If you live in America chances are, you’re stressed. You may be stressed if you live elsewhere too but sadly, America has, in recent years, surpassed other countries in terms of terrible work ethics. It’s become the norm to work twelve hour days for years without a day off or a vacation. Not to mention all the hate and anger we’ve been taught is normal.
There are ways to combat stress with supplements, any adaptogen will help. There’s also diet and exercise. But one of the best ways that you can start today and it won’t cost you anything is to learn how to meditate.
Here are 6 easy techniques for beginners:
First - sit in a comfortable position either crossing your legs on a cushion on the floor or sitting comfortably on a chair, the bed or the couch.
1.Zen Meditation – Counting your breath
Close your eyes. Breathe a normal breath in and then out - count it. One. Another breath in and out. Two. Do this until you reach 10 and then start again at 1.
2.One type of Vipassana Meditation (there are a few) is focusing on what’s around you.
This meditation starts with being aware of everything that’s happening around you. Close your eyes and become aware of your environment. If you hear a plane, muffled voices, your pet breathing or a door slam, focus on those sounds. If you feel pain in your body, focus on the pain. If you smell something, focus on the smell. As soon as the sound, feeling or smell is gone search for the next one. You are attempting to become vastly aware of what is going on around you. The refrigerator hum, footsteps, a distant car alarm, etc. At some point the outer will fall away and you’ll become aware of the silence. Focus on that too. The advantage of this is two-fold, in this moment you can become aware of your mind and the ability to create your own expansiveness within the space itself. You may not be able to achieve this silence right away and everyone experiences it or interprets it differently. You can also use Vipassana meditation to become aware of the thoughts of your mind and then lovingly let them go, watching them like a movie without judgment. I like doing this form of meditation in an airplane when traveling as well as at my house. It keeps me quiet for quite a long time.
3.The Red Dot Meditation
This is the first meditation I ever learned as a 12-year old child. Close your eyes and imagine a red dot about an inch above the center of your eyebrows. Some people know this as the third eye. In acupuncture it is the point known as yin tang. In India this is where they put the bindi. Focus on that dot. When I was a kid I used to change it to different colors, which is fine as long as you remain focused on that area.
There are many forms of this. You can go see Amma, The Hugging Guru (for free) and she will give you a mantra. You can choose an Indian mantra from the internet based on your favorite deity. Or, you can make up your own. It can be a word or a phrase. It can be as simple as the word “love” or something like “peace and gratitude”. You can take a class in TM (Transcendental Meditation) where they give you your own mantra (it’s pricey it but can be worth it and significant student discounts are available).
Whatever mantra you choose (and you can change it up), the idea is to repeat it silently over and over. That’s it.
I love walking meditation! You walk slowly, eyes cast downward so you don’t trip and focus on your steps, you can count them or not. Or if you’re good at multi-tasking you can walk and count your breath or recite a mantra. Regardless, the idea is to walk very, very, very, slowly.
6.Exercise as Meditation
People who do extreme sports will find that their exercise is their meditation because if you don’t focus completely on what you are doing at every second you could seriously injure yourself. I have a friend who uses running as her meditation. I use aerial arts. Anything where you have to completely focus can be used. So for example if you’re riding your stationary bike at home and watching TV that is not meditation.
Overall meditation advice no matter which form/s you choose:
If your mind wanders that’s completely normal and just gently bring it back to your meditation (breath, sounds, dot, whatever). If you suddenly feel an inspiration or your mind is telling you that there are other things you need to be doing as soon as you’re done meditating, let it go. Those thoughts will still be there when you’re done. Don’t admonish yourself for having them. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the thought and then go back to the meditation.
Remember that many forms of meditation are to help you quiet your mind. If you can practice even 1-5 minutes a day you will notice a huge difference. Your stress will lessen. You’ll be less reactive to your children, friends, spouse, other drivers… You’ll develop better planning skills, better organizing skills and a calmer demeanor. You’ll be able to relate more to the world and people around you.
There are dozens of types of meditation, more advanced forms can focus on listening to your mind and more. The point of this article though is to give you some simple tools to begin and find one that will work for you. This too can change over time. Like everything in life meditation is fluid, not static.
Set a timer if you have time constraints. After the meditation is over, don’t jump up and go, go, go. Allow yourself a minute or two to “get back into your body”. It can be a mind-altering experience and you want to honor that.
Start small, with just one minute and build your meditation muscle. After a week, move to five, then ten, etc. Ideally 15-30 minutes a day is a good number to strive for. You will be floored at the benefits you will receive but even one minute a day is better than zero!
~By Kimberly Anne©
Safety is the biggest “issue” with nomading, especially for women, the LGBTQ+ community and POC. And by “issue” I mean that it’s the topic that everyone in your life will worry about. I’m not saying that safety isn’t #1 or that there won’t be issues but this is something I will address now and, most likely over and over again along my adventures.
Last night after work something scary happened, which is what prompted me to write this. I was leaving work and going to the dumpster in our parking lot in order to throw away a lot of trash. I work in healthcare so getting rid of trash in a timely manner is important. Some things may be infected with Covid but I don’t know for sure. I went to the dumpster like I always do but this time there was a homeless man sitting on top of it screaming. He was violent and pulling at the dumpster lid, cursing. He jumped up and down on it with a flowing litany of obscenities. My nervous system went on high alert. I threw all the trash into my car, jumped in and locked my doors. I drove away and called the police to make a report. But I still had to go back to work in order to lock up. When I pulled back around and parked illegally out of his line of site he was still raging and screaming. I was shaking and terrified. This man appeared to be on drugs or/and mentally unhinged. I waited, watching and after awhile he lay on the ground. I ran back inside my office to lock it up and by the time I left he was gone. The dumpster lid was broken and there were massive holes torn in the two recycling bins. Imagine what he could have done to a human body with that rage.
Still shaking I drove home. In the shower I thought about all the extreme times I’ve been faced with violence from strangers.
Feeling unsafe, as a woman, is the norm. I took a wonderful Alison Armstrong class called “Understanding Women” in which each woman brought their significant other. The teacher asked us all, “how many women here have felt unsafe, like your life was truly in danger in the past month?” Everyone raised their hands. She said, “men, please look around the room.” They did. Then the teacher said, “how many women have felt unsafe in the past week?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around. “How many have felt unsafe in the last 24 hours?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around. “How many felt unsafe this morning?” Everyone raised their hands. The men looked around and my boyfriend at the time turned to me and asked, “is this true?” I assured him it was. He was shocked. This is the world we live in as women. We are always on guard because we have to be. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, it’s just a fact. We have to be hyper vigilant and hyper aware all the time.
I’ve been in a lot of scary situations, mostly not when traveling but two in particular that I can recall when I was.
In the tiny town I live in, there are at least a hundred homeless people. We have great weather and great services. Many of them are drug users and violent, individuals. When I owned a clinic on the main street, the homeless robbed me (multiple times), they threatened me and my patients and staff (multiple times), they even hid in my establishment and refused to leave. It got so bad that the police suggested I carry a gun. But in each of these situations and many others, I didn’t confront anyone. I left and called the police.
The only times where I was very close to being physically hurt were the few times I stood up for myself and every single time I was with a man/men (or woman/women) who were supposed to have my back. None of them did. Ever. Maybe they thought I had the situation under control even though it never felt that way to me?
Twice in movie theaters when I was young I yelled at people to stop talking. Both times (in different years with different “men” at my side), the person got increasingly aggressive and threatened to physically hurt me.
The scariest moment I ever dealt with (from a stranger) was stopping at a liquor store on Haight Street in San Francisco when I lived there. I had just completed a very thorough self defense training. A man came up to me and started verbally harassing me. My husband (now ex) and five other friends of mine were inches away. I puffed out my chest and said, “I’m not afraid of you.” And the huge man leaned down, got directly in my face and whispered, “well you really should be. I can make you disappear right now and your friends…” he waved toward them (they all ignored the interaction and none came to my aid) will never see you again or have any idea what happened to you.”
That was a huge lesson for me. I learned that NO ONE has my back, especially a “big, strong” man. I also learned I should keep my big mouth SHUT!
Except that apparently I needed one more lesson. Twenty years later I was in Venice, Italy and a homeless man was harassing a group of my female friends. They kept ignoring him and he grew increasingly aggressive. I yelled, “Basta, basta.” (Which means “stop” and is what my Italian friend told me to yell in such situations) And he got closer to me, screaming obscenities in my face. It was terrifying. My group of friends whom I had so chivalrously tried to defend did not come to my defense, not a single one of them. Afterwards as I stood shaking and almost wet myself, one of the women said, “you don’t need to stick up for me, I can stick up for myself.” More lessons learned. She didn’t say thank you, none of them did. And no one, once again, came to my defense. People don’t want to get involved, even if it is the right thing to do. Maybe they're afraid too. Maybe they believe my bravado. Maybe it's because there's a serious lack of empathy in our culture right now.
I’m not writing this to illicit a "poor me" response. I take full responsibility for my bad choices!
When I initially posted this I forgot about my time last year in Leipzig, Germany. It wasn't until I was interviewing a woman for my podcast yesterday that I remembered. And it is important to mention because of the way I handled it. I was walking back to my airbnb from an appointment and it was a two hour walk. I love walking for hours each day when I travel. It was a national holiday so the streets were packed. I had my phone in my hand, looking at the directions/google map periodically. At some point I noticed a large man following me. He was very distinct looking. I stopped at the side of the street, pretending to do something until he passed. A few blocks later he was behind me again. I went down a side street and waited for about ten minutes. A block later he was behind me. I stopped and waited for him to pass me and then walked behind him so I could keep him in my sights. He kept looking behind to make sure I was still there. At some point I lost him and he turned up behind me again. I went into a restaurant, when I came out, ten, or so minutes later he was waiting across the street "hiding" behind a pole. He couldn't really hide because he was quite large. At this point I told myself I wasn't being paranoid and knew for sure he was following me. I ducked into a Jack in the Box and waited until he walked by. He didn't walk by for about fifteen minutes but when he finally did, I ran out and ran down a side street as fast as I could. I zigzagged left and right, down streets until I found myself completely alone, which wasn't good either. It was hot and I was tired and scared. I kept walking, still zigzagging away from the main street where he'd been following me and toward my airbnb and several blocks later I spotted a policeman. I told him what happened and he said if the man wasn't visible there was nothing he could do. I asked for an escort back to my airbnb but the cop refused. I asked for him to please call me a cab as I was in a foreign country and didn't speak German. He refused. So much for the police being helpful. I stood next to him and changed my appearance as much as I could. I had on a bright colored top so I threw a sweater over it, even though I was already sweating. I had on a skirt and leggings so I stepped out of the skirt. I wasn't wearing a hat so I dug one out of my daypack and threw it over my head. Then I went on my way, trying to be as observant as I could and walking/running all the way back to safety. I made it but that was a harrowing experience.
My take away: The most important thing, for me, is to walk away from dangerous situations if I can. If I can’t, I need to call the police unless I'm somewhere where the police refuse to help. I need to ignore crazy people, if I can. If I can’t, I need to try and deescalate a possible violent situation and call the police, if I can. If someone else is being verbally abused near me I can call the authorities or keep an eye open for violence and ask someone else to help them. If I'm being followed I can do my best to escape and change my appearance. I can try not to stick out in a crowd. I can wear a single earbud in one ear and listen to GPS directions instead of holding my phone in front of me like a "rob me" beacon.
Now if I saw someone else who needed help would I just turn my back them? No, I would not. It’s not in my nature. I only hope that doesn’t get me in trouble someday! How other people can just ignore someone in need, someone who is hurt or hurting, I will never understand. Nor do I want to, because I don’t want to be that kind of person, but in their defense - I have to believe they thought I could handle the situation on my own. Perhaps I should have cried out, "help me please." I do wonder if that would have changed anything.
Caveat: I hope this doesn't sound "blaming" - I think it's important to talk about my experiences so that others know that you can't always count on someone else. I'm not saying that any of these people or even the cop (who didn't come to my defense) are bad people. The "friends" made their choices based on their past experiences and even now, I don't blame or "hate" them. Would I want to travel the world with them, probably not, but I need to look at each of these incidents as a learning experience so I can make better decisions in the future. The cop, on the other hand, just taught me that I can't count on the police for help. So in the end the message really is the same, the only person who truly has my back-is ME.
~by Kimberly Anne©
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
This is where you'll be notified of some bloggings, podcast episodes and my upcoming classes at discounted prices!
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.