While the explosion of the health movement has yielded a breadth of cortisol lowering offerings, any expert will emphasize. Nothing wards off stress as effectively as meditation. But, that has the time? remains an acceptable excuse for a lot of with endless to-dos and a go-go-go schedule.
Nevertheless, some shift in perspective on what it means to meditate, in addition to when, in which, and just how you decide to do this, can be a game-changer. And also 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 altar,” 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 long-haul flights, Watkins provides his quick guide to meditating in transit. Because, truly, what’s more, enticing than a less fraught 2020?
Foremost and first, Breathe
The irony of using public transportation as a vehicle for relaxing is it’s inherently replete with stressors, especially during commuting hours. Based on Watkins, a successful hack with instantaneous results is to sit down when possible and get ten deep breaths over a period of 2 to 3 minutes; it is going to create an obvious shift in the state of yours 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,” he says.
Remember, Preparation Is Key
Hell hath no fury like a crowd of antsy travelers. And in the face of such strife, the 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, but it will also make you less tense and more adaptable if plans veer off course, as they so often can. “Meditating will allow you to be calmer and less frantic in the face of delayed or canceled 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 near 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, sunlit room on a cushion will seem like a breeze in no time. In fact, a lot of difficult 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.
Use 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’s potent Revive Morning Rollerball to De Mamiel’s pocket-size Altitude Oil. And there’s the cutting-edge technology offerings, such as the Apple Watch Series 5’s Breathe app or noise-canceling headphones used in tandem with meditation apps for smartphones 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 modern society, dedication and consistency are key to reaping the benefits of meditation long-term. “I always tell my clients, the meditating version of you is always going to outperform the nonmeditating 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 than waiting until you’ve read a certain book or studied with a teacher or for the new year, it’s crucial to stop pushing it off and just do it. Like, now.