Last month, we published an article highlighting Joseph Campbell quotes for initiating mindful travel. The article is essentially about how Joseph Campbell’s words inspire a personal hero’s journey—a meaningful, symbolic journey through the heights and troughs of the world which is also a symbolic journey taken within.
According to Campbell, “What we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Mindful travel is different than normal, casual travel in that it allows us to feel this rapture Campbell speaks of on a much deeper level. If casual travel is sight-seeing with the sole intention of being able to say “been there, done that,” then mindful travel is an adventure through the mysterious, transformational temples of the Yucatan Peninsula or a journey into the tantric, Tibetan Buddhist tradition in the north of India unknown to many.
Mindful travel is the process of allowing an experience, place, and culture to enter fully into yourself (the observer) via learning, utilization of the senses, reflection, and an effective reintegration period.
Mindful Travel and Learning
The process of mindful travel can be done anywhere. You can travel mindfully at a local beach or at your lake house out of town you visit every other weekend. You can travel mindfully in your home country or in lush tropical jungles across the world. You can travel mindfully in large cities or while immersed in nature.
But there are in fact ideal types of trips to take for mindful travel. They’re the types of places Sacred Earth Journeys go on pilgrimages to with people from all over the world. These are places of peace and power. They’re the sacred valleys of Peru, the ritual mats of chod practitioners in Ladakh, the sacred Mayan caves in southern Mexico, the Ganges in India…—these are the places that, in our opinion, instill power and transformation in its visitors. These places change mere travelers into pilgrims, into heroes on Campbell’s hero’s journey.
Before visiting such power-places, it’s good to learn about them. Instead of buying a conventional travel guide detailing your destination country (not always a bad idea, however), find a book detailing personal, spiritual, historical, scientific, etc. perspectives on some of the sites you wish to visit.
For example, one of our leaders, Andrew Harvey, authored a book titled A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism. The book is “considered a classic among readers interested in Tibetan Buddhism and pilgrimages of the spirit of all kinds,” and is a wonderful pre-Ladakh read for journeyers interested in visiting this remarkable area of northern India.
While on the subject of books; for an overall testament on mindful travel we suggest Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage. Phil has been leading our journeys throughout Europe for a long time, and as a mythologist and student of Joseph Campbell, he has plenty of good to say about traveling for spiritual growth rather than for a mere break from our perhaps monotonous lives.
Mindful Travel and The Senses
Why we travel has a lot to do with our senses. Most often, we may associate our experience of a place with “seeing” it. We long to see new places.
Recently, our friend Virginia Schenck wrote a marvelous article titled “Traveling by Sound”. In it, she writes, “When I travel, I am often on a Sound Journey. My ears are always open and responsive to new sounds, in search of new sounds. Yes, there are new smells, foods, vistas, sensations, people…but it’s the ear that mostly draws me in.”
Virginia’s work is a testament to the powerful practice of utilizing senses we may not often hone in with during travel. Her words are particularly potent because our sense of sound is often neglected during travel; sounds are not usually thought of as defining factors of a place.
Slowing down to listen puts mindful travel in motion. Same with slowing down to mindfully feel, smell, and taste a place.
Try to feel a place through its weather, through the roughness or smoothness of its streets or architecture. Smell a place through the crispness (or perhaps pollutedness) of its air, through the sizzling foods of its outdoor market stalls. Taste, of course, a place’s culinary delicacies.
Experiencing a place via our senses allows us to meditate with a place so might it enter into us and transform us.
Equally as important is our reflections during and after our travels as well as an essential reintegration period.
Mindful Travel and Reflection
Reflection is the means by which we reorganize our sense experiences—past or present—into a coherent set of meaningful messages.
For example, after experiencing the glorious sites and spiritual culture of India, you may do some journaling and find out about some potential alterations in your life path. Even if you don’t know exactly what those are, you gain a lingering feeling that change in your path is on the rise.
Reflection is powerful. We live in a world too keen on acceleration, a world where navigation is placed on the back-burner. But navigation is key, and travel is one of the best ways to renavigate our lives. That’s why people go on retreats and especially why people go on journeys with Sacred Earth Journeys. They long to leave the comfort of the norm to enter into situations of great transformation. It all ties back to Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey. What is the journey we must take? How can we lock in our transformations once we return home?
The Reintegration Period
The reintegration period is the period in which we return from an adventure and begin to implement what we learned on said adventure. Reintegration can include more reflecting as well as holding ourselves accountable for integrating the desired changes we discovered during our travels.
Now for another powerful quote by Joseph Campbell:
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
Travel can help us find this bliss. Through learning about our destination of choice, tapping into our senses during our travels, reflection, and reintegration upon return, we can find the lives that are calling us. We can tap into the divine plan that called us to Earth in the first place.
~Jacob Lopez, staff writer