How to be Zen in peak-hour traffic

Patience is one of my challenges at the best of times, however put me behind the wheel of a car in peak-hour and I turn into the Incredible Hulk. I swear when someone annoys me, I yell at other drivers for doing stupid things, I wave my arms around wildly when a fellow motorist stops for no good reason, and I’ve been known to honk at others when they cut me off (although I’m careful about this now, ever since I narrowly escaped physical injury after honking at a car full of skinheads). And if you’re doing 40 in a 60 zone? Call the exorcist.
I know I’m not alone in this – I’ve seen you in the rear vision mirror, rolling your eyes and mouthing words that rhyme with ‘duck’. And I’m quite sure you were not chasing an insect out of your car when you were waving your middle finger around in my direction the other day, elderly lady who I honked at because the lights had turned green back when you were still in your 20’s.
Why? What is it about sitting behind the wheel and controlling over a tonne of steel (well, steel-coloured plastic…) that turns some of us into the most impatient people in the world? I have no idea. All I know is that I don’t want to be one of those people. In my never-ending quest for self-improvement I have been focusing on my patience in general, and since I have started to adopt a consciously-Zen approach to driving I am starting to see positive results – you get back what you put out into the universe.
  • Consciously hit the ‘pause’ button: Feeling annoyed, frustrated, angry? Breathe and slowly count to 10. Not calm yet? Keep counting.
  • Let go of the illusion of control: You have absolutely no control whatsoever on the events unfolding around you. You cannot control traffic. You cannot control other drivers. You cannot control the weather. You cannot control the traffic lights. It is what it is and you will get where you need to be when you get there. Flapping your arms about like you’re getting ready to take flight isn’t going to do anything other than make you look like an idiot.
  • Visual reminders: I’ve taken to putting little post-it notes around the place with the word ‘Patience’ on each of them – including on my dashboard; this can be an excellent reminder should you feel impatient.
  • Fine yourself: If you respond better to being penalised rather than encouraged, then fine yourself $1 every time you have an outburst and donate all that money to charity. You’ll soon either stop or end up having a hospital wing named after you in recognition of your sizeable donation.
  • Enjoy the journey: Life is all about the journey, because once you reach the destination it’s all over, red rover. Treat driving as an opportunity for you to be in your own little space and make it an enjoyable experience for yourself. You might choose to play music that soothes your soul, infuse relaxing scents into your car (lit candles may not be a great idea), or put in a mini disco ball and turn your car into a karaoke bar on wheels. Do whatever you need to (within the law) in order to make car-time into happy-time.
And keep an eye out for the world around you. Aside from the fact that you need to pay attention in order to drive safely and avoid incurring the wrath of other less-Zen drivers, it’s a great way to see what’s changing in the world around you – new buildings being erected, new people moving into your area, changes to the streetscape etc. Or you could always go a different way and discover new streets in your area – I do this at least once a week and I have discovered several ways to quickly escape the peak-hour gridlock that occurs for getting out of my suburb, thus saving my sanity when a ten-minute drive looks like it’s turning into a thirty-minute one.
Patience is like any skill. It requires constant, conscious practice until eventually it becomes second-nature. So next time you see me stuck behind a vehicle that’s only doing half of the legal speed limit, don’t call the exorcist. I’m going to be OK.
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How do you deal with situations that trigger feelings like impatience, frustration and downright crankiness? Share your views in the Comments below or on the ‘Your Best You’ Facebook page (www.facebook.com/yourbestyouonline). 
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