Don’t have time to meditate? No sweat! Here’s something you can do instead. Like many of you, I spend a long time in the car. As part of my resolve to lead a more intentional life and my deep interest in somatic practices (practices that integrate body and mind) I decided I’m going to dedicate every time I get in the car to practice mindfulness.
Here’s what I do:
1. Setting an intention: I start by setting the intention to quiet down my mind so I can practice a state of “being-ness”, so I can live from a more wholesome and satisfying place, a heart-centered place, and be the person that I want to be. It’s important to say to myself why I’m doing it: it helps me stay focused by having a goal.
2. Noticing the chatter: I then make a decision to notice every time my mind wanders, label it and gently and non judgmentally bring it back to the practice of mindfulness.
3. What is happening now: The first thing I do is I ask myself what is the most noticeable thing NOW? What stands out the most? I don’t stay with each input for long so I don’t give my mind the opportunity to get distracted. The idea is not to go into a completely internal place (no accidents please!) but to sense while staying connected to what is happening on the road.
I move from one stimuli to another pretty quickly. I try not to look for it but let it come to me. It can be the sound of the motor and it’s vibration, the sound of the air-conditioning, my breath, the taste of my chai tea in my mouth, the air on my face, the warmth of my seat heating on my back, my legs touching the seat, the position of my head in space, my hands holding the wheel, the cars passing by, the stripes on the road and so on.
I count to ten and connect to a different stimuli on every count. Then I repeat it 3 or 4 times. I find that this process helps replace the chatter and gives my wandering thoughts the signal that I’m in charge now. Before I can sink or let go into a place of being-ness, I need to give my mind something to do that is similar to what it’s already doing habitually: skipping from one thought to another. The difference is that it’s paying attention to things that are happening outside of itself.
4. Slow it down: the next step is to keep noticing things but slowing it down. Staying with the stimuli for a couple seconds longer. I find that this is more possible now because the chatter has quieted down quite a bit at this point.
5. Allowing: After doing this for a while I invite my body/mind to step into a place of being-ness and experience the enormous sense of well-being that comes with this. It’s a place where the awareness is not focused on one particular stimulus or one sense. It’s a state that involved many senses. There’s a sense of being here and everywhere at the same time or “zooming out”. There’s great satisfaction in being in this place and I make sure to acknowledge how good it feels to signal my brain that I want to come back here. If the road is clear and I’m cruising freely it can connect me to a universal sense of flow. I can also say to myself the words “I’m allowing”. If there’s traffic, it may magically open up all of a sudden.
The challenge that I give myself here is “try to notice every time you get into this place and stay there for as long as you can. Notice when you snapped out of it and try to step into this place again. Try to go in an out for at least 5 times”.
Depending on how long the drive is I might decide to repeat this phase a few times but I find that if I manage to drop into this state even once, for even just a few seconds, the rest of my day goes much better.
6. Connect to spirit: at this point I can go into a more spiritual practice of gratitude and asking my source or higher self what I need to remember in order for me to step into my best self and have a great day. I make sure to remind myself to connect with the sense being-ness and the road every time I notice I go to a more mental place.