How to Meditate on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Vogue
These days, the holidays tend to be as stress-inducing as they are blissful and heart-warming. In fact, one might even venture to say that soothing coping mechanisms have become as coveted as the top items on wishlists. But while the explosion of the wellness movement has yielded a breadth of cortisol-lowering offerings to gift and get, any expert will emphasize: Nothing wards off stress as effectively as meditation. And yet, who has the time? is still an acceptable excuse in some cities, especially as endless to-do’s, hectic holiday travel, and potentially politically-charged family gatherings loom.
However, a slight shift in perspective on what it means to meditate, as well as when, where, and how you choose to to do so, can be a game-changer. And the shortcut could lie en route. “If you can find a place to sit on a commuter train, in an Uber, or on an airplane, you can by all means meditate as effectively as you could at home in front of an alter,” says Light Watkins, a Los Angeles–based meditation coach and author of Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying.
From your daily morning commute to a holiday adjacent flight, Watkins provides his quick guide to meditating in transit this end-of-year holiday season. Because, truly, what’s more enticing than a less fraught 2019?
First and Foremost, Breathe
The irony of using public transportation as a vehicle for relaxing is that it’s inherently replete with stressors, particularly during commuter hours. According to Watkins, a fruitful hack with instantaneous results is to sit down when possible and take 10 deep breaths over a period of two to three minutes; it will create a noticeable shift in your state of consciousness. “If you find yourself anxious or overwhelmed during a commute, which is especially common if you live in or around a busy city, controlling and regulating the breath can induce a meditative state, even in that environment.”
Remember, Preparation is Key
Hell hath no fury like a crowd of antsy travelers come December. And in the face of such strife, defense is your best offense, says Watkins. “Show up at the airport or train station early and give yourself a good 10 or 15 minutes of sitting quietly and taking deep breaths,” he instructs. “It’s a way of resetting and gearing yourself up mentally and physically for the trip ahead.” And not only will it make for a better trip, it’ll make you less tense and more adaptable if plans veer off course, as they so often can during the holiday rush. “Meditating will allow you to be more calm and less frantic in the face of delayed or cancelled flights,” he says.
Work With Your Surroundings, Not Against Them
“When we’re under a lot of stress, we tend to have tunnel vision, which makes us focus either on the ground, straight ahead, or on our smartphones,” explains Watkins, underscoring the importance of remaining mindful of your environment, from the people and places around you to small details, such as the temperature or sensations in your body. “Especially when you don’t have the luxury of sitting while on your commute, try to start really noticing the things around you. It will bring you into a more present moment awareness—even if you’re [technically] in action.” If you’re in touch with the good, the bad, and the ugly of what’s happening around you on a crowded subway train, from a heated argument to total lack of personal space, and still able to be contemplative and bring yourself peace of mind, meditating in a quiet, sun-lit room on a cushion will seem like a breeze in no time. In fact, a lot of hard things are likely to become easier. “The sooner you start practicing settling your mind and body in chaotic environments, the more resilient you’ll be in future situations,” he says.
Utilize Accessories, But Don’t Rely on Them
Aromatherapy is a time-tested complement to putting the mind and body at ease, and the latest calming essential oils boast more mobility than ever before, from Aromatherapy Associates’ potent De-Stress roller ball stick to de Mamiel’s pocket size Altitude Oil. And there’s the cutting-edge technology offerings, such as noise-canceling headphones and meditation apps including Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, which are not only introducing individuals to meditation, but also inspiring them to follow through with daily reminders, prompts, and innovative features. And while Watkins acknowledges how helpful they can be, particularly in the beginning, the ultimate goal is to not have to rely on anything to get into a meditative space. “All of these tools can be useful, but if you rely on them and they’re not at your disposal in certain situations, you might not be meditating as much,” he says.
Practice Makes Perfect
As far as Watkins is concerned, Gandhi summed up the importance of meditation best when he said, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” While it’s essential to note that minutes, as opposed to hours, is a much more realistic goal in today’s go-go-go society, dedication and consistency are key to reaping the benefits of meditation longterm. “I always tell my clients, the meditating version of you is always going to outperform the non-meditating version of you,” explains Watkins. “If you fit meditation into your busy day, you’ll find you’re able to do things faster while being calmer and more accurate.” And rather then waiting until you’ve read a certain book, studied with a teacher, or the new year, it’s crucial to stop pushing it off and just do it. Like, now.