I truly believed that once I had left home and my life of schedules, commitments and work that I would be fully ready to get my meditation on daily. I envisioned a life of leisure that involved lounging on exotic beaches, eating nothing but fresh fruits and salads while meditating and exercising consistently. I would have nothing but time on my hands and nothing holding me back from creating new habits that would endure the test of time.
Then came the reality check of what it's like to actually travel for a long period of time. Waking up in packed hostels, wolfing down the complimentary bread and margarin and maybe even jam if we are lucky and drinking cup after cup of Nescafé before charging out into the current city or town. Lunch more often than not has been a set menu of meat with more meat and a side of something fried, veggies scarcely to be seen. I quickly realized that meat and rice are king in South America, and that I would have to adapt my eating habits accordingly. Part one of the fantasy dashed, well at least I was mediating and exercising right?
Three months later, I was sitting in the Bogota airport at 3am, groggy and tired and realized that I had blinked and suddenly three months had passed. I hadn't set any sort of routine for myself to make sure that I was taking time for my mind and body to be healthy. Sure I was being stimulated from all of the new sights and experiences, but what of my inner peace and health? I realized right then and there that enough was enough and I put my foot down. It was time to reinstate some sort if structure into my life, and to stop letting my laziness get the best of me.
I decided since we were going to be in Colombia for a month, that it would be the perfect place to set new habits and routines and buckle down. I created a list of intentions and goals that I wanted to accomplish and set out with a firm intention of realizing them. I had gotten lost in the whirlwind of excitement of a new life, and forgotten that taking care of myself is just as important as all of the experiences I was having.
I realized that my mind has a tendency to be just as lazy as my body when given the opportunity and it was ready to get both back into shape. I needed to begin to train my brain to do what I wanted it to do, not to let it kick back and watch game of thrones reruns while eating popcorn. How on earth was I going to convince myself that sitting quietly for twenty or thirty minutes was a good idea when there is a world of excitement mere footsteps away?
There's a great story that I read about the Dalai Lama; it's said that a reporter asked him how he manages to meditate daily with such a busy schedule. He replied that he usually mediates for an hour every day, and on extra busy days, he meditates for two. It's a reminder to me every time I think I might be too busy to meditate, there's always time for meditation, because it centers focus, brings about a better mood and readies the mind for whatever challenges it might face that day.
Now I know there's a lot of roads to the same destination, but I'm going to share what has been working for me as a beginners routine to pursuing mindfulness. I know that beginning to try meditating can be intimidating, a metaphorical dive into the unknown. It can feel like progress is unattainable and why should I even bother. So here goes nothing.
When I wake up the next morning, I immediately grab my notebook, iPad and headphones and head somewhere quiet that I know I can be in peace for a little while. I usually like to sit on the ground or on a pillow, so I can sit cross legged and be comfortable during the next little while. Once settled, I look ever my goals from the night before, taking time to soak them in and envision myself accomplishing them. Once I've run through them, I usually like to go to Deepak Chopra's website where there are daily inspirational thoughts and tasks. I usually will spend time taking notes in my journal before putting on some mellow music and closing my eyes.
I usually sit against a wall, so I can relax and not worry about my posture. I like to imagine that my spine is a tree trunk , with my tailbone extending roots into the ground, and my head as the tree breaches reaching towards the sunlight. It sounds silly, I know, but having that visualization helps me keep nice and erect, and makes it easier to keep length in my spine without crumpling and giving into a slouch.
I used to always think that there was a trick to keeping an empty mind, but what I've realized over time is that thoughts will come into my head, and that's okay. I just don't pay any attention to them, I let them float through my brain like wispy clouds on a sunny day, barely something to take notice of. Whenever I used to focus on not thinking any thoughts, ten time more thoughts would fight through to my consciousness, as if trying not to think any thoughts was actually attracting more. So now, I just acknowledge me and let them go, without spending any effort on them.
If I'm doing a guided meditation, it's easy from there on out, I'm given a mantra, it's timed for me, and once locked and loaded, I'm ready to go and the time flies. Other times, I do it myself, and then I make sure to choose some mellow music to listen to (through headphones to avoid distraction) and I have a personal mantra I like to use that I read a couple of years ago. It was described as a mantra that covers every aspect of life, and I have used it ever since. With my eyes closed, I'll repeat a few times in my head "I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious and happy.” I like to visualize each word as I'm saying it and picture how it looks in my life. Once it's set in my brain a let it go, only returning to it if I'm having trouble focusing, or something distracts me.
When doing my personal mediation, with no guide, I sit until I literally can't take another second. I don't time myself, but I usually am able to sit for at least ten minutes, and anything more than that I consider bonus time. If it's less, I don't worry about it too much, I think that stressing about mediation seems contradictory.
I have one more practice I like to complete as I'm finishing up my mediation. Once the guided meditation is over, or once I feel antsy-ness kicking in, I'll begin to imagine that I'm breathing into my heart. I envision each breath as a cleansing bright white light, and with each inhalation, the globe of light grows. It soon encompasses my whole body, and I like to envision that it pushes out all negative energy as it grows and encapsulates my body. Once I'm fully within its bounds, I picture the shell of it becoming a shimmering gold. The shell is there to protect my thoughts and body for the day, and I imagine that the power of the universe goes into it to protect it. It sounds a little crazy I know, but it's reassuring to set the shield as a protection from stress and negativity. Anytime throughout the day I feel attacked or feel my mind going to a place I don't want it to, I remember my shield and I picture it protecting me from whatever negative situation I might be in.
This process prepares my mind for the day, and I have been finding that once I release the meditation, I'm tingly and giddy, feeling that I have limitless power helping me. I can go into my day focused and feeling strong, knowing that I have taken the time to mentally prepare for whatever adventure are coming my way.
Do you have any mediation techniques that work for you? What has your experience been with trying meditation? Let me know in the comments section and I'll respond as soon as I can.
My next post will be about finding balance in the body with yoga and how I've been able to find ways to practice while on the road.