The Spirituality of Driving
In his book, The Power of Now, one of the examples Eckhart Tolle uses of people who naturally live in the moment are people who drive race cars. Being in the moment is how he defines a spiritual process.
Having driven in automobile races and rallies, I understand what he is saying. In order to be competitive and to drive safely, you need to have your mind clearly focused on the task at hand when driving a race car. If you are thinking about what you did last week, or what you plan to do after the race, you will loose time on the track and in the worst case, you will crash the car.
I have also found that driving off road makes me focus on the moment almost as much as racing. While the time pressure is not always there in the off road environment, the need to be clearly alert to my surroundings is. I have to know where my tires are at all times and be keenly aware of the amount of traction available. I can’t do any of that if my mind is distracted or focused elsewhere.
Often as we drive our daily commutes, we do not have this keen focus to the task of driving. We sometimes put driving on mental auto pilot and allow our minds to wander through all sorts of thoughts – some that make us happy and others that bring us grief.
We can however choose to use any time behind the wheel as a deeply spiritual time. By simply focusing on driving the car and paying attention to the surroundings, we can bring our focus in to the eternal now and block out thoughts of past and future.
Often it is easier to bring back attention to driving by taking a different route. For example, instead of taking the interstate, take the old US highway that parallels it. It may take a few minutes longer but just notice the feeling of release that you feel as you look at the scenery and focus on the details of driving the car.
Even a familiar road can bring release if you focus on feeling the contact of the wheels to the pavement through the steering wheel. Listen to the sounds of the engine and the whirr of the gears turning making the car go forward.
I like driving my Jeep because it gives me a great feeling of being in contact with the road. A quieter car does not give me this same feeling of connectedness. I also get this feeling form driving sports cars whose stiff suspension keeps me in touch with the road surface.
It is easy to make driving a spiritual experience. Just focus on the things that are happening right now in the moment. Forget about all the things in the past that you are driving away from. Stop worrying about the potential future that may or may not happen when you get there. Just focus your attention to driving the car right now where you are.