Written by Kayla Reetz, Yoga Instructor + Trauma Supports Team Member
"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead." - Mac McCleary
With my family living on the western side of Iowa and I on the eastern side, I spend a lot of time in the car.
You can just imagine the amount of time it takes me to get to any family event...
And just like so many, I've struggled with all of the typical "problem drivers":
painfully slow drivers
the ones on their phones
the ones that refuse to use their turning signals until the last second
and the ones that seemed to want to “just get there”
Amidst those common struggles and the accompanying emotions, I came this realization: so many of us are focused on what’s ahead of us, that we forget to focus on what’s around us.
It seems technology now helps us to only focus on what’s ahead of us.
But, in an effort to make things easier and more convenient, it makes other things more challenging.
This takes me back to driver’s ed “back in the day” (i.e. about 16 years ago).
I remember how it was emphasized to look at each mirror- the rear mirror, and each side mirror.
We watched a video of a cop in his car practicing that rapid eye movement.
First, his eyes would dart side to side.
Then, back to the rearview mirror - only to start the process over again in the same consistent pattern.
Oh, and a shout out to Mike Ingram- my driver’s ed and Industrial Tech instructor- for reminding me to look at my blind spot before changing lanes instead of as I change lanes…every time. I definitely needed it.
Now I notice the “beep” sound of the sensor as I change lanes, but I still have to look beforehand. 🙂
With all of that in mind, I decided to really notice things on my drive to work today. And what I saw was so much beauty surrounding me.
The red, hazy orange sunrise that soon turned to yellow greeted me as I drove southward.
And while I do hope the wildfires of Canada cease, I also pondered how amazing beauty can happen from destruction.
The deer were jumping in the fields- with one crossing the road a fair distance from me.
I looked for her as I passed and saw that she was looking for me.
Geese flew overhead- close enough I could see their familiar markings, but fast enough to miss their sound.
And finally, a few birds- red-winged blackbirds, I believe.
Focusing on the moment they passed- catching them amid an airborne squabble- and glimpsing the second of clarity before the blur of movement felt like a gift.
A gift of time and beauty. A gift of noticing. A gift of mindfulness in its simplest form.
4 Tips to Become a More Mindful Driver
#1: Pay Attention to Movement in the Fields
With fields being planted and the season of growing in the beginning stages, it’s easier to notice movement in the fields- particularly deer, but we have seen quite a few birds too.
#2: Hyperfocus For a Second
When it came to the moment I passed an animal- especially birds in flight- I would try to hyperfocus in on their movement to catch the glimpse. In that moment, I would try to memorize the colors I saw and the shapes- kind of like what I imagine a “photography” moment is like.
#3: Notice the Surroundings
As your driving- especially if passing some particularly flat areas of Iowa- take a moment to look out the window to the side. My preference and habit is to do this around sunrises and sunsets, but I also caught a glimpse of a bald eagle perched to rest in a field in the early morning. I don’t get to see that every day.
#4: Always Return to Focus Before Practicing Again
As we hear in the news after every car accident, there have been enough accidents on the road due to unaware drivers this year- a higher percentage than last year, even. So, this is not meant to be a sustained approach to a mindful practice, but one moment at a time. After practicing some of the above things, I found myself a little more compassionate to other drivers.
So, on your next drive, remember what you learned in your driver's ed class.
Watch the road.
Be mindful of the other travelers around you.
Check your mirrors and your blindspots.
Use your turn signals.
But also try to notice the beauty beyond. It is always there- waiting, watching and changing.
Look now before the moment passes in a blur.
~ Kayla Reetz
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