journey not the journey. If I wanted to stop I could, or just keep driving. I could decide which road to take or let the sat nav suggest.
Nice parallel analogy to life which I realize is also so obvious.
It had been a long time since I had driven to the south coast via the Princes Highway. Realizing I travelled more over the Pacific Ocean than along side it I noticed that there was lots to be appreciated and seen. Mostly I got excited when I caught glimpses of the ocean. Though not driving on the coastal highway I still enjoyed moments where I could see water.
I also started to realize that I didn't need to go far away to really experience a getaway. I started to compare this to my drives along California, my old commute to work along scenic Highway 1. What I felt was the small town feeling, the way I felt about my old home of Half Moon Bay, California, and the innate beauty that surrounds us every day if we would just take the time to notice.
Isn't it interesting how in a completely different location geographically the urge is still there to anchor the experience in something familiar. You know, we all say comments like "this place reminds me of..." or "being here is just like a place I used to holiday at when I grew up."
Either way I 100% whole heartedly appreciated the beauty of this place as much as I missed the beauty of other places.
I kept going. Why would I stop? Maybe to take a photo. Or maybe just because I could if I wanted to. There was no one in the car to complain. I had total freedom.
Refocusing my attention enabled me to gain a bit more insight. Letting go of the self chosen distraction supported me.
The combination of driving freedom, home town reminders and the sense of escape tempted me further. My recently redirected attention now wandered into realms of fantasy. I started to wonder what it would be like to relocate the family to the coast.
But before I could get carried away I arrived. Woo hoo!
Tell you more next time.