I’m a traveller. If you’re reading this article there’s a good chance that you are too, and that you’ve travelled a long way to be here. Maybe you’re here for a short visit, or you’ve made the move to try out a new life, but you’ve left point A (or B, or C…) and that’s when things get interesting. You’ve made a choice to step outside of your comfort zone, to encounter unfamiliar experiences, to meet new people and discover new cultures and experience the challenge of trying to relate.
There’s that famous phrase “finding him/herself” always used to describe someone who’s adventured off into the unknown for a while. But how do you find yourself while traipsing across country after country, in hotels, unfamiliar places, packed and sweaty buses, and sterile airports? Even if you’ve settled down in the same spot for a while, there’s a good chance that you’re going to feel displaced and different than what you’re used to.
At first glance travelling seems to be a highly externalized experience. Everything is happening around you, but as many travellers begin to recognize there’s a lot going on inside too. For many of us, therein lies the attraction. That high of measuring oneself to the challenges of travel, adapting oneself to new situations and the feeling of accomplishment that follows. It’s hard to stop once you get a taste for it.
Now here’s the tricky part. Within all this movement are you taking the time to ask yourself a few questions about the process by contemplating exactly how you are reacting to these new experiences, and the changes they’re creating within you? How is your Being affected by these experiences? Or even just, how do I feel? Is it good? If not, how am I dealing with it? It’s easy to get distracted amongst all the noise and chaos.
What if we took the time to travel within ourselves, to acknowledge our inner experience within ever changing circumstances? Simply taking the time to turn down the racket, to re-center and tune into our existence. Which begs the question, how do I go about turning off the distractions and taking a moment to look inwards? Somebody, somewhere has surely told you to, “just relax.” Right. I’ll just go ahead and relax then.
Relaxation is a learned process, not a state. There are many different roads to get there, but finding the right one may take time and the first step can be daunting. To some the idea of sitting down for an extended period, relaxing and tuning in may seem… impossible. In some ways it can be so much harder than boarding a plane and taking off half way across the planet.
A benefit of traveling across the planet is that it facilitates learning something you may not have otherwise discovered. In 2010, I moved to France where I had the opportunity to discover a mindful living technique called Sophrology, which is practiced quite commonly for various applications. I liked it so much, that I decided to become a Sophrologist, which means I’m certified to teach and help people practice Sophrology.
You’ve probably never heard of Sophrology, because outside of France very few people have. Here’s a quick history: Professor Alfonso Caycedo founded Sophrology in Europe in 1960. A neurological doctor and psychiatrist, he was looking for a method that would better address the existential challenges faced by his patients. His search led him around the world to India and to many parts of Asia and eventually to the creation of Sophrology and what he describes as a method of study of the human consciousness that strives for balance and harmony between body, mind and spirit.
Sophrology takes from different philosophies and therapeutic practices, and combines them together to create its own brand of meditation that’s easily accessible to a western audience. What I mean by that are people who don’t make meditation part of their daily routine, who haven’t been taught the power of their own breath, or how to connect with their body, mind and spirit.
The end product is a powerful and accessible tool that helps us reconnect with our bodies and core values, and cultivate mindful living.
The building blocks of Sophrology are relaxation, breath work and mindfulness. Through specific techniques, Sophrology builds greater awareness: awareness of our body, through our skin, muscles, bones and organs; awareness of our past, present and future self; awareness of our consciousness and the life force that is flowing within us; and awareness of our core values that unite us with the world around us. When practiced regularly, it helps improve our overall wellbeing and increase our capacity to live mindfully by giving us the means to let go of all the negativity that we build around our experiences and ourselves and refocus on the positive.
It’s like a workout for your consciousness that builds greater awareness of your existence. Sounds challenging? Actually it’s not. The techniques are easy to follow and help you develop your ability to live mindfully as you progress through them. Then it’s just a matter of taking some time for yourself, closing your eyes, relaxing, and let your inner traveler be guided towards greater self-awareness.
Change for the Better: An Expat-Mommy’s Path to Sophrology