Meditation In the Midst of Distractions

L: I was hoping you would be able to help me please.

I traveled for a year going back a few months ago and plan to travel again perhaps just for weeks or months at a time though so found it quite difficult to meditate as I was on many tours and shared rooms with sometimes up to 20 people (hostels, where virtually everything is communal)!

I normally meditate twice a day for 20 minutes.  I just sit and let my thoughts, feelings, sounds and any body irritations pass me by and I’m happy with this practice, for now.

Anyway I know that there are many body postures depending on what practice you choose to follow… what I wanted to know is that I normally meditate in a chair so my spine is upright and my feet are planted firmly on the floor.

Do you have any suggestions of how I can practice when on the road so to speak?  Sometimes you can be up at 6.30am and have no time to yourself at all.  When on a tour people just won’t leave you alone… I was on Route 66 talking to some Americans (I’m British) and ‘my tour group’ quizzed me as to who they were and what I was talking about… I’d only left the group for a few minutes!

The only thought I had was to wake up before everybody else and just sit upright in bed and do it that way…

Any thoughts would be really helpful

Jay: I’ve been thinking about your question. Yes, it’s hard when we can’t get the quiet time we need to let things settle down and digest. The nervous system gets overwhelmed. I don’t have too many suggestions for you other than what you came up with, getting up before others, or possibly just excusing yourself from the group for half an hour during the day. I think posture is sort of secondary to just being able to be still somehow.

I also travel a lot but I’ve never joined a tour, in part just so that I have more control over getting overwhelmed. Which happens anyway. It seems to go along with going off on a vacation. There is so much more input than in my regular life, where I’ve gotten used to my surroundings. So periodically I want to be someplace new. And going along with that is the potential for feeling overwhelmed.

Traveling alone gives me a little more flexibility. But on the other hand I begin to miss having people to talk with. When I do find people to talk with, it’s not long before I get overloaded with having to relate to them.

So I’ve been thinking about how we affect each other, long for each other, overwhelm each other, and try to find some way with the turmoil of emotions and movements. This leads me to consider that it may not be enough just to “unwind” from the turmoil of the day. It may be helpful to look at the dynamics of how I live, how I relate to people, how I react, to begin to see more clearly where the anxiety and exhaustion is coming from. Some of it is natural. If a neighbor is playing loud rock and roll, it will have a physiological effect on the nervous system. But so much of it, on closer inspection, is sort of out of proportion. A person says something to me with a certain look and it is associated in the mind with some painful situation in the past when, maybe, someone was terribly angry at me. The current situation may not be the same at all but the past situation is triggered and takes over.

I think that careful examination of how we live will show that the great bulk of our nervous system overload comes from this kind of blindly associated reaction. And yet if it begins to be discovered, something starts to change. Reaction starts to let up and instead we have a better chance of responding more appropriately to what is actually happening.

So we’re talking about bringing awareness into the dynamics of our lives. This doesn’t need a sitting posture. The opportunity for this is nearly constant. It’s wonderful to have quiet sitting time, especially if there has been some attention to the dynamics going on as we move through life. But it is this attention that is the key to any possibility of change, of freedom. Without attention to these internal dynamics that are running nearly all the time, we can only hope to occasionally catch our breath.

And as you mentioned, there is often no opportunity for even that.

I hope this is relevant a little to what you’re talking about. Feel free to write back with your responses or questions.

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