Turn Into The Skid

January 3, 2008 at 5:20 pm 1 comment

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be cleaning you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.”

— Rumi

Many of you who learned to drive in winter conditions will be familiar with the expression “turn into the skid.” More specifically, the instructions for recovering from an oversteer skid with the rear of the car sliding out from behind you is to steer into the slide. By turning into the skid, a driver is able to maintain control of the direction of their vehicle when the rear of the car begins to fishtail. The reason this technique needs to be explicitly taught to drivers is that it does not come naturally. Our intuitive or automatic survival reaction is to turn away from the direction of the skid. That is why this new pattern of response needs to be learned and conditioned so that it becomes the new response when a skid occurs while driving in snow or on ice.

These same instructions are helpful for working with our inner experience. Although our natural reaction may be to push away what we don’t want to see or address, the most effective way to respond to what ever our experience may be is to allow ourselves to become aware of it and move in towards it, to take a closer look at its nature. Only this way can we respond effectively to our experience rather than get caught in automatic reactions that often do not serve us over time. Coming back to the advice for driving in winter conditions, the experts say when you’re in a slide, look in the direction you want to go rather than the direction you are headed: look toward the solution, don’t look toward the problem.


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Acknowledging Your Experience Seeing More Clearly

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. David Kay  |  April 18, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Not to get too literal about your metaphor, but (as a high-performance driving instructor) I’ve always found the advice to “turn into the skid” to be extremely unhelpful. “Turn into” sounds like more of the same — I turned right, I’m starting to spin, so if I turn in, that’s more right, right?


    What you really need to do is to catch up with your spin. The back end is heading out, so turn the wheel to follow. Because unless you’re leading someplace close to where the rest of the car is going, it won’t be following you.

    What does this have to do with mindfulness?

    First, received wisdom like “turn into the skid” is almost worthless without context and experience. We can only truly create that knowledge inside ourselves when the back end has stepped out — just as we can only respond effectively to our experiences when we truly listen to them.

    Second, it’s only by moving closer to the “trouble” — in the case of an oversteering car, steering to meet the back end of the car — that we can “respond effectively to our experience.”

    The great bit of wisdom that this piece closes with is an essential part of high-performance driving AND living: we go where we look. Don’t look at the wall; look at the track. Don’t look at the problem; look at your future success and joy.


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