My 16 year old is driving me around and it is freaking me out.
As my little baby grew up, new life stages were often accompanied by seating changes in the car. I remember my little girl wanting out of her car seat. Even when she was that little, it was a negotiation. I wanted her to stay put forever – safe and sound, strapped in. Of course, in the game where we try and keep them from growing up, we parents always lose.
Eventually, she wanted to join me in the front seat. There were conditions, rules and regs – and then there she was, sitting happily in the “death seat” next to me.
But these events were nothing compared to the day she said she wanted to sit in the driver’s seat for our 30 minute morning drive to school on the Los Angeles freeway.
“She has her permit, she’s driven a bunch with her dad and she’s even had a professional lesson – why wait?” I ask myself, trying my best to match her readiness.
And yet as she drives on the entrance ramp, I am gripping muscles in my pelvis I didn’t know I had. I’m using every bit of yoga I’ve ever learned and taught, exhaling and grounding my sit bones and relaxing my shoulder blades. I know my voice betrays my inner scream.
And, as always – she wins. We always have to let go.
As this morning drive becomes our daily routine, I start to realize there’s something different about this 16 year old in the driver’s seat. During these times she’s actually just a little bit open to my suggestions.
Her response to my guidance is different from her usual eye roll, like when I say “can I tell you a safe way to get into splits?” And she says “No.”
It occurs to me that I have approximately two months until she gets her license, at which point I will no longer be in the car with her for these morning adventures. In fact, I might even see her a lot less.
I decide that in the next couple months I need to squeeze in every driving tip – every possible lesson that might keep my little girl safe.
Not just in her car, but in her life.
I begin teaching something that goes way beyond defensive driving. I am trying to guide her to be anticipatory, even intuitive: to tap in to Universal Consciousness and to become aware of things that can’t be seen.
I’m teaching her how to be a yogi. It’s my last chance.
Here are the lessons I discover along the way:
Be present – and at the same time, be aware of the past, and look toward your future.
As we’re driving on the thankfully traffic-filled freeway, I ask her: “what do you see down the road?” “Brakes”, she says. “Good, so brake” I say obnoxiously.
As she tries to change lanes, I ask “who’s back there?” “A truck”. “Who’s behind him?”
I’m trying to convey that if she takes time to notice what’s behind her, it’s less likely to jump out of nowhere.
And yes, while it’s important to be able to be present in the moment, it’s also good to stay aware of how our past might affect our choices. At the same time, if we keep looking ahead at where we want to go, we increase the chances that actually get there.
Everything you do communicates something.
Sometimes we feel isolated and separate and we forget that we’re always conveying something to someone. On the road, speeding up ever so slightly lets another driver know they shouldn’t try to squeeze in.
Even though sitting in the left turn lane makes it obvious that we’re turning, it’s good to use our directional. It sends a message to people that we’re waiting, and might just make things easier on both of us.
When we approach a cross walk with a pedestrian in it, slowing down more than we have to tells them “I see you, I got you.” Who knows, maybe we just helped someone keep their blood pressure a notch lower.
All our actions are communications, and they affect everyone around us. I once heard that in any given day, how we act affects people who then affect people – ultimately totaling about 1000 people per day. Knowing how much our communications affect those around us makes it even more important to be aware of what’s coming across to others.
Look for idiots.
This one comes straight from my experience with a guy who ran a stop sign, hit me and then drove off.
People will cut you off, be distracted, slam on their breaks, not use their blinker. Sad but true. Idiots are out there and it’s worth looking for them.
How this relates to yoga I’m not sure, but I do think sometimes people are not necessarily trying to spread goodness in the world, or if they are, they’re not going about it in a very effective way, and it’s probably good for us eternal optimists to recognize this.
At the same time, we have to count on the kindness of strangers.
When you’ve gotta cross lanes to get to your exit, it’s good to assume there are nice people out there. Turn your blinker on to let them know your desire, meet their eyes if you can, and have a little faith that someone will be kind and let you in.
The moment we give up on the idea that good, kind, thoughtful people are out there, we may never get to where we want to be in life. A little trust in humanity is necessary to maintain hope, and hope is what we need to feel content.
Try to make your ride as smooth as possible by aligning with the flow of Consciousness.
It’s not just about trying to avoid knocking your passenger around with a lot of stopping and starting. It’s also about becoming a Zen Master.
Staying the same distance from the car in front of you in stopping and starting traffic means we have to almost become one with the flow of traffic. We can tap in to an awareness of how the ripples of a car changing lanes way up ahead will affect us in 30 seconds. We can sense that all the cars are one organism, moving and breathing together.
It’s not about getting there first.
It’s about discovering that we are more than our thoughts and even our senses, and exploring just how expansive our awareness can get – and how magical life can be at times.
It’s not the racing video game, it’s the Zombie one.
I really liked this one. She used to play racing games with her dad. She was really good at going fast. But good driving isn’t about getting there first. And it’s not about getting as close to the guy in front of you as you can to cut 3 seconds off your time.
It’s more like the video game where you’re trying to enjoy yourself while at the same time looking around for Zombies all the time that could kill you. Don’t let them catch you off guard. Keep scanning for them so you can avoid them skillfully.
The importance of zombie watching is not exactly a yogic principle… but that’s ok. I think the life lessons were more for me anyway.