"Dreams are the touchstones of our character." -Henry David Thoreau
Packing, tight timelines, security, delays...can make me lose it, I don't know about you?! Try losing your wallet when you're alone on the other side of the world and that will take you completely off the rails! Travelling is disruptive to our equilibrium in so many ways. We are away from our daily routine, our comfort zone and our familiar, safe places. Dehydration, anxiety, general spaciness, and jet lag—easy to succumb to and more difficult to overcome. In addition there's the sensory overload! So many things we are taking in on every level and a heightened sense of awareness that accompanies these novel experiences. It is so important to stay grounded to make the most of our travel experiences. If we can't stay grounded, we are going to have trouble connecting to our intuition. Being in tune with our higher selves allows us to stay safe and end up where we need to be with who we need doing what we need to be during our journey. At least that's my experience.
In the yogic belief system, muladhara, also known as root chakra, is the energy center at the base of our spines that connects us with the grounding energy of the Earth. From the root chakra. our brains are sent important messages about whether we are safe or whether we are threatened. Consequently it triggers our response to tense or to relax. Why? Because our root, our foundation, communicates our state of survival, the basis of all of our fears. When our root chakras are balanced we feel secure, fulfilled, and present. We know that our needs are met and that our safety is ensured. A balanced root chakra is aligned with being grounded. You cannot have one without the other. I am naturally an anxious person and have had to work hard to manage this in general in my life. I have practiced and implemented many strategies to try and balance my root chakra and stay centred. Some help and those have become part of my daily rituals. What works for me may not be the right vibe for you. At least it may serve as a starting point for you to figure out what does work for you. There is no right or wrong, just discernment. Here are some things that work for me:
Stay hydrated: This sounds easier than it actually is. You're on the go a lot. You're eating different foods and perhaps drinking more alcoholic beverages (no shame in my game on this!). I started carrying my own water canister long ago and it remains one of my best strategies. Obviously,if you keep it filled you will have a better chance of staying hydrated. It has the added bonuses of being better for the environment and a frugal choice. And if you're like me you like both of those things. Beyond carrying and consuming water, just being in water can be grounded. Whether it's communing with Goddess Yemaya in the salt water of the ocean, or simply taking a cold shower you will find water bringing you into the present moment and into your body.
Rituals and/or touch stones: Do you have daily rituals at home? If not, you should but that's a whole other article. My daily rituals/routine typically involves some combination of yoga, meditation and journalling.These practices can easily travel with me. Passport, yoga mat, and water canister are probably my only mandatory items on my packing list. Okay not true, contact lenses and certain creams and devices are also coming with no matter what. I digress. Yoga, meditation, journalling...as I said above, though these are my jam, they might not be yours. Maybe you're a runner and you make time for a jog in the morning. It could be as simple as a cup of chamomile tea before bed. Whatever will give your brain a chance to hit autopilot and give it a break from all the decision making it has to do to navigate new landscapes.
A touchstone is something that helps you stay on path and true to yourself. Medicine bags carried by Indigenous peoples are a point of reference for this concept. Many of us have a touchstone. Mine is a rose quartz heart pendant, given to me by mother. I typically wear this every day and certainly do when I travel. If you're not familiar, rose quartz is a stone of gentle love and protection. It has a beautiful energy. Anyhow, a touchstone may be something you wear or a familiar object you carry. It could be pictures of loved ones. It could be a memory or an affirmation. Again. Doesn't matter what. Just that you use it purposefully and it is portable.
Sensory: There are many options available here, some we can prepare for and some accessible along the way. First off nature! For me at least, typically I am outdoors more when I'm travelling, whether it be hiking, or beach time or just in general. If you can, kick off your flip flops or shoes and feel the earth (sand if you're lucky!) beneath your feet. Walking barefoot on the earth has actually been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation, lower stress, improve sleep, and help a whole host of health problems. This is an example of using our sense of touch. Scent. I have noticed more people travelling with essential oils. When one of my bffs and I travelled to Banff recently, the first thing she did when we got to our hotel room was pull out her diffuser and oils and purify the room. I asked her what she recommends and she says lavender and peppermint are her current travel go-tos. However she does say spruce, ylang ylang, cedarwood and patchouli are the best oils to stay grounded. Anyhow if these aren't practical for you, a scented lotion can also work. Or simply pausing over a cup of coffee or tea and inhaling. The latter will cover touch and taste as well! Sound. Guided mediation or music can be helpful. My favourite (free) app, Insight Timer, has many to choose from and you can actually search the term root chakra to find something intended for the purpose of grounding.
Pause and Reset: There is a tendency for some of us to try and do too much when we travel. Ask my poor mother who can vouch for how manic I was when we began our Thailand trip together. I wanted to see everything, do everything, eat and drink all the things! It was nuts. Okay...I was nuts! On about day 15 or so in Chiang Rai we were staying in a more posh resort-style hotel and I said, "Mom let's take the day off tomorrow.". I'm sure she was relieved and that is what we did. We were on a group tour and as they left, we were just heading to a leisurely breakfast. We followed that up with some serious pool time and happy hour. It was 10:30 in the morning but hey, don't judge! The rest of our day was just more and more fantastic. For the record, we did leave the pool area and ventured into town! My last night in Rio I went and picked up a bottle of wine and take-out sushi and camped out in my hotel room. You seriously can't be on all the time. Don't feel guilty about it. Savour your downtime too.
Breathe: Your breath is always available and accessible. In a unexpectedly long-ass line at security; in the midst of the flight from hell; when you're lost and don't speak the language and (OMG!) you're on 7% battery charge (this happened to me in Hiroshima and I had just left the police station where I had reported my lost wallet, true story)...your breath is there. Once you pay attention you will notice how shallowly you are breathing. Pause and take some big ole deep belly breathes. Count it out so your inhales and exhales become the same length. Count up to 5 and then to 6 and keep going if you can. Voila now you are able to be calm and problem solve or at least not beak off at the idiot in front of you who has no hot clue how one efficiently clears security (really dude?!).
It's important we keep our roots in the ground no matter where we are! I hope that I showed you that it's possible and uncomplicated. Of course I do have many other grounding strategies I could suggest. Do you have any tips of your own, please share as I'd love to hear about them and I'm sure they'd be helpful for others!