I’m at a place where I don’t just get by on the road, I’m always seeking to get better while leveraging the road to do it.
But even though I’m an optimist, I’m also a skeptic on sadly too many things that can actually be transferred to Road Life. Now, I’m not Donny Downer (Debbie Downer’s older brother version) but certain things raise my Skeptic Radar.
One no greater than the practice of Meditation.
Why Meditation Didn’t Work for Me on the Road
I grew up in a very very strict religious home and even though my parents were people filled with grace and acceptance, my environment was not – at – all.
My assumption is that this is where my judgmental, skeptical, even cynical side can rear its ugly head if I’m not careful. To be clear, I detest this side of me and have to watch for it with hopes I catch it before it infects someone else.
I’ve had a lot of life happen since that point, but knowing this about myself has put perspective and grace into my life big time.
Before I understood anything about meditation, I just assumed I knew what it was and how it worked. It had something to do with Buddhism which is not the Christian God so I immediately dismissed it.
Prayer was all I needed. But was it really a replacement for prayer?
Not at all – naive, assumptive, and just plain ignorant.
Then I thought you had to be in a certain “HMMMMMM Pose” sitting in the Lotus Position for hours at a time and somehow tied to Yoga or silent trips at a monastery.
I know, I didn’t know what I was talking about. Clearly.
Once I started reading and hearing so much about the benefits of meditation I was more accepting of the idea but still nowhere close to trying it.
Here were my Excuses:
1. It’s a waste of time – what benefits does it REALLY give to me?
2. I don’t have time for this – I barely have time for the important things on a business travel day, how do I have time for meditation?
3. I can’t do this – the only letters behind my name are not MD or PHD but ADHD – not a chance I can calm this brain so why even try?
4. It’s self-indulgent – IF I have a few minutes to myself, seems a little selfish to spend it on meditating…
Then one day on one of my Downtime practices (remember, downtime is part of Energy Habit #3: REST. Downtime is defined as Time to BE, NOT to be on).
I was doing my Road Thing of Barnes-N-Noble and I came across a title that just jumped out at me:
Out of complete curiosity, I picked up the book from Dan Harris and the intro hooked me:
“If you had told me as recently as a few years ago that I would someday become the traveling evangelist for meditation, I would have coughed beer up through my nose.
In 2004, I had a panic attack while delivering the news, like, on ABC’s Good Morning America. Being a masochist, I asked our research department to tell me exactly how many people were watching. They came back with… 5.019 (pause) million.
In the wake of my nationally televised freakout, I learned something even more embarrassing – this entire episode had been caused by my stupid behavior in my personal life.
You can watch his response to this attack here.
I was fidgety and a skeptic and the excuses of why I was not doing or even willing to try meditation were listed in the table of contents.
Even after reading many pages and given opportunities to “try a short meditation”, I have to be honest, I didn’t do it. I just kept reading the book.
Then I picked up the audiobook so I could consume the content quicker (which I have a habit of doing). In the audio version, I was actually walked through what is called a Guided Meditation and I finally gave it a shot.
The biggest aha moment I learned was I had the goal of meditation completely wrong.
I thought it was to clear your mind and if you only knew what goes on in my mind, that sure wasn’t going to happen!
The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind but to focus your mind – for a few seconds then whenever you become distracted, just start again. Getting lost and starting over is not failing at meditation, it is succeeding.
Did you catch that?
This was a game-changer for me. I wanted to be more focused and if this couple-minute practice could help, I should consider giving it a real shot.
Do you know why meditation didn’t work for me on the road at first?
I didn’t understand it and what I don’t understand, I avoid, then discount, and all too often, dismiss and mock.
But that doesn’t make me right or the practice of meditation wrong.
It just makes me stubborn, close-minded, and not willing to experiment in something that could actually help me.
So, how did I eventually make meditation work on the road for me?
And with any new practice, you must experiment.
I love how Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky in the book, Make Time call meditation “just a breather for the brain.”
They say “for human beings, thinking is the default position. Most of the time this is a good thing. But constant thinking means your brain never gets rest. When you meditate, instead of possibly going along with the thoughts, you stay quiet and NOTICE the thoughts, and that slows them down and gives your brain a break.”
But meditation is also an exercise for the brain. Staying quiet and noticing your thoughts is refreshing but also hard work.
I wanted and even needed to become aware of certain thoughts and behaviors of mine on the road that meditation could potentially reveal:
- Tension from stress
- Sometimes I just need to be made aware of what’s going on in my mind and body (without being told by someone else)
These were instant wins for me with meditation.
I didn’t have to go to some silent retreat center, give up a full or half-day, or even sit in the lotus position humming MMMMMM……
Here was my insight:
I underestimated the power of just slowing down and concentrating on my breathing and focusing my mind not trying to clear it of all thoughts.
So, let’s get practical and personal….
Here are questions I’ve received on how I now meditate on business travel:
Where I meditate on the road:
- Drive to airport
- On the flight
- Before bed
Normal Road Day:
- Part of my Energy Hour
- Drive to a meeting
- Before connecting with the family
How long I meditate on the road: 1 to 10 minutes
Not impressive and maybe a little embarrassing.
But sometimes I’ll do it 2 or 3 times a day.
My purpose at this point is to Focus my Mind and get a hold of what’s going on in my head and body.
Here’s how to implement meditation on the road (kudos from the Make Time book)
1. Start with a Guided Meditation App
3. The Mindfulness App
6. Stop, Breathe & Think
7. Insight Timer
10. Simple Habit
11. Meditation and Relaxation Pro
2. Aim LOW (start with 1-3 min) I often land in the 5-10 min range on the road.
3. No Lotus Position Required – My key was learning how to meditate wherever I was – driving / walking / during stress or anxiety / before bed
4. If the word MEDITATION freaks or creeps you out, change it!
5. Give this a REAL SHOT – it took me many weeks to find my groove meaning what app I liked / how long / adding in change of locations / even remembering to do it!
6. FOCUS is the key – focus on your breathing, focus on the road in front of you, focus on the sounds around you, focus on the scents – the key is focusing your mind for a string of consecutive seconds
My GoTo App: 10% Happier
Key Links for Reviews on Recommended Apps:
So, why did meditation not work for me on the road at first?
I didn’t really understand it and give it a real shot.
But that’s NOT the mindset of an Elite Road Warrior who experiments – Choose / Try / Evaluate / Adjust and this process is necessary to make meditation work, especially on the road
So, wherever you are on the road, do something, anything, just not nothing to master the business travel life.
Go and get your Meditation Groove on. You Got This!