Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Zen of Driving: How to avoid Road Rage

“Long conversations 
beside blooming irises –
joys of life on the road”
- Matsuo Basho

You're running late for work and someone cuts you off going 5 mph under the speed limit. You want to scream at them, rip your hair out, maybe even rear end them. But stop, take a moment, and reflect on the zen of driving. Life is about movement, whether inside a car or out, and sometimes it's all about what we do while moving, and not the speed or destination, that matters the most.

Take a deep breath, and let the world move around you. Trying to push something as big as the earth towards your end is a tiring endeavor. Relax.

Don't turn into this angry driver:

Here are some tips on chilling out, enjoying the ride, and avoiding temper tantrums while on the road:

Take it Easy

Just think of the Eagles' song and “...don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” (But listen to this song enough, and you're bound to go a little nuts.) Instead focus on the meaning behind the lyrics. Sometimes the sound of driving can be monotonous. Likewise, listening to repetitive music will also stress you out subconsciously. Try to vary it on long car rides. Sometimes switching the radio off will give you time to think, focus, and calm down. When that gets old, switch the music back on again. Think of your life in movement, your surroundings and motivations constantly changing, the need to wake up and fall asleep everyday – let this rhythm guide your radio choices.

Talk to Other Drivers (or Yourself)

Ok, this sounds a little schizophrenic, but talking releases stress much in the same way that listening to music does. When a fellow driver does something you don't like, try talking to them as if they are your friend. Instead of shouting and cursing, this form of empathy through conversation (although one-sided and a little insane) is a great way to put yourself behind their wheel and see the road as one big driving community instead of a rat race. We all share the road equally, and we rely on each other for safety, much like the way we live life. No driver's an island. You will find empathy is a great way to siphon stress out of your life, even if no one hears it. Think of it like chanting a mantra.

Enjoy the Scenery

But not too much. Keep your eyes on the road there, buddy. Still, you're out on a trip, no matter how short or long, so you might as well breath in the fresh air. Even if it's a route you've driven a hundred times, there are still new things to be discovered, and new reflections to unearth. There is a reason poets call the natural world the root of all inspiration, so be inspired. Driving is a great way to see nature, and the variation of light as you hasten down the freeway might just make an artist out of you. Moderately enjoying your surroundings will take away the monotony of the road, prevent tunnel vision, and make you a safer driver in general. It will also calm you for the journeys ahead.