Chill Behind the Wheel

Chill Behind the Wheel

It’s been a good day. The Significant Other has been attentive; the 2.5 children, well behaved; the well-groomed pooch, affectionate. Peacefully energized after your yoga class, you hop into the driver’s seat, crank up the stereo, pop your shades on, and head for the open road.

But as you put the car in gear, your route is obstructed by road construction, or the street seems littered with clueless, inattentive, indecisive, rude drivers. And there goes your peaceful state of mind. You need not let it go so easily. Here are a few steps to keep your chill behind the wheel.

Look at Yourself in the Mirror and Speak Encouragement
Giving yourself a verbal reminder to be attentive and intentional in your driving is a great idea on any day. But especially if you feel tired, depressed, fearful, or angry, it’s important to tell yourself you are not driving with your negative emotions. Eckhart Tolle, in his book A New Earth, dedicates a couple of chapters to the “pain-body,” that part of us that carries historical negative thoughts and emotions around as if they were current events. Pain-bodies depend on negative emotions and situations to survive. Left unacknowledged and unchecked, our pain-body can drive us, literally, into bad places.

A couple of years ago, my adult son was hospitalized and struggling through a serious illness caused by medical error. Each time I drove to and from the hospital, I looked at myself in the visor mirror and said, out loud, “I am not driving with my pain-body. I am aware of my surroundings and am taking good care of myself and others on the road.” It created a positive intention for the drive and, I believe, helped keep me safe.

Breathe Consciously
Before you put the car into gear, take a few deep belly breaths. Draw the breath deeply into the abdomen, let it rise into the ribs, then up into the chest. Reverse the process as you exhale. Repeat the pattern a few times, especially if you’re feeling rushed or stressed. This deep, three-part breathing will help your central nervous system relax, enabling you to focus and react to situations appropriately.

No One Has Set Their Sights on You
Remember that not one driver you encounter today sat in the driver’s seat with the intention of gunning for YOU. We must remind our egos that we are not that important. The man who didn’t let you merge just didn’t let you merge. Maybe he’s excited about a new promotion. Maybe he’s had a rough day. Maybe he just isn’t paying attention. Whatever the reason, it likely has nothing to do with you. Breathe, and let his actions go.

Let’s train ourselves to chill behind the wheel. We’ll force those negative pain-bodies into the backseat, breathe our way to calmer nerves, and keep our egos in check. When we arrive at our destination, we can wave a checkered flag – the drive is over, and everybody won!