What the hell is this doing on a travel blog ? you’ll say. Okay, give me a chance to explain.
I think people who travel, especially solo, do so because they want to get to know themselves. Travelers are curious, about others and about themselves, they want to try out new things, to experience life fully, to find their own way to happiness rather than staying on the usual predetermined path. Does any of that sound familiar ?
Well, part of my path was discovering buddhism and meditation, and when I started traveling I was really astonished by the number of other travelers who were meditating regularly, or who had at least tried to. At home, I never talk about it. On the road, it’s just a subject among others.
So, I had the idea to share a bit of knowledge here, to try to explain to you what is meditation, what the benefits of practicing it are, without any religious talk, so you can try it out for yourself.
First off, forget all the clichés of people joining their fingers in a “O”, saying “hmmmm” and discovering the secret of life. Meditation is not about deep thoughts, on the contrary. Meditation is about being completely focused on the NOW.
Now, take your eyes away from the computer or phone for a second (after the end of that sentence), and just try to count to five very slowly while thinking of only what’s going on right now (meaning not much, since you’re going to be sitting still in silence). Go on, try it.
Did it work? Or were you rather wondering about what this post was going to say next? If you looked stupid trying to think of nothing? If you had enough in the fridge for tonight?
That’s normal. There’s so many things going on in our heads. It’s like you’re standing in the middle of a highway. Thoughts are arriving quickly, all at once, from different directions, flying by. And you don’t even have the time to be done with the first, that the next four are coming upon you.
We often hear that meditation is “thinking of nothing”. But that’s not true, it’s not even possible. We’re humans, not flower pots. It’s quite natural to have thoughts.
Instead, meditation is trying to not do what we usually do with these thoughts, which is catch them and hold on to them. Rather, you have to stand on the side of the highway. You’ll see thoughts passing by, but you won’t pursue them. They won’t overwhelm you.
A good way of doing that is to find something to focus on, like an anchor. What works for me is to listen to my own breathing, all my consciousness is on the fact that air is coming in and out of my lungs. But it doesn’t have to be that. Some people focus on something visual, like a small rock or a thumbtack on the wall. Others count to seven, or repeat one word over and over. You can try out a lot of different methods, this way you’ll be able to tell which one works the best for you.
Let’s make another test. This time, you’re going to breath in deeply through the nose and breath out through the mouth, slowly, and you’re going to count so you do this cycle five times. Feel the air moving through your body, pronounce each number in your head, and keep your thoughts on that simple action of breathing in and out five times. If during this time, you suddenly realize you’re thinking about your shopping list, it’s okay, don’t beat yourself up about it and just go back to your anchor. Ready ? Go.
How did it go this time ? It’s really normal to still catch your thoughts wandering all about the place. In the beginning, meditation is basically only this. Always losing it, and then always coming back. After a while, you’ll start wandering less often, and noticing quicker when you do. It’s like a muscle, it needs training.
There you go, now you know how to meditate, congratulations !
In theory, you should be sitting on the ground when you do it, your back and head straight, hands naturally resting on the knees or in your lap. Eyes not closed but naturally down.
These are good guidelines, but you can meditate wherever and however you want. I often do it lying down to calm my thoughts before sleeping and it works just as well.
Meditation gives you a greater control over your life. It helps to not be overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings, especially the negative ones like anger or sadness. Remember my highway metaphor ? Well it’s exactly that, you’re gaining an outsider point of view on yourself. You’ll grow to be more calm, more perceptive and more in tuned with your senses and feelings.
And now I have to make a confession. I don’t meditate regularly, and it’s a shame. I’m always waiting until it’s too late. I wait until I’m starting to be really angry or stressed out, and then I’ll meditate. It does help, but it would be better if I could prevent getting in that state in the first place.
That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this article now. Because if I say I’ll do something here, then there’s no backing out. So let it be official : My new year resolution is to meditate every day, at least 10 minutes. Anyone ready to take that pledge with me ?
I don’t know yet how easy it’s going to be to keep that resolution along with traveling, but I’ll do my best and you can count on me to update you in a few months about that !
If you have any more questions, please feel free to comment below, I’d love to help you get on that path, it has changed me for the better.