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****ful Driving

Tonic Publisher Jamie Bussin is a monster when he gets behind the wheel of a car. Read here how he's trying to use mindfulness to fix this character flaw.

I think if you met me in person you would say that I’m a fairly personable fellow. I’m more or less a civil, plain-spoken conversationalist who can fool those who don’t know me into believing that I’m a “people person”. I can engage pretty much anybody. But put me behind the wheel of my car, and friends, I’m a jerk.


I like to think of myself as an excellent driver. My fantasy criminal job (yes, I’ve actually turned my mind to this) would be wheelman/getaway driver. And I assure you, there’s nobody faster at getting you from point A to point B in the GTA. I couriered as a summer job for years and I have an encyclopedic knowledge of local streets and traffic patterns. I’m essentially a human Waze app that treats his SUV like a dragster and drops more F-bombs than an unsigned rapper.  If your metric is a pleasant, quiet drive that doesn’t spike your blood pressure and trigger your flight reflex, I have little to offer. I’ve not actually conducted a formal survey, but I’m confident that if I was capable of any sort of meaningful change my family would put my in-car behaviour at the top of the wish list.


Mindfulness is perhaps the hottest trend in health and wellness. A Buddhist precept and key component of a yogic lifestyle, the concept of mindfulness has permeated our Western culture,  to the point where we have meditation apps and studios and mindful lifestyle marketing. Watch advertising of any number of mainstream products and services to see how it’s used for positioning.


And, of course we’ve had many articles in the magazine about mindfulness and I’ve added a regular segment on THE TONIC with my friend and frequent magazine contributor Tracey Soghrati to discuss the neuro-scientific studies confirming the efficacy of the practice in dealing with pain, stress, anger and anxiety.


So I wondered, could mindfulness help me learn to control myself behind the wheel? Well, yes and no. I tried to “notice without judgment” how I felt when being cut off in the passing lane, or use my “breathing” to delay visceral reactions to distracted texting drivers. It wasn’t enough to change my behaviour. But, like any true North American, I bastardized the pure concept of mindfulness to suit my purposes: I developed a hybrid Zen-Jamie program that seems to be working. Every time I drive and don’t swear, honk, tailgate or turn to glare as I pass another driver I get a point. Every drive where I do one of those things I lose a point. My goal is to accumulate 100 points, at which time I’ll reward myself with an overnight at the Fallsview Casino to play some poker (which would also be the ultimate test of my newfound serenity given the truly craptacular drive on the QEW to Niagara Falls).


If you’re searching for ways to improve yourself, our September issue couldn’t be better. Our new Holistic Nutritionist Megan Horsley has some handy meal planning tips to keep you well nourished.  The Tonic Coach, Rod MacDonald tells you how to avoid a cycle of failure, and natural remedy experts Joel Thuna and Claude Gallant explain the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As always, if you’ve seen me act out on the GTA roads or if you’d like to discuss this note, anything you’ve read in Tonic or heard on THE TONIC, please feel free to reach out to me. Don’t worry. My response will be polite. I won’t be driving.