Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Driving Lessons

Three and a half years after being diagnosed with epilepsy and losing my driving privileges, I am now back in the driver’s seat. It was so beneficial for me to be relegated to the passenger seat all of these years, and I am just now realizing the significance of it all. It helped teach me surrender and acceptance of not being in control. I’ve ridden with many different people with different driving styles over the years and have had to put my faith in each one to get me from point A to B.

I wouldn’t say that I made a “good” passenger necessarily. There were countless times, while riding with my wife (who is a very good driver by the way), that I over reacted to situations by grabbing the “oh shit” handle. That tended to stress her out even more and it showed a lack of trust in her abilities. But I occasionally found myself preparing for what I thought would be certain impact. In effect, I was reacting to a future possibility that never happened. I gradually improved in my ability to remain present and allow it all to be.

Now that I am back behind the wheel I’m learning a great deal more about what driving is really about. I have tended to be a bit more inconsistent than I used to be, sometimes going under the speed limit and sometimes over, always knowing that I’m going the right speed. I’m just taking in the scenery from a whole new perspective. My wife, who is now having to adjust to passenger life with someone who doesn’t drive the way she does, sometimes points out that I am driving too slow or too fast. I’ve had a few good laughs over her comparing me to a 90 year old driver.

But one of the things I’ve noticed from this is that if I believe the thought that I am doing it wrong, I create stress for myself. It’s not her comments about my driving, it’s my reaction to them that does that. I love that. I can be a stress free driver if I so choose.

However, there is this whole other side of driving that I am rediscovering. Bad drivers used to be one of my pet peeves when I was behind the wheel. I lost that pet peeve as a passenger because it wasn’t my problem to deal with anymore, which gave me the ability to see the hidden lessons for those who were impacted by poor driving. Now I’m getting to see my old reactive patterns resurface. I see how easy it is for me to project onto other drivers.

For example, if I’m going the speed limit and someone behind me is following closely, I project that they are in a hurry and I am slowing them down. I can’t know that for sure, but when I believe that thought it creates tension in me. I notice a tendency to always be checking in with the surrounding cars and projecting how my driving is impacting their view of me. I notice tension in my right thigh, which has so much “riding” on it. (On a side note, I had a lot of body work done a few months back and discovered a great deal of pent up emotional energy in my right thigh).

Also, when I get in a situation where I cut off someone (it’s happened a time or two), I can create a whole story for the other person on how they might be angered by what I have done. I notice my tendency to justify my actions, possibly even blaming them. I can monitor them in my rearview, looking for evidence to support my belief about how they must be feeling. I see that happen and realize I am, again, the cause of my own stress. I’m seeing how I concoct stories about the drivers around me and how I’m affected by seeing them as stories instead of just other people going from point A to B, going through the same things I’m going through. What a wonderful lesson it has been to see driving without the stories.

Driving can be such a relaxing meditation when I don’t allow myself to believe the stories I create. I can give my full attention to the beautiful scenery, the road ahead, and allow myself to relax, knowing that whatever will be will be, as well as see things that cause tension as opportunities for personal growth. I’m being propelled through space, not knowing what the next moment will bring, without the stress of how I will react to it. Ultimately, even though I’m the one driving, I’m not in control anyway. But that’s another observation in and of itself. May you drive safely and without stories :)
In peace,