While the explosion of the wellness movement has yielded a breadth of cortisol-lowering offerings, any expert will emphasise: Nothing wards off stress as effectively as meditation. And yet, who has the time? is still an acceptable excuse for many with endless to-dos and a go-go-go schedule.
But a slight shift in perspective on what it means to meditate, as well as when, where, and how you choose 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 altar,” says Light Watkins, a Los Angeles–based meditation coach and author of Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying. Chances are—with the abundance of travel issues many are experiencing this summer, from tracking lost baggage to hours-long flight delays leaving excess time to kill—you could use some movable mindfulness.
Here, Watkins provides his quick guide for how to meditate in transit. Because, truly, what’s more enticing than a less fraught 2022?
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 commuting 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,” he says.
Remember, preparation is key
Hell hath no fury like a crowd of antsy travelers. 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 will 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.
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.
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.
Utilise 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 7’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 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 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.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.