Mindfulness is the opposite of your reaction during road rage. Let me give a personal example.
Three years ago, a woman and I came to a four way stop sign. We were the only two cars, coming opposite directions. She inched forward. I inched forward. She inched forward. I waved her on and laughed. She flipped me off. I tore after her. I tore after her so hard I left skid marks on the concrete and almost hit her car. When she pulled over to the side of the road, I did the same, enraged, screaming, with my door already open and my feet on the ground, my fists clenched ready to kick some ass. She sped off before we got into a tussle.
My reaction was not mindful, but reactive. Another example. Examples are fun.
Two years ago, I would chase you. You cut me off, I would chase you. One night one man in a Dodge Charger with blue racing stripes sped from behind me, into the on-coming lane, and cut me off. At three in the morning, he was angry I’d been going to the speed limit. So I tore after him, chased him at least two miles, and we weaved back and forth between each other until he made a turn and I jumped the curb. He got away and I was shocked into the realization of my actions, and how I could have easily flew through the living room of the house on the corner.
In Los Angeles, a BMW driver cut me off in the same manner, and I reacted the same, chased after him, slightly inebriated. That could have ended in disaster as well.
We can all agree these choices were unwise and that someone, somewhere must be watching out for me.
My actions were the opposite of mindful because I’d lost a sense of connection to my body. I didn’t notice the flushing of my cheeks, or the pumping of my blood, or the skipping of a heart beat from all the excitement and anger. I didn’t notice the tense feeling coursing through my thigh muscles as I switched from brake to gas to brake to gas in my chases. I didn’t feel my nails dig into my palms as I made fists intended to go through the teeth of the woman in my first example.
I’d lost all sense of awareness of myself and the world around me. Anyone with anger issues I’m sure can relate in some form.
Mindfulness has significantly changed the way I deal with my road rage. When someone does something I deem ridiculous or stupid while driving, I first ask myself some reasons why they may have stopped suddenly: perhaps a kid ran into the street. Perhaps the light changed suddenly and they were uncomfortable going through a yellow light. Perhaps they just spilled hot coffee on their lap.
I’m looking at the situation with a certain level of kindness, taking into account someone else’s place in the world relative to my own. And when the anger hits, because it still hits, not only do I focus on my breath, I also focus on where the anger settles: my ears, my cheeks, my chest, my muscle spasms, my tighter grip on the steering wheel, the flats of my feet. I take notice of those areas, but I don’t force myself to release any tension they might be feeling, I simply let it be because it exists. It’s okay to get angry. It’s not okay to chase someone down the street at three in the morning and almost wreck someone’s house.
Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation. It’s not contemplation of your feelings, in fact it’s simply accepting your feelings, taking in the present moment as it is. There’s no room for judgement or expectation–there’s no need for either. What is, is, and that’s okay.
We tend to focus on the negative in this world, and how bad the negative is. We rarely stop and simply allow ourselves to feel the depression or feel the sadness or feel the pain: we’re so eager to fight against what doesn’t feel good. Why is that? Is it simply because it doesn’t feel good? Or is it because we hold an unrealistic expectation that we are not supposed to feel depression, sadness, or pain? That it’s bad to feel such things, that they’re the bane of our existence?
I won’t pretend to have the answers or solutions to these things. That’s something for you all to contemplate.
Mindfulness is not about being in a particular state: happy, sad, mad, glad, whatever. It’s about being whatever you are in that exact moment. If you feel your pulse beat, it’s only beating in this moment, not tomorrow’s moment when you’re about to give that big speech. The more present we are, the more focused we are, the more centered we are, and the more connected with our body we are.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, or take an online mindfulness class, you can head to this link and read/practice to your hearts content.