Have you ever taken a journey to a destination so inspiring that spiritual awakening seemed almost inevitable? Somewhere you could feel the magic, mystery or sense of the sacred suspended in the atmosphere? Visiting a temple or monastery in a far away land surrounded by majestic mountains or a retreat in an exotic destination, immersed in a culture of devotion can allow the willing traveler to dive deep into a spiritual ambiance. Under such conditions, adopting an attitude of awe and reverence for that which is based not only in the mind and heart, but also in the spirit can flow forth with ease.
But travel isn’t always an awe-inspiring experience and can often evoke the least spiritual qualities in a person. Even if the destination takes our breath away, the journey to get there can sometimes be anything but a slice of nirvana.
Consider some of the challenges associated with various kinds of travel; jet lag, sleep deprivation, physical pain, hunger, time delays and general discomfort. The cons are enough to discourage any one from setting off on an adventure. But
whether out of necessity or by preference, people the world over endure such hardships in order to move around for work, pleasure, education, adventure or leisure.
For the seasoned traveler expecting the unexpected goes with the territory and can even be an opportunity to adopt a practice of mindfulness. Understanding travel as a pathway to spiritual practice not only changes our relationship to the journey we are taking, but can also change the way we see ourselves as travelers.
The first spiritual attitude we might choose to adopt when hitting the road, skies or sea, is that of patience. Often overlooked when we feel justifiably indignant about our missing luggage, cancelled flight or unsavory meal, patience invites us to soften into a cathartic state of ease and surrender. Remembering to remain in patience when triggered, we then begin to embody this quality, thereby opening new doors of possibility.
Acceptance can also be seen as a useful spiritual quality for the weary traveler to keep in their carry-on. When things don’t go the way they were planned or anticipated, finding acceptance with
‘what is’ can liberate us from feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger. Acceptance invites us to release the attachment we might have to a specific outcome and trust that life is offering us an opportunity to be flexible, to ‘go with the flow’ and perhaps even presenting us with an alternative adventure!
On the road of life, being a more spiritual traveler can be as simple as inhaling and exhaling with mindfulness. The breath is key in maintaining an awareness of the spiritual aspect of life. By becoming aware of the rhythm of our breathing, and encouraging a calm cadence we allow the nervous system to relax and our minds to be more clear.
But if nothing else inspires a more spiritual approach to travel, the fundamental principal of gratitude can be a helpful reminder. By remaining in a state of appreciation we transform our challenges into triumphs and the banal into blessings. In this way, a trip back home, to the Taj Mahal or the grocery store can be transformed into a sacred journey.
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