I often spend mental cycles in my vehicle planning my day, trying to remember everything I need to remember and figuring out what I need to do next. It is common to make a 15 minute routine drive and not remember seeing anything – just a robot with a brain that is occupied elsewhere. Add 3 kids into the mix and I am generally not ‘present’ when driving. I never feel dangerous (except when the kids are fighting or screaming), just mentally busy.
Recently, I read the ‘Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle and decided to start experimenting with his philosophy. Just be really present – notice what is going on around me and listen for the silences. And the time I seem to heed his word the most – is when I am driving. In a car with music blaring and kids wrestling, I struggle to hear the silence outside the car – but I do focus on every inch of the road as I drive. And I get better at it as I practice.
I still snap at the kids and I haven’t turned into an enlightened being yet – but something has changed. Two things have changed.
Time has slowed down. Almost like when I was a child and a 15 minute recess was an enormous amount of time to have fun. If I focus on the present and don’t obsess about: what will happen next, or how many minutes are left in my drive until I am late, or how am I possible going to achieve all the things I set out to do in the limited time I have to them. If I look at the trees, notice the other driver’s expressions, see all the different colours of cars around me – time slows down. And not just for that time I am in the car. Now my days seem longer, the summer is stretching out, and I feel like I have an infinite amount of time to get stuff done.
And that last point is the second thing that has changed. I don’t stress about ‘what needs to be done’. There are still times when I start thinking of the thousand tasks – from laundry to banking to consulting tasks – that I have to do, and I quickly feel overwhelmed and panicked. The familiar stressful feeling that time is short, accomplishments seem few and far between and the needs of many pull me into pieces. But then I remember to take a breath and observe and think (or stop thinking) – only ‘now’ matters. And I relax and am able to trust that I will get everything that NEEDS to be done, done.
So the key for me – is not to “focus on the positive” or “don’t dwell on problems, worries or failures” or “think only on solutions that I have an influence on”. The key for me – is to not think at all.