Windshield Time Can Be Sacred Time
Ideas for creating a sacred space that can come with you on errands, during your commute, and even on long road trips
Did you know that the car is one of the places where people do their most creative thinking? This is likely because time in the car presents a unique opportunity to regroup. The built-in act of sitting still and calmly facing forward is a great chance to breathe some deep breaths and reflect quietly. Author Douglas Coupland writes, “A fast-moving car is the only place where you’re legally allowed to not deal with your problems. It’s enforced meditation and this is good.”
During a SuperSoul Conversation between Oprah and the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk replied to questions about enlightenment with: “enlightenment is always there. When you breathe in, and if you are aware that you are alive…that is already a miracle…The practice of mindful breathing…[helps] us to go home to the present moment in order to live deeply every moment of our daily life…”
So why not seize that present moment, transforming even something so mundane as a car into sacred space, in which select intervals of “windshield time” when alone—or even with a quiet and like-minded partner—can become sacred time? Yes, there may be cheerios on the floor and dog hair on the upholstery, but there is also the gift of precious time in an otherwise hectic day. Here are some ideas for creating a sacred space that can come with you on errands, during your commute, and even on long road trips:
- Make a point to turn off the news and silence the phone ringer right before, during and after your chosen sacred interval.
- Consider a weekly spiffing-up of your car’s interior if clutter might distract you from the experience. One key goal with meditation practice is to eventually be able to access peace under any circumstance, but many of us need to “set the stage” that helps us move in that direction.
- Take advantage of the car’s privacy to voice a mantra, pray, or even sing aloud. (Folks driving by will probably think you’re conversing on your hands-free device). Mantras range from simple utterances like the classic “Om” (derived from an ancient Sanskrit letter) to short, modern quotes that help us focus. This quote from Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön might be a good fit on the highway: “You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.”
- Take full advantage of your phone or car sound system to incorporate meaningful music or guided meditation (the latter chosen carefully to ensure full alertness!). Something as simple as a mini-wind chime hung on the rear-view mirror can serve as a signal that introduces and/or wraps up your meditation on the move.
- Experiment with aromatherapy. A quick spritz of a light, soothing scent or even a quick toweling with a scented face wipe can create a more inspiring atmosphere.
- Use the sights around you as cues—reflect on pleasing greenery or the play of light as you drive. View passing drivers and passengers with a sense of deep compassion. Try focusing on a pleasing color—even the car in front of you might offer some help in that regard.
- Even taste can be employed. With some planning ahead (such as for a daily commute), mindful tea-sipping can be a soothing and uplifting experience. In-the-moment awareness of holding the cup, feeling its weight and temperature, taking in the taste and smell, is a nod to the practice of mindful eating.
Experts say that how we frame experiences is what matters most. These practical steps to help reframe car time as sacred time, full of peace and possibility, can help create a better day.