Travel: A Transformative Mindfulness Practice
Initially, we travel to escape, but ultimately, travel allows us to re-enter our lives.
We travel to widen the lens of our worldview, to gain an embodied experience of how time has impacted the way of life for those outside of the neighborhood in which we live. Time is a curious thing. Moment-to-moment it’s passing, but yet, our hurried lives keep us in constricted mind states outside of the present moment. Personally, travel gets me out of the microcosm of my life — clearing blocked channels clouding my heart and getting beneath the film of stress where compassion flows freely. As I check all of my certainties about life at plane door, what I am sure about is that I’ll return from my journey with a deeper sense of belonging to the world we share.
Move Into Stillness
Travel has allowed me to cultivate a more intimate relationship with stillness. Let’s face it, jet lag, peculiar foods, extreme weather and no electricity aren’t all glitz and glamour. Travel spins us around and turns us upside-down. We face authentic hardships when we trek through the world, thrusting us out of our complacencies. This is all an opportunity to return to our breath, honoring all that’s arising in our minds and bodies. When the world is whirling around us, we’re forced to find some stable ground — where our center of stillness lives. As one of my teachers, Amy Weintraub of LifeForce Yoga, says beautifully “Continue to ride those waves of breath, home to who you are inside.”
The motion and commotion of the universe is an invitation to come back home to the wisdom of our inner groundedness. Confronted with a stressful travel moment? Flight delayed? Lost luggage? Choose to cultivate a 4–6 breath count (4 seconds in, 6 seconds out) to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and relaxation system). Come home to your center, the fertile ground of your wholeness.
Close your eyes and imagine sea spray on your face, a symphony of tropical bird songs and the perfume of orange and hibiscus wafting into your nostrils (all sans iPhone pinging!). Sounds amazing, right? As a self-described urban escapist, my spirit thrives on these sensate experiences while traveling. Immersion in sights, sounds and smells foreign to daily life instantly transports me into the present moment. Our senses serve as portals into presence — a way of being in the world with an embodied sense of curiosity and awe. When we relax in a state of openness, receiving the gifts of our environment, we re-enter our lives. And through eyes of awareness, we begin to realize we’re a part of a larger body of energy — that Sea of Infinite Spirit.
Whether you’ve traveled across town to your local park or across the world on an exotic vacation, be still and invite your senses to be curious. Breathe deeply and take in the magnificent sights, sounds and smells around you. With gentleness, observe waves of emotion and body sensations that enter your plane of consciousness. You are alive! Perhaps, you create a mantra of gratitude in this moment. Mine? “I bow to this brand new moment before me and I am grateful.”
Initially, bizarre foods, foreign smells, and different cultural customs force us out of our comfort zones. But take a closer look and you’ll see the search for self and meaning in life are common threads in the multicultural fabric of the world. So through the unknown, we begin to gain a deeper knowledge of the qualities of human existence — and ourselves. In talking to locals in my maternal homeland of Vietnam, their depth of spirit lives on through dedication to ancient customs, culinary traditions and fierce love of family. It’s through these moment-to-moment interactions where my heart opens to the infinite connective tissue of love — bonding humanity throughout time. I begin to realize the illusion of our separateness.
Travel is the voyage of awakening our dormant enthusiasm, imagination and inner world. Abroad, we shed all familiarities for a heightened sense of awareness, presence, and curiosity. For me, travel is like the idyllic love affair. In this love story, you become lost in one another, and without words, your shared language becomes the sense of connective energy between beings. But, most of all, this love transcends space and time.
As Buddha taught, impermanence is an undeniable fact of life. So don’t wait — pack your bags and begin the great journey inward.
I extend a warm and loving invite for you to join me on my next transformative mindfulness vacation to Bali, March 14–25, 2018 where we’ll explore the spiritual gifts of this land and delve into the interdependence of our compassionate hearts in meditation.
See you on The Path soon!