Mind & Body

The Zen Of Commuting

Try these simple suggestions for transforming your drive time into a refreshing respite.

The Zen Of Commuting
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On the road of life, philosophers like to say, the journey is more important than the destination. But on the trek of our daily commute, we really do need to get somewhere--fast. So how can we make the process less stressful? Try these simple suggestions for transforming your drive time into a refreshing respite.

Pay attention.
On your drive, enjoy your time alone, tap into silence and internal stillness, listen to soothing music, or simply focus on the present moment--the scenery, the touch of your hands on the steering wheel. Zen master and poet Thich Nhat Hanh recommends using visual cues such as a red stoplight as a reminder to come back to the moment "where we can meet with life, joy, and peace."

Mind your temper.
When confronted with an aggressive driver or a narrowly missed fender bender, stay cool with a simple breathing exercise. Arthur Jeon, a teacher at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, Calif., and the author of City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos, suggests breathing through your nose in long, measured inhalations and exhalations to slow your heart rate and stabilize stress-hormone levels. And instead of stewing about rush-hour traffic, put your situation into perspective. "The reality is that you're in a comfortable seat, you have access to music, and you can control your temperature," he says. "You might as well be in your living room."

Soothe your senses.
Add a few drops of a calming essential oil like lavender to your car aromatherapy diffuser (try Aura Cacia's Commuter Pack, $15; frontiercoop.com). To bring the natural world into your ride, affix a decorative stone or a pinecone on the dashboard.

Feed your mind.
Use your commute time to enrich your brainpower rather than deplete it. Rent an audiobook from your local library to revisit a classic or give a listen to a best seller, or invest in an audio series to master a new language.

Protect your body.
Don't expect your car windows to block out skin- and eye-damaging UV rays. Before every commute, apply lip balm and sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher. And always wear quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.

Have time to spare.
Leave home early enough to reach your workplace, find parking, and still have an extra five minutes to relax and get centered before you hit the desk.

Gab on the go. A hands-free cell phone kit won't necessarily keep you on the right side of the road, but it might protect your health in other ways, says Anders Ahlbom, Ph.D., of the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Sweden. In a recent study of 750 adults, Ahlbom discovered that those using cell phones for at least ten years were twice as likely to have acoustic neuroma. A rare, benign tumor that forms on the auditory nerve, acoustic neuroma was four times more common on the side of the head where study participants held their phones.