We don't fly very often but when we do we are extremely aware of the many and varied chances to do spiritual practices before and during a flight. Here are a few of them, which we recommend to you for your holiday travels.
- It seems that many passengers get impatient and even angry and aggressive when lining up to board the plane. We use this transition period to ask for God's blessing on all those who will be flying with us today. May they all know happiness and peace.
- We try to think positive thoughts about our journey as we pass through the walkway to the airplane. This use of intention enables us to push away any anxiety that might crop up about the flight.
- Expectations bring us trouble and lead us into the dead-end street of entitlement. So we try to relax and not get bent out of shape when we can't put our carry-on bag in the overhead bin directly above our assigned seat. We just find another place for it.
- When we sit down, we acknowledge the person beside us with a hello. This is giving the gift of presence and recognition to a stranger. When we chat with each other or our seatmate, we keep our voices low so that it does not bother others.
- Part of our flight civility is staying in our "space bubble" and making sure that we don't invade the space of another. This means not assuming the arm rest is just for us.
- When we hear the familiar instruction to put our seat in an upright position, we say a prayer of thanks for the airplane seat. As the great psychologist James Hillman wrote: "By treating that seat as if it were animated with its own spirit I will be less likely to rough it up and more likely to show care. A cared for seat will also perform better and provide longer-lasting service."
- At the end of the flight when everyone else seems to be making a mad rush to the exit doors, we remain in our seats until the others have left. We smile as we remember Jesus' statement that the last will be first!
- As we leave the plane, we thank the pilots and/or flight attendants for doing such a good job.
- Picking up our suitcase in Baggage Claim gives us another opportunity to practice patience and putting others first. We step aside and let those in a hurry grab their luggage. As Mike Riddell reminds us: "Patience is something that is chosen; it is an active and intentional waiting which grows from an attitude of trust towards the essential goodness of life. It is a craft which must be learned through practice."