I just got back from a few days in Spain. (This is why the blog has been a little quiet).
I had an awesome time, walking in the mountains, catching up with old friends and paying off my sleep overdraft with some serious shut-eye.
The one thing I don’t really like about getting away though, is the plane travel bit. Specifically the taking off and landing bit.
But I’ve found that moments like this can be put to good use.
I don’t know if you experience this or not, but when taking off or landing, I feel like I might die.
While the teenagers are giggling their way through the safety demonstration, and everyone else is playing Angry Birds on their phone when they’ve specifically been told to turn off all electronic equipment, I’m experiencing the fragility of my existence.
It’s not the same as when I was being wheeled in for emergency brain surgery, but it still has an urgency to it.
I experience, right down deep at an almost cellular level, my desire to exist.
Philosophically speaking, I don’t much care whether I live or die. I don’t want to cause upset to the people who love me, but personally, I don’t see any particular benefit to life compared with death.
But when I’m taking off or landing, it’s not about philosophy. It’s about biology. It’s about your guts.
I know I’m probably going to live. Crossing the street is statistically far more dangerous. But in that moment it doesn’t feel like that.
In that moment, my life hangs in the balance, and I have the opportunity to put some real weight behind my practice.
Prepare to meet thy God
There’s a sign on the top of a building that I pass twice a day on the train to and from work. It says “Prepare to meet thy God.”
That’s not my particular mythology, but I get where that sign is coming from. Which will come first? Tomorrow, or the next life?
When we’re well, we assume the answer will be ‘tomorrow’. We don’t know, but we usually pay it little mind. So I like that sign. It reminds me not to take this moment for granted.
And it’s the same with plane travel. The feeling of my impending doom brings me into this very moment. I wish everyone I know wellness and happiness, and then I dwell, fully present, right now.
I feel all the fear, the desire for it to be over. I notice my mind dropping away into distraction, even in these moments. I notice every sound, my breath, my body.
I imagine maintaining this level of awareness through the end of my life. When there is no more breath. When the heart stops. When the brain dies. When there’s no longer a body, no longer sounds, no longer distractions. When there’s no anchor to anything material or mental at all. What then?
Less than a minute passes, there’s an electronic ‘ding’, and the staff are up and about, trying to sell me perfume or a watch or a whisky.
I drop back into a more usual state of being. Until it’s time for us to land.