The Calm Approach

By Leo Babauta

Yesterday I got a van from my carshare service to drive the family to a friend’s house. I drove down a busy street with a smile on my face, and a peaceful feeling in my body.

Now, this isn’t a normal thing for me. All my life, driving has been something stressful, where I tighten up and get anxious about people around me driving the wrong way, being inconsiderate, being too aggressive or driving too slow in the fast lane.

It’s frustrating and can make you angry.

But as I drove yesterday, I took a different approach. I loosened up my approach, and didn’t feel I needed to rush anywhere. I let people drive the way they wanted to drive, and just flowed with traffic.

This can be an approach to all of life.

When we are anxious, it’s because we want to be somewhere at a certain time (if we’re driving), or want something to happen the way we want it to happen (in the rest of life). But this deadline, this goal, this need … it’s entirely self created.

We create the need to be somewhere at a certain time. We create the need for things to turn out the way we want them to turn out. We create the desire for other people to act (or drive) the way we want them to act or drive.

We create our own anxiety. And so we have the keys to solve our own problems.

Let go of wanting to rush somewhere. Let go of wanting things to turn out exactly as you’d like them to turn out. Let go of wanting people to act a certain way.

And then loosen your body, loosen the tightening of your mind, and flow. Let things happen, and make your way through that flow of life, the flow of what others are doing.

You can still retain your values and principles during this flow — it’s not an abandoning of all your beliefs. You can be kind and compassionate and passionate and care about your family and your health and all those other good things … while letting things flow, and flowing with them.

Be the calm center in the raging flow of life.

Notice when you’re tightening up. Recognize this tightness stems from your desire for things to be a certain way. Loosen up on this desire and be happy with how things are. And then flow.

Life becomes a calm, beautiful path that you can enjoy with each step.