I am presently reading a book entitled The Tao of Inner Peace, by Diane Dreher. Since intuitively I believe that the Tao (the philosophy, not the religion) is the right way for me to live, I am on a quest to better understand it and incorporate it into my life.
Some of the "prime directives" of the Tao are: learning to live in harmony with nature; accepting what is; and becoming a dispassionate participant and observer of life. I am fairly good at being an observer; however, the dispassionate part gives me some pause.
Like others, I have a strong sense of right and wrong; and being the ego-centric guy that I am, and having parents who were very self-righteous, I grew up with a strong sense not only of what I should be and act, but also how others should be and act. I have spent the better part of two decades learning to overcome this neurosis.
In any event, while driving into work today, I had one of my famous insights. It seems to me that all I need to learn about achieving inner peace through the practice of the Tao can be achieved through learning how to properly drive in traffic.
Living in South Florida, I have the benefit of being in an area with too many people and too many vehicles. To top it off, South Florida is filled with immigrants from all over the world. And, as a very good friend of mine likes to say, people driving in South Florida obey the rules of the road ... of their home country! So, it is possible, and likely, that anything can happen at any moment on the roadways.
I consider myself a fairly calm, patient and defensive driver. I do not spend a lot of time beeping my horn, tailgaiting, cutting people off, denying others the ability to merge, etc. I consider myself a relatively polite driver. Nevertheless, at times, I find myself getting really annoyed at the way people drive. The following things particularly make me crazy: speeding in traffic; getting around traffic by driving on the roadway shoulders; making right turns from other than the right-turn lane; and the failure to use turn signals. I'm certain that if I thought about it some more, I could come up with additional driving habits that make me crazy. But, these are enough to make the point.
So, getting back to my primary point, this morning I was thinking about the different kinds of vehicles on the road and the various personalities of those who choose to drive these vehicles. It is common knowledge that vehicles are designed and marketed to appeal to various personality traits and characteristics. So, for example, someone (like me) who drives a Corvette would not be seen dead in a minivan.
In addition, I was thinking about the driving traits that make me crazy and what motivates people to do such things: what motivates a person todrive with excessive speed in traffic; what motivates a person to get out of a line of traffic and use a roadway shoulder to get around everybody else; what motivates people to turn from wrong lanes; and what motivates people to drive without using turn signals.
This got me to thinking about the various personalities on the road at the same time, as well as their potential states of mind at any particular moment. It is most probable that most people do not speed all the time; do not use the shoulder to get around traffic all the time; and don't turn from the wrong lane all the time. However, I believe the one exception is the turn-signal thing. I believe that the failure to use a turn signal is a personality trait or habit. What it signifies, other than lack of respect for anybody else on the road, is beyond me.
From this thought I jumped to the insight that the state of mind of all of these drivers is reflective of the state of mind of people in general, even when not driving. People are not all bad or all good. They do not do the right thing all the time, nor do they do the wrong thing all the time. People are simply people.
So, my thought process is that to achieve inner peace and calm while driving, I need to stop being upset when other drivers do things that I would not do or consider wrong, and simply become an active, dispassionate part of the driving community. I figure that my being upset is my ego trying to get other drivers to do what I want them to do. And, part of living the Tao is learning that you cannot change anything outside of yourself. So, I need to focus on changing the way I look at the driving experience.
Once I accept that I cannot change "what is" about the driving experience and dispassionately accept that some people will do the things that I do not think are proper to do, I will simply not do them myself and let others do what they want. As long as I drive defensively, and expect that others at times may do things that I would not do, I will be relatively safe on the roadways. And, by letting go of my ego-inspired need to change others' driving habits, I will achieve an inner calm and peace during the driving experience.
Once I had that insight, the laser beam went off in my head. I instantly realized that the thought process that I had gone through is precisely the thought process that I need to go through to achieve inner peace in my life in general.
By learning to live in harmony with life ... as it is, rather than as I would like it to be ... and by learning to dispassionately accept what is, then I will be taking major steps towards my goal of achieving inner peace.
Stay tuned as this journey continues. I will begin work on this path immediately.