Apparently, last year was the “Year of Mindfulness”, but I didn’t really read much about it until a friend of mine mentioned he was practicing it and it got me interested this year.
As I’m trying to explore more and more why people travel and how we all can become more fulfilled in doing so, it seems that the practice of being aware could be a big part of my answer to it all.
What is Mindfulness exactly?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness, mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
Kabat-Zinn’s practice of yoga and studies with Buddhist teachers led him to integrate their teachings with those of science. He learned how to pay attention “on purpose” rather than simply going through the motions of every day life (as most of us do, do you fully remember every second of eating your last lunch? I know I don’t, and I was still eating when writing this article, haha).
Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb even coined the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together”, meaning: the more we practice mindfulness, the more we develop neuro-pathways in the brain associated with being mindful, which make it easier to be fully in the present moment.
So with practice, you can be able to learn to slow down or stop your brain chatter and automatic or habitual reactions, experiencing the present moment as it really is. Wow. Sounds good to me. My brain chatters quite a bit and I often feel like I’m on auto-pilot.
Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the trans-formative power of doing nothing for a whole 10 minutes:
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Since the late 1970’s there have thousands of publications documenting medical and psychological research on mindfulness which demonstrate the benefits of applying the techniques.
In short, you can sum them up in the following ABC:
Awareness: Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing – whats going on in your mind and body.
Being: Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.
Clearly Seeing: By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to it, we can make wiser choices and become more creative.
I found the next video very clear on explaining what happens in your brain when you practice Mindfulness. I’ve always been fascinated with neuro-science, so I guess that’s why this whole topic interests me so much:
The simplest way to practice mindfulness is to sit in a straight backed chair, close your eyes, and focus on the sensations that your breath makes as it flows into and out of your body. As your mind begins to chase after different thoughts, bring your awareness back to the sensations of the breath.
Another popular practice I’ve found is the “Body Scan Technique”, something really easy that you can do each day for 10-15 minutes. Ideal for when you’re on the road an don’t have much time for a long meditation session. Sit upright, but relaxed. Your eyes can be open or closed. Slowly scan your body (like a photocopier scanning an image) starting at the head and gradually working your way down through each section.
Don’t over concentrate, but enjoy a sense of relaxed but alert awareness. If (more: when) thoughts come up, just be aware of them and return your attention to the body scan.
It will soon become clear to you that mindfulness is definitely not magic. It does not suddenly happen. You have to practice letting go of your thoughts. But fear not, as I’ve read from a scientific study among participants of a mindfulness workshop that the benefits of mindfulness can already show after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day!
And, I’ve also read that while some of us need regular amounts of coffee to make us cognitively sharper, study suggests that mindfulness would prepare us just as well. Lucky for me, as I happen to hate coffee, so yeah me!
Mindfulness and Travel
This is where things (for me at least) get interesting. Because I’ve always felt that whenever I’m travelling, I take in so much more of my surroundings, my feelings and emotions going along with responding to these surroundings. Don’t you have that?
Of course it’s that rush of not having to work and doing whatever you want, but I really believe it’s also because you’re out of your daily routine and having to pay attention to a new place (maybe even just because you’re not sure what ways traffic comes from or you’re not sure what the food will taste like) is what makes you so focused on your day-to-day activities.
You can literally do this everywhere you go, even when it’s just a weekend trip in your own country. You don’t have to take a special “Mindful Holiday” or anything, it happens already! But, if you want to strengthen your mindful powers, then perhaps this fun Mindful glamping trip in Wales might be something for you. Looks like fun to me. To you as well, or is this too much for you?
I’ve just come across Kernel of Wisdom, a brilliant website run by the lovely Joelle who had been studying Buddhist philosophy and various forms of meditation for about 6 years before she started teaching meditation. She made a great video on being more mindful when travelling. I’m not going to add anything to it, as it already makes total sense on its own:
Another fun one to watch is Halle, who talks about being more mindful when eating and drinking on your trip:
I Already Knew This!
Having read so much on Mindfulness now, I can say that I’m definitely not done devouring more about the subject. To me, being mindful, aware, focused, or whatever you want to call it is so important. I feel so often that a day has passed me by without ‘noticing’ and I hate that feeling! I guess, that’s the whole reason I’m also very interested in productivity, as I not often have the feeling that I got to do or achieve the things I want to do in a day…
…but now I realize that not achieving specific goals or needing more time to do it all is not the problem. The real problem is that I don’t pay enough attention to the things I actually am doing and achieving, because I’m always looking at the next thing coming up and don’t see and feel where I am NOW… Wow! *face-palm*
I realize now that that’s also the reason I love to travel, because I am so aware of what is happening in the moment, I always feel my goals are achieved, even though they are much less specific then my millions of ‘to-do’ lists I create while being at home. *second face-palm*
And the funny thing is, is that I actually already knew about Mindfulness through someone I admire a lot, and that is Eckhart Tolle, who I saw on Oprah Winfrey a couple of years ago talking about his book ‘A New Earth‘ (and ‘The Power of Now‘). which I then bought. It just never really clicked with me until now. Definitely have to re-read the book and re-watch the series!
I would like to end with a short inspirational video by Gabriel Kundalini that I just found on YouTube and I feel that he explains it so well, especially the difference between meditation and mindfulness. He suggests a great way to remind yourself to be mindful and why that’s so important.
Oh, and he’s on a beach in Thailand, not to bad either:
As Gabriel says so beautifully:
Stop worrying, stop being anxious, stop being afraid of things that haven’t even happened. Be here now. Enjoy this moment as much as possible, because that’s all you got. NOW.
*final face-palm. duh!*
I would LOVE to hear about your thoughts on this subject. Have you ever tried to be mindful? Did it help you? Have any tips? Are you Mindful when you travel -and also when you come back home? Please share!
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