Cars whiz past you, cut you off, then slam on their brakes. Drivers refuse to eat their own mistakes, so when they realize they’re in the wrong lane and need to exit now, you’re the one who suffers. Suddenly, everyone is stuck. You see brake lights for miles. The clock on your dashboard is not forgiving and neither is the person behind you. You can feel the anger rising in the atmosphere and you dare one more person to honk their horn at you. Various threats begin filtering through your mind. Forget the atmosphere, anger is rising in you—and you’ve still got miles to go.
Driving through Austin traffic is sure to make you feel stressed, anxious, or angry at any given time. But there is a technique our team at Seton Cove is passionate about teaching you. When you learn the art of mindfulness, Austin traffic is one of the best places to apply it. Rather than dreading every drive and arriving at your destination frustrated and weary, practicing mindfulness will allow you to show up feeling calm and kind. Don’t believe it’s possible? Let us show you how.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is often partnered with the word meditation. We don’t recommend meditating while driving, so how you can practice mindfulness in traffic? Mindfulness is meant to be a way of living. It’s an opportunity to be fully aware of your surroundings, emotions, and thoughts. Mindfulness has more to do with awareness than meditation. Becoming fully present, mindfulness enables you to recognize your feelings without reacting to them. It invites you to take inventory of your current situation, without judgment, and then clearly decide how you would like to respond.
Are You Mindful?
Take this questionnaire, Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), to evaluate your level of mindfulness. This test is used by researchers to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness in people undergoing various levels of stress. This questionnaire will take less than 10 minutes and help you discover how often you are fully present. If you’re unhappy with your score (receiving a high number) then you will benefit from practicing mindfulness before tension develops.
How to Practice Mindfulness in Traffic
1. Spend your time driving, “thinking about what (you) can do in Austin’s ever-increasing traffic to not only resist meeting hostility with hostility but to actually become an agent of change on the highway.”
Mindfulness allows you to come face to face with your emotions. If a hostile driver causes you to feel angry, name that emotion. Realize that you are frustrated, and then choose not to react. The goal of mindfulness if not to eliminate or minimize feelings, but to harness those feelings and healthily respond to them rather than reflexively.
2. To become an agent of change, “focus on what (you) can do, and not on what other people should do.”
This idea stems from the understanding that anger is a surface-level emotion. If you experience a driver who is angry—who honks at you, cuts you off, intimidates you, or shouts obscene things at you—there is usually a deeper pain underneath. Mindfulness equips you to think compassionately towards that person and compels you to respond with patience and kindness. Mindfulness teaches that you are in control of you, so do your part to make your commute safe rather than focusing on the faults of other drivers.
3. “Remember that even when we have not yet made it to our final destination we can still enjoy arriving in the present moment.”
Your commute is one small part of your day. While it may be longer than you wish, determine that it will not be the most significant. What happens while you are in your vehicle does not dictate your emotional state for the rest of the day. Use the time you are confined to one space, powerless to speed up your commute, to breathe. As you sit, focus on the present. Name your emotions, listen to your breath, relax your shoulders and your facial muscles. Mindfulness, even in the chaos that is Austin traffic, can increase your state of peacefulness and happiness while simultaneously decreasing your stress level.
To learn more about how to practice mindfulness, join our free mindfulness meditation groups on Monday and Wednesday mornings.