Find Enlightenment Sitting in Traffic

As I visit Los Angeles this weekend and prepare to hit the road soon for the next nine months or so, I keep thinking about a recent episode of Oprah’s SoulSeries with Eckhart Tolle talking about how he likes sitting in traffic.

I-10 Traffic

Yeah, the spiritual teacher and A New Earth author suggests sitting in traffic is a perfect time to practice your awareness and being present. The discussion turned to how people get upset when someone else cuts them off on the highway, or pulls some other idiotic maneuver. Rather than react with anger, Tolle recommends putting your ego aside and not taking it personally.

“For many people that is something they personalize, the traffic. So it’s an egoic phenomenon. So when somebody does something they regard it as a personal insult…” – Eckhart Tolle

a new earthI’ve feel pretty comfortable knowing that I’ve got this part down. Just ask anyone stuck behind us going down a steep grade. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice this, having driven for the past eleven years or so. Whenever idiots do idiotic things on the highway, putting themselves and others at risk, I’ve learned to take the opportunity to express my gratitude. I’m thankful I’m not them.

If they’re in such a hurry, let them pass. But exactly how do you not let these actions get to you? Eckhart offers a simple correlation…

“They wouldn’t perhaps do it with the weather, if hail or rain hits your windshield, then you wouldn’t get angry, but if a driver cuts across then you suddenly get angry. But it’s the same thing, it’s just an energy field cutting across. Why personalize it?”

So many people experience so much stress in traffic, which only becomes contagious. But the stress is in the reaction, not the event. If we do not react then there is no stress. Tolle teaches that if we don’t personalize actions, events or things, those “things” can actually be quite stress free.

Clearly speaking from experience, Oprah continued the discussion by sharing, “Or you get stuck in traffic and people get so frustrated.” And Eckhart offered another lesson on enlightenment…

“That can be a wonderful meditation. Why not be in the body? Feel the intense aliveness in your energy field…Now you know how ridiculous it is to be upset that you’re stuck in traffic, because there is nothing you can do to change it. So just be with it.”

power of nowBe with it. Fantastic advice. After all, if there is nothing you can do about it – whatever it is – getting upset about it will only make it worse.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for acceptance, and surrender, and a wonderful opportunity for learning dysfunction – if you observe you are not accepting and surrendering, then you can observe how dysfunction arises.”

Observe. Don’t react. That is being aware. That is being present. And it is that acceptance that will help us all get through those difficult times – on the highway, or anywhere along the road of life.

“Accepting is allowing yourself to feel whatever it is at the moment.”

I read A New Earth years ago, and The Power of Now before that. Listening to Oprah and Eckhart discuss the book chapter by chapter in Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast series has me remembering, and realizing what a better place the world might be if we all listened to the lessons they share. Consider downloading the New Earth Audiobook for the next time you’re sitting in traffic.

open road

Personally, I look forward to finding enlightenment on the open road.

2 thoughts on “Find Enlightenment Sitting in Traffic”

  1. Dear Jim and Rene,
    I’m with you guys, no sense in throwing slices of salami or yogurt or flip flops at the car that just turned into your lane without using a turn signal. No a chance. The better or more “enlightened” or more accepting of the moment approach would be to wave and smile repeat an uplifting mantra so as to let it all that pent-up frustration go, here’s a few: “If you did this to me on a sidewalk I’d kick your legs out from under you, grab the back of your neck, and urinate all over your person, however, it’s a nice day and I don’t want to spend any time in county, so all the best”, or, “You may drive like an inconsiderate imbecile who should wear a sandwich board that says so, but today the ocean is smooth and scent of Spring flowers is in the air, but if you ever do that to me again, I’m gonna feed you a sandwich that came out of the back of a sick dog’s ass.” Well, you get the idea. All the best of miles to you both and thank you for bringing to light the light. Eric in southern California.


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