” Mindfulness is more than a practice, it’s a way of life”
Just over 12 months ago I wrote this post but didn’t publish. It is interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on how I was feeling then. Now I would like to share with you this story…….
I consider myself a good driver. I believe myself considerate. I am decisive and assertive (not aggressive) behind the wheel (I learned that from my Mum who is licensed to drive small trucks). I do not intentionally break the law or speed, however it seems my intentions have been overshadowed by mindlessness. My husband has told me that I tailgate, not leaving enough distance between the front of my car and the rear end of others.
My heart sank as I was driving along a familiar road, having picked up my son from school, when I saw a policeman step out into the middle of the road and put his hand up signalling me to stop. Naturally I pulled over to the side of the road and he asked to see my license and then informed me that I had been speeding: I had been detected driving at 56 kilometres through a 40kph school zone. He wanted to know if I had a reason for speeding, I said “No, I was just talking to my son”. I am not one for lying or making up excuses or bursting into tears. It’s just not me. I live by truth. So there I was faced with the truth and faced with the consequences of my actions.
Now I did not feel that I was speeding, I was not in a hurry, it was not a conscious decision, yet obviously I had been speeding, I was doing 16kph over the speed limit. Now I know this is probably going to upset some people, being a school zone: it was 4:15pm, well after school had finished, yet in this area the 40kmh rule applies at all times, not just in school hours. I would have known this had I PAID ATTENTION. There is no excuse.
I recently got a new car, it is a zippy little car, a manual and it is so easy to speed, without trying. I found that I almost need to have my foot pulled back towards me, not to speed. I had only received a speeding ticket a few weeks earlier on the way home from work. It was late, the road was quiet and I was listening to music. I was pulled over doing 76kph in a 60 zone. Again: no excuses.
When I arrived home and looked over previous correspondence from Vic roads I realised that my license would be suspended. I had accumulated 12 demerit points in the last three years (six of them in the last four weeks). My heart sank. I went into panic mode. What could I possibly do to change this outcome?
This outcome is not acceptable. I will not accept it!
I had no reason for speeding, I simply was not paying attention. I was not paying attention, and that’s no excuse. My mind raced and I laid blame everywhere but with myself. I blamed the policeman for having the audacity to pull me over. I was not driving technically dangerously but of course I was: I was breaking the law. I blamed my son and his loud music because my car has this great stereo – he plays angry, heavy metal or hip hop music. Is that driving me to speed? I blamed my new car and I blamed the system. I blamed everyone and everything but myself.
So I am faced with two options, the first is to continue to drive but if I suffer any more demerit points over the next 12 months, I would lose my licence for six months or I can accept my penalty and not drive for three months.
As I considered both options, the three months is appealing because it is over quicker. If I chose to continue to drive, how could I possibly not speed for 12 months, I ask myself?
But this thought is ridiculous – I am NOT MEANT TO BE SPEEDING AT ALL. So I thought, Ok, there is still some time before I officially need to make this decision, but I know it is coming. So I choose option one: continue to drive, drive my boys to school, drive to my classes, run my business. All these things I need to do and I need to find a way to do all that without breaking the law.
“I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is still more for me to learn”.
I am annoyed at myself, for not being more mindful when I’m driving. I’m a yoga teacher. I teach mindfulness nearly every day. I have just come back from a wonderful seven-day retreat, teaching mindfulness and how to integrate what we learn in our yoga into our life. I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is always more to learn.
As the first day progressed I realise that I am feeling quite calm and relaxed. I did not realise how rushed I must have been behind the wheel, just as I did not realise I was speeding.
It is great to have a mindful practice; but to stay present all the time is really hard work. I am interested to see if it remains hard work or becomes easier. I know already after just two days that I can feel this sense of acceptance coming over me. I find myself considering: Do I feel calmer because I have moderated my speed or do I feel calmer because I accept it?
I do feel calmer and there is a gentle sense of acceptance. I know there is no one to blame for this but me. No one, nothing – all me. I think there are probably quite a few lessons bundled up here for me. So I thank the universe for this lesson, this opportunity to grow. To deepen my practice of mindfulness, to deepen my observance of svadhyaya (self study) and hopefully to be a good example to my boys. I am deeply grateful for my yoga practice, it gives me this wonderful framework, through mindfulness and svadhyaya to grow, to access this deep well of peace with me.
The affirmations that I have been working with for many months now – “I am grateful for all the gifts that come my way” and “I am at peace with myself and the world around me”. These were really hard to say only a few days ago. I said them through gritted teeth. I did not really feel them or believe them but I said them anyway. And now I do feel them, I feel them more deeply. It is very humbling to lose my equanimity and then find it again at a deeper level. I love this journey.
“When we struggle against something difficult or negative or painful, this only gives it more energy, and the negative aspect gains strength. When we acknowledge the difficult element, letting it simply be, it comes and goes: but it does not get stuck. It does not gain power” ~ Bien, T. (2006) Mindful Therapy.
About 2 weeks later, I paused to reflect on this life lesson. I am studying yoga therapy and understand that for change to take place, there must first be acceptance. I also understand that what you resist, persists. I was able to shift my focus from the ‘problem’ to the ‘solution’. I considered my initial resistance to accepting the following: my license suspension, that this was my fault, the amount of effort required to make a change for a lifetime not just 12 months and that my mindfulness practice had not been integrated into my life as well as I thought it had.
I considered the calmness I experienced a few days after being pulled over. Was it because I was driving more calmly or was it the acceptance of the situation? There is a deep calm that flows from acceptance. What a blessing this has been. I am becoming now more mindful of times when I am NOT being mindful. I am noticing when I am disconnected, my mind in the past or future and not in the here and now. So more and more I’m finding mindfulness in my day, in all my activites. I do a mindfulness practice, yes, I have moments of mindfulness, yes, but my intention is to be as conscious as I can be as often as I can. There have been a lot of lessons in this, it has been really wonderful.
When we are aware, we are back in charge, we see ourselves in truth. We see our thoughts, behaviours, the sensations in our body, our feelings and emotions as they are, rather than as we think they should be or how it could be. We are experiencing the truth of the moment. And yes that can be painful and sad, yet it can also be wonderfully liberating and help you affect change.
Acceptance is a pathway to peace of mind.
The 12 months have now passed and without further incident, my driving habits have changed. I have changed.