February 17, 2019
Naples, Italy (From a Hostel Bed)
Today is my birthday and I’m full of so much gratitude. So much gratitude, in fact, that I feel the need to share it with whoever needs some and whoever wants some. Trust me, there’s plenty here to give.
I’m traveling right now, meeting strangers, eating new dishes, taking photos of beautiful mountainsides because they’re all a major part of my self-care. I woke up this morning ad before checking Instagram, Facebook, text messages, or missed calls, I opened my Insight Timer app and found Annemaree Rowley’s 16-minute guided “Gratitude” meditation. Today, I’ll be intentional about recognizing and reflecting on the great things I’ve been gifted and to show kindness toward others when the opportunity arises.
As a gift to you folks who, like me, believe in the power of mindfulness and meditation and compassion, I want to share some of the most amazing places in which I’ve allowed the universe to speak to me. Some are meditation centers and others are simply amazing places to find peace of mind. For the centers, descriptions are provided by their respective site:
1. Plum Village: “Near Bordeaux in southwest France, is the largest international practice center in the Plum Village tradition, and the first monastic community founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) in the West.”
2. Big Sur, California: To describe the beauty here, you must believe in fiction. Justin Michael Williams told me about this place. He saw to drive down, arriving a couple of hours before sunset, and to breathe and just take it all in. I did. I often find myself wanting to hop in a car and just go for a few hours.
3. The Buddhist Retreat Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: “Perched on a ridge at the head of a valley in the Umkomaas river system in KwaZulu-Natal, the Buddhist retreat Centre looks out on a vista of indigenous valleys, forests and rolling hills receding like waves in the blue distance. Here, for more than twenty years people of all religions have come to experience peace and tranquillity. It is a gentle, sympathetic space where one can be still and get in touch with oneself and reflect on the things that crowd one’s life. CNN featured the BRC as one of the 10 finest Meditation centres in the world (From their site).”
4. Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Thailand: “Meditation is a way to train and cultivate the mind, to develop con¬cen¬tra¬tion, mind¬ful¬ness and aware-ness. Bud¬dhism offers calm¬ness or con¬cen¬tra¬tion medi¬tation and vipassana or insight medi¬tation. Ana¬pana¬sati or Mind¬ful¬ness with Breathing, the medi¬tation method taught at Suan Mokkh, covers both, con¬cen¬tra¬tion and insight medi¬tation. But during the first days of the retreat we will mainly train you in con¬cen¬tra¬tion medi¬tation by focusing at¬ten¬tion on breathing. Detailed in¬struc¬tion is given through-out the retreat. All in¬struc¬tion and talks are given in English (From their site).”
5. Auyán-tepui, Venezuela: With the roar of the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall in the distance, this is an amazing place to have a rest while on an unforgettable hike and get into some contemplative practice. Surely this is one of those places where guided meditation leaders wouldn’t mind if you were to lay in your hammock while listening.
6. Entrelacs, Quebec: This is where I had one of my most amazing meditation moments of 2017. I rented a beautiful cabin with no electricity or running water in the middle of the forest with others and we sat around the fire, talking about it all. When I freed a bit of time, I walked to where the boats were kept, sat in the canoe, closed my eyes and let the universe guide me. When I came to, I was in the middle of the lake surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape. A few months later, I was in South Africa, tattooing the Entrelacs trees on my wrist.
7. Kata Bay, Phuket, Thailand: Here, you’re removed from the sound of cars, feet shuffling, babies crying, and hustlers. You can be alone with your thoughts on one of the world’s most beautiful bays. If you grow tired of the solitude quickly, don’t fret. There are others nearby in hotels and resorts.
8. Bodhgaya, Bihar, India: Because…well…you know.
9. Wherever You Are: Getting away physically isn’t always possible, but making space where we are can be – even if just a second. Find your own serene, private spaces and escape to them whenever you need. Here’s a way to make that happen, according to Mind Body Green and Claire Charters:
A. Choose a room or space that makes you feel good.
Take into consideration the lighting, the quietness and how many people walk through it. Will it be a place of solace? If you don’t have a whole room to dedicate to your sacred space then choose a corner of a room, or somewhere in your garden. You may even like to put up a bamboo screen to create the feeling of a separate space.
B. Keep the room simple and uncluttered.
Choose a few items that find bring you peace and serenity. Some basics would be a meditation pillow, a small table, a mat and maybe a nice throw rug.
C. Add a touch of nature.
Meditation is all about connecting with nature and your surrounds. By adding an element of nature, you space becomes infused with balance and harmony. You can place your favourite plant, a vase of flowers, a jar of shells, a small water feature or whatever else it is that you find beautiful in nature.
D. Soothe your soul with music.
Music is not necessary however if you live in a noisy city, a piece of soothing music or chants will help bring tranquillity and peace. Alternatively, you can add a small fountain in your meditation room. The crisp trickling sound of water will also make the room soothing and serene.
E. Create a beautiful aroma.
It helps you stay focused and fills your space with beautiful and soothing energies. You can put some incense, aromatic oils or candles with meditative scents in the room. If you use candles, it can be very meditative to just watch the flame flicker.
F. Personalize your space.
To make your meditation space more personal and tranquil, you can add anything that soothes your soul. You can add bells and chimes, a statue of Buddha, affirmation stones, crystals, beads or any artwork that provides you with immense peace and serenity. You can also get the room painted in your favourite colors.
If you download the Insight Timer app, or if you already have it, please feel free to add me as a friend.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray