Meditation has been a big part of my life. Whether I need to fall asleep, to breathe through a panic attack, or just to relax during a hectic day; it has been something I cannot live without. Over the last few years, I have incorporated meditation into my travels and recorded those simple “moments” of pure observation. When those moments have passed and I long to remember, I re-visit those journal entries so I can be there once again.
When you break it down, life is made up of simple moments of time. Those moments are a collection of sensory experiences using your 5 senses – touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste. The most memorable moments captivate as many of your senses as possible but this can be overwhelming especially when traveling to new places. I want to share my way of slowing things down and savoring the simple fleeting moments that pass us by in life.
One Christmas a few years back, I was gifted a mediation book filled with new ways of connecting with the present moment. It was called I am here now by The Mindfulness Project. One of the pages titled “Surround Sound” showed a circle with a face in the center, representing you. The instructions told you to pay attention to the sounds around you for 3 minutes and record them using arrows pointing towards yourself. Each arrow represents a different sound and the direction it came from.
I am not sure why this simple exercise stuck with me so much but I adapted it a little and added it to my mediation repertoire. I started doing these short sensory mediations everywhere, incorporating the other senses as well. I chose my meditation spot based on where I could get the most interaction with my environment (i.e. in the wind, or on a park bench). I would close my eyes and draw imaginary arrows in my head of all the things I noticed around me. Afterwards, I would fill the pages of my journal with every detail I can conjure up to describe that moment in time.
For example, if I found myself on a beach: I would sit on the sand at the top of the waves so they would just barely splash my legs; I would close my eyes and listen to the ocean. Afterwards, I might write:
I feel the sun slowly warming my back and shoulders. A slight breeze blows across my salty hair and tickles my face. I smell saltwater and the coconut sunscreen still soaking into my skin. I hear the waves crashing some distance in front of me. As they creep up the beach, they gently splash at my criss-crossed legs. There’s grains of sand stuck in between my toes. To my right, I hear child-like screams of joy and sounds of playful splashes. The low hum of an airplane crosses the sky high above me. The taste of saltwater lingers on my lips…
It has become more than just a form of mediation for me. It helps me memorialize that moment or that experience so I can recall how it felt to be there – what it sounded like, what it smelled like, what it looked like… Those journal entries now allow me to go back and experience those moments all over again. Nothing fancy, just pure observation. Like looking in a mirror, reflecting its surroundings.
When you’re traveling somewhere for the first time, it can be very overwhelming. Everything is new – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings. I encourage you to take 3 minutes out of your busy day to sit and observe your surroundings using as many senses as you can. You don’t have to write anything down, just simply observe a moment in time. You could even do this where you live, maybe you will see your city in a whole new light.
Don’t sit down and close your eyes in public without first securing all of your belongings and making sure it is safe for you to do so. I usually ask a friend to watch over me and my stuff while I meditate. If I’m alone and don’t feel safe closing my eyes, I’ll just mediate with my eyes open.