Martine & Stephen

Batchelor

When we drive we seem to become a different person, Buddhism and meditation seems to go out of the window.  We pest, we shout, we honk; some people might even make rude gestures.  We often wonder with irritation why people are not going faster; at the back of our mind thinking: “Don’t they realise how important or how in hurry I am!”  As drivers we are the centre of our universe – our car, but not the centre of other universes – other cars! 

I find driving a great opportunity to practise loving-kindness and compassion.  I try to put myself in other people’ driving seat.  How would I feel if I was tired or lost or the car was not working well?  When someone is going slowly, I wonder if they are old, looking for an address or have some other difficulties.  In France in the countryside we have lots of tiny cars driven by older people who did not manage to get a driving license – like my mother.  They are relatively safe on the road because their car cannot go fast!  When someone goes slow, in a way it is an opportunity to slow down too and it is also much less dangerous and tiring.  At the end of the summer, I drove 400km quite fast in one go.  It was fast indeed but I was kind of a nervous wreck when I arrived.  When I drive fast, I feel I have to be very attentive, very present to the roads and the other cars.  And it is quite frightening sometimes to realise that we drive on automatic pilot, thinking of something totally different at 140km an hour.

This is why I see driving as a practice of being aware and present, of returning constantly to my posture, to my hands on the steering wheel, to the view in front of me, to the traffic surrounding me.  It is a way to break through the mental habits of distractions, planning or ruminating.  I am surprised when people tell me that they listen to tapes or talk on the phone while they drive.  I could not do it.  I would find it too distracting.  Possibly I am a good meditator but a very limited multi-tasker!

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