One of the ways many people encounter stress is behind the wheel – on the daily drive to and from work, or one of many important appointments. Many people get tense if the person in front is going slower than they want to go, many people panic if they are running late. I have seen otherwise calm and mellow personalities completely melt down in a traffic jam.
Why does driving have to be so upsetting?
Have you ever been on a long road trip? Not for business other plans, but just for the sheer pleasure of it – no tour guide, no itinerary, a real vacation. In such conditions, driving can be a real joy! With no schedule, no time you must arrive, it is easy to be laid back, to relax and enjoy the scenery rolling by. This is how we naturally experience life when we let go of our need to control, let go of our expectations, and drift aimlessly…
Your daily commute can be like that. I know you need to be at work on time, but you cannot control the traffic or foresee all of the possible delays you might encounter. All you can do is leave your house on time, and after that you are at the mercy of fate!
So relax, and be part of the flow. You don’t have to pass every slow moving car – even your best efforts will only get you there a few minutes sooner. Relax, and be aware. Awareness will transform even the most routine surroundings into a fascinating and wondrous landscape.
Delight in the sunlight gleaming on glass and chrome, and in the endless variety of paint colors and combinations. Notice the lawns, trees and flowers all around, the architecture of buildings and bridges. Be amazed at the wonder of the internal combustion engine, and at the vehicle that makes it possible for you to get from one side of town to the other in under an hour!
Now consider this…
When you first get in the car, and turn the key, and the engine turns and roars to life, would you say that “you” started the car? Or was it the battery, a spark, a chemical reaction that did it? Obviously “starting the car” is a process, a serious of events or reactions… but where does the process begin? Did you consciously will your hand and wrist to turn just so, or were you on autopilot? Maybe the process actually began back in the house, when you decided to go for a ride… or even before that?
It’s a bit hard to pin down…
But hey, the car started, it’s running fine. Now you’re cruising down the road and making good time. Maybe you’re listening to the radio, holding a conversation, drinking a latte… all the while you are steering, stopping, going again, and constantly making minute corrections to stay within your lane. Is there really a “you” that is deliberately doing all these things?
When you see brake lights flash ahead of you, your foot shifts from the gas pedal to the brake before you even have time to think – where is the “you” that willed your foot to move? Who or what stopped the car?
There is an endless chain of intricate electro-mechanical processes that keep your vehicle running, and they happen without your effort or control. The hundreds of other vehicles around you are totally beyond your control (tons of steel flying past you at high speeds, sometimes a foot or two away!). Even much of your own actions and reactions are not actually under your control. So when you arrive at your destination, and whether you arrive safely, is really out of your hands.
When you actually investigate what it is that “you” are doing, and what is happening of its own accord, you’ll find that the line is quite fuzzy – and ultimately it’s quite arbitrary. You will find that there is no distinct “you” who is driving, but rather a continuous flow; a process that goes on within you and all around you.
Trust this process. Forget your schedule, and your expectations – the process is always right on time. Relax, and drift along – it’s the Tao that gets you where you’re going…
Enjoy the ride!