How to Use Mindfulness on the Go
Mindfulness can go with you as your travel. It’s amusing to see people from abroad on the Underground transport system in London, looking at the trains with awe, and taking photos. Other commuters look up, almost in disgust, before burying their heads back in a book, newspaper or their phone.
When people are on holiday, they live in the moment and the present moment is always exciting. The new environment is a change from their routine. Travelling is another opportunity to bring mindfulness to the moment.
Meditate as you walk
Take a moment to consider this question: What do you find miraculous? Perhaps you find the vastness of space amazing; perhaps you find your favorite book or band a wonder. What about walking? Walking is a miracle too.
Scientists have managed to design computers powerful enough to make the Internet work and for man to land on the moon, but no robot in the world can walk anywhere nearly as smoothly as a human being. If you’re able to walk, you’re lucky indeed. To contemplate the miracle called walking is the beginning of walking meditation.
Normally, in the formal walking meditation, you aren’t trying to get anywhere.
However, when walking to work or wherever you’re going, you have a goal. You’re trying to get somewhere. This creates a challenge because your mind becomes drawn into thinking about when you’re going to arrive, what you’re going to do when you get there, and if you’re on time. In other words, you’re not in the moment.
Practice letting the destination go. Be in the moment as you walk. Feel the breeze and enjoy your steps if you can. If you can’t enjoy the walk, just feel the sensations in your feet – that’s mindfulness. Keep bringing your mind back into the moment, again and again, and, hey presto, you’re meditating as you walk.
If everyone did driving meditation, the world would be a safer and happier place. Try this driving meditation, and feel free to be creative and adapt it as you like.
Set your intention by deciding to drive mindfully.
Commit to driving with care and attention. Set your attitude to be patient and kind to others on the road. Leave in plenty of time to get to where you’re going.
Sit in the driver’s seat and practice a minute or so of mindful breathing.
Feel your natural breath as it is, and come into the present moment.
Start your car.
Get a sense of the weight and size of the car – a machine with tremendous power, whatever its size, and the potential to do much damage if you drive irresponsibly, or tremendously helpful if driven with mindful awareness and intelligence.
Let your awareness be wide and perceptive. Be aware of what other vehicles and people are doing all around you. Let your awareness be gentle rather than forcing and straining.
See how smoothly you can drive.
Brake gradually and accelerate without excessive revving. This type of driving is less stressful and more fuel-efficient.
Every now and then, briefly check in with your body.
Notice any tension and let it go if you can, or become aware and accept it if you can’t. You don’t need to struggle or fight with the tension.
Show a healthy courtesy to your fellow drivers.
Driving is all about trusting and co-operating with others.
Stay within the speed limit.
If you can, drive more slowly than you normally would. You’ll soon grow to enjoy that pace, and may be safer.
Take advantage of red traffic lights, and traffic jams. This is traffic meditation!
These are opportunities to breathe. Look out of the window and notice the sky, the trees and other people. Let this be a time of rest for you, rather than a time to become anxious and frustrated.
Travel mindfully on public transport
If you travel on a bus, train or plane, you’re not in active control of the transport itself, and so can sit back and be mindful. Most people plug themselves into headphones or read, but meditation is another option. Why not exercise your mind while travelling? If commuting is part of your daily routine, you can listen to a guided meditation, or just practice by yourself.
The disadvantage of meditating in this way is the distractions. Practice your core meditation in a relatively quiet and relaxed environment such as your bedroom, and use your meditation while travelling as a secondary meditation.
Here are some specific mindfulness experiments to try out while on the move:
See if you can be mindful of your breath from one station to the next, just for fun.
Whether you manage or not isn’t the issue – this is just an experiment to see what happens. Do you become more mindful or less? What happens if you put more or less effort into trying to be mindful?
Hear the various announcements and other distractions as sounds to be mindful of.
Let the distractions be part of your meditative experience. Listen to the pitch, tone and volume of the sound, rather than thinking about the sound.
See if you can tolerate and even welcome unpleasant events.
For example, if two people are talking loudly to each other, notice your reaction. What is the particular thought that’s stirring up emotion in you? Where can you feel the emotion? What happens when you imagine your breath going into and out of that part of your body?
Allow your mindful awareness to spill into your walk to wherever you’re going.
As you walk, feel your feet making contact with the ground. Notice how the rate of your breathing changes as you walk. Allow your body to get into the rhythm of the walk and enjoy the contact of the surrounding air with your skin as you move.