– Created by Ko Im –
I am on a carousel of bad luck and I just want to get off this not-so-merry-go-round. My journey continues overnight from Las Vegas with spilled coffee on a beige sweater. I blot off the incident before heading to the airport for France. I silently chant against any obstacles for good measure.
The lady at the ticket counter can’t find my flight reservation. I don’t make a fuss. I inhale and exhale slowly.
A few days later in Paris, I cannot figure out how to print out my prepaid train tickets to Cannes. I miss my train. On the next leg, I try to clear my head again.
Here’s the thing — I know it could always be worse. Travel can bring out temper tantrums and stir up stressful reactions to unfortunate situations. Buzzing around in an unfamiliar land makes for a ripe environment of unknowns on the road, in the sky, everywhere. There are so many possibilities that can happen, good and bad.
And sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Case in point in Cannes: I tried to ask someone for help, but before I knew it, the man I approached grabbed my iPhone from my hand and ran away.
“No,” I yelped. “No, no, no.” There wasn’t much more I could do. I didn’t curse from the dark corner where I stood. I steered clear from the “why me” syndrome and attempted to turn the moment into a learning opportunity.
I finally found my friends, who later remarked, “You’re remarkably calm. I would be so pissed.”
In the grand scheme of things, I was ok. I was robbed, but not hurt or completely abandoned. I could have lost something more difficult to replace, like my passport or my bags. Unlike the assailant, I didn’t have to resort to crime for a buck. I still felt and always will feel extremely lucky to be abroad. The hardest part was not blaming myself and feeling lost. Instead over the next few days, I thought about how nice it was not to twiddle my thumbs on my phone and how beautiful it was to enjoy the blue hues of the Mediterranean Sea with my travel companions. I was able to feel and act with calm and control, partly because of my meditation practice, which kept me returning to the present.
The Art of Living Foundation touts meditation as an exercise which nourishes the 3 Cs: calm, creativity and clarity.
Meditation, like travel, can enrich and enlighten us. It gives us perspective.
Meditation guides away any anxiety or judgment. It cultivates gratitude for the people who make each and every transaction on foot and wheels go smoothly.
Don’t get me wrong: I was not always this way — I was anxious, unappreciative and angry. I am now a practitioner of the belief that meditation is the next yoga. By monitoring heart rate and blood pressure, researchers from Harvard recently found a “true biological effect” of the practice of meditation against stress and aging. The act of slowing down the mind also benefits the body equally. I like to say sleep is meditation as well and on this single, long-winded trip I missed several hours, which I contributed to my poor decision-making.
It has become easy to tell how my energy and focus are different without my inner strength and calm. I pay attention to what’s around me. I enjoy the present without worry. Even when things go wrong, I don’t fall apart. I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself it’s okay to cry if I want to. Giving myself permission allows me to breathe through it. At one point, I literally smelled the roses and thanked a flower shop owner for letting me stay in his business to attempt to sort things out.
There are things we cannot control. What we can do is take ownership of our thoughts and thus, our feelings.
Yoga teachers and meditation leaders aren’t always happy-go-lucky. The beauty of life lies in its imperfect turns and unexpected pleasures. Our character is built from our mistakes and our reactions to them. We’re human, after all, with lots of emotions and human error. We are all on journeys with bumps and lows and highs along the way. For now, I hold more compassion for travellers and tourists worldwide.
With cars zipping around me and the sidewalks teeming with pedestrians, I clutched my belongings and asked myself outloud what else could go wrong. Then I thought about all the little things that went right, like the friends or strangers who gave a helping hand or tried to cheer me up. Most importantly, I was not victim. I was alive, and I was there. I didn’t let the chaos ruin my calm or the experiences I took from my travels.
Ko Im is a New York City-based feature writer and wellness instructor. She is a part of “The Path,” a meditation startup.