Part of the whole traveling experience is learning to feel (and to stay feeling) at home, anywhere in the world. It makes travel a whole lot less solitary, and a helluva lot more grounding, and more relaxing. Today, let’s look at one of the best ways to make that happen: meditation.
I’m writing this at a San Francisco Starbucks, actually, and I just meditated a few minutes ago. I just meditated in a little garden across the street from this Starbucks, having been thrown out of the lobby of a corporation where I arrived unceremoniously (60 minutes) early for a book signing.
Meditation is something that I never really believed that I could do until about 2 years ago, when I was 32. I was reading about meditation somewhere, and I finally went on my Kindle and downloaded Victor Davich’s great book, 8-Minute Meditation. That book made me realize that not necessarily everyone who writes or talks about meditation is completely full of shit, or a total hippie. (Until then, I thought meditation was the domain of mountaintop gurus, hippie burn-outs, and, well, people with way more patience than me).
Accompanied by the help of a bunch of candles, my iPhone timer, some incense, and occasionally, a copy of my favorite album, The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.,” I was able to begin an 8-minute daily meditation practice. I know, that doesn’t really sound like that much. But, if you do the math, I meditated about 48 hours that year. That’s practically a week. It made me more thoughtful, a little kinder, and in general, I think, a better person.
Then, the book encouraged me to kick my daily practice up to 10 minutes, then 12 minutes, then 14 minutes. About a year later, I had basically thrown in the towel. My friend Rachel told me that her husband meditated something like 30 minutes every morning. I thought, “Shit, I’m not doing any of this right compared to him – what’s the point.” I know – what a dumb thought, huh? I don’t know why I let that let me quit meditating for about six months.
Over the last few months, I’ve gotten way back into it – and enthusiastically so – with the help of a colorful Brit, a guy by the name of Andy Puddicombe. He developed a pretty amazing app for the iPhone, iPad or, really, for any computer. It’s called Headspace, and it teaches you to meditate. No gurus, no religious stuff, just basic 10-minute meditations. He even gives you 10 days worth of 10-minute meditations to get you started. (They charge a few bucks if you’d like to download his other 355 meditation classes, but, heck, it’s cool that they’ve got a week and half’s worth of free stuff.)
Through using Headspace, I’ve really honed my meditation practice, and I’ve really renewed my passion for it. Some days I do two 10-minute meditations, and I think it’s really helped me. It’s helped my sleep, my concentration at work, my sex life, and more than anything, my ability to care and be present for other people.
Part of the reason that people travel is to get in touch with a reality that’s different from their own. The way that you get in touch with that reality, is by being able to truly care about other people. And to do that, you’ve gotta be 100% present for them. So, it’s fair to say that one of the easiest ways to do that is by taking a bare minimum of 10 minutes every day to take care of yourself, and meditate. It doesn’t cost a damn thing, and I promise it will make you feel great.
I know, you’re thinking, “Well, what if I start thinking, and then I fuck it up, and I don’t meditate right.”
My advice: stop being so hard on yourself. Just try it out for 10 minutes using Headspace, or grab a copy of the Victor Davich book and set your timer. If you don’t like it, try it one more time a week later. I think you’ll be hooked, much like I was. And that will make you a much better traveler. As someone who’s been on the road for about 25% of the time in the last 4 years, I think that’s something worth achieving.