Leaving a Little Earlier Could Buy You a 1/2-Hour of Free Mindfulness

Mindful_driving_2Many people would like a bit more Mindfulness in their lives. The reason they don’t is because let’s face it, there is a cost. That cost is usually time, although sometimes the cost is energy as well as time. A lot of us have time to spend an hour or two “vegging” out on the couch, watching vapid entertainment on the television or flitting about from one gossipy piece of news on the internet to the other. In this case, what we lack is the *energy* to sit up straight, concentrate and focus on our breathing.

And yet there are times of the day when most of us are energetic enough to immerse ourselves fully in the present moment and gain the clarifying, head-clearing benefits that totally concentrated awareness often brings. But how often do we unnecessarily leave things to the last minute so that the result of our actions is needing to proceed at the greatest possible speed from one place to another?

Driving is a great example. Typically ahead of any excursion, I try to determine how long it takes to get from Place A to Place B. Sometimes I’m even meticulous about it and use Google maps to calculate the travel time. Let’s say Google tells me it takes 23 minutes, under “normal” traffic conditions. I then round the time down to 20 minutes, ignore the fact that I’ll be driving in the middle of rush hour and hey presto! I’m now running late, well before I even set out. Add to this a tendency I have to answer “one more” e-mail in my inbox and clear out “one more” task on my list before leaving, and before you know it I have 15 minutes to accomplish a trip that actually requires about 25 minutes.

Now here’s the “Mindless” part: Because I now realize I’m running seriously late, I jump in the car and am in full-on “flight” mode, with adrenaline and other stress chemicals starting to pump. Eyes bulging now, muscles twitching. Instead of driving calmly, safely and fully obeying the traffic laws, I am now searching frantically for shortcuts, intensely worried about making a wrong turn, annoyed at traffic lights, tempted to run them, and, of course, annoyed at every minor error and unskillful maneuver made by the drivers around me.

But did it really have to be this way? The benefits of driving calmly are considerable. I could have floated over the road, listening to some beautiful music, or basked in perfect quietude. I could have glanced around the countryside, I could have marveled at the wonders of a finely tuned car that drives so smoothly. At each red light, I could have done a mini breathing exercise. The cost? Stopping all my usual “busyness” about five minutes earlier than usual. In a 16-hour waking day, that’s not actually a big investment.

Mindfulness practice and time management