Driving was always a stressful experience for me. I only drive a few times per year, cause where I live it’s usually the least convenient option. I never got to practice it enough to feel comfortable as a driver. Knowing I am in charge of a runaway metal bullet that might kill someone if I make a mistake was always a lot to bear.
But recently I discovered it doesn’t have to be this dreadful at all. With both hands on the driving wheel, I suddenly noticed how my shoulders are all squeezed and tight. It was enough to change their position and grab the wheel at the bottom to relax my shoulders for the first time, and relax my mind in result.
Now I’m still far from a perfect driver, and I still need lots of practice before it can become effortless. But it no longer makes me anxious like it used to. I have a lot to learn for sure, but I can trust myself that whatever happens, I will be able to do the right thing. It’s challenging, but no longer a life-and-death situation.
What’s most surprising here is not that I managed to change my emotional state by changing my body. Emotion is always a full-body experience. Feeling into the body, and then shaking it off is how you process emotions and let go of them. Connecting with your breath alone can often be enough.
No, what’s surprising is that for all of my driving career so far, I never got to notice there’s something wrong with my body as I do it. I kept squeezing my shoulders out of fear, which would put me in the fight-or-flight mode, which made me squeeze them even more. Neither meditating nor working out for a few years helped me notice the relationship between these two.
It wasn’t until I started working with both my mind and body at the same time, as in aerial yoga or breath exercises, that I noticed how one affects the other in practice. These days at the first symptoms of feeling overwhelmed I get up, take a short walk, and breathe as deeply as I can for a while. If I’m less stuck these days than I used to be–and it seems so–this is most likely why.