Business travel apprehension; a mindfulness approach

travel-globeTonight I head to the airport. Business travel is wrought with potential hiccups. Flights, taxis, rental cars, hotels, luggage, expense reports, schedules, all on top of leaving the family; this is the business travel recipe that presents so many opportunities for life to get, well, a bit messy.

I’ve traveled, depending on my projects, quite extensively at times, but for the last seven years or so business trips have been the exception, not the rule. When I was traveling all the time, I had developed a rhythm which minimized disruption.  Like a choreographed dance, I had everything nearly perfected: when I packed my suitcase, how I packed my suitcase, what time I left for the airport, where I parked at the airport, how I unpacked and repacked for the security line, etc.  But now my travel is so intermittent, I have to think through my list each time.

I recall a business trip from January of this year, before I started my mindfulness meditation practice, and the thought of struggling through the business traveler checklist again, had me thoroughly stressed. This stress manifested itself in to shorter tempers with my family and longer sessions imbibing in the days leading up to my departure. Without a doubt, as evidenced by my expense report, the week itself was made more “numbly tolerable” through the liberal consumption of beer and wine.

Fast forward eleven months. With each day, I’m more and more at ease with my thoughts and emotions as they present themselves, and while I still enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, I have no interest in dulling my feelings with more alcohol than my bloodstream and liver can process.  I’m still aware of the apprehension that builds when flights must be made, hotels must be checked in to, and meetings must be attended, but now that I’m aware of it, I can simply notice this feeling without feeling like I’m at its mercy.

In fact, it’s interesting; before I started meditating, I would literally feel the anxiety in the pit of my stomach and I used to subconsciously clinch my jaws. Now, I smile, because frankly it’s sort of a trip to objectively recognize and label an emotional response that I’ve always just sort of tangled rather ungracefully with. I know what it is and where it’s from.  And in the act of observing it, it sort of just falls away.

It’s hard to clinch your jaws when you’re smiling.

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