Seven ways to bring lovingkindness into daily life

Two boys sitting at a window. The large boy has his arm around the other boy's shoulders, offering him comfort.

My experience has been that although mindfulness meditation helps me to feel more joyful, an equivalent amount of lovingkindness meditation has an even greater effect on my sense of well-being.

Imbuing the mind with kindness insulates us from negativity, so that unskillful thoughts and emotions can’t easily take hold. It improves our emotional resiliency, so that challenging circumstances are less likely to drag us down. And it also helps us to feel greater contentment and happiness.

It’s not just formal sitting meditation practice that has this effect, though. Many other activities in daily life can become opportunities to cultivate metta. Here are a few suggestions to help you increase the amount of kindness in your life.

1. Mirror Meditation
As you’re looking in the mirror in the morning—while shaving or putting on makeup or fixing your hair—wish yourself well. Look at the face you see before you, and recognize that here is a being who wants to be happy, and who often finds happiness elusive. Repeat the metta phrases of your choice. Something like, “May I be well. May I be happy. May I find peace.”

2. Eating and Drinking
Practice gratitude. As you’re eating or drinking, recall that other beings made it possible for you to do this. The coffee you’re drinking or the cereal you’re eating have been grown, harvested, transported, and processed by many, many thousands of beings. The machinery used to do that growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing also involved many tens of thousands of beings. When you start to consider things like the clothing, the road systems, the housing, the electricity, etc., needed for those people, then you realize that you’re literally being served your breakfast by millions of people. So say “thank you,” and wish those beings well.

3. Driving or Walking
Whether you’re driving, walking, or taking public transport, any traveling you do is an ideal opportunity to wish others well. You can simply repeat “May all beings be well” as you see travelers and pedestrians passing by. But you could try giving up your seat on the bus, or letting someone merge into traffic, and notice how that makes you feel.

4. Working
Remember that every being you meet at work wants to be happy, but generally isn’t very skilled at finding happiness. This being human is a difficult thing. See if you can at least not make it harder for others to be happy, and perhaps make it just a little easier. Try telling yourself, “This person is doing the best they can with the resources available to them,” and notice how it changes your feelings about them.

5. Shopping
While cruising the aisles of your local supermarket, send salvos of metta towards other shoppers. When you’re in the line for the checkout, keep up a constant stream of well-wishing: “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be kind to yourself and others.”

6. Watching the News
There are people on the news who are suffering, and they’re the obvious recipients of your lovingkindness. The same applies for those who have done positive things. But there will also be people you might normally feel angered by—politicians from rival parties, criminals, people waging war—and it’s important to wish that they become kinder. Our harboring ill will toward them doesn’t affect their lives at all, but diminishes our own sense of wellbeing.

7. Hitting the Hay
Traditionally, the practice of lovingkindness is said to help promote good sleep and prevent insomnia. Lying in bed is a lovely time to wish yourself and others well. Wish yourself well, with particular focus on anything you have to rejoice about that day. Then wish yourself well with a focus on anything painful and unresolved from your day. Send lovingkindness to any feelings that come up. And wish others well. You can send kind and loving thoughts to family, to friends, and to people you’ve encountered during the day.

Slipping these extra minutes of lovingkindness practice into your daily life will bring you closer to an emotional tipping point where you feel unusual amounts of joy and wellbeing.

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Powerless over our thoughts

Man distressed by his thoughts

For many, negative thinking is a habit, which over time, becomes an addiction… A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of the Big Three — the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn’t get you, the others are waiting in the wings. (Peter McWilliams, American self help author.)

‘We admitted we were powerless over (addiction) — that our lives had become unmanageable.’ This is step one in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and all other twelve-step programs that exist including ALANON – which is a twelve-step group for families of alcoholics.

This is a poignant step for recovery – admitting that we are powerless. If we can’t admit this then we are still wanting to be in control. Which often is the root cause of many addictions.

What if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts – that our lives had become unmanageable?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there was no thinker, that thoughts arise out of no where, and cease into nothingness?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there is nobody controlling our life. That life just happens. That there is no sufferer, just suffering that arises and ceases? Take time to reflect on this too. What emerges for you?

How often does a thought arise, we hold on to it, identify with it and act the thought out?

I ask these questions because often we think of addiction as dependency on chemical substances only. Addiction for me was the dependency on sugar – which did become a matter of life or death for me at one point. almost died at the foot of my toilet, with food lodged in my windpipe as I was purging. I snorted white stuff (sugar) through the mouth, and my teeth crumbled, my voice box strained and my stomach collapsed. Addiction for me is not just about the dependency on chemicals. One of my root addictions has been my stinking thinking. It was that, which lead me to identify with my thoughts, act on my thoughts and hey presto I had created a fixed self ‘the addict.’.

We may laugh – how can our thinking be a matter of life and death. If we think out of the box, and think of life and death as a physical, spiritual and emotional issues. Then we can perhaps clearly see how it can be a matter of life and death.

I share this from the new book – Eight Step Recovery – Using the Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction written by myself, Valerie Mason-John, and the psychiatrist Dr Paramabandhu Groves – which will be published in January 2014.

Human nature has an inbuilt tendency for addiction. For some people this tendency can lead to the destruction of their lives, through their addictive and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. However, we can all struggle with the nature of the mind that tends towards addictions. We could say that we are all in recovery. That may come as a surprise to many of you.

All of us are addicted to our thinking. Thinking that tell us stories, thinking that can make us angry, thinking that can literally intoxicate us and impair the mind. Accidents and even fatalities can be caused when we are under the influence of this type of thinking. In Canada distracted driving and aggressive driving are in the top five most common reasons that cause car accidents. Our thinking can distract us and can cause road rage to the extent that we can become impaired behind the steering wheel.

This is a frightening fact – and we also know the impulse to identify with a thought while driving can be manifested in texting while driving, which also can be a matter of life and death. So if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts what can we do?

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Lovingkindness while driving (Day 21)

100 Days of Lovingkindness

When the rubber hits the road is a great time to practice lovingkindness, and I mean literal rubber and a literal road.

There’s a lot of irritation involved in driving, right up to the extreme of road rage. It can be irritating to be in slow traffic, or busy traffic, or to be cut off, or to be held up by roadworks, or stuck at traffic lights.

We’re emotionally cut off from other drivers because we’re all in our own semi-private metal boxes, and so we don’t have access (usually) to their body language and facial expressions. So we often take things personally that aren’t necessarily personal. As comedian George Carlin said, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

And the mind wanders when we’re driving. We drive “on autopilot” and the mind gets distracted. And you might think that the mind, having meandered away from the unpleasant grind of the daily commute, would find something enjoyable to think about. But research shows that most of the time we think about things that make us even unhappier! So our internal experience is unpleasant, and we don’t much like what’s going on around us.

Next time you get a chance, look at drivers’ facial expressions. They’re often frowning, or at best neutral. You’ll rarely see anyone smiling while they’re driving. It’s a serious business. It’s an unhappy business, for the most part.

Driving lovingkindness practice can liberate us from all this. It’s very like the walking lovingkindness practice that I described yesterday. When I do driving lovingkindness, I keep myself mindful by remaining aware of my surroundings, and I say the phrases, “May you be well, may you be happy” as I drive along. Sometimes it’s “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy.”

I might just have a sense that I’m imbuing my field of awareness with lovingkindness in this way, and every perception of a person (or a vehicle that a person contains) is simply touched by my kindly awareness. Or I may focus my attention on various vehicles as they pass in either direction, and wish the drivers and passengers well.

This can become very joyful. One of the participants in 100 Days of Lovingkindness wrote:

For my entire 30 minute ride to work I sent lovingkindness to each passing driver on the road. I can’t tell you the effect the that it had on me … I felt like a protective mother sending all of her children off on their day.

That’s rather lovely.

It’s so much more satisfying to wish drivers well than to have thoughts of ill will about them. When I’m driving with lovingkindness I find I want to let drivers merge, and it feels great. I can see why the Buddha described lovingkindness as a “divine state” — I feel like a gracious deity bestowing blessings as I slow down to create a space for a driver to enter the road. Even if it looks like the other driver is trying to cut the line, I have a sense of magnanimity and forgiveness as I let them in. It feels so much more enjoyable than trying to “punish” the driver by refusing to let them cut in.

And the act of well-wishing also helps prevent the mind from wandering into areas of thought that cloud my sense of well-being. The constant stream of thoughts like “May you be well, may you be happy” make it much harder for my mind to drift. So, despite some people’s fears to the contrary, I find I’m able to pay more attention to my driving, because I’m not getting lost in thought.

And smile! Smiling helps activate our kindness, and it makes us happier. And if some driver or pedestrian happens to see us smiling, they may be reminded that life doesn’t have to be cold, grim, and distracted, but can be warm, kind, and mindful.

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How to commute like a Buddhist

NY Daily News: If you’re wondering how to trek to work without losing your mind, Emmy Award-winner and New York City-based meditation teacher David Nichtern offers up a few pointers on curbing commuter stress.

“People think of spiritual practice as a tranquilizer,” Nichtern told fitness blog Well+Good NYC on September 3. “But I’m not from the school of ‘Let’s just chant something.’ My school is awareness. The more aware you are, the more likely you’re headed to a positive outcome.”

So, how to make your commute more mindful? He offers up a few ways to respond to common commute scenarios, as per his interview …

Read the original article »

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“It can wait.” A mantra for the 21st century

Buddha meditating lying on one side

You’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and your phone rings. You stop mid-sentence and suddenly you’re caught up in a phone call. You don’t even think about whether or not to pick up the call. It just happens.

You’re in the car and you hear the ping of a text message arriving. What do you do? Many people succumb to temptation and read the message and — worse — reply to it. (You can recognize those people; they’re the ones in front of you, swerving out of their lane without even realizing it.) Even if you try to ignore the incoming message, you can feel its emotional pull, as if your phone is an emotional black hole, drawing your attention inexorably toward it.

These distractions are hard to resist. How can we reclaim our attention in this world of email alerts, text message alerts, phone calls, IM alerts, and Facebook notifications?

See also:

I’ve found one simple way of regaining control of my attention. It’s a simple phrase: “It can wait.” I didn’t make this phrase up. I borrowed it from a public service advertisement designed to combat distracted driving. I found it simple and powerful.

And I use it in my daily activities. When I feel the urge to look at my phone while I’m driving, even if it’s just to remind myself of the name of the song that’s playing, I say “It can wait.” This simple phrase makes it easy for me to keep my attention where it belongs — on driving safely.

“It can wait” is a reminder of what’s important. The text message, email, or phone call will still be there when I arrive at my destination. I can deal with it then. Right now what’s important is getting to my destination safely. (In theory the song is still there, but in practice I’ll forget to do the detective work necessary to figure out what the track was. Which just goes to show how important it was in the first place to have that information!)

“It can wait” is a tool I also use in my meditation practice.

Sometimes when I’m meditating I find myself getting caught up in some train of thought. Sometimes those thoughts are compulsive. Right now I’ve just moved into a new office and we’re making some changes at work, so I find myself planning how we’re going to use the space, how we can set up better organizational systems etc. It’s all creative stuff. But it’s not what I want to be doing in my meditation practice. So I say, “It can wait.” And again, I find it relatively easy to let go of the train of thought. Sometimes it’ll come back a few times, but I keep saying “It can wait” and the planning part of my mind eventually gets the message.

“It can wait” becomes a powerful statement of affirmation in the importance of the present moment. I find myself planning? “It can wait.” Right now I’m just going to be with my present moment experience. I’ll find happiness by surrendering to the present moment, not by arranging the future in my mind.

So I offer this to you as a practice that I’ve found to be simply and effective. When you need to be focused on the present moment and an emotional black hole appears and tries to steal your attention, just say “It can wait” and embrace the present moment in mindful awareness.

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Driving as Preparation: An excerpt from One-Minute Mindfulness, by Donald Altman

The act of driving requires our full attention. I know of a woman who drove through her garage door one morning because she was on automatic pilot and didn’t notice that it was still closed! The lapse of a split second can have devastating results. How do you approach your morning drive?

Do you use the morning drive to prepare for the day to come? Is driving a placeholder, a time for fitting in extraneous activities? Do you let the frustrations of the road soak into your body and spirit, filling you with anger or draining you of energy? A one-minute mindfulness approach to driving can improve your emotional tone, stress level, and ability to be open and adaptable.

When I discuss the brain and multitasking in workshops, I often ask participants to share stories about multitasking while driving. Here are a few that stand out: eating soup, with a spoon; putting on makeup and getting dressed; reading the newspaper or a book, even on a busy freeway; simultaneously smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, putting on mascara, and backing up the car.

Title: One Minute Mindfulness
Author: Donald Altman
Publisher: New World Library
ISBN: 978-1-60868-030-6
Available from: Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com Kindle Store, and Amazon.com.

Ample evidence shows that the brain does not multitask very well. A recent study showed that simply talking while driving can negatively impact our driving skills. Researchers also found the reverse to be true: driving reduces a driver’s ability to recall a conversation by as much as 20 percent. According to psycholinguist Gary Dell, one of the study’s researchers, “You might think that talking is an easy thing to do and that comprehending language is easy. But it’s not. Speech production and speech comprehension are attention-demanding activities, and so they…compete with other tasks that require your attention — like driving.” In other words, something will suffer if we decide to split our attention when we’re behind the wheel.

Basically, there are two ways to drive. The first is to drive in order to get where we’re going. Driving then is a means to an end, an act that has little intrinsic value. In this case, we may be preoccupied with other things when we get in the car. Our minds may wander off to the future. Maybe we’re engaged in a conversation with someone, literally or mentally, as we pull into the street. Our attention might be focused on listening to a radio station or thoughts about an upcoming task. I’m not suggesting that we avoid all sources of sensory input while driving but that we practice sixty-second intervals of awareness to notice when we are driving mindlessly, with our bodies going through the motions.

Fortunately, there’s a second way to go about this: drive with the sole purpose of driving. It’s that simple and direct. It’s about full participation in what we are doing with the next sixty seconds, before we even climb into the car and turn on the ignition. For example, what details do you notice about your vehicle’s door handle as you open the door? Its temperature, shape, the feel of it? How does your body bend and move as you climb into the driver’s seat? Feel your hands as they grip the steering wheel. Notice the sound of the pavement as the tires move along the road’s surface.

When we bring awareness to the next minute, we gain traction instead of dis-traction with our surroundings, from road signs and road conditions to bicyclists and pedestrians. We can also find gratitude each time we drive somewhere. Fully participating in the journey of moving from one place to another leaves no time for anxiety about the future. Driving in order to drive requires our presence in each moment — and that sets our consciousness to sixty-second time.

In the next day or week, take one driving trip where you are focused only on your driving, with no distractions. Do this when you are alone, and try to be as present as you can every sixty seconds. You don’t have to be perfect when doing this. When your mind wanders, to the past or the future, gently bring it back. You can even mentally affirm your present moment intention with the words “driving, driving.”

Excerpted from the book One-Minute Mindfulness © 2011 by Donald Altman. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

Donald Altman, M.A., LPC, is the author of One-Minute Mindfulness, The Mindfulness Code, and Meal-by-Meal. Known as America’s Mindfulness Coach, he is a practicing psychotherapist who conducts mindful living and mindful eating workshops and retreats through colleges, community centers, and health care organizations. Visit him online at https://www.OneMinuteMindfulnessBook.com.

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“Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving” by Michele McDonald

“Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving,” by Michele McDonald

There are pitfalls in listening to mindfulness tapes in the car. Once I was talking to a woman at a workshop I was leading in Spokane, and she related that she’d once been so engrossed in a mindfulness tape by Thich Nhat Hanh that she’d rear-ended a truck. It’s for that sort of reason that I’ve never acted on any of the suggestions various people have made over the years that I should record a CD about mindful driving.

Michele McDonald, however, is made of braver stuff, and with both hands firmly (but gently) on the wheel she set off to record guided meditations that help turn driving into a mindfulness practice. And she’s done a good job.

Title: Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving
Author: Michele McDonald
Publisher: More Than Sound

Awake at the Wheel is a two-CD set of mindfulness exercises, also available as a download. There are seven exercises in all, from around five minutes in length to just over 16 minutes. The same exercises are repeated on both CDs, with less guidance being given in the second set.

McDonald is the founder of Vipassana Hawai’i and has been teaching vipassana meditation for over 25 years. Her Facebook page says that she has been a “quiet pioneer, having being the first woman to teach a formal retreat in Burma.” This experience shows, for her teaching in Awake at the Wheel is exemplary. She begins, in the introductory track, with emphasizing the need for safety, care for ourselves and others, and lovingkindness. And the final track is simply entitled “Kindness,” and is a what I’d call a “moving metta (lovingkindness)” practice. This framing of the entire program in terms of mindfulness is good on two counts: first, the listener may (we hope) avoid the pitfall of rear-ending a vehicle while listening to someone talk about mindfulness, and second, it emphasizes that lovingkindness and mindfulness are complementary, and even inseparable, qualities.

McDonald’s teaching is carefully crafted. She introduces mindfulness skills a little at a time, first just emphasizing the two “anchors” of noticing the sensations in the hands, and what we’re seeing in our visual field. In the first exercise she rather cleverly asks the driver to use oncoming regularly spaced objects (think telephone poles or fence posts) as ways to break the experience into manageable chunks. She builds from this to noticing the thoughts that arise when we space out and slip into autopilot, skills of “noting” (gently applying mental labels to our experiences), being aware of the body, our hearing, and our emotions.

In several cases she introduced a brief exercise, and then asks us to repeat it. This is an excellent way of helping people to, as McDonald puts it, “build a skill-set.” Her choice of words is excellent, and she has some insightful phrases, such as “The willingness to start again is the most important aspect of mindfulness.”

There were times that I thought she failed to suggest noticing experiences that it would be natural to pay attention to while driving. For example, she suggests that in our mindfulness of hearing we can pay attention to the sounds of birds (which I don’t think I ever notice), but doesn’t suggest being aware of the sound of the engine, or the swoosh of passing vehicles. When being aware of the body she doesn’t mention being aware of the movements in the arms. But these are minor points, and the mindful driver will no doubt notice these sounds without having them pointed out.

This CD set is, as I indicated, designed to be used while driving rather than listened to at home as a rehearsal for driving. I confess I listened to the program in my office, because I wanted to be able to take notes, and because I don’t do enough driving (I rarely drive for more than 10 minutes) to be able to listen to the whole program in a reasonable length of time. The exercises are, I think, more likely to be useful on longer, unbroken drives, rather than in stop-start driving in a city. When the traffic is heavy, or when I’m having to pay attention to navigating, I tend not even to listen to music. I don’t think that under those circumstances I would even attempt to listen to instructional guidance of this sort. I’d advise potential listeners to think carefully about which drives are the most suitable for listening to a program of this nature, taking into account driving conditions and the amount of time available.

There was perhaps only one thing I thought could have been usefully added to the mindfulness instructions, and that would be a brief track to be listened to while stuck in a traffic jam or while at traffic lights. The impatience and frustration that can arise in those situations is one of the most difficult things that drivers have to contend with.

Overall, however, this is a valuable contribution to the “oral literature” on mindfulness, and one for which there is a great need. I hope that the “mindfulness” label doesn’t put anyone off, because all drivers would benefit from listening to Michele McDonald’s skilled coaching.

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“A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment,” by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment

Collectively we’re spending longer and longer commuting: The average American takes around 30 minutes to get to work, and in large cities the drive can take much longer. In rural areas commuting can also eat up the miles and hours: I know two Buddhists in New England who each drive 1000 miles (1600km) per week.

It’s even worse in Europe; in my native UK the average commuting time is 45 minutes (although that’s more likely to be in some form of public transport).

Even without those extremes, commuting makes for a lot of time spent in cars, trains, buses, and even for some people airplanes. It’s not always pleasant time either; stop-go traffic is increasingly common, public transport can be crowded and unreliable, civility seems to be on the decline, and the term “road rage” has entered our lexicon as we become more and more frustrated with sharing our commute with an ever-increasing number of people. I’ve labored the point enough; we all know that getting to and from work can be a major source of stress.

Traveling is also an opportunity, however. Here and there you’ll find pointers for how to make commuting (and especially driving) more of a spiritual practice. Thich Nhat Hanh offers some advice, Dr. Saki Santorelli in “The Family Therapy Networker” has some useful tips, as do we here at Wildmind.

I was therefore pleased, intrigued, and even excited when I was invited to review “A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment,” and looked forward to a more thorough exposition on how driving can become a spiritual practice. The “Commuter’s Guide” is written by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, who had a long daily commute in and around New York City for most of his thirty-year career as a specialist in therapeutic recreation and psychiatric rehabilitation. Dr. Bitkoff writes from a Sufi perspective, and if you know little about Sufism you will almost certainly have heard of Rumi, the famous Sufi poet of the 13th century. Sufism is a mystical branch is Islam in which the seeker aims to come into the presence of the Divine.

And although they say you should never judge a book by its cover, I was taken by the small format and attractive presentation of the “Commuter’s Guide.”

All of this raised my hopes, although I must confess to having experienced some disappointment while reading the book.

Dr. Bitkoff chose to structure his book around the eight and a half miles he formerly traversed daily on the Major Deegan Expressway, with a chapter for each mile (giving us eight and a half chapters — a nice touch). Each chapter is loosely themed around a topic, such as Signs, Learning and Life (Chapter 2), The Way of the Heart (Chapter 5), and Higher Potential (Chapter 8). Each chapter is comprised of a number of short sections, on average about a page long, which are generally reflective and sometimes instructive in nature.

All of that again is very promising, so why did I find this book to be disappointing?

First, there’s a lack of immediacy about the writing. Commuting these days is nothing but dramatic, but there’s no sense of drama in the book. It’s as if the pieces dealing with actual experiences of commuting were written years after the events in question. I longed for an “in the moment” blow-by-blow account of the problems of commuting and the kinds of spiritual practices that can help to make that time more tolerable. Towards the end of the book I noticed a couple of examples of present tense writing, but those are few and far between and seemed thrown in for variety.

Second, while there are a few specific examples of how to engage with commuting as a spiritual practice, many of the more reflective passages left feeling unsatisfied. A typical example would be an anecdote about a flat tire followed by a statement along the lines of: “Sooner or later, we are all victims of the potholes of life.” These one-liners sound like forced attempts to connect the specifics of commuting with the details of spiritual practice, and to my ears sound trite.

Third, some of the language in the book struck me as being life-denying. There are several instances where the author says things like, “Much of our lives is spent doing things we don’t like to do but have to do,” (emphasis added) or “part of me accepted that I had to travel this highway everyday.” I find it profoundly un-useful in my own life to adopt the attitude that I “have to” do certain things, and much more useful to think in terms of choosing to do things even though I don’t necessarily like doing them. Nobody “makes” us commute. It’s a choice.

This is not to say that the book lacks value altogether. There is useful advice scattered throughout the book — that how we react to things is something that can be changed, that we can enrich our lives by creating a “happiness calendar” of the little things we appreciate, that using and “focus words” in conjunction with the in and out breath is a useful way of practicing while driving, to give just a few examples.

Yet these useful tidbits were, for me, overwhelmed by the sheer number of passages that I found uninteresting, or even offputting. There are some dry statistics. There are a number of passages which feature fictional conversations between the “traveler” and the “monster,” which have all the portentousness of late 19th century Theosophical writings. Some of the teachings even jar: “If you want to be courteous and repeatedly let others pull out in front of you, you’ll never reach your destination on time.” That doesn’t fit with my experience, and if I have a choice between being rude and being a few moments late I know which I’d choose.

And there is very little discussion of the ecological implications of commuting; it’s not until the eighth chapter that there is any mention at all of the ecological havoc wrought by our commuting habits, and the treatment of the topic is perfunctory.

Those whose practice is rooted in the close and precise observation that is fundamental to mindfulness meditation may wish — to use a commuting metaphor — to steer clear of the Commuter’s Guide. However, perhaps for those interested in exploring the intersection between Sufism and modern life, this book may have much to offer. And for those interested in a largely inspirational spirituality rather than more specific guidance, this book may also be of interest.

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Meditation, too, is a good drive (Hindu)

Hindu.com: We are on the road, driving with the mind wandering to our office, home or elsewhere, but rarely do we drive in complete awareness.

Chennai: A car stops right in the middle of the busy Nageswara Road in front of the CHILDS Trust Hospital. The driver opens the door for the passengers to get off and slowly moves on.

Even before the signal turns green, a Toyota Qualis driver is honking madly at a scooterist in front of him at the Independence Day park roundabout. He wants the scooterist to beat the signal and move on.

On the busy stretch toward Nelson Manickam Road subway, a driver is moving at his own pace, lost in conversation with the person next to him — neither picking up speed nor moving aside.

On Sterling Road, the traffic toward Tank Bund Road takes aeons to make way for an ambulance rushing a critically ill patient to the hospital.

These may not count as gross traffic violations, but innumerable such instances take place each day on Chennai city roads, that point to one single factor — lack of awareness of the fundamental principles of driving/riding.

Shanthi Prasad has been driving several cars in the country and abroad for the past 20 years. Initially, she was driving around lost in thought. But now the practice of meditation has sharpened the awareness of her surroundings and her driving has acquired more skill and focus, she says. “We may have the best car and the skills, but we rarely have the presence of mind. We are on the road, driving with the mind wandering to our office, home or elsewhere, but rarely do we drive in complete awareness.”

Swaran Singh, Managing Director of the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, says that in his experience of organising yoga and meditation programmes for Metropolitan Transport Corporation drivers and conductors, “drivers who are at peace at home and in office are at peace with the steering. It makes them drive without any stress or tension. This has a direct bearing on the reduction in the number of accidents. A driver without tension becomes a vehicle-friendly driver.” The MTC had submitted a report to the Union Government on how yoga and meditation had helped to reduce the number of accidents by MTC drivers.

N. Ramakrishnan, senior consultant in Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Apollo Hospital, and heading the Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences, says that sleepiness while driving is a common reason for motor accidents. With increasing night shifts, employees suffer from lack of sleep.

There are other sleep-related problems such as hyper somnolence and sleep apnea, which require holistic treatment with medicines, pranic healing, meditation and other individualised relaxation techniques, he says. He is organising a programme on January 20 on sleepy driving at the Nithra Institute to come up in Anna Nagar.

Swamini Gambhirananda, who conducts several yoga programmes through the Shiv Darshan Yoga Alaya, says practice of yoga develops the awareness as driving, like any other activity, is connected to the mind.

“Mistakes happen only through mind and not body. When the mind is tense, it reflects in the driving,” she says.

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