On my way home last weekend I had 3 other drivers in cars in the span of 15 minutes slowly run stop signs in front of me. Luckily we all were in parking lots so these were low speed interactions. I happily waved at them as they crossed in front of me as to say “Hey I’m here, look out please. Maybe you didn’t see me?”All 3 yelled and raised their hands at me. I assumed they yelled ,and were not yawning, their mouths were as big as caves but both our windows were rolled up. To be sure I didn’t run a stop I looked in my rear view mirror for a sign or painted line, no such designation was seen.
What if they/we got in an accident? What if they continue to drive that way until their next destination, and they hurt themselves or others? What if these were people I knew? You and I could respond to those people in a number of ways. Yell back, honk and get mad at their “stupidity”. Get scared because of the near collision and remain in fear for a time. Wish them harm because they almost hit us. Our mind makes quick snap judgements, reasoning and responses that sometimes even the most peaceful and loving person regrets or can’t believe would come out of their mouth. This got me thinking about the loving kindness and compassion mindful techniques I have learned.
Here are a few lessons mindfulness has taught me that might help you the next time you are faced with someone else’s “stupid” driving:
1. Feel grateful no one was hurt.
Safely get through the situation and park your car (or bike) and take a 3 deep nasal breaths, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Nasal breathing has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol and calm your body.
2. Wish them well.
Close your eyes, focus all your attention on the other person and with a full heart silently say “May you feel peace, happiness, and safety as you travel.”
3. Wish yourself well.
Close your eyes, focus all your attention on yourself, maybe even place your hand on your heart, and with a full intention silently say “May I feel peace, happiness, and safety as I travel.”
Mindful attention is a lifelong practice but the more you do it the more naturally it will come to you. With consistent practice you brain will wire itself to respond in a more open and “slow” process to allow you the time to behave in a more compassionate way. It isn’t always easy to remember to be kind when others invade your space but if we think of everyone as a friend, relative or loved we haven’t met yet who is just having a bad day, it can be easier to wish them well instead of flipping them off.