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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.

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the ...

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.
– Eckhart Tolle

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.


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