I used to pack a yoga mat nearly every time I traveled. I’d neatly roll up the rubbery sheet and press it atop my folded clothes, squeezing it in diagonally when necessary. Once at my destination, I’d place the mat in the corner of my room, unrolling it whenever I felt the urge to stretch or relax. If space were a factor, my mat and I would go outside. I’d move through whatever poses I could muster from 14 years of yoga class – always ending my practice in shavasna, or corpse pose, the most peaceful of all.
My well-traveled mat has joined me in places such as Costa Rica and Colorado, Canada and Croatia. It has offered me a place to soothe my soul and body; to reflect and lengthen my limbs.
In recent months, however, my mat has not been making it into my travel bag. Somehow, it’s gotten harder to squash it into my increasingly smaller, overhead suitcase, and I’ve discovered a different way to find peace – one that requires no accessory.
Inspired by the women behind 2bpresent – a collaboration of two local moms whose goal is to share their journey toward a “peaceful, joy-filled, stress-free life” with others – I began attending weekly meditation classes to learn the basics. Led by a teacher named Janaki, we explored the various seated positions for meditating, how to breathe, what mantra we would repeat silently, and how to clear the mind as best we could.
After we meditated as a group for the first time, Janaki asked us to raise our hand if we felt any benefit at all from the meditation we’d just done. I was the only one who didn’t raise my hand.
“I’m a meditation failure”, I remember admitting to the group, uncomfortable with how much I’d fidgeted during those achingly long 20 minutes. How un-zen I was.
But I forged ahead with my learning. Along with Janaki’s classes, I attended several sessions given by Sharon Salzberg at the Tibet House in NYC. From Sharon’s talks and books, I learned about guided meditation and took part in her 28-day meditation challenge – based on her latest book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.
I quickly began to notice the benefits of my meditation – I was less reactive, calmer, and felt less critical of myself and others. I began to sit in the same chair to meditate as many mornings as possible, propping the same pillow under my behind. So why not bring the “om” – the Sanskrit sound with which we began each meditation – with me when I travel?
It was easy to take my meditation practice on the road – you only need a pillow to sit on – and though making the time can be a struggle, I decided that 10 or 12 or 15 minutes is better than none.
On a recent trip to Taos, New Mexico, I made sure I had time to meditate before we went off to ski. To begin the day in such a peaceful place was a stark contrast to the typically frenetic “MOM-WHERE-ARE-MY-SKI-SOCKS?” type of morning. After sitting and finding tranquility, misplaced ski socks were no big deal. “It’s okay to wear yesterday’s”, I’d reply in a monotone voice.
When I’m traveling by car (and am NOT the driver), I’ll click on my iPhone app and enter into Headspace, a soothing, ten-minute guided meditation. The lovely British voice of Andy Puddicombe leads me into a place of calm and serenity. Not necessarily easy to hold onto after I open my eyes to the traffic on the New Jersey turnpike. But I try.
I’ve been meditating regularly for nine months now, and other than a pillow upon which to sit, there is nothing else I need. Meditation has by no means replaced yoga in my life. They both bring me a sense of healing that I cherish. But lightening the load of my suitcase has its benefits. So I’ll leave my mat behind for now, and just bring my “om” on the road.