Well I tried it this morning anyway, and you know what? Its do-able.
Yah, it’s far removed from the idealized image of serenity, quiet, and calm somewhere on a hilltop preferably with a gentle breeze and cherry blossom petals floating on its trails. But if I wait for that, I’ll never get to it (sort of like waiting for Prince Charming…just kidding). So I’m settling for reality and making do (exactly like getting married…kidding again) and not meditating at the break of dawn to a beautiful sunrise, but after sunrise during my daily morning bumper-to-bumper commute, which takes twice as long without traffic.
Its perfect when you think about it. I can meditate twice a day—morning and afternoon. I don’t have to set aside extra time somewhere from my busy day. It’s already allotted. And the best part is I can’t get out of it, unless I stop going to work. Normally, I have to shell out money to someone like a yoga instructor for that kind of discipline.
While commuting, I’m completely alone in my car; no co-workers, no kids, no spouses. Just me…and a boat load of other people, also mostly alone in their cars. Wait a second. Complete, un-interrupted alone time 1.5 hours a day? All of a sudden I’m okay with traffic. And I am beginning to wonder whether there is a larger force at work in these high-density cities. As if traffic is a divine plan to slow everybody down on purpose. So far the collective reaction to traffic is road rage and frustration, but what if we respond instead, with a collective sigh of relief for the new-found time to ourselves, and a spontaneous group meditation hour. Imagine that? Either way we are stuck in our cars everyday for that amount of time.
Logistics aside, my meditation in traffic is about breathing out all the worries and logistics of the day. It’s about my mind racing with a ton of things I have to do such as updating my credit card information on all my auto-bill payment accounts (electricity, cell phone, cable TV, YMCA etc) because my old credit card was cancelled due to suspicious activity, drafting a report that’s due, completing employee evaluations, deciding what’s for dinner, getting cash from the ATM machine, yada, yada.
I exhale all of the seemingly infinite details of the daily grind and breathe in peace and calm. I take a deep breath of ‘Everything is fine even though I am stuck in traffic’. I breathe out all the things I think are important and breathe in thoughts like, “Everything I need, I already have.” “For right now, this moment, there is nothing to do, but drive very slowly.”
Right away the background chatter is considerably subdued and I feel noticeably more relaxed and at peace. The chatter about my life is still there, but its background to the brilliant first light of the morning and to the last sharp, orange, light of late afternoon. Its background to the rain in the green valleys and the rainbows arching over them. Its background to an overall sense of well-being and a feeling that everything is exactly the way it should be.
It’s amazing what a difference it makes compared with the enormous amount of energy I normally spend on my To Do lists, or worrying, or worse–being angry and annoyed at all the damn traffic, which doesn’t get me to my destination any faster. Ironically (or not) meditating while driving is exactly opposite to texting while driving. I used to think meditation required shutting my brain down somehow and not thinking, and thereby transporting myself from here to elsewhere, in which case, driving and meditating would not be a good idea. But I’ve never been able to shut my brain off, which I have come to understand is not the point of meditation.
My definition of meditation now includes any time I can quiet that voice inside my head, enough to concentrate on doing only the task at hand, whether that is having a conversation with someone, or eating a meal, or playing tennis, or driving in traffic, or sitting quietly. In fact, I think the crux of meditation is to be able to do it in less than ideal conditions.
And so I give my meditation muscles a big work out and sit in awe at the vast sea of cars stretching both as far forward in front of me and back behind me on six lanes of freeway. I think its worth a try. You might have a better day at work and return home to your families happy and refreshed. I know I am already feeling better about commuting home later today.