The Mindfulness Exchange

Exploring the practice of meditation has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I think it’s crazy that we pay so much attention to the physical component of health while the mental side of it is so neglected. I initially looked into meditation as something to simply hone my focus, but I quickly found its potential as a foundational habit. I stuck to it for about a year.

However, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to meditate regularly while traveling. I’m still a beginner and I’ve found that committing to the practice is easiest when I’m in a stable and predictable environment that offers a degree of privacy. My experiences traveling so far have been the exact opposite, filled with navigating a changing and unpredictable landscape and a noticeable lack of privacy.

As a result, I’ve thought a lot about how to reclaim some mindfulness in my day to day life. Occasionally, I find a quiet park, inviting cathedral, or secluded spot to sit and mediate. For the most part, though, I’ve been on the move, surrounded by people and a flurry of activity. My solution to this challenge has been to think about the idea of a mindfulness exchange.

The way I see it, every moment offers a chance to be mindful. Eating a meal, drinking a cup of coffee, walking, bearing witness to breathtaking vistas, conversation: they all are chances be in present with the moment. If you just try to focus on just that moment, a whole spectrum of experience is unlocked. I have been trying to take advantage of these opportunities throughout each day. Every time I do, I’m exchanging a moment of hurry and distraction for one of mindfulness.

On good days, I’ve made this exchange countless times and I feel light and engaged with the world around me. It carves out a really special mental space for introspection, a priceless thing to have amidst travel. On bad days, I rush through experiences with abandon and miss the chance to absorb what’s around me. The best thing I can do on those bad days is to begin the next day with a blank slate. There is always tomorrow.

Eventually, I got to a place - Salento, Colombia - where I was able to find the space to begin my meditation practice again. But even if I fall off the wagon again, I will have this idea of the mindfulness exchange. Actually, if I stay on the wagon I will keep it in mind as well. Even in a time of immense excitement, one can find a little bit of calm with the mindfulness exchange. Take a moment. Take a breath. I promise it’s worth it.