Southern Californian drivers go so fast. Perhaps it’s our rush to get to, get over, get away from whatever has us on the road in the first place.

The other day I was on Interstate 5 returning from a drive north to see relatives. It was about 160 miles round trip – a long day for this commuting Momma. There were the usual pockets of bumper to bumper, there were the ‘lookie-loos’ slowing to see why a firetruck had stopped on the opposite side of the interstate and the furious racers weaving through lanes up near the military base – all that was nothing out of the ordinary. Too many drivers were stuffed on the freeway and traveling too close for comfort.

I was dazed by the humming monotony when suddenly the lane next to me was shining with brake lights. It was rush-hour and I was in the next lane with no where to go but forward. There was a cloud of smoke and squealing brakes.

I leaned on the horn and kept moving as my lane continued on, hardly slowing. I heard a pop and glanced up in the mirror in time to see a front end crumple as cars slid into one another.

Why the story? We get too close for comfort out of habit. It was the reaction time that startles – the split seconds that can change a life. I hope that no one was injured, but those few moments marked the lives of everyone caught in that fast lane. I sped by unscathed, but my heart was pounding as the shock of it all raced through me. Even though I wasn’t caught in the pile-up, my stress hormones had kicked into overdrive. The instinct was to shake it off and just keep going. Going, I did but I clicked off the radio and began breathing techniques. I continued deep, slow inhalations with a conscious count as I exhaled, until I felt my pulse slow. From my door pocket I pulled out an aromatherapy inhaler for stress. The lavender and other oils helped me ground and clear. (more about that here) Perhaps writing of it now is even part of the purge.

The point is? It’s so necessary to move through each experience fully. To ignore, dismiss or otherwise let it fester continues the trauma, even if only subconsciously. So often we forget how vulnerable we are and just skim our experiences.

We move so quickly, especially bumper to bumper at 70 miles an hour, usually too close for comfort. At 55 mph on a perfectly clear and dry day it takes about 400 feet to react and come to a complete stop. At 35 mph it takes about 210 feet to react and stop (according to the California DMV manual). I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen either happen on the freeway.

So, here’s to slowing down, to staying with the flow but being more aware of every experience. In Drivetime Yoga there’s a guided exercise where you move through each of your senses. One technique has to do with feeling the space around your body and then the space around your car, the distance between the car and others and into the ‘negative’ space that’s always there. You become less distracted and a safer driver – more aware of how fast you’re really going and the others around you.

Wishing you a safe journey.

Copyright June 2009, Elaine Masters – RYT, speaker & award-winning author of Drivetime Yoga. www.DrivetimeYoga.com