Staying on the move can mean that by the time the calendar flips to fall, you may be thinking, "Where has the year gone?" If you're wondering how to hang on until the holidays for rest and rejuvenation—or maybe how to calm the chaos that often comes with the season—Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta has your answer.
At one of Buckhead's most esteemed addresses, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta invites weary travelers to find respite from the demands of a constantly connected, digital lifestyle. Power down phones for the 80-minute Digital Wellness Escape treatment and bathe in Shungite crystal-charged water followed by a massage. Shungite is a stone containing fullerenes, which are thought to neutralize negative energy as well as exposure to radiation from mobile devices.
The Spa also offers Mindful Meditation every Monday evening with Mindfulness-based psychotherapist Lena Franklin. Her classes set a positive tone for the weeks ahead by aligning mind, body and heart, and have garnered international attention. Franklin leads mindfulness retreats and trainings locally at Serenbe, in addition to partnering with Pravassa Wellness Travel for destination retreats in Bali and Vietnam.
The hourlong classes at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta are $40 per person and include access to The Spa's luxurious amenities. Inside the studio overlooking the city skyline, Where Atlanta editor Colleen Ann McNally sat on the cushion and chatted with Franklin for tips that busy travelers can practice on the go.
Still want more Zen? Enjoy these offerings plus a tranquil overnight stay with the hotel's Wellness Retreat package. Serenity found.
How did you get interested in meditation?
It’s been a journey for sure. I’ve always known I wanted to be a therapist. I’m a psychotherapist by training, and come from a [family of] mental health professionals. My dad is a psychologist, I have two aunts who are social workers, so it was definitely all in the family.
I ended up going to University of Georgia to play soccer. My dad grew up in Marietta, so I came down South and went on to get my Masters in social work at UGA as well, and that’s actually when I experienced a great loss.
My mom suddenly passed away, and she was really the one who taught me meditation and mindfulness, at least initially, because I grew up in a Buddhist-Christian house. My dad is Presbyterian, my mom was Buddhist, so we had a family altar with incense and pictures of ancestors, so it was more through the spiritual-cultural lens that I was exposed to mindfulness meditation. When I was young, I thought it was silly. None of my friends’ parents were doing it and I wondered, ‘What is this all about?’
But then, once I experienced that loss, I really realized there is something more we can utilize for our own healing. Something beyond the traditional therapy hour, and that’s when I really started delving into yoga, finding my meditation practice and then I went on to do different trainings in mindfulness meditation.
It was really through my own experience that I felt how powerful it was, because it is really this way to be with all of our emotions, the ebb and flow of life, without breaking. The capacity to be aware, to honor our emotional systems and to be compassionate towards the self, all of those elements fit in, and there’s something really amazing here. So, why don’t we merge the two? So, I started my psychotherapy practice—a mindfulness-based practice where people come in and I do therapy and meditation instruction. That cascaded into doing retreats and mindfulness trainings and corporate trainings and talking more about mindfulness with companies and different organizations.
How can people incorporate mindfulness meditation during the holiday season?
Our lives are chaotic, and the holidays highlight that truth, right?
Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced off the cushion in any given moment—just being present in the moment.
I think these practices are really awesome during the holiday time because they allow us to be with the chaos without reactivity. So instead of our mother-in-law sitting before us and she says something that triggers us, we are able to be present to that and notice the internal irritation without having to lash back, without excessive amounts of judgment. We just notice the reaction without needing to externally make an unwise choice.
It also allows us to let go of so many thoughts, so it clears the mind enough for us to be more grounded in our bodies so there’s all of these amazing mental benefits that we get from it.
It’s inherently relaxing, although actually when we practice meditation, the first intention is not relaxation, but it’s kind of a natural consequence of the practice. It’s almost like a way to meet life with more balance, because we can’t control so much of life, but we can control how we meet it.
That’s why they call it a ‘practice,' because it’s day to day, moment to moment. We’re never going to be in that place where we are in bliss 100 percent of the time. Our aspiration is to be in a peaceful state more times than we are not. I think it’s important to teach the realities of the mind and the brain, and what it does. It’s really wired to create a lot of thought, so if someone is expecting to sit on the cushion and not have thought, they are already setting themselves up for disappointment.
For those who haven’t practiced meditation, or perhaps busy travelers on the go, where do recommend they start?
I would say mindful belly breathing. Our belly area is where we feel grounded and where our intuition exists, and the energy there is usually very depleted when we are stressed, anxious or depressed. Most of us are under that category in some way.
If we can wake up and do 5-10 minutes of belly breathing using an affirmative mantra—for example, inhaling, ‘I am’ and exhaling ‘at peace’ into the belly—and letting go of the tension there, just a few minutes of that practice can be transformational.