Grand Canyon meditation. Photo Courtesy Of Moyan Brenn.
One of the main reasons I enjoy travel is it allows me to step out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges; however, I would be lying if I said stress didn’t creep up on me every now and then. For example, things like being overwhelmed by the endless amount of exploration possibilities, staying on budget, and — since I prefer a slower style of travel these days — finding a place to live or work can all take their toll on me. These are the moments when a little red flag goes up in my head and I know it’s time to slow down, take a deep breath and step back from the situation. One of the ways I like to do this is through meditation.
First off, let me clear the air by saying meditation doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour of your day cross-legged in solitude on a mountaintop—unless you want to of course. Meditation can be done while you’re on a plane, lying in bed or walking around exploring. It’s a fairly easy thing to do, as well, since there technically isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate.
Meditation also has an extensive list of physical, mental and emotional benefits. Lowered stress levels, improved sleep habits, strengthened immune system and getting in tune with your inner self are just a few.
Interested in trying meditation for yourself? Let me clue you in on some of the ways I incorporate this ancient practice into my day-to-day life as a traveler.
Mindful breathing is probably the easiest way to incorporate stillness into your day. All you have to do is find your breath, focus on it and try to let your thoughts pass freely through your mind. My favorite method of mindful breathing is the 4, 7, 8 breath count. To do this take a deep belly breath through your nose for a count of 4, hold it in for a count of 7, bring all of your awareness to that breath then slowly exhale through the mouth for a count of 8. Repeat as needed. This is great for when you’re feeling stressed but don’t have a lot of time or aren’t exactly in a good spot for seated meditation, for example, a crowded bus ride or busy café.
Not only does this apply to tuning into your thoughts and feelings, but also to music or guided meditations. Sometimes I just can’t seem to guide myself into that peaceful state and need a little extra help. That’s when I turn to YouTube or iTunes for guided meditation where there are tons of free options to help lead you into a meditative state. The best thing about this is that you can download these onto your smartphone (if you have one) and use them on the go.
Take A Class
I recently took a series of Kundalini yoga classes, which focused on intense breath work and meditation, quickly falling in love with how at ease I felt afterwards; however, there are other more budget friendly options for group meditation.
Be One With Nature
Nothing cramps my style more than monotony, which is why I find myself switching my scenery up often. Getting out into nature to meditate is by far my favorite option to do so. Sometimes I use the breathing techniques mentioned above while taking a stroll and other times I like to find a quiet spot in a park or near the beach and do a seated meditation. Again, find what works for you and makes you feel most at ease. This is also a great option if you are staying in a hostel or traveling with other people since having alone time in your room may not always be an option.
Pencil It In
There’s no need to wait until you’re ready to pull your hair out to meditate. Scheduling it into your day — whether it’s five minutes or an hour — is a great way to reap the benefits meditation and mindfulness provide when practiced regularly. I find the best time for this is either first thing in the morning or right before bed. Nothing beats starting or ending your day in a calm state of mind.
If you’re new to this don’t be put off that your mind isn’t 100% quiet and that you may keep wondering what you’re even trying to accomplish. When this happens, just take it from the top by finding and focusing on your breath. Go with the ebb and flow of your mind, stop to smell the metaphorical (or real if possible) roses, and over time it will become second nature to snap into your own awareness.