Morning Practice On the Road: 3 Tricks for Mindful and Creative Travel

Nkechi Njaka is teaching at Wanderlust Seattle this month! Read on here for her tricks to stay grounded while traveling from Festival to Festival.

Nkechi Njaka is just one of the inspiring teachers you can learn from at Wanderlust. Check her out at Wanderlust Seattle this May! For tickets and more information, click here
Travel is one of the most exciting things we can do to switch up our daily routine, have an adventure or just give ourselves permission to play—especially when our day-to-day is fairly predictable and structured. In the midst of Festival season, wellness travel can be a rewarding and just the thing we need to pivot and inspire us to live more fully in our practices. Travel can also be disorienting and can pull us away from our practices. To avoid disorienting travel, I highly recommend creating a portable mini-morning practice that mirrors a practice that happens when you are are at home. When we are in the practice of using the weekend to reset and recharge, it is that much more important to ground in simple practices before entering in to the beautiful chaos that is a wellness festival. This can be particularly helpful for people traveling in general and also those who travel to attend Wanderlust Festival. In the wellness world, we often hear that having a morning practice or “ritual” is an important way to ground and to set an intention for the day or week. Morning practices can also support us in moving with a sense of connection and purpose. I completely believe this to be true and over the years have developed a meaningful morning practice that inspires me to exist in my truth as well as live fully self-expressed. I feel as though my morning practices sets me up for my day to be successful. That being said, mindfulness is something to be practiced at all times during the day and can be integrated in other daily rituals (meals, physical activity, bed-time routine, etc.).

Why a Morning Practice?

A morning practice allows you to center your experience around yourself and it creates the space for self care, wellness, and self-love. It also creates a buffer between you and the noise and allows for you to meet yourself where you are so you can better plan and make choices that are going to serve you and your wellness best. A morning practice also helps us to become more mindful. Mindfulness is not just sitting in meditation; mindfulness is a way of conducting our lives to live moment to moment, presently. There are so many ways to get present with what is. And there are so many ways to be in touch with ourselves in the activities that we do and in the conversations that we have. I teach mindfulness meditation as a way to train the mind, body and heart to find awareness efficiently.

My Morning Practice

Often when guiding meditation, I incorporate some aspects of my extended morning practice in my teaching so that my students have tools for developing their own morning practice. I often guide practice with three points of checking in, by asking: How is the mind doing? How is the heart doing? How is the body doing? I use these three questions with full knowing that we can trust our responses. There are three themes that I am working with in my morning practice—awareness, attunement, and gratitude. AWARENESS: Writing down what I notice. Inspired by Julia Cameron’s morning pages, I spend the first moments of the day writing a stream of consciousness for three pages in my journal. I allow any and everything that I am feeling to land on the empty pages. I don’t spend time thinking about what I will write nor do I spend time reviewing what I have written. I let thoughts and feelings come up as they do and allow them to leave—just as fleeting as they arrived ATTUNEMENT: A mindfulness meditation I spend a about 20 minutes sitting in a mindfulness meditation practice. Here, I focus on sensation of my body and/ or my breath. If I am feeling particularly grounded, I may begin to work with emotions by investigating specific inquiry and noticing the sensation of emotion as they arrive. GRATITUDE: Movement (inspired free form dance) Movement is an important aspect of my morning practice because it allows me to integrate my check in with awareness of the body. It is also an expression of joy and love. For this movement practice, allow yourself to be inspired by how you feel in your body. Play your favorite song for 3 to 5 minutes and move/ dance with no judgment. Allow your body to find freedom and flow and hold the lens of loving-kindness, curiosity, wonder and awe. If this practice feels nourishing and supportive, increase the movement to 10 or 15 minutes. As Martha Graham says, “The body never lies.” Let this be a practice of listening to the self and deepening a sense of body literacy. If you’re looking for ways to go deeper in your writing, sitting or moving practice, here are some inquiries to work with:
  • What is needing my attention now?
  • Where can I experience more freedom?
  • Where do I need to have a boundary?
  • Where am I needing to be flexible?
  • Where are my places of forgiveness?

Why I Do It

As someone who travels often for work, self care and for pleasure, it is important to establish a morning practice that mirrors my home practice. This is particularly helpful when the travel is short, there are a lot of moving parts and excitement and when the regular routine of life is shifted. It is important to me to find a sense of groundedness when I am on the go. I use this when I am traveling for Wanderlust Festivals as a way to center and achieve presence. Morning routines have gotten a lot of attention from the creative and entrepreneurial communities—revealing that a powerful positive relation between productivity and having a morning practice exists. Whether or not you identify as an entrepreneur or a creative, here are three mini-morning practices that you can take with you when you travel. My portable morning practice of writing, sitting and moving to hopefully inspire your travel days and support you in living a mindful and creative life—near and far from home.

Practices to Try

Awareness: Write in your journal for one page responding to the following inquiries:
  • How is my mind doing?
  • How is my heart doing?
  • How is my body doing?
Attunement: Spend 5 minutes in a sitting meditation focused on the breath and sensation in the body.
  • First minute: getting settled and arriving in your practice, focus on the sensation of breath
  • Second minute: asking how is my mind doing? While focusing attention in the space between the temples (forehead, eyes, eyebrows and crown of head)
  • Third minute: asking how is my heart doing? While focusing attention in the heartspace, the center of the body.
  • Fourth minute: asking how is my body doing? While focusing attention in the space of where you feel your body most—perhaps this is where you are making contact with the floor or chair, but maybe there are other sensations that are very present
  • Fifth minute: spending the last minute of this short practice of asking what needs your attention and creating an intention around that while bringing your attention back to your breath.
Gratitude: For 2 minutes, move as you want to move. Stretch, dance, shake, playfully allowing yourself to wake up and integrate the awareness and attention that you have from the other two practices. Having a morning practice is wonderful and keeping the practice up during travel is one of the best ways for me to stay grounded during my time away from home. — nkechi author bio photoNkechi Deanna Njaka, Msc. is a neuroscientist, choreographer and meditation teacher. She has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body and has always felt the significance of their integration. Through her work as a neuroscientist as well as a professional modern dancer + choreographer, she discovered that mindfulness and creativity are crucial for sustaining individual and global wellbeing. She attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she majored in neuroscience and dance and went on to complete an MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. Nkechi Deanna Njaka is the founder of NDN lifestyle studio, co-founder of Sitting Matters, and a 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow.