Lights, brake, and stalled again! We may flip our lid in a rage of heavy metal jamming out of the mouth or zen out in the sea of red brake light bliss with the gentle hums of the motors calming our neuropeptides down to mellow yellow and vibrations surrounding us from all directions that evoke blissful stillness.
Traffic is a hot topic and it’s sure to evoke some kind of strong emotion in many of us at some point in time. Perhaps we’ve experienced flipping our lid and zenning out at separate times or we get a double whammy and get to experience both in the same stalled sea of green house gases.
Whatever it is, traffic is the ultimate environment for self-discovery. Think about it, all the main spiritual pillars of rightful living are offered to us as a practice in the moment and making, and there’s no running away from it.
PatienceHonoring the Moment
Haven’t we all been there with anxiousness, anger and impatience about “my” schedule and “my” day being ruined by the rush hour or traffic wreck accident? We may have missed an important meeting, an event that’s been scheduled for months, or even our kiddos’ sports game. Ah, the bittersweet virtue of patience. It seems totally doable and fine for a few minutes, but when a few minutes turns into maybe an hour or longer and uproots our day on it’s head the experience can really just feel bitter.
These times are great practices in present moment awareness. We can’t run ourselves anywhere into another distraction, we are just sitting there in traffic – fuming or humming – and left with the choice to flip out or zen out. Practicing patience has a lot in common with honoring the moment. Each moment added together is growth and growth in patience is building some pretty awesome character habits. Patience is a prerequisite to honoring the moment.
Oh, those road ragers that have bulging eyes and veins and the folks that leave little dark love notes on our windshields with subtle threats of the kindergartener saying “I’m going to get you, Ms.!” These are reactions from anger, not anything close to what I would refer to as acting in a situation that required fearless attention. This is the perfect recipe to add some compassion to the mix. Most raging traffic anger situations are from people we don’t know personally so that emotion evoked from personal intimacy is detached. When we are detached from personal emotion, we are well primed to practice compassion and be successful. The more opportunities we have in these situations, the stronger our compassion muscle in the brain gets. So, what this means for the next time we are emotionally charged, we are more likely to respond with some compassion because we’ve been practicing it in the other situations! Awesomesauce stuff, right?! And, you don’t have to take a training course or read through a copious amount of materials. Nope, we get the opportunity to practice this skill everyday when we get in our cars and on the road.
Loving our traffic mates? Yes! I couldn’t imagine it any other way really. Some road ragers really go out of their way to let us know how angry they are – following, constant honking, more reckless driving, etc. These situations remind me of kids that have experienced a huge lack of love and connection in their lives and act out to oddly enough receive the love and connection they so much crave and desire. We can take these moments and reach out to show another way, the way of love and not more anger and hate. The road rager isn’t thinking in their “right mind” so to speak when these transgressions occur so let’s not get caught in their web of flipping the lid. Show them love. How? Don’t react. Kindly ignore. Send them a loving prayer or say some affirming words, and then move on. It doesn’t help to instigate more of a reaction from them and sometimes-outward expressions of kindness can be interpreted as intentional provoking.
This is such a great environment to practice detachment because we can’t run and we can’t hide. We are there in the colorful and racy heartbeat mix of it all! Reading about detachment is great. Investigating strategies about it even better! But, we can’t really know how to detachment until we apply the theories to practice. It’s easy to say the next time someone makes you angry you will try that great strategy you read the other day, but when love meets anger or perhaps anger meets anger, then it’s time for the light and love races to begin. Take a few deep breaths, roll down the window and exhale those tainted toxic emotions out the window and just let it go. It may feel like road ragers have a personal vendetta against us, but the truth is, they are just operating from a different part of their brain that is in red light emergency freak out mode. When we shift our perspective to see it like that we can detach from our own emergency mode save-me-from-this-cra-cra-wolfdozer of a person, breathe, and let go.
We have nowhere to run when we are in traffic. We are there in the un-comfortableness of it ruining our plans, our day, and perhaps it may really feel like it in the moment, our life! Yet, we have the great opportunity in these moments that we all find ourselves in most days – in the car, turning and burning the rubber radar – to build our spiritual pillars of rightful living without the running away that other situations give rise to, and in these moments we build great habits that will become our character for others to emulate. That’s how we can change the world – traffic mess, turning into traffic bliss.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea
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Ha and when I pray for patience watch out! I get all kinds of situations to practice it. Practice not perfect. I lose my cool sometimes in traffic. I have been tested and stretched. As a matter of fact my insurance is dropping me for lack of mindfulness and not being in the moment. I had two accidents in one week. One because I was truly happy and not in the moment and the other because I was truly angry and not in the moment. Driving in Houston is I guess a necessary evil.. I have had it on my resentment list and have to constantly turn it over especially if I choose to drive. I guess I could stay home but I might get kinda hungry living in a place where I can’t even get a quart of milk if I don’t drive. Modern advancements of man, yes it’s a double edged sword isn’t it? Some alternate nostril breathing helps and I love lot listen to meditation cd’s in my car. Ya know if i really was ambitious I could learn another language listening to instructional cd’s for all the time I spend in traffic. Gotta make lemonade from lemons i guess! Love you