A few people have recently remarked that they feel most mindful during their morning commute. And these thoughtful admissions have caused me to reflect on what it is about driving to and from work that facilitates mindfulness…
There is the solitude (if you don’t carpool) and the freedom of being in your own space.
There is the routine of it all.
There is the endless forward momentum of the vehicle, an inertia which can often match the cadence and speed of our own thoughts.
There is the inability (unless you are multi-tasking) to impulsively act on any thoughts, in order to remain focused on the road and the task at hand.
There is a requisite heightened awareness to the moment that persists until you pull off the road and as a result, sometimes our vehicles can be environments where emotions are more fully present than in other parts of the day, where distraction is more available.
All of those variables combine to make commuting a surprisingly organic environment in which to practice mindfulness. While driving, you have a chosen point of focus: the road and the complexity entailed in responding immediately and effectively to a particular stimuli. You are intentionally reorienting yourself to this chosen point every time that your attention shifts elsewhere, and likely you do so without judgement. You simply notice you were too caught up in something that was a distraction and bring yourself back into the chosen activity of the moment.
The routine of the weekly commute also makes this an excellent opportunity for placement of a “mindfulness bell,” wherein you are reminded each time you start the car or put on your seatbelt to check in with yourself and with that moment. It can be a cue to come out of automatic pilot and engage fully with that moment, starting a habit that may give your daily routine an infusion of intentionality and well-being.
And for those of us that commute via other forms of transportation, do you find this a good time to practice mindfulness? If you, like me, are surrounded by people busily moving about during your commute, can you still find a connection to your body, your breath, and the moment? I find that it is possible, although more challenging than when inside the personalized interior of my own car. However, now that it has become a habit to be mindful on the metro, I feel out of sorts if I go the trip without practicing- like I would if I did not take my morning shower or skipped breakfast.
Whether you go about your day via train, plane or automobile, why not give a mindful commuting a try? You may find that establishing a regular mindfulness practice is easier and more accessible than you imagined. Bonne route!