Being Present, Mindful Awareness in the Car

Which way now?

Which way now?

Feeling Philosophical in the Car

Driving along this morning to work I was thinking about how there’s so much in life that we just dial in. It’s true on the road too. We drive on autopilot, not really consciously knowing where we are at any given moment. It frightens me a little sometimes when I arrive at my destination and I can’t recall even a moment of the drive. I wonder, “How the heck did I make it there!” I’m so programmed to drive in the same direction every day, I don’t even think about it. I often miss everything around me along the way. Even though we get where we need to be (albeit not always where we WANT to be), in the process of “getting there,” we miss the journey, life happening all around us — the beauty and of course sometimes things that aren’t quite so beautiful.

Time spent in my car is truly a metaphor for life. As I said in my first post for mybLAuto (see my Welcome post if you haven’t read it yet), the road is a main character in my life and sometimes a reflection of who I am and where I’m going. Most of the time, we think driving is about the destination, but really it should be about the journey. That’s where the mystique of Route 66 comes into play and why we take Highway 1 instead of Interstate 5 when heading North. After all, wouldn’t you rather smell the salt air along the coast than the stench of cows along I-5?

Perhaps if we considered the journey, we wouldn’t get nearly as frustrated on the ride or frazzled by the time we reached our destination. Then, maybe just maybe we could better appreciate where we are. Two hours of my life every day in the car is a lot of time to spend not being fully conscious and simply reacting to everything around me. I can better use this time to be an active participant or even a casual observer.

We hear a lot these days about mindful awareness. It’s about being present, appreciating the now, the moments that lead us to where we’re going. So, I decided to test myself this morning, challenge myself to be a little more present in the car as I’m driving. Sure, I was still listening to the news, running down my To Do list in my head, but here were a few of my observations when I stayed “present.”

I could see the Getty Museum on the hill, the Hollywood sign, the downtown skyline and the snow capped mountains in the distance as I was driving on the freeway. The mountains were spectacular. I could feel the coolness of the air outside radiating on the windows, showing me winter is here (Southern California’s version of winter anyway). I knew that the air was crisp and clean outside. The smog was still washed away from the last rain, making the sky a brilliant blue. I could see forever it seemed.

I observed that traffic was somewhat light, uncharacteristically light, if you were heading south on the 405. It’s the holiday traffic upshot for most commuters. Now, I did get stuck in traffic. Seemed there was an accident, one lane blocked. I did what I do … called KNX 1070 Traffic and reported what I observed. The station is after all in my Contacts listed as “Traffic.” I had a great conversation with the traffic reporter. We talked about holiday traffic, this time of the year, how lucky some people are to have this time off work and of course what I saw off to the side of the road. It was a pleasant conversation followed by an on air report recounting our discussion and even mentioning my name as the tipster.

My car hit the peak of the Sepulveda Pass and was greeted with spectacular views of the Valley. Then, the gas tank light came on warning me that my tank is getting low. I headed down the hill into the Valley and arrived at work. Another warning light told me it’s time to service my car again. As my moments of being present slipped away and these warning lights brought me back to my default state thinking about everything but the moment, I parked my car. I stepped out of the car, took a deep breath, filled up my tank with the fresh air so to speak for just one more moment. It was time to take on the day, perhaps with a little more awareness.

Care to give this a try? Let me know if you do and what you observe.

Marci, Your Mindful Awareness Guru in Training

 

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