Road Grace [part 2]: Calming your body in stress

We’re driving again! During the last 14 pandemic* months, I put all of a thousand miles on my car. And there was no traffic when I did.

Gold colored bird getting food on top of an outside rear-view mirrorBut now I’m out buying garden stuff, visiting people, taking hikes, and yes indeed there are traffic jams. All those cars are so irritating and stressful.

That’s the beginning of road rage—hyper-vigilant, defensive, and angry awareness of bad drivers. The desire to remind rude drivers of their errors. To release the intensity of driving 60 miles per hour with all those idiots. While I don’t chase people or flip them off, even internalized road rage keeps stress levels on high.

What helps is Road Grace: remembering they’re not all idiots. Instead of (or in addition to) inevitable irritation, focus on what’s right: Cars driving well. That’s usually an ignorable given, but that’s where you place your attention.

  • The white SUV in front of you is going safely in the lane. The red Prius made a full stop for pedestrians before turning left.
  • In addition to noticing, you can even say, “Good job white Highlander. Nice driving Prius.”

Why do that? As silly as it sounds, it calms your body when you’re aware of the drivers who are, like you, doing their best. Instead of adversarial travel, you’re creating a sense of community, which really is the unspoken agreement of travel.

This tool is part of the fifth pathway: your relationship to emotions. It’s meeting your emotions—anger, grief, fear, iffy moods—and finding ways to be with them. Too often, these emotions are in the (ahem) driver’s seat, coloring how you see life.

When Road Grace is in the driver’s seat, it changes the view. I’m not talking about being enlightened and unaware of the speeder cutting you off. Road rage may pipe up from the passenger seat (oh get an effin’ life). But it’s not the way you see the roads you travel on.

Let Road Grace drive for a while, and you might even like the highway.

* The amazing Patti Digh dubbed it the “pandemonium.”

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