I wrote this on the flight to my mountain retreat, but was unable (or too distracted) to post until now; hence, the non-linear path of my latest musings:
I’m sitting in the plane, heading to my destination via one of those dirt-cheap, highly-discounted airlines where the passengers are treated like cattle herded into the corral, seats are tight and narrow and amenities are non-existent. At least three babies are screaming. I’m cramped and thirsty and I can feel the beginnings of tension forming in my muscles.
And yet, perhaps thanks to yoga teacher training, none of this has really bothered me as much as it once did, starting with the 90-minute wait for a boarding pass because I didn’t pay for the upgraded “reserved seat” option.
While I waited in the interminably long line, I chatted with a nice couple from Knoxville, admired a young mother’s pink, blue, green and purple striped hair that matched her outfit perfectly, jumped in startled amusement as a bird swooped down at me from somewhere high in the airport terminal’s roof. But mostly, I stood alone, lost in my thoughts, finding a pattern and rhythm in slowly moving my bags forward in the line, stopping and starting and flowing with my breath. I didn’t think big thoughts or have lofty ideas as I stood; for once, I was simply being, existing in the moment.
In the past, traveling has been a necessary means to a (usually) pleasant end: a welcome destination. Just as in my spiritual growth, oftentimes I overlooked the journey in pursuit of the pleasurable goal. But it seems I am learning to appreciate these small respites from everyday bustle, in whatever form they come.
Now, while looking around at my fellow passengers, it occurred to me that seat choice often reflects personalities. My question du jour: what constitutes an aisle person or a window person? Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but I have my own theory about the types: Window people take pleasure in the journey, settling in to gaze outward, watching the clouds drift by, enjoying looking down upon the miniature cities and intertwining spaghetti noodles that comprise major intersections. Aisle people, meanwhile, are destination-oriented. They want the ability to bolt off the plane immediately, they want first dibs on the bathroom, and they really hate climbing over other people. Convenience is key for aisle people.
(I don’t believe anyone is a center seat person, but I could be wrong, of course).
Believe it or not, I’m a window person, hands down, all the way, contradictory as it may seem.
I love to curl up against the window wall, feet tucked under me, knees tilted up in a squished version of half-lotus. A little breeze is nice, especially if I have a fuzzy blanket to snuggle under. I turn my eyes away from the passengers and out toward infinity; my thoughts naturally drift. Night flying is especially breathtaking: long dark stretches of sky punctuated by the glittery glow of incandescent cities. I imagine, with just a little effort and will, I could reach out and touch the sky, grab a star, a wisp of cloud.
I was relatively fortunate to get an aisle seat on this flight, but not lucky enough to grab a window one. It’s been an exercise in realigning my preferences, maintaining my zen while remembering to keep my feet and elbow out of the aisle. But unexpected channels to contentment and connection have opened up as well. For example, the man sitting next to me, stuck in the dreaded center seat, suddenly handed me two pieces of delicious dark chocolate and a mini-bag of dried apricots that I’m happily nibbling on as I write. As I thanked him, I looked down and noticed his tray littered with his own snack; I supposed I looked a bit startled at the open Pringles can. He saw me reading my Yoga Journal, he said sheepishly, and was afraid to offer me the junk food. A friendly conversation ensued, and a few Pringles found their way into my snack as well.
If I could devise the perfect ending, of course, I would be engaged in scintillating conversation with my seat mate, we would touch down smoothly and I’d write until the end of the flight. But reality has invaded and turbulence has hit as we lower down through the clouds. And so, a quick farewell, and a tip of the hat to glorious unpredictability. See you on the ground.