When Passported founder and all-around unruffled traveler Henley Vazquez met Vedic expert Michael Miller, she asked for ways in which travelers can use meditation to enrich their travels. Read on for his illuminating suggestions.
These days, travel and wellness go hand in hand. The coupling has transcended trend status to become a billion-dollar subset of the tourism industry. While meditation may get less attention than yoga retreats and bikini boot camps, stats show that over 18 million Americans are now inducing consciousness at home and on the road.
So how can travelers use meditation to enrich their experiences? I had the opportunity to ask that very question to Michael Miller, co-founder of the New York Meditation Center and London Meditation Center, and one of the world’s most respected Vedic meditation experts. He shared his tips on sustaining a practice, coping with travel tribulations, and locating the most meditative spaces.
Should you travel to meditate or meditate to travel?
Both. For a lot of people, meditation seems a little out there. The advantage of learning to meditate away from your usual environment is that you have space to be adventurous and open.
The problem is that mediatation practices can get left behind when you go home, as it’s not a part of normal life. That’s the challenge with retreats. People have an amazing experience but don’t create a sustainable practice that works at home. And sometimes it works in reverse for regular meditators.
They go on holiday thinking they’ll have time to focus on their practice, but the excitement of new activities disrupts the good habit of meditation. Routine is key.
Travel can be hectic. Can meditation help us cope with the madness?
I had a student recently who had a regular practice but noticed its effects strongly when she took a trip to China. She was relaxed in a crowded place where she couldn’t speak the language — normally a trigger for stress. But she cruised right through it in a way that surprised her. Being under that demand showed the power of her practice.
Is there a perfect place to meditate?
If you can sit down, close your eyes, and feel safe, then you can meditate anywhere. We have a lot of people who meditate on their daily subway commute. Those in-between moments that feel like wasted time can become precious opportunities. These people actually look forward to their commute! The day that you meditate sitting on a bench outside the Apple store in Grand Central Terminal and have a good experience is the day you prove that you’re an expert. If we’re too precious about where we practice, meditation won’t happen very often.
A pretty good place to meditate. Photo courtesy of Trish Hartmann / Flickr.
Any meditation tools you can recommend?
The app Insight Timer has many different teachers guiding meditations and approaches. There’s a community aspect, and much of the offerings are free.
How does meditation enrich travel, make you more present?
Stress downgrades any experience you’re having. If you’re agitated, anxious, irritated, or exhausted, you could be in the most amazing place in the world and your internal experience will overwhelm the external environment. When you create stability and a sense of happiness and fulfillment, the beauty of being in a remarkable place is magnified. Meditatation removes stress, so you get along better with people, feel good about yourself, sleep well at night, and are more polite to the people in the airport. That’s going to change every experience in travel.
Are some destinations more conducive to spirituality and introspection?
In India, Bhutan, and Thailand, spiritual practice is woven into the society — people who are “seeking” will sense that it’s part of the collective. What’s most important is that a bunch of people have gathered in that place with a related intent. Think about a football game versus a Paul Simon concert; both events can take place in the same stadium, but the people and their energy create the environment.
A favorite place to meditate. Photo courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort.
You founded the Be Here, Be Now mediation program at the beautiful Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico. Do you have a favorite place on site to meditate?
There’s a stretch of beach all the way up past the restaurant where it starts to feel a little bit wild. I love the feeling of entering that area. I also think the bird sanctuary is amazing. To walk the loop around that tiny island and listen to the birds is very special. Being there absolutely affects your state of consciousness.