Monday, April 16, 2012


I am not a patient driver. I don't like to drive behind anyone going slower than me. I also do not like to be tailgated or sped past or made to stop or have others acting impatiently behind me. Yes, I want it all. 

I am especially impatient when driving to ski. This year, after many angry diatribes inside of my car on the way up to Targhee, I decided that my goal for the ski season would be NOT to get angry or drive aggressively on the way to or from the ski hill. This was particularly difficult on powder days, days I had to work in the afternoon (and so had only a limited amount of time to ski) or when behind Idaho 8B or 2F plates or any out-of-state plates (occasionally excluding Montana 6 plates or anyone with a Bridger Bowl bumper sticker). This does not leave very many opportunities for practicing patient driving!

It was hard, but what I realized after I caught myself tailgating and yelling pointers inside my car and then having to back off in honor of my intention, was that my behavior of agro-driving was, in fact, a big, fat, blinding, negative, unconscious Habit. 

The Buddhists have this great outline regarding awareness around habits. It goes like this: 

Unconscious Incompetence
Screaming at drivers who can’t hear you, tailgating drivers who may not have winter mountain driving experience, good tires, or the desire to get anywhere quite as fast as you. Allowing this negative energy to flow through you and out into the universe unchecked. Being grumpy and remembering and/or retelling the frustrating situation over and over and over again to yourself and any poor soul who is trapped on the lift or in the liftline with you.

Conscious Incompetence
Realizing that you are tailgating, yelling, frustrated. Noticing the yucky feeling of  bad energy spreading throughout your body, mind, environment, and into others and the universe; not being able to stop the tailspin, just realizing that it doesn’t feel good or result in any ripples of goodness.

Conscious Competence
Recognizing the urge to tailgate and/or yell and choosing a different action such as singing along to a great November ’73 Dead show, smiling, offering blessings, arriving, skiing, refraining from reliving what a great job you did not freaking out on the way up (which is just a different, equally ineffective way of succumbing to the force of habit - much like stuffing your face full of food when you’re trying to quit smoking), and generally enjoying the day despite your urges to choose poorly.

Unconscious Competence
Driving calmly and with plenty of room between your car and the next guy’s, arriving happily at your destination, and carrying on with an excellent day all around. There was never a question of frustration or self-control because you have trained yourself to realize that the guy in front of you is the guy in front of you no matter how late you left the house, how much snow fell, or how badly you would like to be “first” on the road.

There is, of course, a time to get upset when driving. There are always exceptions to the rules. That is why rules are ridiculous and each situation should be judged and acted upon based on its own merit and circumstances. This makes life much simpler in a way, and much more difficult to predict all at the same time. Needing to predict life and know how to act in every situation is really just another habit, ready to be acknowledged, transformed, and released!

1 comment:

  1. So true, Karen. DC has some of the most aggressive drivers I have ever encountered and my blood pressure used to rise in my mirrored road rage. One day I recognized how much I disliked feeling that way and I just - stopped. It was amazing how easy it was once I had become aware of my feelings and realized that getting there two minutes later because I let other people cut in or be a little slow was not going to affect my day, and how much more relaxed I felt on the road. Wish more people would come to the same realization.