Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drive Like A Buddhist

When our seventeen-year-old sons got their “learners permit” they were allowed to drive with a parent in the car. Because I worked close to home, I became the parent designated for this frightening task. When riding with either of our sons, I was surprised at how upset they got when another driver didn’t do what they were “supposed to.” The category of “not driving as you’re supposed to” included: other drivers who didn’t signal before changing lanes; drivers who cut in front of us making my son slam on the brakes; drivers who drove too slow. Any unpredictable move on the part of another driver would cause my sons to scream at this “idiot” (and some even worse names were used).

At first I was stunned at the intense reaction these unpredictable drivers evoked in my sons. Surely, they hadn’t learned such behavior from me? Of course they had. Although I didn’t get as upset as my sons, I did express irritation and frustration toward other drivers who weren’t driving as they were “supposed to.” I knew that I had to first change my driving behavior and set a better example. But, even after I cleaned up my driving act, my sons still were prone to angry outbursts at other drivers.

So I came up with this advice, “Drive like a Buddhist.” This got the desired response, “What does that mean?” So I explained. Buddhists have two principles they use in their spiritual practice. The first is “detachment.” They try to look at everything that happens in their lives with a detached objectivity. By becoming detached, you become an observer of your own life; this serves to calm strong emotions. The second Buddhist principle relevant to driving is “non-reactivity.” This involves achieving emotional detachment from events. To be non-reactive is to view events that happen with a calm objectivity These two principles have earned Buddhism the epitaph of being a religion with a “cool head” (objectivity) and “warm heart” (compassion).

Actually, driving like a Buddhist does enable driving to have some spiritual benefits. Once you overcome your negative emotional reactions, you stop expending negative energy and pave the way for a soul-nourishing experience.

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