On June 19, I woke up in Ohio and I went to bed in California. Meanwhile, there were delays. My flight from Cleveland to Houston was a little late getting off the ground, which gave me only 20 minutes or so to walk from gate E14 to gate C32 at the Houston airport, a distance of eight restrooms and two Starbucks. When I got to gate C32, they were still boarding. I stood in line. I scuffled forward with my linemates. I handed my boarding pass to the attendant. The machine rejected my pass. “Where do you think you are going?” she asked. There have been many answers to this question over the years. Now I understand that there was, is, and forever shall be only one answer. “I am already there.” But I didn’t think that was the best answer in this situation, so I said, “San Francisco.” The attendant said, “Well this plane is going to New York. The gate for your flight has been changed. Your flight is departing from Gate 42. Walk back to the intersection and turn right.” She pointed toward a distant Starbucks.
I started walking like a trotting horse struggling to contain a gallop. Then I remembered. It’s all about just remembering. I remembered that nothing matters, as does everything. I remembered that if I miss my flight, I will retain total control over my own disappointment. I remembered that I have been training myself and taming myself for five years so that the thought of and the act of spending the night in an airport not only doesn’t hurt, but is actually perceived as and cashed in as an opportunity for even more training and more taming. Suddenly, I was walking calmly to gate 42, and I was smiling at people and myself, because I was free. There was nothing to fear at gate 42. So I was naturally experiencing the journey, because there was simply nothing else to do.
As I approached gate 42, I saw a standing crowd, so I knew my plane had not left yet. Years ago, I would have been walking quickly and nervously to gate 42, and upon seeing the crowd, I would have felt a huge sensation of relief. This time, seeing that I had not missed my flight gave me a very small tinge of relief, which I have come to understand to mean that I would have felt an equally small amount of anxiety had there been no crowd. And that’s what this is all about, this mindfulness thing. It’s about little or no anxiety or unhappiness about anything, even major physical damage or illness.
The woman with the microphone told us that the flight crew wasn’t here yet. The crew would be leaving nearby Hobby Airport soon and they’d be here in an hour or two. The crowd produced a collective groan. And now I had a fresh excuse to feel frustrated and disappointed. Which meant I had a new opportunity to put my training into practice. And I did. I stood tall, and I breathed in with full awareness that I was breathing in, and when I breathed out, I sent compassionate waves of understanding and mending to my crowd mates. It’s okay. It’ll be all right. We’ll get where we are going eventually. Let’s just relax together and enjoy the ride as best we can.