Wednesday, October 06, 2010

the silent drive

Lately I've been keeping the radio in my car turned off.

No NPR, no CDs, no iPod playing over 87.7.

It's a little eerie, how quiet a car can be.
I've been trying to think about using my "commute" (13 minutes if every light is red) as a time for prayer and reflection and some form of meditation. It is, of course, possible to do that with the radio or CD player or iPod on. I've prayed for the people in news stories and for the media of our country, even for the NPR people who pretend they love pledge drives three times a year. I've prayed through singing along with the Indigo Girls at the top of my lungs. I've used pray-as-you-go in the car, since they last almost exactly the length of my "commute." I've listened for the Holy Spirit in the iPod Shuffle or the Global Activism segment on Worldview (Thursdays).
But now I'm trying out silence.

It feels weird, to be in the car with no sound. My car is surprisingly sound proof when the windows are all rolled up. I can hear the engine tick sometimes (in a good way), I can hear the fan running, and I can sometimes hear the tires on the road. But mostly it's quiet. Maybe quieter than anywhere else I go--there's always some kind of sound pretty much wherever I am, whether it's cats purring or the refrigerator running or the office administrator typing or the heater or the washing machine or any number of other things. But in the car, it's just quiet--the kind of quiet I'm not really used to.

I haven't quite figured out how to use that time yet. Because I still have to pay attention to driving, it's not quite the same thing as the traditional "quiet time" lots of very spiritual people claim to have. It's not the kind of meditation where I can take my brain to a happy place and just relax every muscle and wait for the Spirit to move. It's more...meditative awareness? Almost hyper-awareness, even? I can send good vibes and light into neighborhoods, homes, schools, and businesses that I pass. I can look at people in cars around me (this is best done via the rear view mirror, since people totally get weirded out if you stare at them when they're in the car next to you). I can imagine all these people, even the ones who don't know where they're going or how to merge properly, as children of God. I can notice the little red fox coming out of the woods as I drive home at night, and think about the other creatures that coexist with us in our neighborhoods. But somehow it still feels like I'm missing something...

Granted, I've been without the radio consistently for about 2 days, so that's not long. There have always been times when I've turned it off and just driven in silence, but not every time. I'm trying it out for the rest of the week and we'll see how it goes...

Do you use driving as a time to pray or to "commute with God"? How?


  1. I've found myself doing the same thing lately. Too much other stimulation? Too little quiet in other parts of life? I just don't know. But somehow quiet in the car seems like a good place to start these days.

  2. For a time I did my morning prayers while driving, mentally running through the subject of each blessing and focusing on that issue for probably 20-30 seconds. At the rabbinic spirituality retreat I was at in June it was suggested we drive in silence. I have been doing so regularly since. I notice so much. Light and clouds in particular. In my drive to DeKalb once or twice a week I see so much more than I used to. I do pray during this time; awe and gratitude are usually my focus.