• Can your commute really make you happier and less stressed?

    June 21, 2016 | curtrosengren
  • driving

    Are you the person you aspire to be when you’re behind the wheel?

    If the answer to that is no, you’re in good company. Whenever I ask that question, most people laugh a little sheepishly and admit that they’re not. Often far from it.

    For most of us, our time in the car – and especially in heavy traffic – is like a microcosm of all the things that keep us unhappy and stressed in life. Impatience. Wanting to control what’s beyond our control. Wanting things to be different than they are. Irritation. Anger. Isolation and disconnection from others. The list goes on.

    And while that can be a miserable experience, from the perspective of the path to greater inner peace, it’s also a gold mine (I wrote the ebook The Drive to Inner Peace to help you mine that gold).

    Your commute as a practice

    One of the common laments I hear in my work helping clients feel more energized and alive is, “I don’t have time to for ____.” Usually it’s in reference to cultivating some kind of grounding practice, or putting the effort into the personal and spiritual growth work they know would help them feel more energized and open in their lives.

    Enter the commute!

    For most people, their commute is an unwanted but inevitable part of their days, a waste of time they would rather spend doing something else. Unfortunately, it’s there whether they want it or not, taking up precious ticks of the clock.

    Paradoxically enough, their commute is also time they can reclaim to improve their quality of life.

    I often say, jokingly but with a touch of seriousness, that our time behind the wheel is the great untapped Western path to enlightenment. It’s like a rolling learning laboratory, tailor made to let us practice engaging our limiting tendencies in healthier, more life-enhancing ways.

    Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

    Unless we’re proactive about it, we are at the mercy of the inertia of those limiting tendencies. Let’s use impatience as an example. We’re unlikely to wake up one morning and suddenly be more deeply patient. We have to consciously work with it.

    Substantive, sustained positive change requires repetition and reinforcement. If we want to have more patience, we have to practice having more patience. And we need to do it over and over (and over). Which is precisely why the commute has so much positive potential.

    Not only is it something that happens every day, it typically brings with it an abundance of opportunities to work on patience.

    If you take the opportunity to consciously work with your impatience each time it comes up (maybe focusing on your breath, or questioning the story behind the impatience, or shifting your attention to a mindful awareness of the here-and-now), over time you will inevitably start to experience a change.

    And that change doesn’t just apply to your time in the car. It follows you everywhere you go.

    The more patient you are as you go through your day, the less you feel the constricting impact of impatience. The more patient you are, the less likely you are to say or do something you’ll regret later. The more patient you are, the less stressed you’ll feel.

    Bottom line, the more patient you are, the greater your sense of inner peace.

    And it’s not just patience. The same idea applies with any of those limiting, constricting tendencies that come up as we drive. Our time behind the wheel presents an opportunity to work with each and every one of them, step-by-step shifting our internal environment.

    And when we change our inner landscape, we change our life.

    OK, now you know why your commute (or any time you spend driving) has so much potential to help you feel happier and less stressed. Tomorrow I’m going to share some specific ideas you can put into gear (pun intended) to use your drive time to make your life better.

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