Mindfulness Retreats for the Traveling Soul

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Buddha in Thailand

Have you ever planned a trip to someplace fabulous far in advance and spent months fantasizing about how wonderful it will be once you get there, only to find that even days or weeks seem to pass like grains of sand through an hourglass? If you answered “yes,” I have good news and I have better news.

The good news is that you’re not alone – the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” wasn’t coined for no reason! But the better news is that even if time does fly when you’re on the road, you don’t have to sit idly by while it does: Simply choose to be “mindful” when you travel.

So, what is mindfulness?

Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of becoming actively aware of both yourself and your surroundings, with the ultimate goal of being totally present in every moment and completely attune with reality at any moment. When you are mindful, greed, hatred – and, most importantly, delusion – evade you.

Mindfulness is an important concept in many Eastern religions, such as in Buddhism, where is it the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to the cessation of suffering and the achievement of self-awareness. The goal of mindfulness is to become so aware of your perception of reality that you can actually control it.

Mindfulness is a sort of mental fitness, and like physical fitness activities, it requires constant, disciplined practice. I came upon this YouTube video last week, which not only provides more information about mindfulness and its benefits, but includes a simple exercise to get you started on the path toward mindfulness.

“So wait a minute,” you’re probably asking. “How, again, does this relate to travel?”

I’m glad you asked! Imagine, for example, that you have been planning a long hike through, say, Colombia’s Tayrona National Park, for the past few months. You know each day’s itinerary so well that you don’t even have to consult your notes when you arrive, which causes you to barrel through the hike on auto-pilot, almost passively.

When you are mindful of your actions, you are actively aware of everything you’re thinking and doing. This can be as simple as saying “left, right, left, right” to yourself, silently, as you hike through the jungle, focusing on your in and out breaths and their frequency as you work up more of a sweat, or even on making mental notes on all the flora and fauna you observe.

Time might still seem to pass rather quickly, as it tends to do when you’re having fun. When you are mindful, you don’t let any moment simply pass you by – you see, feel, hear, smell and taste each moment before it leaves you!

Mindfulness is, again, a practice, so it’s best to start while you’re at home, so that you can be “fit” enough to put it to the test during the spectacular experiences you’re certain to have. The video I posted above is a great starting point. You can also visit a local Buddhist temple, yoga center or meditation hall for more information – mindfulness is becoming more popular by the day!

There are even places in the world where you can go on mindfulness retreats! Have you ever practiced mindfulness during travel?

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who's been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as "CNNGo" and "Shanghaiist" along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.
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