Driving during the Christmas season is a chance to start a new habit: practicing Christian mindfulness behind the wheel. It’s an exercise in awareness and kindness.
So often we drive in a semi-conscious state, not truly sure how we got there when we arrive. Have you ever “accidentally” started driving to work, when you were going somewhere else? I know I have.
So first, we respect the reality: We are operating driving a potentially deadly piece of heavy machinery. We don’t want to be distracted. Staying aware helps us stay alive.
Awareness allows us to be intentional about practicing kindness and courtesy to fellow drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclers. Allow people to merge, for heaven’s sake. (And I mean that literally.) Watch out for those walking and cycling around you. And calm yourself when someone is actually obeying the speed limit in front of you. How many times have drivers raced around your car to find themselves sitting next to you at the next light? Plenty, for me.
Author Judith Hurrell, in a recent article in either Breathe or Oh! magazine (I lost the reference), suggested that we remind ourselves that everyone who is driving experiences happiness and suffering. She uses words from the loving-kindness meditation to bless people as they go by.
Blessing our fellow drivers helps us to recall that Jesus loves all of us, even the motorcyclist roaring by you without a helmet.
Bringing words of peace and kindness into the car with you also helps, whether it be a helpful podcast or beautiful music. In my former job, my commute could range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on traffic. I truly enjoyed every moment because I was listening to calming (or funny) audio the whole time. I always arrived at work in a better mood than when I left the house.
The mindlessness of driving can be converted into a flow experience. When you bring intense focus to a task that involves skill and the ability to respond quickly, you can become deeply immersed in your driving. You can enjoy the shades of blue in the sky and the colors of the trees. This time of year, you can enjoy the lights and holiday displays, giving thanks to God for the joy that they create.
It’s a great time to communicate with God, who made all these things. Praising the Lord as you head to an appointment is a good way to be open and attentive during the day.
Starting now to be a holy driver can create a habit that brings joy all year.