#2 - Fighting the Traffic
One of the worst parts of the holiday season is traffic. Not only because it causes so many delays but because it can actually be dangerous due to the impatience and resulting road rage that arises. No one seems to have enough time to get all of their normal daily chores done and there's the now heavier load of finding Joy in the World added to their hectic schedule.
Have you ever been in a car with someone who expresses their frustration as road rage? It can be the most dangerous experience you will ever have as a passenger. If you are someone who falls victim to your own road rage, you are also experiencing extremely high levels of stress that can only limit your life and damage your health if you manage to get home safely without a car accident. Road rage works for no one.
Then how do you handle yourself in traffic snarls? Just looking at how much stress you face every day gives you the insight that the only one who can create change in your life is YOU. And the only responsible for your frustration and anger is YOU. How many times have you heard and agreed with the truth of this statement: It's not what you face in life that counts, but the way you deal with what you face in life that counts. And doesn't that just bite sometimes when you are in the throes of intense anger or feeing used and abused by someone or some situation over which you have no control?
There are a few possible issues involved here. Let me list them:
Who's fault is this?
Sometimes a situation arises over which we have no control. Traffic jams would be a good example of this. You didn't call the Traffic Gods and request that every car in town drive to your route and block you, but there they are. However, is this truly an issue of fault? Clearly it is not. The truth is: It is what it is. So getting your knickers in a knot over something out of your control is a pure waste of energy. You can just as easily spend your time watching out for drivers who are not paying attention and take a defensive driving posture as opposed to being one of those drivers that everyone else has to watch out for.
Traffic is going to make me late.
It sure is. What can you do about that? Leave earlier maybe? In other words, this is under your control and a little bit of foresight will keep you on schedule. Don't you hate it when someone starts shifting responsibility back to you and the solution is so logical and easy. I know, I know. It can be annoying. But obviously, we know traffic is going to be bad during this season, so you may have to leave earlier or change your route to avoid the worse of the traffic. A little planning helps.
The other driver started it!
Sometimes you are not the one who is angry, but the target of someone who is angry. Just makes your blood boil when someone purposely cuts you off, shakes their fist, honks their horn long and loud, or shouts at you from behind the closed window. You can see their lips move but you can't hear them speak. What is your response? Whatever you want it to be. This is also under your control. You could wave and mouth to them, "I'm sorry," through the closed window or wave your hand in apology. Even if you don't think you are in the wrong, this is the best way to defuse a situation that will only escalate if you get into the fray. I call this nicing them to death. It's really difficult for someone to continue yelling when all they get back is a smile. Now it has to be a sincere smile, not a phony, toothy display of sarcasm. But it works unless you are working with Attila the Hun. Now there was a guy with an attitude.
Apparently, the message is that what we can control, we should control. What we can't control, we should find a way to deal with sensibly. So here is a meditative approach that might help. It is designed to help you take a different perspective on an old problem by releasing those old habit patterns.
Changing your viewpoint.
By now, you know the drill. Find a quiet time where you can place yourself into a relaxed position and begin to focus on your breath. This meditation will take you approximately 20 - 25 minutes to complete. As you find yourself releasing your tension and sinking into a deep state of relaxation, prepare your intentions to find a new way of relating to a set of circumstances that normally cause you to feel stressed out and angry or frustrated.
Once you have reached a quiet and relaxed state of being, you are going to visualize yourself going past the biggest mall in town at 11:00 am on a Saturday. You have an appointment at 12:00 pm and you have left in time to get there under normal circumstances. As you get closer to the mall, the traffic slows down to a crawl and it is stop-and-go in all lanes.
Take a deep breath. As you look around, you see the other drivers in their own world either casually talking with each other or clenching their jaws at the dense, unmoving traffic. Look back at the two who are talking and laughing with each other. This can be your attitude or you can be the grumpy guy to your left who is pounding the steering wheel turning the air inside his car with his curses. Make your choice. Of course, your choice is the person who is enjoying their day regardless of their surroundings.
Traffic has picked up again and just as you thought that the movement would continue smoothly, a woman in a small red car cuts into your lane from the left. You stop just in time and avoid an accident. She doesn't even seem to notice that she cut you off and she's talking on her cell phone. What is your first reaction? What!? Is she crazy? Put down that cell phone! And on and on.
But what if you slipped into her skin for a moment of her life? She has just learned that her mother has slipped and fallen and is on her way to the hospital. Her only goal is to get there fast. On the way, she calls her husband on her cell phone to tell him that he needs to pick up their son at school. She is so scared about her Mom's injury and yet, as a Mom herself, she still remembers that her son will be waiting out front of the school for her.
Does that change your perception of this crazy, irresponsible driver? In her situation, wouldn't you probably find yourself doing the same thing? Now see yourself holding back so she can slide into your lane and watch her take the next exit, the one you know leads to the city's medical center.
You glance at your watch and see that if you hit all the lights right, you will make it to your appointment with 5 minutes to spare. As you sit at the red light, envision the remainder of your trip, hitting absolutely every light green. As you begin to move, the traffic rolls along smoothly and you do hit every single light without one light turning red. It's as if the traffic ocean parts for you and you do, indeed, arrive 5 minutes early for your appointment.
Enjoy the feeling of harmony and flowing that the smooth traffic gave you. Also, know that this is not an imaginary scenario, but one that you can actually recall and experience if you choose to be in rhythm with the Universe. Determine to test out this theory and as you become more and more successful more and more often, you will begin to believe in your own power of choice. I know of someone who has Perfect Parking Karms; that is, she always gets a parking spot front row, center every time she goes into a parking lot. Every time. This is by intention. You can do the same with traffic by changing your attitude.
Bring yourself back to an awareness of the body knowing that you will carry the relaxed state of mind back to the day with you. Learn to believe the best in others; don't let yourself immediately jump to the conclusion that all will go badly and that everyone is out to get you. With a more positive attitude, life will treat you better.
As you do envision yourself experiencing life with an attitude that creates an inner and outer balance, you begin to experience change from within.
Copyright ©2007 TAO Consultants, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.