06/19/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Jun 19, 2016

Life in the Fast Lane Requires Mindfulness

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" ~ George Carlin

I love the aforementioned quote by George Carlin because I can see myself in it and I am wondering if you might see a bit of yourself it as well: There are times I am behind the wheel when, much to my chagrin, I catch myself being one of the drivers to whom Carlin is referring. In other words, on occasion I have been both the idiot and the maniac (but hopefully not at the same time). What I have noticed is, regardless of whether I am being the idiot or the maniac, it is really an out-picturing of my mind which is either limping along behind me or racing out in front of me. In other words, my mind and body are not in the same place at the same time. The cause of such behavior is too often the result of divided attention.

As an example you may relate with: In California the use of a cell phone (as a "handheld" device) while driving is illegal and yet it is not at all uncommon to see a person zooming down the highway, cruising through an intersection or sitting at a stoplight while either texting or talking on their cellphone. I think we have become addicted to cells phones because they are a form of instant gratification that offers us a diversion from so many other things that need our attention in the moment. I find this to be a curious thing given the fact that most of us know that anytime our focus of attention is divided we are less effective at everything we are doing and driving is no exception to the rule; it's just a matter of remembering to remember this is so. While multitasking may be considered a great skill there are certain times when it can also be a less than productive endeavor if it severs our thinking mind from what our body is doing--and it appears that driving our cars mindlessly is a perfect example of that.

While this may seem like a diatribe regarding "our" driving skills, (please notice I include myself in this category) I hope you'll see that it is far more than that; it is about practicing mindfulness everywhere in our lives, which is the skill of being 100% present in the moment with whatever we are doing. The same mindfulness practice can be applied to how, when, and where we eat our meals, or how present and engaged we are in our relationships with other people when we communicate with them, and so on. Because most of us can relate with it I have used the example of how we drive only as a manner of hooking our attention to examine the larger issue: Having our conscious mind present and accounted for in our body is a wise practice regardless of where our body is or what it may be doing--we'll always be better off for it.

When we are mindfully present in the moment we'll notice that our conscious mind is fully engaged with what our body is doing and, as a result, energy seems to flow with a greater sense of harmony, grace and ease, which ultimately manifests as a deep sense of inner peace. If harmony, grace, ease, and inner peace appeal to you (especially while driving) I invite you to join me in the following mindfulness practice:

  • As challenging as it may be, the next time you get into your car turn off your cell phone and put it in your glovebox and lock it. Are you already feeling the separation anxiety?
  • Make a commitment to your self not to turn your cell phone on until after you have stopped and parked the car.
  • While driving if the urge arises to reach for the phone take a deep breath and bring your full attention back into your body...imagine yourself as being "one" with the automobile knowing it requires your total integrated attention to function properly.

You may need to repeat this process countless times but don't give up! The more skilled you become at being present and fully engaged with the moment the easier it will become.

The happy result of this mindfulness practice is that as you move along the highway of life today you can smile knowing that there is no such thing as what George Carlin refers to as an "idiot or maniac" behind you or in front of you.

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