Diary of a mindful commute

I tweet, write, talk about and certainly practise mindfulness and meditation, but in my current state of busyness, time easily escapes me. Consequently I’ve wondered about ways to enjoy a more mindful commute to work because that’s when I have time.

It makes a huge difference to my day taking time out to breathe and let myself enjoy a peaceful space free of the pressures of the world or worries of my to-do list. This daily activity keeps me calmer and less reactive, particularly if I’m in the middle of a stressful situation or I’m tired and in need of a rejuvenating break away.

I really notice when I’m not in this flow and sometimes – lately often – I run out of time in the morning to get into this sacred and important space (twenty minutes is my preferred time frame for meditation, although if I can spare it on a day off, thirty or forty is bliss).

As much as I intend to take the time out, something always comes up, and before I know it I need to run to the bus to make it to work on time.

I have about half an hour on the bus to work, and it’s been on my mind for a while to test ways I can prepare for the day ahead during this commute.

I’ve been really trying to stay reflective, intentional and positive this year, and in this spirit I decided last week to not only test mindful options on the commute, but to document them too.

In London, the commute is many things – 99 per cent of them are not peaceful!

There’s a vast range of annoying noise, gross smells, agitated people, and stress … lots of it. Fortunately I found a way to avoid the Victoria line on my morning commute, but the bus can be slow and feature some ‘interesting’ characters.

Here’s what I discovered about the pursuit of a mindful commute, and they are tips you can take with you, whether you’re on a busy bus or train; possibly in the car, but be mindful of paying attention to road rules!

 

How to have a mindful commute – my week’s diary

Monday I was off to a good start with a seat all to myself on the bus!

I felt like a little inspiration was in order so I opened Soundcloud and found some playlists other users had compiled with audio by Hayhouse authors like Dr. Wayne Dyer. I chose a piece that would take me about 18 minutes along into my journey, and despite background noise and chatter, I was mostly able to focus on his workshop.

In this snippet of audio he discussed the concept of simply ‘being aware’, so after the clip ended, I practised sitting in my chair and observing my surroundings – the trees, cars and passing foot traffic; sounds and smells.

I found ‘simply observing’ was a really interesting, if not calming experience that kept me entirely present without worry or judgement.

During that day at work, for the first time in a long time, I caught myself in the act of not breathing properly.

I’ve been extremely busy lately and I realised – possibly because of my mindful commute activity – that half the time I’m sitting at my desk not breathing properly! I bet I’m not the only one.

Now, I’m conscious to stop what I’m doing and take some deep breaths – even now as I type. I’m sure this is a step in the right direction and it helps with everything from concentration to digestion and a reduction in stress levels.

On Tuesday for some reason I felt like I wanted to listen to music – the kind that gets a little party going in my head!

Now I don’t know what yogis think of dance music, but I love it. There’s nothing like a melodic dance track to get me in good spirits. I decided to go with this but instead of thinking about things while streaming my favourite tracks, I just listened.

Fortunate enough to have a seat on the bus again, I gently closed my eyes and spent the best parts of the music focusing only on the intricate production and cool melodies that some very clever producers had published.

This might very well be the most outrageous and certainly nontraditional way of meditating, but I was focused on my breath and only the sound, and I felt happier for the experience.

Day two was off to a bright start.

Doom and gloom Wednesday hit – it’s been so dull and grey here lately.

Oh, cold. I forgot to mention that! Cold, even for me who quite likes winter (it’s so much better than sweating)!

I wasn’t sure what to try this morning and on auto-pilot turned back to something I’ve tried to avoid as much as possible, that is, spending my entire commute on social media.

Although I am inspired by Instagram and engage with interest groups on Facebook and Twitter, I work in front of a screen all day and know for the good of my sanity that I need to break from it when I can.

On this day I didn’t get a seat.

Drat.

It was a little bit crowded too, but I managed to find a spot in a corner and a hand rail to keep me steady.

Something a yoga teacher taught me a couple of years ago sprung to mind; she said we often hold too much tension in the tops of our legs and into our hips. She taught us to stand steadily on two feet, about hip width distance apart, shoulders straight but relaxed, slight tone to the belly; and to soften the legs and thighs just a bit to reduce the tension. So, I found my posture and breathed through it.

Again I brought into the activity my awareness consciousness from Monday; that is, simply being aware of what was going on around me – observing without judgement or concern.

It worked in bouts – with people getting on and off and noisy school kids evidently enthusiastic about the day ahead, I found this a bit tougher to get into. However, the focus on breathing did help to centre me and I felt like I was making up a little for not sitting down properly to meditate in the morning prior to the commute.

By Thursday I’m usually tired.

I’m naughty and forget to wrap up work on time most days which means I have less hours to unwind at home (yes, I like my work, and am grateful for it).

Feeling relatively unenthusiastic I decided to do something really simple on my mindful commute – experiment with ‘silence’.

That is, I didn’t pull my phone out to listen to music or watch YouTube.

I didn’t read or even write notes or my intentions for the day.

Actually, I intentionally sought out silence.

Of course, I’m on a busy commuter bus with people, announcements, traffic and more surrounding me, but upon starting with a focus on my breath and relaxing the area in the middle of my brow (where your third eye is imagined), I sat and actually relished in silence created by, surprisingly, me.

On Friday I began as I would any other day – I’d actually chosen one of my favourite Gabby Bernstein lectures on developing intentions to listen to.

But, about five minutes into my mindful commute, my dad called.

He’s in Australia, so I take every chance I can to talk to both he and my mum, and as we chatted (albeit I was quieter than normal, so as not to be one of those noisy commuters) I realised that the simple practise of focusing solely on my conversation with him was a mindful act in itself and a positive experience for both of us.

Enjoying a mindful commute when the time calls for it, means an otherwise challenging part of the day has the potential to become a personal and helpful journey in itself!

What are your thoughts and tips though? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Further reading

A couple of articles I found on how to have a mindful commute that you might find interesting too:

How to have a mindful commute (London Evening Standard), includes a definition of mindfulness, why it’s helpful and who else is adopting it.

Wanderlust‘s 50 ways to make a commute mindful

 

Slowing the noise and negative replays with mindfulness meditation

I’ve been practicing  meditation for around six months now and openly admit to it changing my life. Not only am I able to better manage stress and outlook on negatives that come my way, but I’m better able to manifest and ponder upon the good things and what I want more of.

You may have noticed too, all of a sudden, meditation, and in particular, ‘mindfulness’, seems to be all around, and for good reason. Many busy and (potentially) stressed executives, business owners and entrepreneurs are (re)discovering meditation in order to achieve balance; and in finding balance they/we can better manage all our endeavours – personal and professional.

But, this post isn’t actually about meditation as such – you can find plenty on the topic all over the internet (and in particular The Huffington Post which is in strong favour of all of this right now). I’ve been utilising a popular APP, Insight Timer, throughout my practice recently. In its primary form it is a ‘timer’ for meditation practice – set the length of time you wish to meditate for and the timer will mark intervals and/or let you know when your time is up. Secondly however, it’s becoming a type of social media where like-minded users can connect. While it’s still quite young (and a little ‘buggy’) and improvements are on the cards no doubt, there are thousands and thousands of people ‘on’ Insight Timer now, and you can see who in the world you’re meditating with simultaneously. Pretty cool, yes? More and more ‘groups’ are being added too, so that either ‘virtual’ or ‘real’ meet-ups are plausible. I’ve just linked in with a UK & Ireland group that I’ll keep an eye on – who knows, I might even be able to link up when I’m over there later in the year.

The other nice thing about this interaction and the types of people using the APP, is the daily dose of inspiration or assistance you can gain from insightful types all over the world. I wanted to share some advice I found useful today – and it wasn’t even in response to any issues I had voiced. In fact, the response was a to a young man who has been through a trauma and is finding it difficult to get back into a positive state of mind. Several of the community jumped in with advice for him, and one person made mention of how often thoughts, or a negative experience, plays over and over in the mind. It’s almost like we’re trying to achieve a different outcome but instead, it’s just torture. Instead of resisting it though, she advised letting it play out, but to make a concious effort to conclude the thought process/pattern with an appreciative or positive thought about the incident – what outcomes are worth being grateful for; what lessons were learned? Evidently this helps with restoring ‘peace of mind’ while letting all sides of the brain have a say, so to speak.

I personally think the tactic is worth trialling; what do you think? If you have any insight, views or opinions on this, please let me know. And if you’re on Insight Timer too, drop me a line on Facebook – I reckon this social network is only in its infancy. Travel Live Learn on Facebook or tweet @sarahblinco