Advice wanted: Stressful interstate driving

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  • FlamingDollar
    Member
    • Jun 2015
    • 23

    Advice wanted: Stressful interstate driving

    Hello dear sangha,

    I apologize if this isn't quite the right forum to post this in, but I need some advice for what is easily one of the most stressful parts of my day: the long daily drive to and from work.

    I try to start my mornings with sitting, but had trouble with that today (late start to the morning and had to rush a bit, should be sitting later today), and my drive is usually joined with a dharma talk. These last couple weeks, my drives (especially to work) have gotten more stressful and strange. Usually I'm able to get on the highway, switch on cruise control, and go, but these last couple weeks have been joined by slow, erratic, and aggravated drivers, as well as unexpected and annoying intrusions. Yesterday was possible the worst, what with an 18-wheeler breaking down at the very start of a construction zone (thankfully everyone was able to get around and the driver was able to stay safe), driving 30 below the contruction zone speed limit, finally getting out the construction zone and getting stuck behind a construction vehicle on a city road with a speed limit of 55 mph, going 20. I was late to work for the first time in many months.

    Today was not as bad, but I was nearly late due to being stuck in the left lane behind a vehicle shifting speeds wildly between 60 and 75 mph.

    This is stressing me out badly, and my job is bad enough sometimes. Any advice, please?

    Gassho,
    Will
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39221

    #2
    Kinda like the rest of life. Just breathe. You may be late for work, but where are you trying to go?

    This week's little talk said to stop measuring ...

    ... then one is in a Buddha taxi driving across Buddhatown, all Buddha all the way from uptown to down.

    I wrote this many years ago, when I had to drive US I-95 near Miami most days ...

    In very practical terms, one of places where this Way shows its worth is on road.

    Every time some fellow cuts me off and I let the fear and seeds of "road rage" go ... every flat tire that I "just fix" as a sacred act ... every late appointment as I hurry down the road under stress, yet simultaneously forget about time and arriving at "someplace to go" ... every time I get behind the wheel for some unpleasant medical test or to take a sick child to the emergency room ... the time I almost drove into a ditch with the whole family in the car, highway driving always on the cutting edge of "life and death" ... the time my good friend was killed in an accident ... the times I drove to pick up a loved one at the airport ... the time I was in a fender bender with a busload of Zenfriends, and we all stepped out of the van to appreciate the flowers and blue sky ... the days driving to work and driving home, like an act of Kinhin on wheels ... the time in 2014 when I hope to drive across North America with my son for a month or so, meeting a lot of you (I will write more about that in the coming months) ... the times I just drive as stillness in motion ...

    Although we don't try to get or arrive any place in this Practice ... who says we don't get somewhere?

    Gassho, J
    As Kannon reminds us, always stop for pedestrians ...

    Last edited by Jundo; 11-16-2015, 11:43 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    • FlamingDollar
      Member
      • Jun 2015
      • 23

      #3
      Thank you very much, Jundo. Not sure why I'm always pining to get to work, but not so much with other matters. One of those things I have to learn to handle better.

      Gassho,
      Will

      Comment

      • lorax
        Member
        • Jun 2008
        • 381

        #4
        Hum, sounds like the few years after college when I had do drive into central Los Angeles. Way before I actually started practice. One thing I found was that over a distance of thirty miles, driving at 30 mph smoothly or fighting traffic to stay at the posted 60 mph did not in the end save me much time but took a toll of my emotional stability. So for those few years I just settled in driving with the flow, allowing idiots cut in front of me, and starting a bit earlier giving me some unwinding time once I arrived at work place, time for a cup of coffee with friends and shed the stress of commute.
        I tried to explain this to my son who over the past few years has been under significant mental stress. This reflects in his driving, his perception of other drivers, and he becomes part of the problem.
        So my thoughts are, look for ways to let all the aggression, stress, and stupidity just pass you by, it might be surprising to see drivers actually waive to you, smile, etc. by your simple act of letting them in a space you maintain between yourself and the car ahead. Make your day and perhaps someone else's.

        SAT TODAY
        Last edited by lorax; 07-23-2015, 04:46 PM.
        Shozan

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        • FlamingDollar
          Member
          • Jun 2015
          • 23

          #5
          Thanks lorax. I really appreciate the advice!

          Gassho,
          Will

          Comment

          • Rich
            Member
            • Apr 2009
            • 2595

            #6
            When I was a long distance commuter my kind and understanding employer allowed me to come in an hour early and leave an hour early to avoid the rush hours.

            SAT today
            _/_
            Rich
            MUHYO
            無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

            https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

            Comment

            • Mp

              #7
              Originally posted by Jundo
              Kinda like the rest of life. Just breathe. You may be late for work, but where are you trying to go?
              Hello Will,

              This is so true ... and another one I try is to be mindful when I am either drinking my coffee or eating my breakfast. Try to take even those small moments to just slow down and be present, it can help start your day out right ... and as Jundo has mentioned, remember to breathe. =)

              With no destination, I am never lost. ~ Ikkyu
              Gassho
              Shingen

              #sattoday

              Comment

              • Myosha
                Member
                • Mar 2013
                • 2974

                #8
                Hello,

                Long-distance driver 50 years: create the environment. Bored? You're in charge of safety. Angry? Pick a target and make sure they're safe. Asleep . . . duh? In a hurry? Every vehicle around you wants to help everyone else. Hungry? Eat.
                Thirsty? Gather water. Cold? Gather wood.

                Stay here,


                Gassho
                Myosha sat today
                Last edited by Myosha; 07-23-2015, 07:34 PM.
                "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

                Comment

                • Yugen

                  #9
                  Myosha,
                  Lovely! Deep bows
                  Yugen


                  sat2day

                  Comment

                  • FlamingDollar
                    Member
                    • Jun 2015
                    • 23

                    #10
                    Thank you all so very much. I will be more calm when I drive from now on, and be mindful always. Definitely stuff I need to take more seriously.

                    Thank you all!

                    Gassho,
                    Will

                    Comment

                    • Byrne
                      Member
                      • Dec 2014
                      • 371

                      #11
                      Driving is my thing. I never intended to be a professional driver, but that's exactly what life gave me for most of my adult life. 5 years as a delivery truck driver in New York City (on my first day I caused an accident that literally shut down a Spike Lee shoot. To the union guys working the shoot I was a hero who got them some serious overtime. To the production team I was the biggest fuck up they ever met and BOY were sure to let me know.) and over the past 8 years I've personally driven over 500,000 miles around the US with my wife for our business. I've dealt with all manner of stressful and dangerous situations. From my point of view Washington DC, Atlanta GA, and the whole state of New Jersey are the WORST places to drive if safety is your thing. Horrible road design and psychotic driving cultures. Alabama is hands down the best, probably because the police there are so incredibly scary. Montana and West Virginia are the most beautiful US states to drive in. Connecticut is not.

                      My approach to driving is to not die. This isn't a foolproof plan, but as a general rule I stay away from other vehicles, especially when they get aggressive. I follow all traffic laws to the best of my ability. In most state if you hit someone from behind it's your fault, so if you're feeling uneasy stay far behind. Sometimes in very difficult driving conditions I find it easiest to relax because there is NOTHING more important than staying calm and focused. When problems arise while driving you have nothing else to do but deal with it. I've been in quite a few unusual situations. When the city of Atlanta was shut down from 2 inches of snow last year I was one of those suckers stuck on the highway (12 hours to go 5 miles) Sliding on ice over the hills was frightening and people were really scared. I was also driving in NYC in 2003 during a massive blackout and got to wade through 8 million people on the street in NY's specific brand of stinky summer. (8 hours to go 5 miles)

                      While driving you gotta adapt to the circumstance and accept the outcome.

                      But most importantly, whatever you do, don't die.

                      Gassho

                      Sat Today

                      Comment

                      • Kyonin
                        Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                        • Oct 2010
                        • 6739

                        #12
                        Hi Will,

                        When I used to drive a lot around Mexico City, one of the most crowded cities in this planet, I simply let go without resisting. In zazen I realized that traffic will never get any better, but only worse.

                        So I realized I had two choices: be miserable with something I have no power to control, or be contempt and grateful with the fact that I had a job, a car, money to sustain the luxury of a car and at least 2 hours of listening to great podcasts.

                        I even started learning Mandarin with a podcast!

                        Just breathe, go with the flow and use the time to learn something... as long as it doesn't distract you from driving, of course.

                        Gassho,

                        Kyonin
                        #SatToday
                        Hondō Kyōnin
                        奔道 協忍

                        Comment

                        • Jakuden
                          Member
                          • Jun 2015
                          • 6142

                          #13
                          Hi Will,
                          I have the same problem, I'm already stressed in the morning and then the commute is hairy! It's actually what got me back to sitting in the morning in addition to at night a few years ago. I started getting up about 30-45 min earlier, and I would get on the road early so if there was a backup I wouldn't be too concerned. Then most days, instead of going straight to my business, I pull into the parking lot of a big shopping plaza across the street and do in-car Zazen for 20-30 minutes.
                          Plus I try to view my driving time as a special alone time in a little heated/air conditioned cubicle where no one can call me or expect anything of me. I enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee (and sometimes music although most of the time I like silence) and practice focusing solely on driving safely. I used to try to plan my workday, remember things I had to do, and generally ruminate during the drive and now I do just the opposite, consciously letting go of all those things as they come up. Somewhere I once read to use red traffic lights as a mental bell to return to the present and that has stuck with me too.

                          Happy driving :-)
                          Gassho,
                          Sierra
                          SatToday

                          Comment

                          • FlamingDollar
                            Member
                            • Jun 2015
                            • 23

                            #14
                            You folks rock Thanks for all the advice. I might stop listening to so much music and more dharma talks (Or maybe I'll break out Michel Thomas Mandarin? Hmmm...). Either way, I'm going to use the time to relax more from now on.

                            Thank you all so much, once again.

                            Gassho,
                            Will

                            Comment

                            • Dosho
                              Member
                              • Jun 2008
                              • 5784

                              #15
                              Will,

                              I grew up a long way from the highway, so trips to see relatives in Boston or NYC were a whole different world. Now I live just a couple miles from Interstate 90, but I'm still not used to it. My biggest issue was worrying about finding the exact exit or street, which kept me out the moment. Now I try to keep a steady pace, not so slow as to create a hazard, not so fast as to feel out of control. Once and awhile I take the surface streets to orient myself. But it really is a place to go with the flow.

                              Jundo can detail my driving style better than I though! On our way to Niagara Falls I missed the exit for a specific bridge and, thinking I was further south, headed north...in the exact opposite direction! So, we stopped to ask for directions (Jundo "made me" do it!) and we were back on the road within minutes. No harm, no foul.

                              Really, just relax, expect issues, but don't be attached to what has happened before now. Be in the current moment and breathe. It is stressful, no doubt, but don't become attached to the outcome. You'll get there, I promise!

                              Thank you for your practice.

                              Gassho,
                              Dosho

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