Zen and the art of surviving rush hour traffic

Day in day out meandering through rush hour traffic in order to do some work somewhere just to make some money can be quite a strain in the Netherlands. Rush hour traffic is loaded with traffic jams, endless unexplained delays, detours, fights during mergers of different traffic streams, aggressive rival car owners and mindless truckdrivers. All this makes it a big energy drainer and not really a help in enjoying life in general.

But like the Chinese character for “Crisis” that can be explained both as “Threat” and “Opportunity”, this can also be looked upon in a more constructive way.

What kind of opportunity can be made out of traversing rush hour traffic?

Since I spend a lot of time in the car during these rush hours, I had plenty time to think this one over. Yesterday I found out that I already created some sort of opportunity in recent years.

Let’s call it Zen Trance Traversing. It’s like meditating while driving and it creates a peace of mind seldom found in this hectic western world.

How does it work?
It’s not easy and requires a couple years of practice. But that’s normal with Zen training isn’t it.

Two things are needed.

First you start with disabling your ego in traffic. You no longer want to be the first, the fastest or the cleverest in traffic. You need to see yourself as a small part of a big flow. And the more you allow your ego to play a role, the more actions you do that disrupt the flow. For instances constant switching of lanes because you think they are faster is out of the question. Each time you do that you not only leave behind a hole in the queue you left (inefficiency), you also most often cause the car that will be behind you in the new lane to slow down a bit (more inefficiency). A lot of examples can be given. So give it up. Don’t worry about yourself. You will get to the place of destination anyway, and a couple of seconds more or less are not worth much frustration. Be part of the flow and thus enable the flow to move efficiently for everybody.

Second you need to practice “reading” the traffic and act on it. In order to make things run smoothly you need to be able to predict what will happen so you can anticipate it and minimize the disruption. To do this, you have to look at the cars in front of you, at least 3 of them. But you also have to look at the cars in the rows next to you, also at least three deep. And you have to know what kind of cars they are and what kind of drivers are in them. Are they aggresive (sudden moves), lazy, absent minded (late reactions), careful (loads of distance) or in the same zen-like state as you? Are their cars swift or slow, do their cars need a lot of space, can they make short turns, etc… Years of going through traffic with an observative mind can make you see all these things without thinking too much about it. The best thing to do then is to “be” all the drivers you need to be aware of in your direct vicinity. And if you “are” all these drivers, you know what they will do if the flow changes. You know what the reaction will be (braking hard, braking a bit, foot of the gas, swerve, etc….) before they do it. You can then adjust your own driving accordingly.

If you practice these two things real hard, one thing you’ll notice is that you don’t have to brake as often as you used to. And you have to make less and less sudden moves.

The less you brake or swerve, the more into the “flow” you are. You will reach a trance-like state! No earthly things can bother you any longer. The end of the journey will feel almost as a disappointment.

Once you’re able to take on a 10 kilometer traffic jam without breaking or swerving once, you’ve reached Enlighment!

Life can be beautifull after all :-)))))

And then you find out that Enlightment is boring……