15 Minutes to Mindfulness

Staying fit and healthy on the road is one of the greatest challenges that travelers face — even if you’ve got a great practice going on at home, the changes that hitting the road inherently brings can do some damage to your fitness routine. For me, keeping with my meditation practice from afar is my biggest challenge — it’s something I need to stay sane and balanced, but it’s still the first thing to go when I’m traveling (which is entirely infuriating and still makes no sense to me, but c’est la vie).

1. Readjust your expectations.

One of the things that’s helped me get better at sticking with it while globetrotting is a readjustment of my expectations. I’m quick to get really hard on myself when I feel like I’m regressing in anyway regarding the approximately 1,000,000 things I’m doing or thinking about doing at any one time. And, when it comes to my meditation, I used to think that doing anything less than my regular routine was such a regressive waste that it wasn’t even worth it, which would inherently lead to me feeling bad about myself for not doing it at all.

So, instead of continuing to get angry with myself, I ended up changing my expectations instead. Even if I sit for only 20, 15, or even just 10 minutes in the morning (or even if I can’t get to it in the morning and I have to fit it in during another time of the day) instead of my usual 30 or 60, I think of it as progress towards maintaining my practice under extreme circumstances rather than a regression in my practice, ability, commitment, or whatever.

2. Use down time wisely.

Another way I’ve started to slot it in is in transit. Traveling inherently means lots of lines and busses and waiting. Even if you can’t do a full-on lotus-posed meditation, you can still close your eyes a bit and focus on your breathing, say, while you’re waiting in an abysmally long line at the Costa Rican border. The key — at least for me — is to see that as a tiny victory in maintaining your practice rather than a sad excuse for a “real” meditation… because what is that even anyway? The bonus is you’ll come out of it with at least a tiny bit more patience than you went into it with.

3. Be gentle with yourself.

The larger lesson here is to just be gentle with yourself: Readjust your expectations for what your practice will be like on the road and do what you can to keep up with it. Plus, your meditation isn’t going anywhere — even if you do end up falling off the wagon during vacay, it’s ok to indulge the other parts of your life for a bit and to re-balance your practice when you’re back in a place that’s more conducive to it rather than mentally berating yourself for the entirety of your vacation because you’re not meditating for a full hour every morning.

So readjust, enjoy, and be gentle with yourself and your on-the-road practice will be just fine, promise.