As you talk to people about meditation, you may notice that they seem to fall into one of two camps: those who think it is "new age" "woo-woo" or "weird", and those who believe it is one of the best ways to keep yourself happy, healthy, sane, optimistic, and focused. It is also a huge stress reliever. However, again, many people don't do it because of various connotations that they have with the word, "meditation." I have one thing to say to these people: You're doing it already.
Most of us (and I really want to say, "all of us") from time to time slip into the negative thought spiral. You know what I am talking about. It's when you start thinking about something negative, usually a worry or concern, and your mind begins to ruminate on this negative thought, building momentum and spiraling downwards as new negative thoughts are added. This can last several minutes or several hours, and this "monkey mind" is a form of meditation, just not the kind that helps you.
Meditation is the art of focusing your attention in one area. Sometimes our worries and concerns build at such a rate that it feels impossible to turn them off, but active meditation practice can do just that. So what does all of this have to do with travel and vacationing?
One of the greatest causes of stress, doubt, and worry is uncertainty, and it is often when we travel that we feel the greatest sense of uncertainty. Vacationing puts us in unfamiliar surroundings and off of our routine. We may worry about flight delays, hotels, money, and myriad other things. Just as with real life stresses back home, meditation can help, but meditation practice is ironically one of the things that suffers when we're away from home. It is a pity, because some of the most incredible meditative moments can happen while we are traveling. For instance, I think the most at-peace and centered I have ever felt was while meditating below the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan. I didn't set out to meditate that day, but once I found myself in this idyllic setting, it just seemed like it would be perfect, and it was. There was no one around, I was feeling energized by an incredible hike, and I was able to focus on the clean, gentle breezes of the Himalayas.
I cannot emphasize enough how finding these magical moments to meditate can transform your entire vacation and maybe even your life. However, meditation can be done almost anywhere, and even 10 or 15 minutes can be enough to feel its benefits. But like many things in life, longer is often better. And don't wait until you are feeling stressed to meditate. One of the best times is first thing in the morning, after you wake up, and before breakfast. Simply find a comfortable place in your hotel room. It can be the perfect way to start a busy day of touring, or a day of pampering by the beach. Get your mind healthy and balanced, and you may be amazed by where the day will take you.
Hopefully the following tips will remove some of the mental mediation hurdles you may experience, especially if you are a beginner. I am by no means a meditation expert, and I definitely could meditate more than I do currently, but I also believe that sometimes novices give the most useful, realistic tips and advice, so here goes.
1. Focus on your breathing. If there was one common element of all meditation, this would probably be it. Take deep breaths, and focus on the feeling this creates in your body as well as the sounds made by your breathing.
2. Do not get bogged down by "correct" postures or positions. Yes, there are positions for meditation that are supposed to be better than others. For me, I noticed that many of these positions just weren't comfortable, and adhering too much to them only led to my feeling discouraged.
3. You may want to start your day with an intention or an idea, such as, "I embrace wherever the day may take me". Repeat this idea to yourself as you meditate.
4. If thoughts pop into your head, let them pass through as effortlessly as they arrived. If concerns or worries start to build up, rather than trying not to think about them, attempt instead to proactively replace them with positive thoughts or your positive intention. Or, bring the focus to your breathing and your body. Feel every muscle, and see if you can feel the energy moving through your limbs.
5. There are many guided meditation apps and recordings that can be really useful. When you find one you like, make sure that you always have it with you.
So remember meditation while on your vacation. It makes no sense to spend hours packing your luggage without spending even ten minutes a day to clear out your mental baggage.