What I Learned from ‘Smash up Derby’

“Pay attention!” I screamed. Who do I think could hear me? I was sitting in the car by myself. When I pushed my car horn, metaphorically through my front bumper, I am  certain the driver in front of me soiled themselves.

We have all heard many times before that it’s important to stay present. Live in the moment. Be here now. For such a simple statement, the present moment seems to allude us all at times. Sure, we have to learn from the past and plan for the future. But our thoughts can race by the thousands.

Similar to the practice of meditation, we are foolish to think for a moment that we can suppress our running thoughts. But, by not paying attention, there is no guarantee that the thousands of ‘thought blinks’ – as I like to call them – won’t interfere with your present experience.

When I watched the driver behind me look down as we were in start and stop traffic, I screamed, “pay attention!” To no avail.  Although some have suggested I have a big mouth,  I couldn’t voice my command through the rear window of my car to the driver behind me and snap their attention back to the present reality. 

There was 2-3 seconds before impact. 

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – crash!

It would be fair to say that we were all present in the moment then. “I’m sorry. I have to pick up my kids,” they said.  Even then I was not convinced they were in the present moment. We had just had a car accident.

Just like in the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” where the lead character is played by Ben Stiller, would often drift into a trance like state allowing his imagination to bring him on a wild ride of his alter ego and aspiring personality. I too, felt like drifting into a daydream state of an altered personality to dispense the virtues of paying attention. But, hold on a second. The driver was neither of my children so I will have to shelve my lecture. What I wanted to say and what  I ended up saying were two different things. 

As we were assessing the damage, the shear volume of traffic that my new friend (kid picker upper) and I had created was astonishing.  Three days before Christmas – 4:30 rush hour – how selfish of us.  

Just then a third party driver, who was instantly enrolled in the “inconvenience club” of the day, leaned on his horn and flipped me the finger. It was close to Christmas so I took his gesture as a thank you gift.  The horn blast upset ‘kid picker upper.” I, on the other hand, wondered what was so wrong in his life that he felt he had to lash out at us? Did he really believe that my plan, when I woke up that morning, was that I wanted to meet ‘kid picker upper’, smash our cars, create a traffic jam and more importantly – personally make his day miserable? 

Driving, similar to meditation is one of those places were being present matters. Sure, things are going to float into our minds.   What we do with them and how we acknowledge them is what being present and mindful is all about.

Driving, like personal development requires you to pay attention, not ignore and not to suppress. It is to be present. See all, here all and stay focused on the task at hand.

Personal development requires you to stay present with your thoughts. Drive first and THEN pick up your kids. Don’t succumb to the temptation of the next moment (looking down at your phone while driving). Be here and now. 

So, this is what I learned that day:

  • to show compassion to ‘finger flipper’
  • to have forgiveness to ‘child picker upper’
  • to learn to be thankful no one was really hurt
  • to have gratitude for the gifts you are given.
  • And maybe one day, when someone smashes into you, you can be the person you want to see in others.

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