There's no place like 'Om'

MSNBC, August 12, 2008

If travel is about to make you insane, these mini meditations can help

Redmond, WA (USA) -- Life isn't always smooth sailing - whether you're feuding with airport security to keep your tweezers or battling it out for a parking spot at the mall.

But don't let petty aggravations get you down: We've found a fast and easy meditation technique to help you rise above them. All you need are five mantras, or phrases to repeat whenever a snafu strikes, and inner peace will be yours.

Mini meditations

The situation: The pilot just announced that you're number 40 in line for takeoff. The hotel overbooked. Your taxi driver ripped you off! In other words, you're seeing red.

Your mantra: "My anger is my teacher."

Why it works: The Buddha teaches that life is dukkha: one problem after another. The cure for anger is not fixing the world; it is fixing ourselves. Anger is our best teacher because it reveals what is wrong with us, and those who annoy us actually make us better people. To paraphrase the 7th-century Chinese monk Yongjia Xuanjue, when you understand the real value of abuse, your worst critic becomes your truest friend.

The situation: Your car is glued in gridlock. Your connecting flight was canceled. Let's face it, you're stuck.

Your mantra: "Waiting is living, too."

Why it works: The Dhammapada, a compilation of Buddhist wisdom, tells us that attention is living; inattention is dying. The goal is to get the most out of every moment. Start by looking outside yourself: Airports are people-watching heaven. In the car with friends, you have an opportunity to plan tomorrow's itinerary—or to talk about each other's hopes and dreams. And if you're alone? Well, remember that "just one minute of peace" you're always craving?

The situation: That kid is kicking your seat—again. Your waiter went AWOL. And your friends are yelling at you because they overslept. In short, others are driving you nuts.

Your mantra: "I am more than this."

Why it works: The Buddha teaches interdependence: All of nature depends on patterns of energy for its existence, everything is tied to everything else, and no individual can survive without the support of others. You, that kicking kid, and your anger are not separate. To be angry at him is to be angry at yourself. And why stay angry at yourself? Instead, breathe deeply, close your eyes, and remind yourself that you are the anger, you are the breathing, you contain it all.

The situation: It's raining on your luau. The beach is full of jellyfish. Your luck just seems to stink.

Your mantra: "This problem is like a pleasure to me."

Why it works: Again, remind yourself that dukkha—problems cropping up, plans going awry—is inevitable. You can't always control what goes wrong, but you can always control how you deal with it. So relax, and remember: Problems during a vacation are still happening during a vacation. To really appreciate travel—and life—you need to let go of your attachments and simply enjoy what happens along the way.

The situation: Your friend has been in this museum forever. Now you're beyond bored.

Your mantra: "When you're bored, you're boring."

Why it works: Dogen, the founder of Japanese Soto Zen, taught that if you find one thing boring, you'll find everything boring. We feel tedium when we don't find anything to engage our interest, not necessarily because that experience is inherently dull. Acknowledging the reasons behind that mental block—often unspoken frustrations or unexpressed resentments—can make it easier to stay in the moment.