Who was the worst student? Students will often ask me if they are the worst student I have ever seen. It comes as a big surprise when I tell them that the worst student was me .
Some students judge their struggles in lessons as being a “bad” student, and so did I. I couldn’t understand why I was so terrified to learn to drive . It didn’t make any sense to me, but emotionally, I did not want to drive.
I cried a lot and felt overwhelmed most of the time. But I also had a deep stubborn streak that didn’t allow me to give up. The person who taught me had no insight into my anxiety, but he also didn’t give up on me. (Secretly I had hoped he would give up, and then I would have been off the hook!). As much as I hated it, my teacher would have me repeat each challenge until I had mastered the skill. It took me a long time to get my driver license, much longer than for most students my age. I needed to grow into the skills, until I could make sense of them and believe that I could learn to drive.
I learned to drive in Winnipeg, in the winter on a manual-shift VW Fastback, which was challenging. In retrospect though this gave me a well-rounded education. But I found that getting a driver license had not freed me from the fear of driving. I still had anxiety along for every car ride and I needed to understand the underlying cause.
A memory of a car crash kept nagging at me. I was 8 years old and the crash was so bad that my family was hospitalized for weeks. My father was driving in unfamiliar territory, in the dark and it was raining. He missed the sign for an upcoming sharp right turn – he kept going straight ahead and just as he crossed the centre line, a car coming from the opposite direction collided with us.
Only later, I learned the true story why my father missed the warning sign. Until then I believed he was a good driver and wasn’t at fault. The truth was that my father had been very angry with someone and was still angry while he was driving. He was speeding, it was dark and he did not know the road. This is Driving Under the Influence of Strong Emotions.
It was only when I uncovered the fear of being hurt that I had carried from the age of eight, and recognized that it was no longer appropriate to me as a responsible adult. With effort, bit by bit I could then let go of my fear. By not focusing on the fear anymore, I was able to stay in the moment. This is called Mindful driving, the opposite of “Mindless driving”.
WHAT IS MINDFUL DRIVING ?
Being mindful while driving, walking or cycling is being totally aware of the experience. When thoughts of the future, the past or emotions pull you away from the experience, gently shift your focus back to the experience.
Being mindful is being in the present moment. Athletes, musicians and artists call this “being in the zone”.
The past is finished and the future is ever unfolding. The present moment is the “RIGHT NOW MOMENT”. It is the only time you have any control.
HOW DO I BECOME MINDFUL ?
I become mindful by acknowledging my strong emotions and judgments. And then, by asking the simple question: does this emotion serve me and others to arrive safely at my destination? And then to make the decision, consciously and in every moment, to be present with the task at hand – driving well – and not to give my attention to emotions, to the past, or the future.