Some Truckers Finding Stress Relief in Meditation
Ron Echols is a “stringing driver,” hauling pipe for fracking operations in West Virginia. He carries it all — 40, 60 and 80-foot pipe — while living out of a motel room in the mountains away from his Ohio home. The job can be stressful at times, even dangerous, but he has help to cope with day-to-day pressures: meditation.
“It sort of resets me,” says Echols, who has been driving for 21 years, some of it over the road. “I find breathing meditation to be the simplest and most effective. I think there are benefits physically to it as well. If you concentrate on your breathing, you can’t focus on anything else.”
Echols doesn’t know any other drivers who mediate, and he suggests that the majority of truckers think meditation is “wacky, kooky stuff.” He adds that for the many drivers, meditation comes across as weakness or worse, for some, as an anti-Christian or Eastern-based religion in opposition to their own religious beliefs. “Mediation is just sitting still. If you tell people to sit still for a few minutes and just breathe, that’s something that your mother or your grandmother said to do; sit still and breathe. That’s mediation, but they didn’t call it meditation. If we can explain to drivers, ‘Look, we just want you to sit for a few minutes and breathe; clear your mind,’ that’s what the old folks used to say. That’s what I like to do: clear my mind, turn everything off for a few minutes.”
The benefits of meditation have been well researched and documented according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Research suggests that meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other maladies. It is safe and has no side effects. It’s also free. About 8% of Americans meditate, according to NIH, but among truck drivers, the number is close to zero, according to meditating drivers.