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10 tips for mindful driving

I do a lot of driving. Driving in Southern California can be very stressful dealing with traffic and boredom of commute. You can turn your drive time into a practice in mindfulness. Try one of the following 10 tips for mindful driving next time you hit the road:

1. Switch off the radio and experience the silence.
We often drive along while listening to the radio. Just as an experiment, try seeing what it’s like to have the sound turned off. It might seem at first as if something is missing, but you’ll quickly learn that the silence gives you an opportunity to fill your awareness with other perceptions, some of which are more enriching.

2. The extra attention that’s freed up because you’re no longer listening to the radio is now available to notice other things. You can notice any tensions in your body, such as a knot of tension in the belly, or your hands gripping the steering well, or a clenched jaw. Notice these experiences, and let your body relax more. Notice how your experience changes and becomes more enjoyable as your muscles let go.

3. Slow down. As an experiment, try driving at or just below the speed limit. Most of us tend to want to push the speed limit, driving just a little faster than allowed. Driving just a fraction under the speed limit can take away a lot of tension. Shift over into the slower lane if necessary.

4. Notice your attitudes. Often we become competitive while driving, and this leads to tension. Make a practice of noticing cars trying to enter the road, and adjust your speed so that you can let them out if it’s safe to do so. Notice if you’re in a hurry. How does this make you feel? How does it feel if you let the pace slacken a little?

5. Practice being more aware of the other traffic around you. Sometimes we become very focused just on what’s around us, but it can be very fulfilling (and much safer) to develop an all-round awareness, using our mirrors as well as what we can see in front on us.

6. As drivers pass you, wish them well. Repeat, “May you be well, May you be happy” as cars cut you off.

7. Use every stop light or any other necessary stop to practice a fuller mindfulness of your body. When you’ve stopped, it’s safe to let your awareness more fully connect with your breathing. At those moments you can also notice what’s around you — the sky and the trees, and other people. Wish those other people well.

8. If there are other people in the car with you, wish them well. As you drive, a part of your mind can be repeating “May you be well, may you be happy”.

9. Take deep breaths. As you get into your car, before you switch on the engine, and before you get out of the car, after you’ve switched off the engine, just sit for a moment and take three deep breaths, really letting go on the out breath.

10. If you don’t drive, but take public transport instead, then wish your fellow travelers well, radiating loving kindness towards them.

4 reasons to be mindful of breathing

Dr. Arnie Kozak wrote a nice article on the importance of being mindfulness of breathing. It is really important that we pay attention to our breath because it is a powerful barometer of our state of mind.

Here are the four main points that I got from the article.

1. The breath is always with us and always available to you as an object of attention. You can’t forget to bring it with you.

2. Awareness of breathing brings us into the body, and the body lives in the present moment. By focusing on breathing, we come into the body and the wisdom of the present. This helps us to stay connected to the present moment where stress doesn’t live.

3. Every breath we take is colored by our emotional state. Paying attention to breathing on a regular basis provides an early warning system to alert us when we move into problematic emotional states. By making breathing our friend we will know where we are in our emotional landscape at any given moment.

4. Breathing teaches us directly the process of becoming and dissolving. This arising and releasing can serve as a metaphor for other experiences, such as difficult emotions that also become and dissolve.

5 steps to achieve a state of mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that we practice throughout the day. It is being fully aware of the present moment. When a negative thought pops in your mind, you should immediately replace it with a positive thought. If you practice mindfulness correctly, you will actually be gaining energy throughout the day instead of being completely drained by the end of the day.

This article talks about 5 steps you can implement to be more mindful. To begin mindfulness meditation, try these steps:

1. State your purpose. Ask yourself why you want to practice mindfulness. As you continue practicing, your intention may evolve, extending the mindful approach to other aspects of your life.

2. Make a commitment, even a small one. Decide to give over 20 minutes each day for the next two months to practicing mindfulness meditation.

3. Train your mind. Each day when you meditate, you will be training your mind to pay attention in an accepting way. Many people are surprised at how hard it is to pay attention. When you’re not paying attention, you don’t even feel your breath.

4. Extend your mindful actions. Once you become comfortable with the practice, bring mindfulness into your daily life. Take time to appreciate the experience of simple actions, such as washing dishes, eating a meal or taking a walk.

5. Find a teacher. It helps to have guidance, as you would in a yoga or spinning class.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is not about suppressing thinking but recognizing that it is occurring and not elaborating it automatically and without choice. Mindfulness is the ability to cultivate awareness and the ability to retrieve attention from the future or past, or commentary about the present to bring it into intimate contact with what is happening right now. Read more here.

U.S. Army adopts mindfulness practice

Mindfulness means monitoring your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. It is to be present in the moment and to focus on whatever you are working on.

The U.S Army is offering soldiers an ancient alternative to traditional methods of coping with deployment stress. “Mindfulness is a simple but ancient approach to living, which Western medicine has begun to recognize as a powerful tool for dealing with stress, illness and other medical or psychological conditions, and it can help soldiers in any circumstance”, said Army Maj. Victor Won, deputy assistant chief of staff for intelligence in 1st Armored Division’s general staff section. “Just as running or lifting weights can improve physical fitness, a daily routine of mindfulness will help to strengthen coping mechanisms, making it easier to recognize and react to negative emotions so they don’t grow stronger”, Won said.

If mindfulness practice is good enough for the most powerful military force in the history of the world, it is good enough for us too. We have and will continue to talk about mindfulness in class as it is such an essential part of today’s stressful world.

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