Ah, meditation. Legs crossed, hands placed ever so gently on the knees, back straight, baggy cotton clothes flowing perfectly and alas, the look of pure zen on the face.

Well, what if I told you that I meditate sitting down in a chair or lying on my bed, wearing jeans and a t-shirt at times, hands on my stomach or by my side or perhaps behind my head, legs laid out however they end up being laid out.

The look on my face? I can’t exactly see it myself, but I doubt it’s a look of pure zen. I’m sure it’s more like a peaceful, yet disorganized, protest against a never-ending onslaught of absurd thoughts such as ‘when is the last time I’ve had some hot apple cider?’ and ‘what if a q-tip got stuck in my ear while I was eating Oreo cookies?’ and ‘I like the word reciprocate, but not as much as the word yogurt’ that take a long time for me to remove from my mind.

Sure, I’ve attended two 10-day, silent Vipassana meditation retreats over the years, and I took them both very seriously, and they both brought tremendous benefit to my life, but I don’t practice that kind of dedicated meditation too often.

All I know is that I do feel the need to drift away from the noise of life from time to time, to close my eyes for just a few minutes, to try and force all thoughts out of my head and to concentrate only on the light breaths that pass through my nose. You could argue that this is or isn’t meditation but that’s not an argument for me. I could care less what it is. I enjoy doing it and it helps me move through life.

An Impossibly Long 48 Hours

Three days ago, in Bucharest, Romania, I woke up at 7:00am. I showered, ate some fruit, got organized, went for a haircut and then I…

  • drove three and a half hours from Bucharest to the town of Focsani to drop off the car I used for my recent Romania road trip
  • hung out in Focsani for a few hours
  • took a three hour train from Focsani back to Bucharest, arriving at 7:30pm
  • walked straight from the train station to a radio station where I was interviewed for Romanian radio
  • went back to the apartment where I stay, arriving at 10:30pm
  • worked for four hours
  • packed up some of my clothes
  • slept from 4:00am – 5:00am
  • woke up, showered and took a taxi to the airport in Bucharest
  • flew 17 hours to Vancouver, via Amsterdam and Seattle, landing at 2:30pm
  • arrived in Vancouver and went straight to a cafe to wait for my friend
  • met my friend and went to his place at 5:00pm
  • went for a 2-hour wander around Vancouver and ate some dinner

And by 10:30pm, I was finally tired, just like normal, and I went to sleep. I felt great when I did go to bed and I felt great when I woke up the next morning at 7:00am, despite those crazy long couple of days. No jet lag, no exhaustion, no bodily systems out of whack, no nothing.

I was full of positive energy and I was ready to experience Vancouver.

And while I have no actual proof – only previous experience – I tend to believe that it was the ten minutes on the train in Romania, the five minutes in the apartment in Bucharest and the fifteen minutes on two different flights that I spent with my eyes closed, focusing on my breathing and trying to keep my thoughts to a minimum, that made all the difference.

Any time I recognize a need to just slow down or quiet myself down for a moment, this is what I do. When things get hectic or overwhelming, this one simple exercise, even a mere five minutes of it, will eliminate any growing feeling of losing control and not being able to keep up with life in general.

It’s like the travel tip I once wrote about on the blog where I mention the benefits of going to a cafe and having a cup of coffee immediately upon arrival in a new destination. Taking a few minutes to just sit and relax before heading outside the airport and into the unknown allows your body and mind to calm down and ultimately, to make clearer and better decisions, thus reducing the risk of making bad, rushed decisions that you might regret later or that might lead to a variety of issues.

So why not take some time to relax and clear the mind more often, wherever we may be, whenever we are struggling to tackle our busy, up and down, often confusing lives? This applies when we are traveling and when we are not.

A few minutes of concentrated breathing in a quiet place and the decisions you need to make will become easier, your frustrations will become less intense and the obstacles you face less daunting. If you want to take it further and extend the activity for thirty or sixty minutes at a time, go for it. I’m sure it will be even more beneficial. If you don’t want to though, don’t worry at all.

Meditation, or whatever you want to call it, is personal. It’s like travel in the sense that there is no ‘right’ way to do it. Find out what works for you and that’s your ‘right’ way, even if it is just five minutes of eyes-closed breathing here and there, perhaps with a teddy bear on your lap and a party hat on your head.

What matters is that you take some time to focus on yourself and to stay on top of the challenges that life throws at you. It’s more important than you might think, especially if you want to venture out into the far corners of the world and put yourself way out of your comfort zone.

Traveling can be a scary and bumpy ride at times and meditation could very well prove to be your best friend.

Do you meditate in any form? Does it help you deal with challenges in life or while traveling?

For those in New York City, here’s an interesting event you might want to attend: “The Ringstrasse 150th Anniversary Celebration – Join us on a journey through time as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse, the gorgeous boulevard at the heart of this beautiful city that is home to its grandest buildings and magnificent palaces. Stop by for a live chat with your new friends at the legendary Café Central in Vienna. Learn about this fabulous city from the locals – we’ll have a live video connection at the Café so you can experience this popular Viennese tradition.

And as an added bonus, you’ll have a chance to win a fabulous trip to beautiful Vienna!

Location: NYC, Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall®
Dates: October 14, 12:00pm – 7:00pm / October 15, 7:00am – 7:00pm