Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Road Trip Meditation

I have found that many books on meditation, especially those designed for beginners, advise the reader to set aside a certain portion of the day to meditate and to meditate at this prescribed time every day. Working one’s meditations in this fashion is helpful in that it provides a structured schedule for meditation. All too often daily life can be very demanding of one’s attention. Without a schedule, or by practicing willy-nilly, one may find that the day (or days!) passes without having turned to one’s zafu.

Despite its advantages, scheduled meditation has its drawbacks as well. Firstly, it limits one’s meditation to the time set specifically aside for practice. If one’s mediation session lasts an hour, one misses out on 23 hours of potentially available cultivation time. Secondly, one may become so accustomed to one’s meditation schedule that one comes to feel that meditation can only be done during the prescribed time.

While a meditation schedule can be helpful, especially for the beginner, I would suggest that as one becomes accustomed to meditation that one allows one’s meditations to permeate the day. In my case, I have more-or-less abandoned any form of scheduled practice. My mind has become so attuned to seeking out meditation that I meditate at every available opportunity. I meditate before going to sleep, taking a shower, while waiting in the doctor’s office, during TV commercials, etc. In other words, I seek out meditation whenever and wherever possible. Keep in mind that meditation is a mental exercise. One does not need to be burning incense or be sitting in the lotus posture to be engaged in effective meditation. If you engage meditation in this way, your day will (more-or-less) be filled with the cultivation of your mind and no one will suspect that you are doing anything out of the ordinary.

Recently, I have incorporated the act of driving into my meditations. Usually, one is advised to avoid meditating while operating a motor vehicle. This, I believe, is sound advice if one’s mediation takes one’s thoughts and awareness away from the task of driving. My method of driving meditation does quite the opposite, however. I limit my thoughts and awareness exclusively to the task of driving. Of course, I do not always succeed. My mind often slips and I am mentally a thousand miles away from my Toyota Highlander. If anything, my mediation has shown me how mentally absent I generally am when I get behind the wheel (I do not mean to suggest that I am an unsafe driver, which I am not. While my awareness remains centered upon the task of driving, my thoughts tend to wander. I suspect most people share in this).

My driving meditation is simple, yet difficult to perform. The task is to train the mind so that no thought unrelated to the task of driving will arise. When an errant thought does arise it is, once noted, expunged from the mind. To aid myself in this meditation I fill my mind with “driving thoughts” in order to help block stray thoughts from entering my mind. I now do this mediation whenever I am driving and am alone in the vehicle.

A typical “driving meditation” might read something like –

My speed is 30 MPH… I am approaching a stop sign so I need to slow down….stepping on break…slowing…stopped…nothing to the right or left…stepping on the gas… accelerating…no one behind me… people crossing the street ahead…(errant thought)… it is becoming difficult to see because of the rain that is starting….turning on windshield wipers…(errant thought)…there is a red light ahead…slowing down… stopped…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light… (errant thought)…etc.

*I believe this mediation is safe to undertake while driving. In fact, it may enhance one’s safety since it forces one to keep one’s thoughts on the task at hand – namely, driving. However, these are my personal opinions. Should anyone choose to meditate while driving, they do so at their own risk. I take no responsibility for any ill effects caused by meditating in the fashion described above.

1 comment:

Amber Avery said...

I have done this for mindfulness exercises on the interstate. It has allowed me to notice othe drivers better instead of being on "autopilot" then trying to remember what exit I'm comming up on.