“Tension is who you think you need to be. Relaxation is who you are.”
~ Chinese proverb
Feel like life’s got you programmed to Power-walk past the buttercups? Never fear! Micro-Meditation is here!
Meditation and mindfulness is for everyone. Get ready to get your om on because I’m about to share with you my tips on meditation for travellers. Here’s how to meditate even when you’re busy! It’s not about having lots of time on your hands. It’s about breaking down the time you do have into manageable chunks. I call it Micro-meditation. What is Micro-Meditation? Well, it’s a phrase I just invented and it’s going to change your life without having to take a permanent vacation. The fact is, you don’t need to have a lot of time in order to feel the benefits of meditation. Small does of Zen here and there in your life can add up to a big impact.
Look, I am by no means a zen master. Latte fueled disaster on wheels, yes. Zen master? No. I have the attention span of a ten-year old high on jelly beans. I’ve been known to get up and walk out of movies, classes, lectures, etc. in the first 5 minutes because I was bored. I have such profound ADD that living in one country is too limiting for me. I hate sitting still. I hate sitting still. Especially if it’s sitting still cross-legged. So why the flip am I about to tell you how awesome meditation is? How did I even get myself to sit still enough to do it in the first place? The answer is simple. Put a ring on it.
No. Not that kind of ring. This kind of ring. Your iPhone ring, an egg timer, anything that goes ding after a set period of time. Preferably something that dings with a pleasant noise. Why the ring? Because somehow if I know I’m only going to be meditating for a limited period of time, I’m able to focus. And if you put a ring on it, you can meditate on the sly almost anywhere, anytime; in a public bus, in the airport, on a park bench, without being late or missing your connection!
The world’s so big, and we’re so small. Appreciating the little moments on the shores of the river Tagus in Lisbon, Portugal.
Why even bother? The short answer is that meditation makes me feel like less of a disaster. I’m happier when I mediate. I’m less hard on myself. When I’m travelling, meditating helps me handle unexpected stress on the road. It also helps me apreciate the beauty of the moment I’m in.. without obsessively Instagramming it. With more small doses of zen in my life it’s easier to look at stressful situations and say,“Pssshhh… I got this one.” And get this, it’s kinda fun. When I open up my eyes after meditating, even after only a few minutes. The world looks shiny and new. No matter how shit-tastical the everything around me happens to be at the moment, I enjoy being alive a little more.
OK, so enough with this hippy crap. You people have places to be. How do you do it?
Don’t be afraid to listen to your heart…
1) Grab your smart phone: and have a pair of earbuds or ear plugs handy. Pro-tip: put your smart phone on airplane mode so you won’t be interrupted by random text messages.
2) Be present where you are: Ideally it’s comfortable, semi-quiet place. Sometimes even locking yourself in the bathroom will do in a pinch. But if you can’t escape chaos, don’t despair! Grab your earbuds and put on some relaxing music. This works wonders for me on the train, and if you’re on the road you can even do this lying in your hostel bed with an eye mask and ear plugs in. Once you get used to relaxing your body, you can meditate anywhere.
3) Ground yourself: You do not need to sit yogi style to do this, you can be seated, standing or lying down. All that really matters is that your body is relaxed and your spine is straight. If you are sitting in a seat, uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor you can stick a cushion or a yoga block or even a balled up jacket under your butt and just straddle it if your hips are tight.
4) Start your timer: Start with 5 minutes, 3 if you’re real antsy.
5) Close your eyes, take some deep breaths: Count your breaths back from 100 on each exhale. If your mind wanders too much doing that, start with sets of 10. The key is not to not have any thoughts. (I think that’s the biggest misconception about meditation.) The key is to be able to release the thoughts that you do have. I like to imagine blowing them away on a puffy cloud. If I’m starting to worry about my to-do list I tell myself that all that crap will be there after the timer goes off, this is my me time, my mini-vaca, whatever you want to call it. Having that timer going allows me to focus on relaxation instead of wondering how much time has gone by. This is especially useful if you have limited time and don’t want to be late.
6) Allow Yourself To Be In The Moment. Different people use different ways of staying in the moment. Some people focus on the feeling of the breath leaving the mouth during an exhale. Some people have a relaxing mental picture in their brains. Instead of trying to tune out all noise, I try to notice it but not hold onto it. The ambient noises around me whether it’s crickets, a car passing in the distance, whatever, help me remain in the moment and release my worries about the future. If I start to think too much I remind myself to lie back and let my mind be “cradled” by the practice. In other words, you’re not forcing your brain to do any work, you’re letting it lie back and be supported like a newborn baby.
Aaaannnd…. that’s it.
Work yourself up from 5 minutes to however long you want. Or if you’re pressed for time… just stick with 5 minutes.
Send your cares drifting away on a puffy cloud…
Meditation doesn’t have to mean we’re in our own world, out of touch with our surroundings. In fact, it can help create a deeper connection with the world around us.
Walking Meditation: This is especially good for travellers. Take a turn down a quiet street, stroll down a beach, or just decide you’re not going to be in beast mode at the airport. With each step you take, take a breath and be present. As a real Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Be present to the feel of the wind on your cheeks, the sounds, sights and smells around you, without categorizing them, judging them or your reactions to them, or documenting them.
Try An App: Some people find that having a guided meditation in their ear helps them tune out the world around them. I also enjoy having a little re-grounding in technique from time to time. Headspace is an excellent App that offers an intro to meditation as well as hundreds of other themed meditations focused on things such as grief, stress and self esteem. Pretty cool! Or if something more no bullshit is your style, try F*ck That: An Honest Meditation.
Go Super Micro: Find some mini-moments in the day to take a deep breath, ground yourself and stop for 3, 4 or 5 breaths before moving on to the next thing. Maybe you want to steady yourself if you’re feeling hangry during an airport layover or you’ve just missed your train. Or maybe you want to take an extra moment to really appreciate the sound of a street performer playing music, finally feasting your eyes on van Gogh’s sunflowers in a crowded museum, or experiencing your first sunset in Bali.
Read Up!: Want to take mindfulness even deeper into your life? Check out my favorite books on mindfulness.
No mud, no lotus! Some days it’s a struggle, some days it comes naturally. On all days, be gentle with yourself.
Believe: That life is not meant to be lived curled tightly into a bud. Stress doesn’t have to be the motivating factor driving you through life. That being grounded is possible anywhere, anytime if you have the right tools. That you really can improve the big picture in your life in a series of “micro moments”.
So… what are YOUR sneaky ways to bust stress? Let me know in the comments!