It can be relatively easy to focus on mindfulness when you are personally interacting one-on-one with another person. You can look into their eyes. See their pain or stress. You can imagine what it might like to be in their shoes. You can relate to them as a fellow human being.
For some reason, many people have a far harder time being mindful and patience once they climb into their car. Once they are isolated from the world, and see other cars as wholly separate entities, compassion can go right out the window. The frustration can build.
That’s why it can be so useful – and such a great means of practice – to work on mindfulness when driving.
Imagine you are driving calmly in the center lane when a vehicle blasts by you doing nearly 100 miles per hour in the left lane. It could be tempting to yell at them. But what if they have a family emergency? What if they just learned their son was in a car accident and they are racing to be with him? It could be that you, yourself, would do the exact same thing in their position. I try to feel compassion for them and hope that the emergency is resolved.
Here’s a true story. My son is allergic to bees. He was out mowing the lawn at his father’s one afternoon and disturbed a hornet’s nest. They swarmed him. His father rushed him to the hospital and called me. I leaped into my car and my only thought was to get to my son as quickly as possible.
As I’m racing down my street, I come to the “S curve” and there are two cars pulled over there, blocking the road. A person is sitting down at the edge of the road. There were no visible injuries, but I would have had to guess that they were somehow hurt for this situation to have come about.
However, that isn’t what I thought. What I thought – and I cringe to admit this – was that they needed to move the person further to the side of the road and clear the road because I HAD TO GET TO MY SON. And I sat there for a good twenty seconds with hands clenched thinking this thought before it occurred to me to back up and try another way out of the neighborhood. But in those twenty seconds the only thought I had was to move that person out of my way. I had an emergency.
So I know first hand that that kind of a laser focus can happen. A thought of “I have to get there” can happen. And it could be that the person blasting past you on the highway, or yelling into the phone, or so on, is dealing with a crisis.
I wish them the best of luck resolving it.