Freeness Airline

assume-the-position_fade_whiteOn 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.

10 Comments

  • Max Weiss Posted June 24, 2008 7:47 am

    Ah, I always feel a fresh sense of releif whenever I read a Tommy article.

    I seem to constantly be on life tilt, worrying about things out of my control, getting frustrated at not being in more control, etc.

    Basic breathing exercises and mindful attempts at accepting what is help some, but I have to ask you Tommy, how did you learn to be so Zen?

    Wherever you go, whatever you play, it matters…

  • Tommy Angelo Posted June 24, 2008 9:32 am

    Hi Max,

    I don’t have computer access right now. I’ll write a thorough reply when I do.

    TA

  • Richard Posted June 25, 2008 7:14 am

    Hi Tommy,
    Just wanted to let you know that I had a couple of lightbulbs go off, cartoon style, while reading your article. I especially liked the line, “I will retain total control over my own disappointment”. Beautiful.
    I’m living in Spain at the moment, but changes are afoot, and change is going to happen. And I’ve been feeling a little anxious about it all. And then I read your article. And now I’m smiling… Gold.

  • Henri Posted June 25, 2008 11:55 pm

    Good stuff as always. You need to write more articles/blogposts so I can read them! 🙂

  • Tommy Angelo Posted June 28, 2008 7:34 am

    Hi Max,

    You asked:

    “Basic breathing exercises and mindful attempts at accepting what is help some, but I have to ask you Tommy, how did you learn to be so Zen?”

    If it’s true that basic breathing exercises and mindful attempts at accepting what is will help some, then it follows that lots and lots and lots of breathing exercises and mindful attempts at accepting what is will help a lot. And that is my practice. I start everyday with one to two hours of sitting meditation and yoga, and I practice mindfulness of breathing and reality all day long as much as I possibly can. And I read Buddhist teachings everyday. Millions have done what I am doing and have benefited in the same ways. It’s not special, yet it’s unique. It’s not simple, yet it’s uncomplicated. It’s not easy, yet it’s not hard. What it consistently is is totally awesome.

    Tommy

  • Max Weiss Posted June 28, 2008 9:14 pm

    Darn, so simple yet so difficult! I know what I need to do–I guess it’s up to me to do it! Thanks for the reply..

  • Michelle Johnson Posted July 17, 2008 2:31 pm

    Hey! Wow what a fantastic article about Mindfulness Training! Your keen insight into Mindfulness Training is informative and creative. I look forward to reading other articles you have. Thanks.

  • Michael Connor Posted July 25, 2008 10:34 am

    Hi Tommy, I had similar plane experience. I like the way you handled yours. In 1967 I almost missed my first airplane flight due to a gate change and I was last to board. Ever since then I have never been late for a flight – always on time or early. I have flown almost 500,000 miles since then.

    This trip we were in Korea and our flight was cancelled and we had to spend the night in the 5 star airport hotel. The next morning at 10:00 they said pack, line up and your plane leaves at 11:00 – about 200 people rushed around pushing and shoving. I was not worried. We arrived at the biggest airport in Asia at 12:00 and the sign said our flight will depart @ 11:00 on time and final boarding was flashing.

    I did not panic, I was not worried and I did not rush. We boarded and the flight took off at 13:00 when the last person showed up. 🙂

    My calm reaction was due to your writing and E. Tolle’s.

    I am sure you are light years ahead of me but I am not far behind.

    My wife has noticed that I am more serene these days.

    Thanks

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