YOGA FOR ROAD RAGE
YOGA FOR ROAD RAGE
It has happened to most of us. You are in a hurry to get somewhere and someone is driving slowly in front of you, cuts you off, or merges into your lane causing a dangerous situation. Maybe someone is tailgating you and inches away from your back bumper at 70mph, or there is a traffic jam that is going to make you late for work or an important meeting. Tempers flare and before you know it, you’re in a rage, possibly screaming obscenities or putting yourself and others in danger of an accident. Be forewarned that some go so far as to carry a gun in their glove box for driving confrontations, and if someone does that, then they’re most likely crazy enough to use it.
This is called 'road rage' and is a common occurrence in most big cities across the world. I have experienced it many times but have adopted a way to calm myself in nearly all driving situations. The path of yoga teaches awareness, and the fact that we are all connected in an incomprehensible way. Therefore, the first step is to be aware of our emotions as we step into our automobiles. In our fast paced lives it may be a challenge to do this, when we’re late for a meeting with a friend or colleague, or having to be somewhere at a certain time. However, accidents do occur and we must realize that when we are in an emotional condition while driving, that we are putting ourselves and others lives at risk.
I had an epiphany during my own bout of road rage many years ago. I was driving on a narrow, two-lane highway in the fast lane, with cars in front of and behind me. I looked in my rear view mirror to see a car rapidly approaching in the slow lane trying to pass me at a high speed. There was literally only a few feet between the car in front and behind me, and other cars alongside me in the slow lane. The speeding driver cut in front of me, inches away from my car nearly causing an accident as I put on my breaks and my cup of very hot tea spilt all over my lap. Now the speeding driver was wedged between my car and the car in front of them, and I lost my temper and started honking my horn and flashing my lights. This caused the reckless driver to make another hazardous turn back into the slow lane and try to pass other cars in the same manner. I had hot tea dripping down my legs, my pants were stained and not presentable for the meeting I was going to attend. In hot pursuit, I accelerated and caught up to the unsafe driver and got on their bumper, flashing my lights again and honking my horn. At this point the reckless driver put on their hazard lights and slowed down so I pulled up alongside them, rolling down my window and ready to give them a piece of my mind. That is when I looked into their car and saw a hunched over older woman that had to be in her 80’s, and she was quivering in fear and looking at me as if I was a monster. Sure, she had cut me off and nearly caused an accident, but I had aggravated the situation by becoming emotionally possessed from a negative reaction to make matters worse. As I looked into the window of the older woman alongside me and smiled and waved in apology, I saw what could have been my own grandmother, and I slowed down and let her go on her way. I realized immediately that all I could do was control my own actions and reactions to the dangers and perils on the road, and that getting angry and trying to get even with another driver was a recipe for disaster
The epiphany that I had was that if I imagined, or realized, that every other driver was a family member, then I would not get as upset if there was a challenging driving situation confronting me. If I could picture each driver as my parents or grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, my reactions would soften and become less aggressive if they did happen to drive recklessly or put me in an uncompromising position. Of course, I am going off the premise that we all love our family and would never do anything to harm them. If our own grandmother was driving slow in front of us and causing us to be late for an appointment, would we flip her off and yell at her to hurry up? If our son or daughter merged onto the freeway cutting us off and causing us to slam on our brakes, would we try to chase them down or pass them at a high speed, putting their lives and our own in peril? Most likely, we would not, and really there isn’t much we can do for unaware and dangerous drivers besides be on the defense and not let them cause a negative reaction in us. Picturing all other drivers as family, we can relax, and if anything try to get out of their way, for 99% of the time we will never see this person again. You might also try to wish them a good day and to drive safely; your thoughts and prayers have a far-reaching effect and in the least, this mindset will help you to be in a calm and tranquil state of mind while on the road.
Yoga teaches us to be aware of our emotions great and small, and to not only picture other drivers as family, but all people in every life situation. As you practice imagining others as your family, a lot of negative energy is freed and life seems to be more joyous, and that there is a common bond with all people. This is a drastic shift of perspective from feeling angry, alone, and separate from others, whether on the road or in any aspect of our life journey. We can’t control what other people do; we can only control our own reactions and emotions to the roller coaster of life. We can teach others only by living as an example and sending out positive thoughts and wishes for all those around us. In the world that we live in this may present a challenge, but each person, every thought or feeling about others or ourselves ads to or takes away from the collective consciousness on the planet. This has been taught by many spiritual traditions throughout history. Start out by practicing the ‘seeing others as family principle’ while driving, and this dynamic will envelope your life and add to your own peace of mind and happiness in the present moment.