Travel and Transitions

Flying the friendly skies

Flying the friendly skies

I’m weird in the sense that I love things that most other people hate, such as the part of travel that is the trip itself.  Long lines, bad food, crowds, cramped seats, delays, etc.   Admittedly these are not my favorite parts of the trip, but the travel portion of the trip brims with possibility and change.

Like with any other transition, whether moving to a new home, starting a new job or relationship, trips connect one experience to another.  Home to vacation, or possibly to off-site work.  When I make the mistake of simply indulging my impatience to get to the next phase, I miss out on what is a potentially a gratifying and rewarding experience.

Take the waiting for example.  I don’t love waiting.  I’m actually an impatient person so you’d think the getting-there-2-hours-early –to-wait-in-line routine would drive me nuts.  Most of my life, it has.  But what I do love is giving up control of my experience to something so basic and simple as waiting.  There is no one asking me to solve problems, nothing demanding my attention, no guilt about not going to the gym.   There I am, alone in the security line with a hundred other people.  I am just being.  Observing. Sensing.  Letting my mind wander.  Checking in with how I feel.  In short, waiting becomes a meditative experience where I practice letting go of control.  Recovering control freak that I am, I need all the practice I can get.

No matter how many times I’ve been to a certain airport (or one that feels exactly like it), the airport experience is always new.  Different time of day, size of crowd, mood of crowd, restaurants, shops, menus, etc.  Inevitably the plane will then take me to a relatively unfamiliar city which will undoubtedly be different from my home town.  No matter how sleepy or quiet, the visit will be an exploration of land, people and culture that will be filled with the unexpected.  Even driving across my own state brings regional accents, foods, and practices that makes me re-examine what I take for granted.

Besides the landscape and culture, one of my favorite parts of travel is the close proximity to strangers.  I know, you’re probably ready to institutionalize me.  But I have a tendency to put my head down and forge through my day.   Travel makes me stop and look around.  When I put my head down, I forget to appreciate the mystery and wonder of each person that walks by and that we’re all connected in this beautiful world.  People watching, chatting with strangers, eye contact however brief, are all reminders of this invisible but precious connection.

I have much to learn still about myself and our world.  Travel to whatever destination requires that I stop and be open to whatever comes my way.  This state of openness means that I receive new information (from within or from without) that I may be otherwise closed to.  What better way to learn than that?

Soothing the Child Within

Your stomach is clutching, you’re sweating, you feel a pressure building up inside your chest or head, you shut down and can’t think, you feel panicky.  Someone has pushed your hot button, gotten your goat, ruffled your feathers, or gotten your panties in a bunch.  You know what I’m talking about.

What do you do?

  1.  Get mad
  2. Get even
  3. Blame the other person
  4. Feel terrible about yourself
  5. Realize that even if you’re wronged (and you may just think you’re wronged) doesn’t mean you have to react.

(Gosh, I should write self-help test questions for a women’s magazine like the character in Gone Girl.)

After indulgently considering 1, 2, 3, or 4, you pick 5.  Congratulations!  Your momma taught you well!

Now that you’ve acted in a grown up fashion and know that you can choose not to react, how do you actually not react?  That definitely falls into the “easier said than done” category.   You (circle all the correct answer(s)):

  1. Pour yourself a stiff drink
  2. Have a good cry
  3. Work it out at the gym
  4. Talk it out with someone you trust
  5. Meditate at least an hour every day.  Turning off your left brain leaves you feeling so blissful.

Test is getting harder, right?

Personally I think 1-4 can be adaptive to a certain degree.  But the question that I would ask if you choose one of these options is this: Is your approach is improving your ability to deal with your hot button issue?  Using substances to numb your feelings is not a good long-term strategy any more than harboring anger, resentment, self-pity, helplessness, or victimization.  Crying/gym/talking might make you feel better in the moment, but it doesn’t necessarily help you modulate what is probably an over-reaction at the next hot-button opportunity.

(I can hear you thinking: But  I HATE meditating!)

I may not be successful in getting you to meditate in the traditional sit-and-feel-your-body way.  Not everyone can do so successfully despite a true desire and dedication.   If you want to try or try to do better, check out this meditation website.  You may not believe how amazing it feels to just be completely in your body, without your mind constantly distracting you from that bliss.

More importantly, meditation will strengthen your right brain so you’re not so tempted to let your left brain run away with your logic and equanimity next time you encounter a hot-button issue.  Just like if you weight train only working your trapezoids but not your deltoids, you will look like ape-man because your muscles are unbalanced.  Same if you only work your left brain and never develop the right – you’ll have ape-brain.

If that’s not for you, maybe try one of these other approaches:

  • Moving meditation – exercise such as swimming or running can be very meditative, as long as you clear your mind and focus for extended periods on some aspect of your senses (what you feel, see, hear, taste, smell).  Perhaps you are very intentional about where you put your feet, how you put your feet, what your feet feel like as you take each step, and so on.  Don’t let your mind jump from feettobirdtochesttocarhorntothingstodoatworklist…. Focus on one thing at a time for as long as you can.  Doing the moving (or sitting, for that matter) meditation in nature is an added boon.
  • Writing meditation – in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends three minutes each morning of a writing meditation.  It’s not journaling, it’s not about practicing your writing skills.  It’s about dumping the accumulated garbage from your left brain onto a page and leaving it there.  Write whatever random thoughts/ideas come into your head for three minutes without editing it, questioning it or stopping, then leave it behind.  Do not, under any circumstances, post it on your blog like I do.
  • Mini-meditations – Three minutes still too long?  You ADD folks might like this one.  You only have to meditate 10 seconds at a time.  Yes, 10 seconds.  That’s the amount of time it takes to draw 3 breaths.  But you have to do it 100 times per day.  Yes, 100.  You can do several at a time, or one at a time, or some combination, but you should do 100 during your day.  Like the moving meditation, focus on one of your 5 senses for those 3 breaths.  For example, you might focus on how it feels to have your back pressed against the back of the chair for 10 seconds.  Try it now.  You can do it.  This method, described in Positive Intelligence, can also be used to calm your inner child when you get your hot buttons pushed.

If you decide in advance none of these will work, they won’t.  Resign yourself to ape-brain.

If you decide this will work, it will.  Be prepared to face your world with a renewed sense of peace and bliss.

There’s a no-brainer.

Exercise both sides

Exercise both sides