I’m coming clean. I’m fessing up about the real reason why my ‘slow’ driving drives people crazy.
It’s because I have been ticketed for driving way above the speed limit three times. All my fines have been paid and I no longer have demerit points on my driver’s licence. I intend to keep my driving record clean. So I’ve fallen in love with cruise control. This is a lifetime commitment.
I refuse to drive above the allowable speed limit, even if irate drivers honk, swear and look at me sideways while they overtake me or bide their time tailgating me.
My decision to stick to the speed limit is more about being mindful and less about the fear of penalty of demerit points and fines.
If you ask me what exactly caused me to be speeding in Florida, Vermont and Montreal, I really cannot tell you. My parents were in no hurry for me to pick them up in Florida. The shopping trip to Vermont was on a lazy day in summer. In Montreal, I was only 15 minutes away from a meeting that was to start in 40 minutes.
I have done some deep thinking about the life lessons I was being taught by the speeding tickets. I realised that driving above the speed limit in each case was triggered by my wondering, wandering mind. I was simply not paying attention. I was not being mindful – not focusing my attention on the present moment.
Mindfulness is all about being in tune with ourselves, our surroundings and with people.
My musings have led me to two events in Jesus’ life, which have provided some important insights on the importance of mindfulness.
- Be focused on ‘why?’
Asking ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing is the first step to being mindful. The answer to the ‘why?’ question is the source of personal inspiration and motivation, which keep us focused on what we are doing, even amid the myriad distractions around us.
In the eighth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is in the midst of a pressing, noisy crowd. A woman with the issue of blood who has spent all her money on medical treatment to no avail, touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is healed. In the midst of all this chaos, Jesus suddenly becomes aware that His power to heal has left Him. He boldly asks, “Who touched me?”, so that the woman can come forward in faith, receive her blessing and that the onlookers can learn from this. In this way, Jesus demonstrates that He is focused on His purpose to teach, heal and encourage people to live by faith, regardless of the noisy distractions around Him.
- Develop emotional intelligence
Being in tune with ourselves and other people requires emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is generally defined as our ability to be aware of our emotions and control them, while being mindful of the emotions of other people.
Going back to the eighth chapter of Luke, we see that Jesus was approached twice by Jairus, a well-known leader in the synagogue, with an urgent request for the healing of his daughter. Jesus is aware of the emotional distress of this man of high standing and influence. Before responding to Jairus’ plea, Jesus addresses the woman with the issue of blood. She was in a state of fear for having boldly touched Jesus. She also must have felt shame about her medical condition and for having to openly declare it in front of a large crowd. Jesus, understanding her emotional state, offers her peace and healing. Her dignity is restored and she no longer has to feel shame or embarrassment.
Then Jesus turns to Jairus, who is humbled in front of a large crowd of common people. Sensitive to the pain of a desperate father, Jesus reassures Jairus that his daughter will be healed. Jesus then asks only three of his disciples, Jairus and the child’s mother, to be present when He performs the healing miracle. In this way, Jesus diffuses the sense of humiliation that Jairus must have felt as a religious leader in the midst of a crowd that is witnessing his emotional vulnerability. Once Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter, He asks that she be given something to eat so that her physical needs are not forgotten in the midst of the rejoicing and emotional relief of her parents.
These events show us that Jesus was aware of the various emotional reactions of the people around Him, at a time when He could have easily become distracted and annoyed by a pressing crowd. By being mindful of the emotional state of the sick woman and Jairus, Jesus was able to respond to their need with emotional intelligence, treating them with empathy, persuading them to have faith and to receive His peace. In the end, everyone wins!
Bringing it all together
For quite some time, I have been practicing mindfulness through meditation. Spending 10 minutes at the beginning of each day in silence while focusing on one central thought is making a world of a difference. This practice puts me in tune with my emotions and the present moment. Focusing on one centering thought helps to clear my mind of the clutter and noise of all the other thoughts that flow in and out of my mind. On my best days, I find that I can act with a strong sense of purpose and greater emotional intelligence, focusing on two or three key priorities while working productively with other people.
Being mindful will always be a challenge.
It’s natural for the human mind to wander and wonder.
As for my driving – well I have a little ritual whenever I get behind the steering wheel. I take a few moments to remind myself to be fully present, alert and stay within the speed limit. In fact driving is one of the best opportunities I have to practice mindfulness.
As for the honking, impatient drivers behind me, well I understand that they may have some good reason to feel the way they do. Instead of driving them crazy, I simply pull over and let them overtake, when it is safe to do so.
Christ in me, the hope of glory! That’s why glory matters.