Nine Spiritual Things You Learn While Traveling
A couple weeks ago, on my last post, I shared that I was going to be doing some traveling. As I embarked on my journey, I quickly became aware of at least nine spiritual things you learn while traveling.
I wasn’t sure how much internet access I would have, and so I decided to embrace it and allow myself to fully experience my travels without worrying about fulfilling any digital requirements.
It turns out that this was one of the best things I could have done for myself. Sure, back in December, I did a tech fast, but it wasn’t a “real” one: I had work requirements and requirements here on the site. I became very mindful of my screen time, but I couldn’t eliminate technology for the two weeks I did this time.
I found that the best way to eliminate screen time is to either have no cell phone signal, a low-data plan, and/or no internet access while out in nature. I started to use my cell phone while on the road to check Twitter. I promptly got an email that I was almost out of my monthly data allotment for my cell phone plan. So, I just shut it all off.
Returning to Journal Writing – By Hand
I returned to real journal writing, foregoing the online version. Funny…the paper journal is always “online.” And so, through eleven states in fourteen days, I wrote reflections about meditation, about visiting relatives and how this was a powerful voyage.
In many ways, this trip was incredible. In other ways, it was really difficult. I debated whether to share all these insights here as some of them are quite personal in nature. I figure if I want to inspire people on their own spiritual path, it’s necessary to share some more personal aspects of my life to illustrate how I put my own spiritual practices to work.
Traveling Helps With Meditation
As I traveled with my Juanito (the name I usually call my husby), I knew I wasn’t going to be able to head to the spare bedroom with my meditation cushion to sit for an hour. So, I would wake up earlier and lay in the camper, focusing on my breathing for half an hour or so. Sometimes I would use my phone and headphones to put on some meditation music I’d downloaded.
More often, I would sit and focus on my breathing throughout the 4,000 miles we spent in the car. I’d watch the landscapes glide by through the windshield as I drove, or as I watched through the passenger window.
I would be struck with spiritual awe at the different landscapes we saw. While westernized yoga isn’t quite my thing, I was compelled to do a tree pose while at White Sands National Monument:
Even still, the sand itself was patterned with ripples that reminded me of something I’d find in a Japanese zen garden. I haven’t been to Japan yet, but the Far Eastern cultures are calling to me more and more:
The sunrise on the Organ Mountains in New Mexico urged me to stand in awe as I took in the rocky “organ pipes” that grew into the morning twilight sky:
These all struck me as intensely spiritual moments and experiences. I immediately gave thanks for the opportunity to see these sights and to witness their perfect beauty.
Traveling Helps You to Learn to Let Go
On this trip, I was reading Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. It’s the second time I’ve read it. In fact, fellow blogger Maria even spoke to this on her blog, Mar’s Desk: reading something a second time can give you new insights.
Upon reading Singer’s book again, and having more meditation experience than the last time, I understood so much more of what he was saying.
Basically, he drives home the point to “just let it go” – to feel all of life’s emotions, live fully, but instead of “catching the emotions of the day in your heart and not letting them go, just relax and release.”
I have been practicing with small things: letting go when a driver has cut me off, when someone annoys me, or when someone didn’t say thank you when I’ve held the door for them, and so on.
Letting Go When the Annoying Campers Moved In
Case in point: while staying at Elephant Butte State Park in NM, a rather loud family with a particularly noisy muffler on a large truck with monster-truck tires decided to camp next to us in the middle of the night. They’d probably had way too much to drink with the way they were carrying on and laughing deliriously. I found myself thinking not very kind thoughts as I laid awake, wishing they would just shut up.
I hadn’t quite let it go by morning when I woke up. I was perturbed by their stories of fights they’d gotten into, bad jokes, and revelries at 7 am. Then I had another thought: I could let this ruin my experience, or I could acknowledge that I was annoyed and then just let it go.
Just Let It Go
I chose the latter. I went walking on the beach, explored the plant life, and drank my tea. Most of all, I enjoyed the sounds of the water and focused on my gratitude for finding such a place.Feeling frazzled or feeling annoyed? Embrace it and let it go. Feeling joy and feeling bliss? Embrace it and let it go. Just be in the moment. Click To Tweet
I’m working on moving on to letting bigger things go, as well. Meditation helps immensely with this because as thoughts crop up, I’m always working on letting them go during my practice. If I am a mountain, then my thoughts are clouds. I watch as they approach, and I watch as they roll away.
And so it is with emotions, as well as the events of life that we experience. If we can learn to feel them in the moment, then the moment passes and we can let them go.
Traveling Helps You Relax
Along our travels, one stop was Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I had only been there once before on a field trip for school when I was 14 and had longed to return. My only memory of this place was visiting the famous hot springs, but I hadn’t seen much else.
I also wanted to take my Juanito to this part of the US. Since we would be driving right through there on the way back up to Colorado, I thought we could camp in T or C (the abbreviation the locals gave the town).
Truth or Consequences, NM
When we arrived, we didn’t know where we were going to stay, other than knowing about possible camping in Elephant Butte, just north and east of town. We arrived as the sun was setting and only after stopping and speaking with some helpful international visitors, they let us know that we could camp right along the beach of the lake. This was one of those “let go and see what happens” sort of things I mentioned above.
Camp at the beach we did. Again, I knew I wanted to seize the opportunity to be awake at sunrise. I knew, just knew that I would be greeted with an incredible morning scene to invoke the power of spirit right within my soul:
I got up before dawn to swirling overhead clouds reflected on the lake below. I could only stare in silence and wonder at finding such a beautiful scene rather by accident. There really aren’t ever any accidents, are there? My intuition had taken over. More on that in a minute.
We had breakfast and watched the sun greet us. We sat in silence in our camp chairs, savoring the flavors of boiled eggs, hot oatmeal and applesauce. There’s something glorious about eating outside and watching the day begin.
The Hot Springs
Later in the morning, we headed over to the hot springs. Again, we weren’t sure just what we were getting into. There were a number of places to choose from. We only knew that one called Riverbend Hot Springs looked promising. The lure of odor-free hot springs to relax our road-weary muscles was calling us by name. I’m not always one to splurge, but on this occasion we did. $30 bought us a private hot springs pool for one hour. I would have paid $60 for the experience:
Zen music and the running water instantly put me into a meditative state. The long chain in the photo opened up a cold fountain shower for when the pool got too warm. The Rio Grand river flowed in the background. Rock gardens with succulents surrounded the pool. Not pictured is a little private patio where we could sit and drink water as needed.
I was so grateful and so relaxed after doing this. If you ever have an opportunity to stop in T or C, I recommend it for immediate rejuvenation.
Traveling Helps You Become More Open-Minded
I already consider myself to be pretty open minded. “Live and let live” is my motto. However, two experiences in particular reminded me of the need to remain open to all possibilities.
First, after arriving in Santa Fe, NM, we headed to the main plaza. Growing up, I’d spent many, many weekends and portions of my summer vacations wandering the streets of Santa Fe.
As we wandered around the plaza, we stopped at a food truck. I ordered a “three sisters” burrito, and Juanito ordered a bison burrito. Though I’m vegetarian, I encouraged him to try it as many folks in the area loved bison meat. We met two gentlemen speaking in Spanish. They didn’t know I spoke fluent Spanish and were having a conversation when I laughed at what they were saying.
I don’t always feel comfortable striking up conversations with strangers. But from my previous travels, I have found life to be much more interesting if I step out of my comfort zone, embrace being open-minded, and go for it.
Loving Speaking Spanish
All in Spanish, we talked about how the first gentleman was from Puerto Rico and the other was from Guatemala. We spoke of Spanish accents and “El Puertorriqueño” as I called him, told me a story of how he was standing at the Georgia O’Keefe museum nearby and couldn’t find his friend even though they were supposedly in the same spot and how he couldn’t believe that with all our cell phones and technology, it was still possible to get hopelessly lost.
Later on, as we wandered around the plaza, we encountered El Puertorriqueño again. Later on, we saw him at the natural foods store, miles away, a third time – just randomly! I’m learning that events aren’t random. I am also not sure exactly why we ran into this guy three times at three different places when we’d never seen him before. However, the whole experience reminded me that people are so fascinating and it’s important to be willing to strike up conversations. Maybe that was the whole lesson.
I appreciated speaking lots of Spanish with my relatives and with passers-by. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that I can communicate in two languages.
Meeting an Intuitive
This second experience happened as we were leaving the plaza. We stopped at a store that had western tunics. We went in, just out of curiosity. The store clerk, however, immediately struck up a conversation. While I didn’t agree with all of her points of view, I respected them. She spoke of the “kool-aid” that people drink: fluoride in tap water. She also spoke of how she used to be more liberal-minded, but had turned conservative.
I thought about leaving then – if only because those sorts of conversations can get tense very quickly. Despite my misgivings, something was telling me to remain still and be open. This woman – whoever she was – also noted that my husband and I are blessed because she could sense a strong sense of balance in our relationship. She also looked directly at me and said, “I can tell that you’re an awake soul.” Then she went on to say that she knew I had many skills.
I was impressed. It was like she knew I was really trying to do a lot of inner work. There are also times where I feel like I have many skills, but wish I could really master one or two and stick with those. But I also knew that her intuitive reading skills were some I have wanted to develop for myself. I’m also very much still working on my “awakeness” while keeping my ego in check.
Even though I am from a family of Spanish immigrants (from several hundred years ago), Native Americans (Navajo and Cherokee), and more recently with several Mexican immigrants (on my mother’s side), I gained much insight from remaining open minded with this woman: many of her concerns for the US were also my concerns. It’s all in how to address them that folks get mucked up.
Withholding judgement, I listened to build community and commonality. These were my take-aways.
Traveling Helps You Reconnect
This is the part that’s difficult to share…
You may know that I am adopted. When I was four years old, my “birth father” (and birth mother) ceded all his rights as a parent to my grandparents, who legally became my parents. So, when I refer to my mother, I’m speaking of my grandmother. When I refer to my father, I’m speaking of my grandfather.
The last I saw of my real dad was when I was six years old. It’s a long story, perhaps one for a future post.
However, last October, I got a call from my birth father’s mother (my “real grandmother”). She spoke of how he was in a veteran’s home and not likely to live much longer. Essentially, if I ever wanted to see my birth father again, that I would need to do it soon.
You see, he’s only 60 years old. He was a heavy alcoholic (one of the factors leading up to my adoption). A complication from his alcoholism is that about seven years ago, he developed a form of basal ganglia disease – a degenerative nerve disease. He is in the final stages. I knew what to expect from hearing my real grandmother speak about his health. But, seeing him, hugging him, not being able to understand him because he can no longer walk, talk, or be independent, became utterly tangible.
A Line From My Journal Entry
Seeing my real dad after 32 years in such a state, the emotions of it all erupted in a volcanic explosion of melancholy. All the pent-up pain of what could have been, all the years missed, realizing that he’s only 60, trapped in his body with a sound mind, bubbled to the surface.
My compassionate heart broke into a thousand sobs. My body shook with absent memories and the desire to turn back time. I at once wanted to admonish him for his alcoholism but loved him so dearly for giving me up for a better life….
I had a reckoning with my emotions the evening after I visited him. But, the more I learn to practice being present with meditating, the more I understand how important it is to let emotions wash over you – and then let them go. I embraced every tear and every stab of pain that pulsed through the core of my being. I accepted the feelings of frustration and longing for what could have been.
I cried for hours. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. And honestly, tears come to my eyes as I write this.
I can say this: just as I have learned to let thoughts come and go, gently, with meditation, I am learning to also let my emotions come, and then let them go like rolling clouds. It’s not always easy to do. This process is allowing me to more fully live in the present. I get better and better at it with each passing day.
This reconnection was long overdue. I also hope to see my birth father again before he departs this realm.
Traveling Helps You Learn New Things
I stayed with my aunt/godmother in Santa Fe, and I noticed her dried chill hanging in nearly every room in her house! I explained that while my mom was an incredible cook, I’d never learned the family recipe for making chili.
My aunt not only taught me how, but sent me back to North Carolina with a string, or a “ristra,” of dried chili. Fellow readers, let me know when you’re in town and I’ll make you a batch!
We also explored other places in New Mexico: Roswell and Los Alamos. I learned about the Mayan story of El Palenque. Basically, there’s the idea that alien visitors interacted with the Mayan people. They then created a hieroglyphic image of those encounters, with the glyphs depicting an alien space vessel and a person working the controls:
Traveling Grants You More Insights
As we traveled, I kept coming up with these things I call, “Morning Thoughts.”
A portion of my journal entries has these morning thoughts highlighted in bullet form:
- staying in all these places, especially when we’ve been able to find them for free, reminds me that we don’t really need that much
- the people you meet on the road are fascinating
- you get into a different mindset while traveling
- meditation will inevitably look different
- get out in nature, get quiet, and let Spirit speak to you
Traveling Makes You Listen to Your Instincts
Due in part to all the meditation I’m doing, I can’t tell you how many times on this trip I just closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and “looked within.”
It’s really incredible to see and feel this happening. At one point we were getting off the interstate to get gas and there were three left turn lanes. We didn’t know which one to take and I tapped into my intuition. “Take the middle one,” I said. If we had taken the wrong left turn lane, we would have ended back on the interstate, going the wrong way, or down another road away from the gas station.
Another time we were traveling through Texas when it was nearing 11pm. We needed to get off the road and had no idea if the free campsite where we thought we’d stay would be feasible, available, or safe. It was also our last chance before having to drive another three hours into New Mexico. I got quiet, closed my eyes in the darkness, and almost envisioned where we were going to stay: that there would be space, that we would be able to find it all right, and that it would be safe.
Not only did it work out, but there was an area specifically for campers with running water, restrooms, and a beautiful city park.
Traveling Gets You Away From Technology
As I return to my life pecking away on the computer, I feel so refreshed and ready to take on the world once again. I am eager to create more videos, posts and learn more about all the things.
I feel like this timely break as I transition from completing the LIFE Project (more on that next week), to learning to become a meditation teacher, has made a world of difference.
A Couple Other Notes
Thank you, THANK YOU for all the emails, comments, and shares on the last couple of posts. I promise I will return each comment, email and share over the course of the next week.
Be on the lookout for the publication of my (free) haiku book. I’ll send out an email once it’s live. I had hoped to do that today, but not having access to technology over the past couple of weeks has delayed the launch just a bit… 🙂