Traveling as a Mindful Practice
“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” ~ Seneca
Any sage teacher will tell you that you don’t have to go anywhere but within to practice mindfulness.
They’re 100% correct–and traveling can be a really fun, sometimes necessary part of life. So why not use your next vacation or work trip as a mindfulness practice? Try these five suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your travels.
1. Rediscover your senses
When you’re visiting a place for the first time you may become acutely aware of your senses, as they’re not yet desensitized to the new input. When you first arrive, perhaps your nose is the first organ to come online. You breathe in crisp, cool air and a fresh scent of pine, or heavy, balmy sea breeze air. Your skin feels the coolness or the heat, the aridity or the humidity. You notice the way the leaves seem to shimmer differently as they flicker in the breeze.
Engage every sense. Just notice. Perhaps you love it, perhaps you don’t. For at least a moment though, it’s just “different” without a label defining it as “good” or “bad.” Noticing without judgment… Sound familiar? This is the foundation of a meditation practice.
2. Cultivate your beginner’s mind
Meditating is all about seeing things with a fresh perspective. We practice meditation so that we can lose the story that our minds are trained to attach to our experiences. When you remove yourself from your familiar surroundings, you’re literally seeing everything with fresh eyes. You have the proverbial “beginner’s mind.” Seize the opportunity and cultivate it!
Notice how quickly the mind wants to become acclimated, make connections, and attach labels. Try to be aware of that and gently set that aside to keep the freshness alive. Every moment can be one of wonder and awe, gratitude and appreciation–extra special because you know that soon your vacation will end and these sights will become happy memories.3. Practice gratitude
Times of travel can be the perfect opportunity to begin a gratitude practice because we often have a natural tendency to be grateful for our experiences when we getaway. Right when you open your eyes in the morning, lie there and think to yourself the word “grateful” to start your day off on a positive note. In the evening, take a few minutes to meditate on your day, starting in the morning and leading all the way to the present moment, reflecting on how many experiences you had that you can be grateful for. Even if your trip is not one for pleasure, you can bring to mind the comforts you miss from home and transform that into a gratitude practice!
4. Notice when discomfort arises
You may find that while you’re traveling you come across less than ideal circumstances–a delayed flight and hours spent in an airport, your baggage not arriving at the same time as you do, getting lost in the streets of an unfamiliar city, the weather not cooperating. Notice where you’re attached–do you label some things as going “right” and others as “wrong”? Are you able to discover interesting ways of adapting to your situation or greater resourcefulness? Did you have certain expectations in advance of your arrival that aren’t being met? Troubles while traveling tend to be more noticeable than everyday tribulations, making them wonderful situation to transform a challenge into an opportunity to mindfully discover yourself, your tendencies, and your habits.
5. Bring it home with you
The best part? When you return home, your mind can be trained to see your city, town, or mountain home the same way. Keep your “beginner’s mind” and notice what the air smells like in your hometown when you step off the plane and feel the quality of the air on your skin. When you return home, notice the everyday aspects of your life that you missed and feel gratitude for these moments. Continue your morning and evening gratitude meditation practice. Reflect on the moments you felt were disappointing or downright disasters and notice how you worked through it and how, in the end, everything turned out okay. Traveling, just like meditation, can help us develop “the ability to become awake to our lives, to each and every moment, just as it is.” (quote adapted from Pema Chodron)
P.S. – Do you have airplane anxiety? Bring Mind Oasis with you! Join a Meditate on the 8s class from your flight using wifi OR download one of the free guided meditations on our homepage to your phone before you go!