traffic

Zen and the art of commuting

Here’s how mindfulness experts say you can be more calm and focused and less hostile:

1. Turn your attention from when you’ll get to your destination (it’s often out of your control, anyway) to your surroundings, particularly what you notice via your senses: Sounds, the feel of your feet on the ground or your rear in a seat, places in your body that feel tight or hot from tension.

2. If you’re not driving or riding a bike, focus on your breathing. Take five breaths, with deep inhalations and slow exhalations. Then return to normal breathing, but try to notice each breath. You can gaze ahead, or slightly down, at a fixed point or close your eyes.

When you notice you’ve become lost in thought (hint: You find yourself in a thought-spiral of “Oh no, I’m going to be late. My boss is going to be so ticked. I’ll probably get fired. Then I’ll probably starve to death …”), gently return your attention to your breathing and the sounds around you. Allow thoughts to come and go without attaching any significance to them.

3. If you’re driving or riding a bike, cut the music and become more aware of the sights and sounds around you: the view of trees or taillights, the sound of birds, the feel of wind on your face. When you notice yourself lost in thought, come back to your senses.

4. When angry or annoying thoughts are triggered, notice the physical sensations of those thoughts (a tight chest, feeling of heat, tense shoulders) and consciously relax. Try a silent mantra, such as “It’s OK” or “This is out of my control. I’m doing the best I can.”

5. Use red lights or stops on a train or bus as a reminder to notice whether you’re lost in thought. Then refocus on your breathing or your senses.

6. When you walk, focus on the feel of your feet connecting with the ground, your breathing, the sounds around you (even if it’s the steady thrum of traffic) and the feel of the air on your face. When you notice you’ve become distracted or lost in thought, return to your senses.

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