Marisa Donnelly and Ashley Graham (Your Brandista) going on a hike

Why Meditation & Mindfulness Are Invaluable [MindTravel]

I have always been one to advocate for meditation and mindfulness as a way of recentering and finding balance. Although I never considered myself to be the type of person who practiced daily, I have found so much value in these habits. And especially on the heels of such a challenging year, I do (even more so now).

When you meditate, you challenge and think about your own thinking (metacognition, the experts call this). You also give yourself a chance to catch up because, if you’re anything like me, you’re always running towards your next task or to-do.

Meditation is a break from that, a pause, an opportunity to recenter. And when you add mindfulness to this—the processing of how you feel and why—everything changes.

About a month ago, I signed up for a Meditation and Mindfulness walk, hosted by Murray Hidary and his company, MindTravel. Not sure what to expect, I went in with a willing heart and open mind. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Together, a group of disconnected humans put on headphones, listened to a music and meditation soundtrack, and hiked in unison up the Cowles Mountain in San Diego, California. By the end of the experience, we were connected—not only to one another but to our inner selves. It was an incredibly beautiful experience, and a reminder, for me, of the importance of truly allowing yourself to re-align with your soul.

MindTravel guided meditation hike

Why Are Meditation and Mindfulness Important?

Life moves fast. And honestly, even faster now that we have things like social media and endless scrolling and comparison. As a creator, writer/editor, and coach, I often find myself wrapped up in the fast pace of the digital world, and frankly, I rely on it as a means of growing my business. The hard part, though, is that when you’re too connected to a virtual space, it can be isolating, disheartening, and perhaps most importantly, disconnecting.

The practices of meditation and mindfulness, in my opinion, are opportunities to help you regain control of your life, regulate your emotions, and recenter yourself on what (and who) matters most to you.

I’m not an expert in this field, but I’ve seen reap benefits in my coaching practice, in the education world with my students, and in my parenting journey, too, both in how I can help my son react to life obstacles as well as how I connect with him.

Regardless of who you are or what you do, meditation helps you to find a ‘break’ or peace from the constant to-dos and ‘noise’ of life. It helps you to shift away from a flight-or-flight stress response and into a proper, healthy reaction. And it can also help you remember who you are when you’re faced with situations and circumstances outside of your control.

Mindfulness, although similar, is very different in both practice and approach. When you practice mindfulness it can manifest itself in many ways. Through meditation, sure, but also through something like journaling, yoga, walking, listening to music, ‘unplugging’ your phone, or simply spending time with yourself or those you deeply care about.

Mindfulness helps you to understand what your deepest desires are (as opposed to the world’s goals for you), how you’re aligning (or not aligning) with those, and where your heart lies (aka asking the hard question: “Am I happy?”).

“Music is the language of emotion,” shares Murray Hidary, Founder of MindTravel. “When we can’t find the words to express what we’re feeling, music steps in to facilitate that expression. And, perhaps most importantly, music meets you where you are. It becomes a reflection of what you’re experiencing in that moment.

And that’s how music becomes a powerful entry point to meditation because it doesn’t ask anything other than to listen,  for you to connect with what you’re feeling so that it can guide you through.”

How Can You Add These Practices to Your Life?

Although it sounds overwhelming, adding practices of meditation or mindfulness to your daily life don’t have to be huge lifestyle changes. This can happen easily and with a few, simple shifts. Here are a few ideas:

  • Instead of reaching for your cellphone as soon as you wake up or right before bed, try to spend a few silent moments in thought, prayer, or simply taking inventory of what you’re thankful for. 
  • Try gratitude journaling or ‘mind dumping’ and getting out your thoughts in the morning or night.
  • Create an intentional pocket of time each day for quiet/alone time.
  • Listen to music that inspires or makes you feel calm and sit (rather than trying to multitask).
  • Walk and listen to inspiring music, podcasts, or soundtracks (try out MindTravel soundtracks!)
  • Spend time with people you love and be intentional about disconnecting from tech/devices.
  • Sign up for events or experiences that foster mindful habits.

Marisa Donnelly & Ashley Graham on MindTravel hike

What Is MindTravel?

MindTravel is music, meditations, and teachings for life mastery, joy, success, and connection led by entrepreneur, pianist, and mindfulness teacher, Murray Hidary.

I had signed up for the hike on a whim. I was feeling stuck in a rut and wanted something both active and inspiring. And, seeing that the hike was at Cowles Mountain, I was inspired—this is the mountain that I struggled to climb before moving to San Diego, that I easily mastered when I had my first challenging moment after moving, and then, went to anytime I was feeling disconnected from my inner self.
Walking alongside my friend and strangers, thinking about all of the challenges of the past year, and realigning with my hopes for the future, helped me to be reminded of life’s incredible beauty all around us.

“The mission of MindTravel is to move people to their greatest purpose through music,” shares Founder, Murray Hidary. “We accomplish this by offering a number of different experiences where music and mindfulness meet, but there’s something truly special about the walking meditation.

While it seems counterintuitive, you can actually find stillness through movement, and that’s what we explore in our Guided Walking Meditations. We select some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country to provide the backdrop for this deep inner exploration and transformation.”

So, I encourage you—wherever you are and whatever your story—to engage in these practices, to sign up for these types of events, and challenge yourself to think deeper about who and what you are. Life is challenging, yes, but it’s also so beautiful.