Mindful Awareness: just like driving

Mindful awareness is critical in driving and in life. Did you ever learn to drive a manual transmission car? I learned to drive a stick at 16, on the hilly streets of Asheville, NC, which is admittedly not the easiest place to learn. But I am grateful that I did learn, because driving a manual can be a lot of fun. My husband bought a cute little 5 speed sports car and taught our two oldest how to drive it because we felt it was a good skill to have, even though most cars these days are so automatic they can drive themselves. 

Driving with awareness 


A few months ago, while riding with one of my sons, I noticed that while he definitely had the mechanics of driving a stick shift down, he didn’t yet have that intuitive feel for when to shift gears. I caught myself wincing a few times as the engine screamed for attention. I finally began pointing out when it was time to shift up or down.

Later, as I drove us home, he admitted that he could feel the difference when either I or his dad took the wheel, and that it seemed to be a smoother transition. He felt like he knew intellectually when to shift, but wasn’t always aware of it in practice. Sometimes, his attention to the traffic around him distracted him from listening to the engine sounds or noticing the RPMs.

Just like we teach at our drug rehabs Atlanta, Georgia centers, I assured him that with enough practice driving, he would begin to be more and more sensitive to the sound of the engine. Then, be able to shift smoothly without even really registering that he had shifted gears. I reminded him that when he first got his driver’s license, driving in general felt a little  laborious and clunky. I reminded him to check blind spots and mirrors. To methodically do all the things that are required while driving safely, but that now, he drove quite well fairly automatically. 

Mindfulness in real time

Bringing mindfulness into your every day life is a lot like learning to drive a stick shift. At first you understand, at least intellectually. Increasing your awareness of your mental, physical, and emotional systems in real time is incredibly useful and healthy. You probably even have the instructions on how to be more mindful.

It does’nt matter if you use books, guided audios, or a mentor to show you first hand. When you first start taking mindfulness for a spin, it can be tough to remember all the time. This is because at first we tend to apply mindfulness like a tool or a technique. 

“If I feel myself getting angry, I must remember to take a deep breath or take a walk to calm down before I react,”

I might say. Or,

“If I’m craving a beer, I must apply mindfulness and call a friend instead.” 

More than mindful awareness 


Using mindfulness like a technique or a tool can be helpful, and it is certainly better than nothing! It is indeed useful to know how to shift gears. But it is life changing when we are able to actually just hear our own engine, and cultivate something called mindful awareness. 

Most people know, intellectually, what they should do in times of stress. Many of us have read enough self help books to to know tons of techniques to use when things are toug. Some of these may include the following items.

  • counting to ten
  • reframing the situation
  • playing out the tape to preview the consequences of our actions

All of these can work, but only if we are able to reach the technique toolbox in time, and only if we can find the right tool for this situation, this moment. And looking back can give us a new perspective, sure. Hindsight is easy, and it feels so obvious that we should have cooled down before reacting brashly or refrained from taking that drink. 

Noticing your mental dashboard 

But to be able to hear the engine of our minds, in real time, and be attentive to the physical warning lights our bodies put out when we are stressed or emotional is so much more than a tool. Mindful awareness allows us to shift fluidly and naturally up when we need it, and down when we don’t. If those emotional RPMs are hitting their limits and our body is flashing all the warning signs it can— clenched jaws, increased heart rate, and muscle tension—to be able to heed the warnings before our mental engines overheat prevents, well, damage to our vehicles. 

Effortless mindful awareness is taught at Drug Rehabs Atlanta Centers


And just like in driving, the more you practice mindful awareness, the more effortless it becomes. We can listen to our own engines using that information in real time until it is second nature to adjust what we’re doing. How we are choosing to act, and knowing when to step back or slow down is the key.

We don’t have to pull out the “mindfulness toolbox” and select a technique to apply. We can just shift with the engine and keep rolling. Can you imagine how nice life could be if you were able to drive every day through all types of terrain without stalling out or overheating?

If you aren’t sure how to get started driving effortlessly through your life with mindful awareness, give us a call at 678-977-6467.  Whether you struggle with drugs, alcohol, anxiety, or just every day stressors, Our national known mindfulness program can help you hear your own engine for true lasting success.