How much time do you spend alone in your car on any given day? A typical day in my world consists of driving to and from work, dropping kids off and picking them up, random trips to the store, etc. I would estimate that on average I spend at least an hour alone in my car each day. Sixty minutes a day, five hours a week, twenty hours a month, two hundred and forty hours a year... That's a lot of time!
Why am I writing about how much time I spend in the car? Well, simply put, in most cases, I don't remember a thing about that time. Thanks to neuron superhighways we just shift into autopilot and somehow get from point A to point B without much thought at all. That's right, just crank up the tunes, NPR, or dial up a friend, and you are mindlessly on your way.
In a quest to become more mindful, I am determined to find ways to incorporate mindfulness in my daily routine. Being mindful in the hustle and bustle of a world buzzing with distraction is becoming ever more elusive. Or is it? I discovered that the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness has been right in front of me all along...
Just last week, I made a resolution to "tune out" in order to "tune in". Brilliant! No new gym memberships, yoga classes, or Youtube videos, just monopolizing these precious moments of time alone in the car to practice mindfulness. By turning the radio off, I was tuning out of other people's stories and "tuning in" to my own story. While this may seem like a simple maneuver, it proved to be an esoteric undertaking.
Being so accustomed to the distraction of music, talk, and the overall soundtrack of life, the minute I turned the radio off, I was confronted by an awkward silence that permeated the space. As if on cue, the monologue of my thoughts became loud and clear. It was as if the voice in my head was centerstage, illuminated by a high beam spotlight. To say I felt a bit strange at first would be a complete understatement. When is the last time you were a captive audience to your own thoughts? As I continued to notice my thoughts, I found that I was actually enjoying the experience of witnessing my mind's improv show. It was curiously entertaining and eminently insightful.
As a strong advocate for Social Emotional Learning (SEL), I find that designating time to practice Mindfulness not only deepens our Self-Awareness, but also informs and improves our Self-Management skills. The biggest obstacles in my practice of mindfulness have always been the logistics of time and space. Problem solved! Making the conscious decision to "tune out" for a period of time and "tune in" to my thoughts and feelings reinforced the importance of noticing what I am thinking, self-awareness, and feeling connected. For the time being, I find myself glued to the practice and as such, I invite you all to challenge yourselves to "tune out" to "tune in".
Over the last couple of days the Midwest experienced some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded, including air temperatures of -23, and wind chills as low as -47 degrees. These extreme conditions forced many of us to stay indoors and avoid exposure to the dangerously brutal conditions. While I have just described what seems to be a dreadful situation, I have decided to dedicate this blog to the silver lining of the Polar Vortex.
Tuesday evening through Friday morning, I was reminded of what this life is all about, family. In the hustle and bustle of the daily grind of 21st century living, it is rare, if not an anomaly, to have everyone home with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be except together. Staying in pajamas all day long, extended mornings fueled by hot coffee, pancakes, and snuggling, were nothing short of delightful. Afternoons occupied by binge watching Netflix, at home yoga sessions, and simply enjoying the absence of a schedule nourished our collective soul. Evenings took on a whole new feel in that we were not rushing around or stressing to prepare for the next day. We were able to just simply enjoy the moment. On Wednesday evening, our neighbors braved the cold and joined us for an impromptu "Polar Vortex Bash" complete with a smorgasbord potluck and boardgames. We ate, drank, laughed, relaxed, and enjoyed the unexpected mid-week gathering.
The gift of togetherness doesn't occur nearly as much as it should with all the demands of modern life. When did life get so busy? Work life balance proves to be a constant challenge in households with two working parents and our 24 hour accessibility via technology. Clearly this post is not intended to bash technology, but to highlight and celebrate days that require us to press pause, take a time out and to reconnect with our innermost circle, our family. Thanks to the Polar Vortex, the demands and distractions of the outside world were shut out and kept at bay for a couple of days. Our focus was on each other and the beauty and warmth generated by togetherness. So for all of you who may have jumped to the conclusion that this bitter cold blast of arctic air must have been awful, think again. Thanks to the Polar Vortex our family was able to reconnect, recharge, and realign while being reminded what this life is all about.