I’d Rather Be…

I have a license plate frame on my car that reads “I’d Rather Be Knitting”. And it’s true: most of the time that I’m stuck in traffic or traveling from one place to another, the idea of knitting while curled up on the couch sounds much more appealing than what’s taking place on the road.

Id-rather-be-at-the-beach-wooden-sign

But after spending a week in the desert practicing mindfulness, I had to chuckle at myself. How much time do we spend wishing we were doing something else, rather than being present with what’s happening in the moment? How many times have you “woken up” while driving, only to realize your auto-pilot had navigated the last five miles while your mind was reliving something in the past, or projecting into the future?

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Recently I was driving in stop and go traffic when I noticed the driver next to me eating a burrito with one hand and texting with the other. I got upset and started tsk-tsking at her, staring at her and shaking my head in disbelief, until I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me. Who was being more mindless?

A new study from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands documents that experienced drivers between 25 and 35 years of age are perfectly capable of focusing on the road while listening to music or the radio, even when driving in busy urban traffic. The study showed that drivers sometimes drove better while listening to music. This may well be, and I, too, like to listen to music while I drive. It’s one of the few places I can really crank up the volume, sing at the top of my lungs, and not worry about offending bunny ears.

images1But one of the take-aways from my week in the desert is that I’m often multi-tasking to the detriment of my ability to stay in the moment, to focus on the task at hand. Even in the silence of my meditation room, my mind wanders and gets distracted. I’m not saying that I’ll never listen to music again in the car, just that we always have a choice.

So how can we change these patterns of the wandering mind? One simple way is to return to the breath. Let the breath be your anchor into the present moment. If you notice the mind getting caught up in something other than the task at hand, simply take a breath and return your awareness to NOW. Meditation, and indeed all of life, is this practice of gently returning, over and over and over again, to the present.

Your car is a great place to practice this. Imagine a world where all drivers were focused on driving, how much less stress we’d have, fewer accidents, more peace of mind… Ah, but there I go again, thinking.

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