Mindful Traveling

An airport is full of people waiting for planes, passengers or luggage. It’s not anyone’s real destination. Once we get to an airport, very few people hang out and enjoy the ambiance. Unless you’re an employee, the goal is to get the heck out of Dodge asap.

Because of its transient nature, the energy inside of an airport crackles with anticipation. We’re either waiting for a guy to say, “we’re boarding,” or looking for the freeway ramp that says EXIT. In either case, it’s everyone’s hope to be someplace else.

So, when it doesn’t work out the way we expect, when the commuter is in standstill traffic or the air traveler is not air traveling – we can move through some uncomfortable emotions. There may be anger, frustration, confusion, worry, or tears of sadness. For every one of us bemoaning the late start of a vacation or a journey home from one – there are others late for a critical business meeting, worried about missing a flight connection, or on their way to see an ill loved one. I can only imagine the suffering some of my fellow travelers are experiencing right now. I don’t know about you, but imagining another person’s travails can bring me back to a place of clarity, to the yogic “softer gaze.”

Sure, an airport is designed for going, but it’s also a way station in-between moves. Being here can feel like purgatory for some, especially if we’re prone to making things happen our way, on time, all the time. In other words, it’s hell for control freaks. Or, it can be a pleasant place to people-watch, to acknowledge that we’re at the mercy of the environment, that we can operate the rudder, but the wind and the current are what’s really in charge.

As I write this, our flight is awaiting the arrival of the pilot and his first mate who are still on another plane somewhere in the airport. Accordingly, there are dozens of people beginning to queue up before any announcements have been made to begin boarding. They are excited or anxious or jockeying for position and it makes the whole gate experience feel like Yankee stadium with two out in the ninth inning. People are jumpy – especially in New York!

At moments like this, I get very calm. I think it comes from a lifetime of performing and, probably, living in New York. This can be a blessing. When the air around me gets boiling hot, my inner air conditioner automatically turns on. I don’t jockey for position, rush or imagine the worst scenario. Instead, I slow down and allow the horde to board without me among them. When a plane lands, I’m sometimes the last one off. This is one of my greatest techniques for maintaining my own sanity.

Yeah. I know that it’s hard when the world around us feels like an ant farm. When people start competing instead of collaborating, worrying about what might happen instead of what is, the environment has moved from regulated to dysregulated. But it’s very common around here.

I think that regulation is what we need to get better at if we want to travel or change or just stay calm. In our case, we have to practice regulation as we travel between Sullivan and Westchester, from a small town like Mayberry RFD with its single-lane, 45 mph backroads to Long Island where there are often many commuters and cars merging and converging at 75 mph. These transitions can be hard on the central nervous system. But that’s what mindfulness really is – moving back and back and back again to the breath.

It’s what we teach, so we are getting a lesson to learn more every time we travel.

The Adventure continues.

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