With so much stimulation in our day-to-day lives, meditation is the antidote that can help us come back to our true selves and true purpose. That said, keeping up a practice when you’re on the road and out of your normal routine can make finding the time to meditate surprisingly difficult.
At least, it is for me.
When I’m home, in my usual routines, I know where my meditation practice fits. Yet when I’m on the road, suddenly I can’t find those 10-15 minutes in the morning.
Yet as Tony Robbins, the spiritual guru who I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-quote-but-it-just-fits-too-perfectly said, “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”
While I agree, I’ve found that when on the road, there are ways to insert mindfulness that don’t require sitting on a cushion or dedicating a block of time and then considering the practice done. In some ways, I think it’s even healthier to focus on meditative moments throughout the day. After deciding to dedicate two weeks to daily meditation on the road, this is how my practice evolved (and how yours might, too):
This practice comes to us from Japan, translated as ‘forest bathing.’
It’s essentially a walking meditation through a forest, taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and fully immersing yourself in your surroundings. I like to take it a step further and embody what it’s like to be a tree, or a seed, or whatever it is I feel closest to in the moment.
Researchers have found, through testing blood and urine samples of people when they forest bathe vs. when they don’t, that breathing in the phytoncides that trees emit significantly increase the score for vigor and decrease the scores for anxiety, depression, and anger.
2. Island Bathing
Similar to forest bathing, island bathing is utilizing the ocean for mindfulness with one’s surroundings. In the video, while in Greece, I didn’t have forests to bathe in but I did have the ocean.
As anyone who has spent time near waves can confirm, they’re soothing, the smell of the ocean is calming, and simply being able to see it feels like coming home – or maybe that’s because I’m a California girl and I’ve always felt that connection. Is it like that for you, too?
During this two-week challenge I imagined what it is to be a drop of water, then becoming vapor, and wondering if water is ever only a drop or always part of a whole. It’s kind of a puzzle, and through this contemplation, it brought me right into the moment.
3. One Conscious Breath
Sometimes when we can’t find 15 minutes, one conscious breath can make a world of difference. It can be a reset button, can stop the mind from running amok, and brings us back into the driver’s seat.
As the Buddha is credited with saying, “One moment of perfect awareness is one moment of perfect enlightenment.”
That I can manage!
4. Recruit a Friend
Just like having a workout buddy is helpful motivation for many of us, having a friend join in your meditation, or visa versa, can help keep you on the path.
In the video, you’ll see that in Oakland, my friend Nell and I meditated together. In Fort Bragg, pictured above, it was my friend Tiffany who got me into her morning meditation. We can motivate and help each other out, and even develop a routine together, on the road.
This can be especially potent if you’re solo traveling. When fellow hostel-mates see you meditate, maybe they’ll be motivated to join, or you can simply invite someone to. What a beautiful way to break the ice.
5. Direct Loving Kindness at a Stranger
Similar to the metta (loving kindness) meditation where we surround ourselves, then our towns, then eventually the world with our loving kindness, directing all of our loving kindness at a stranger can have beautiful benefits.
As some researchers in the field of quantum mechanics have found, we have the ability not only to affect each other, but the entire universe with our positive and negative energies.
I wish I could remember where I first heard about this, but I recall the thrill of recognition of this practice in Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans, and how powerful he had found it to be. I also found it interesting how, after two reads through this book, while most of the CEOs, athletes, and powerhouses in this book had big differences in how they approach their work, the most common practice for most of them was meditation.
6. Guided Meditations
Often when we’re traveling, we don’t have the benefit of looking at an ocean or hugging a tree. We’re in a crowded subway, on a plane or in a loud airport.
It’s times like these when I like to find a little corner to sit in, or settle into my chair (with my bag safely within my grasp or behind my back), stick my earbuds in, and do a guided meditation. I like the ones on the free app, Insight Timer. I can pick based on how long I want it to be and what I’m feeling, and just tune out. (For offline meditations I believe you have to pay for the app, or you can pay for Buddhify, which is cheaper and accessible offline).
7. Sitting With a Feeling
Once in a bar out in Berlin, my friend Ari and I drinking ginger tea while listening to a jazz band, he asked me if I ever just let a feeling be there without needing to name it. He suggested that labeling things is what gives them power over us in negative ways.
It makes sense. The difference between excitement and anxiety is often just the label, no?
He urged me to try tuning into my body, wherever any feeling might be, and just sitting with it. Not labeling it, not naming it, just feeling it. It’s a way to make these feelings less personal and be an observer. Every now and then, I come back to this practice for a moment out of the day and it feels great to take the labeling out of things for once.
8. Walking Meditation
The first time I tried walking meditation was at Wat Suan Mokkh during a 10-day silent meditation retreat (here’s a list of some more around the world if you’re keen). We were to walk slowly and with purpose, articulating each part of each step.
I looked around and tried not to laugh. It looked like we were a bunch of zombies walking on the moon. Then I came to understand the point of it. By slowing down I could immerse myself in my surroundings rather than my mind.
While I don’t do the strange walk when out and about, I still do walking meditations from time to time simply by choosing to use my surroundings as a means to forget my thoughts, over and over, and ever so gently, coming back to my here and now.
While I’m still learning, the commitment I made to meditating for two weeks while traveling opened up more possibilities than I had previously thought of or bothered with when I was at home, in my routine, and found meditating easier to do.
Now I can throw in a mix whenever I want. There are so many forms of meditation out there at our disposal, and we can always practice what we come up with ourselves. There are no rules to this thing, other than being present. What a beautiful thing.
How do you keep your meditation practice up on the road? Let me know in the comments below!