3 Tips for Mindful Driving

Learn how to reduce anger and fear on the road.

May 31, 2013    BY Dakota Sexton
Mindful Driving

Six months ago, I passed my first-ever driving exam. At age 23. It was a somewhat-embarrassing journey from white-knuckling the steering wheel to pulling a fancy maneuver on an uneven, pockmarked road because I thought I saw a very large, dead deer ahead. It was instead a very large, dead tree branch. My friend Kelham who was with me laughed himself all the way back home.

I drive comfortably now, but I’m easily vexed. A shared experience apparently: one shared, at least, by BBC personality Anita Rani in her co-hosted documentary, India on Four Wheels. In the second episode, the road-trip travelogue captures Rani as she encounters a motorbike barreling towards her car, traveling the wrong way—on not just on an old rural road, but in the fast lane of the six-lane, high-speed Mumbai Pune Expressway.

How do we keep our cool when we’re spending hours on the road, driving to yoga festivals, family reunions, and best-friend weddings?

It all feels so universal. Even if cars pretty much stay in their own lane around here, (and peacock attacks on cars are pretty much unheard of) who hasn’t had an experience driving that made them angry, anxious, or upset?

More to the point: how do we keep our cool when we’re spending hours (and sometimes days) on the road, driving to yoga festivals, family reunions, and best-friend weddings? I must admit, these tips helped me relax a bit and enjoy the ride.

Health and Driving

According to ayurveda, if there’s one season during which we need to watch our tendency toward aggression, it’s summer. Our level of pitta-dosha hot-headedness can easily skyrocket.

How can you tell? Shouting at traffic might be your first clue. Excess pitta can also cause oily skin, acne, excess sweating, and excess stomach acid—or put in another way—heartburn and ulcers.

Keep your cool by staying hydrated (drink at least 4 to 6 cups of water daily) and, if you’re particularly feeling the heat, eat plenty of cooling foods (like coconuts) that support a pitta-reducing diet and lifestyle.

  1. Practice mindfulness before and during a drive. This will profoundly effect how you navigate that special intersection between hot weather, body aches and pain, and unpredictable traffic. It can be as simple as doing a few rounds of deep breathing every time you stop at a stop light.

  2. Try the One-Minute Method. Pause for a few moments before turning the key in the ignition, says Jill Satterfield, founder of Vajra Yoga in New York City. This can provide the opportunity you need to let go of emotions before you get on the road: otherwise, “whatever you’re feeling will be there for the remainder of the trip,” she says, and may affect your ability to enjoy the moment.

  3. Try the Road Trip Survival Method. As you drive, says Insight Meditation instructor Michele McDonald, pay attention to all five senses. Listen to the ambient sound of your car or feel the heat of the sun through your windows. Observations like these can keep you focused on the present moment.

You never know. You might have loads of fun here. Pack a picnic, grab your favorite sunblock, and head out on the open road!

Dakota Sexton
Dakota Sexton is a freelance writer, designer, and the former Web Director of Yoga International magazine. For more of her stories, click here.

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