05/08/2015 12:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Truckers Need Meditation and Mindfulness

That's a BIG 10-4. And, I honestly would have never thought to engage the trucking community if I hadn't been approached by a group that advocates for their well-being. They asked me to lead one of their podcasts and discuss meditation and mindfulness, and the experience was extraordinary.

What I discovered is this group is hugely important... their community is vast in number, we all depend on them on some level and they are suffering. Did you know that 1 in 15 people in the United States is employed by the trucking industry? There are over 7 million drivers. For those behind the wheel, their work is categorized as a high risk occupation given the long periods of isolation, time pressures, lack of sleep, exposure to negative stereotyping, driving stresses, financial pressures and violence. Their life expectancy -- 61 years of age?! Their rate of obesity is double the national average, and they have staggering levels of diabetes, hypertension as well as other chronic health issues.


Let me get this out of the way first. At the conclusion of the podcast, I took caller questions/comments from all over the U.S. I realized quickly that I, too, had preconceived notions of who a trucker was -- and, I needed a kick in the pants. These callers blew my mind. They discussed their NutriBullets, they were gracious, beyond smart, passionate, caring, etc. So, if I can help dispel some of the undermining stereotyping... let's start there.

So, how can truckers implement meditation and mindfulness and why? As science continues to prove, meditation offers hard core assistance in dealing with stress, enhancing longevity and assisting with loneliness. Here are some practical implementations and thoughts.

• Let's start with a real life situation. So, you are on a big job, with a tight deadline and suddenly there is an unexpected truck repair. Mindfulness allows you to step back from the intensity of the situation and see it with more clarity versus getting all bunged up with the "what ifs." What if this puts my vehicle out of commission for an extended period? What if the repair cost is beyond my budget? What if this messes up my deadline? With awareness you calmly realize what you can control and what you can't. That is huge. You eventually start to trust life more, trust yourself more, you start to look at the bigger picture instead of all the clogging minutia.

• As I always emphatically state, everyone can do meditation and mindfulness regardless of age, background, religion, etc. One caller and I discussed meditation not "being your momma's meditation." You don't need incense, an exotic location or to be transported to some elevated state of being. Your truck can be your sanctuary. Start your morning with a brief moment of quiet, scanning your body for places of tension, attempt to loosen those areas, then visualize your day... a day of peace and awareness. Then, throughout the day reconnect to this idea by simply noticing and then being with your breath. Oooo and maybe even throw in a sprinkle of gratitude.

• Meditation also isn't just sitting with your eyes closed... it is a waking experience to constantly be practiced. One driver shared his ability to fully experience the beautiful scenery around him. I encouraged him to take this up a notch by also playing some of his favorite music and literally singing with gusto as he looked out the window. Life can be incredibly repetitive... especially when on the road. So, if you are going to be "in it," participate and make it more.

• How could meditation help you eat healthier on the road? Well, the practice opens the door for you to see how important you are... how important food is... and how it provides nourishment not just for your body but also your soul. I suggest mindfully paying attention to your eats which means having an active relationship. You must engage in the tastes/smells, how your body reacts, and what makes you feel good or tired or happy. Listen. Listen. Listening prompts change.

And, here's how I end almost every discussion about meditation and mindfulness. These practices are just that... practice. Yes, you have to make a commitment to do it. At first, it can really be a struggle, but once you get in some sort of groove... instead of your life changing because you meditate, you change your life because you meditate. The trickle down effect is amazing. Choosing to do this work is like looking at the long haul of your life instead of just the short trips. Are you worth it? Yes, yes, yes. Every person is worth it, every age, every color, every faith and every profession.