Word to the wise — it's not the best idea to deeply meditate while cruising down the highway.
Meditation, however, is more than a transcendent spiritual experience. In fact, serious practitioners will tell you that meditation seldom leads to other-worldly thoughts and feelings, and instead is a way to focus the body and mind on the present moment. It's simply the practice of complete awareness, which is one of the best ways to banish stress and experience daily joy.
And that, my dear and busy mommy friends, means that meditation is safe and simple to practice in your car. Now your time spent carpooling, running errands, commuting and schlepping kids around town can help bring you peace of mind rather than stress.
Not sure where to start? Try these principles for an easy and safe practice in just five or 10 minutes a day.
Sit in silence. Turn off your favorite morning show or your mix tape of dirty rap. Once the radio is silent, listen to the noises around you — like whirring traffic and car horns. Pay close attention and listen to the noise rather than letting it fade into your periphery.
Turn off your ringer. Turn off the ring tone on your smartphone, and place it outside of your reach so you won't feel tempted to look at it while you sit at a stop light.
Check in to your body. Now that the music is off and you're not blabbing to your bestie, take a few moments to pay attention to your body. Are your shoulders tight? Is your jaw clenched? Once you pinpoint your body's stress, take three deep breaths into each point of tightness, and tell your muscles to relax.
Reject competition. If you're on the highway, stay in the far right lane and travel a few miles per hour below the speed limit. Notice when you feel the desire to compete with another driver on the road, and reject this sentiment. Refuse to pass a slow driver, and refuse to feel annoyed by rude drivers.
Give blessings. Any time you feel annoyed by another driver on the road, take a moment to bless the person with your thoughts. Say, "I wish you well today." This is a great practice to try with your fellow road warriors, even if you aren't prone to road rage.
Deeply breathe at stoplights. Don't go holding your breath and hyperventilating while you're in motion, but you can certainly try breathing exercises while stopped at a light. My favorite yoga instructor describes deep breathing by saying, "Breathe out the ocean, and breathe in the wind." Imagine breaths so big and deep that they can hold the ocean and wind, and practice this breath three times while stopped at the light.
Pause before exiting. Once you reach your destination, turn off the car and pause for 30 seconds. Center your thoughts on what you hope for your day, and what you hope to give your loved ones when you see them again. Finally, wish yourself and your children well before exiting your car.
If you've tried these tips but still feel lost, consider using an audio CD to guide you through your practice while driving. You can feel safe knowing that these exercises, like Michele McDonald's Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving, are designed for use in the car rather than a yoga studio.