When I used to hear the word “meditation,” the only picture that would pop in my head was of Buddhist monks wrapped in orange sitting diligently while apparently thinking of holy things.  Yes, that is a type of meditation, but the practice of mindfulness is much more varied than that.  Meditation is a practice using practical tools increasing your mental strength and flexibility while making a spiritual connection.

I personally have never connected meditation with a certain religion (however some people do!)  but I see it as a way to view the world with a peaceful and calm mind.  Staying calm during travel is especially important and difficult– how many breakdowns have you seen at the airport or train station?!  Travel mishaps are inevitable, so anything that keeps us on an even keel seems beneficial (and essential to be a good traveler).

I am by no means a meditation know-it-all.  I enjoy learning about different styles and have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way while working at a yoga studio.  Meditation is a very personal practice and I believe it takes a lot of trial and error to find something that works for you.  Attending meditation sessions at a yoga studio work best for me because there are very minimal distractions.  There are also a plethora of comfortable cushions, eye pillows and other props to keep you cozy.  Practicing while in a different country with new people, sounds, sleeping arrangements, and diet proves to be much more challenging.  But, give it a try…whether you’re at home or abroad.  Feel free to share any meditation tips if you have them.

1.  Listen to a guided meditation: If you have an iPod or computer, it’ll take you a few minutes to download from iTunes.  Most are free.   Perfect for before bed or while you’re sitting on a plane, train, or bus.  They are great if you have never meditated before and guidance is helpful.

2.  Walk: This is something we do a lot of while traveling, but is your awareness and consciousness in it?  Walking meditation is one of my favorite methods.  Hit the streets with no destination or expectations in mind. Leave your Lonely Planet at home, but bring a map just in case.  As you walk, take notice of things you see, hear, smell, and how they make you feel.  A busy street can cause us to panic a little and raise our heartbeats, but just listen to those feelings and let them guide you (perhaps away from the busy street).

3. Breathe: The most important aspect of meditation that is often the most difficult.  Breathing meditations can be done anywhere (I love to practice on public transportation) and are simply paying attention to your breath.  I find it helpful to inhale deeply while counting to 8 (or 6 or 10), hold for a moment, then exhale for 8 (or 6 or 10).  It sounds easy to pay attention to your breath, but it’s amazing how quickly it jumps around.

4. Mantra: A mantra is a combination of words that is repeated (silently) over and over again to focus the mind along with your breath.  One of my favorites is soham (सो ऽहम्) which loosely translates to “I am”. Breathing in through your nostrils, internally say so for the length of the breath, then ham on the exhale.

Indulging in my favorite form of meditation in the U.P. of Michigan

5.  Join Nature:  It sounds a little bit hippie, but doing anything that connects you with nature can be turned into a powerful meditation.  Whether that be helping out at a community garden and really concentrating on the earth you’re working with or having a quiet break while on a hike.

See, meditation isn’t as intimidating as the Buddhist monks make it look!  Anything that gets your mind calm and quiet is meditation and give these easy ones a try.  If you are a bit more advanced in your meditation practice or want more tips, feel free to respond!