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So today I had a lady come to me who is a full licence holder but lacks confidence generally with her driving and especially with parallel parking, large roundabouts and the motorway.


I have just recently started a course called “Integrating Mindfulness and Compassion in Professional Practice” with MindfulnessUK and asked my client if she had heard of Mindfulness and was pleased to hear that she had not only heard of it but had practiced Mindfulness techniques in the past to help her deal with difficult situations.  She was very happy when I suggested that we take a Mindful approach to her driving session.


For anyone that doesn't quite know what Mindfulness is, Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. ... When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.


Mindfulness has been proven to help lower stress, boost focus and memory and can help you be more in control of your emotions.  If you turn off auto-pilot and develop a habit of noticing what's around you and what you are doing, you'll be able to make better choices, feel calmer and be more present.


One of the areas that my client found difficult was the feeling that she was inconveniencing other road users when she was parking the car because she felt she would take too long and would “hold everyone up”.  We went over the parallel park procedure and I was able to help her, in a practical sense, the steps needed to park the car successfully.  The part about how she felt about it was really the crux of the problem and not her capabilities to actually park the car.  


When there was someone waiting behind us, I asked the client to notice how she was feeling.  Just taking the time to notice how one feels, buys a little time to choose how we respond rather than just react (namely panic and drive off abandoning the parking space!).  Once we had established that the stress was rising, we were able to simply take in a deep breath and slowly breathe out.  We were then able to take the time to notice that the driver behind had actually driven up behind us too closely.  This initially bothered my client.  I explained that the person behind hadn't paid attention to the fact that she was reverse parking and it was in fact their mistake that had resulted in them being so close that they couldn't pull around our car.  We were indicating left and our reverse lights were on so we had done all we could to make our intentions clear to other drivers.  I explained to my client that having a sense of entitlement to be parking the car might help her feel better.  She was perfectly entitled to be doing so.  If the person behind was acting impatiently (which they weren't), then this was purely down to the fact that they were in a hurry or feeling stressed or anxious themselves, but they owned those feelings... and this had absolutely nothing to do with my client.


The person behind reversed back a bit and drove around us, no problem at all and my client was then able to complete her parking manouevre.  Not only did she complete the manouevre but she became so proficient at it that she was asking to reverse park on the right hand side of the road and in rather tight spaces!  To say she was chuffed was an understatement.  


Part of the process had involved us 'playing', in the sense of 'let's see if we can do this' with a curious mind which is what one practices in Mindfulness.  Curiosity trumps anxiety.  She had enjoyed exploring the options open to her.  She had even got out of the car at one point and walked around it (when the road was empty of course) to actually see the space that she had around her and understand that she actually had plenty of room rather than 'not enough space' as she had first feared.  


The session was a great success and my client told me that she would go out and keep practicing.  She is coming back to me next week for a motorway session, Mindfully of course! :-)


Sandra Harper ADI

25 June 2019