|Commuting with Kindness|
1) Acceptance: Whether you take the "wrong road," find yourself in heavy traffic, or notice the car is falling apart with each unavoidable pot hole you hit, acceptance is a great way to stop the suffering. When expecting an uneventful commute, a variety of unpleasant circumstances can still arise. Thankfully, most of them are non-emergencies, though our minds often don't know the difference. Accept the pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral moments of a commute, for a powerful way to practice yogic living.
2) Compassion: Shouting at the "idiot"on the road, leaves me feeling like the idiot. When another driver does something hazardous or unkind, instead of insulting their imagined character, try connecting for a moment with the humanity of that driver. This effectively brings about a state of compassion, rather than hostility. Maybe the problem driver is unfamiliar with the area, new to driving, ill, elderly, etc. Instead of assuming the driver is an unintelligent, or terrible person, try having compassion for all drivers (including yourself). Being confined to a machine with wheels can be the perfect space for finding our tender hearted selves.
3) Non-Greed: Needing to be at the front of the lane at all times, cutting in front of someone for a gas pump, or not stopping when pedestrians are present, brings a spirit of greed to the road. We can change an attitude of violence, greed, and stealing (e.g.; running a red light) into an experience of yoga. Non-greed and other important ethical guidelines of yoga are addressed in the yamas. Our commute gives a chance to practice them.
4) Noticing Bodily Sensations: It may be that you are stuck in traffic, despite the extra time you allowed. Whether it is the driving atmosphere contributing to tension, and/or the mental processing of the day, yoga is available to us all! Noticing where you feel tension in your body is a great way to begin the physical practice of yoga. Try tuning into the places that are gripping (jaw, hips, glutes). Become aware of the tightly held areas in your body. Use commuting time to get acquainted with where you feel open, uncomfortable, tight, easeful, etc. Notice how compassionate awareness can transform tension. Turn your commute into a yoga practice by being present in your body.
5) Breath Awareness: Turning your commute into a yoga practice may feel impossible at times. In this case, there may not be a better time to focus on yoga's chief tool, the breath. That's right, just keep noticing your inhale/exhale. An anxious mind calms down when there is something productive to focus on. Why not let your mind become interested in the act of being alive? Use the breath as a relaxant for the body with natural breathing. Breathing through the nose when possible, allow the breath to be just as it is. Notice, breathe, repeat!
What if you are not the driver?
As the driver or passenger, commuting can be a highly stressful event. As a recovering "backseat driver," it is an on-going struggle to practice yoga from the passenger's seat. Passengers have little say over the driver's style and conduct. For me, it becomes necessary to crank up my practice of acceptance, breath awareness, noticing bodily sensations, and compassion for all drivers. Jack Kornfield has outlined a traditional loving kindness practice, which is not only effective, but feels great.
Practicing one or more of the above suggestions while in a car, will change your commuting experience for the better. Don't forget to give yourself more travel time, share the road, accept present moment circumstances, and develop compassion for all drivers! Once you arrive at your destination, don't be surprised if your practice has a positive impact on the rest of your day.