I had a recurring nightmare where I was stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.
Somehow I’d ended up in Texas, or somewhere like that and couldn’t get back.
And the reason I couldn’t get back was due to my sheer terror of flying. The more I flew in real life, the more scared I got.
Well that isn’t quite true.
There was one flight from France, where I took one of my favourite books, the Power of Now. And turned to the page where Eckhart Tolle talks about the benefits of being present for our own death.
He says that there are several opportunities to experience enlightenment, and one of them is at the time of our death. According to Eckhart, when the time comes to shake off this mortal coil, the temptation will be to turn away in fear. But if we stay alert and mindful, we can enjoy the moment in it’s full glory and everlasting nirvana will be ours.
I can’t tell you what the other opportunities for instant enlightenment are, as I’m too tired/lazy to go and get the book and turn to the appropriate page. But I swear that reading it whilst on a plane took away all my fear – especially that feeling I know other flight phobics experience – trying to mentally keep the plane in the sky.
In my case this means that nobody else can speak to me, I can’t read a magazine or eat anything. I just have to stare at a spot on the back of the seat in front of me – which of course is pretty close, if the person sitting in that seat has taken the opportunity to recline.
So yes, it’s almost like mindfulness meditation, but in this case I’m not breathing deeply and slowly, but in an anxious, shallow sort of way. My minds all over the place, anticipating heaven knows what.
So back to the dreams where I was stuck on the other side of the Atlantic. I always woke up in a cold sweat, full of relief that I was actually home in my bed in Market Harborough.
But last year, I got this chance to go to the US to attend the Martha Beck coaching meet up. And I really wanted to go. And heck I love America. I’d braved the flight to LA all alone when I worked in travel and I knew could do it again.
As I wasn’t sure if Eckhart Tolle would help me this time, I decided to Google some statistics about plane crashes and risk of terrorist attacks.
The odds against were stacked pretty high, which I knew anyway, but for some reason learning that I’d have to take a thousand flights for a thousand years before I boarded a plane that would fall out of the sky (again I can’t remember the exact odds, I’m not a statistics geek. You’ll have to Google them yourself).
On boarding the plane, I was reminded that so much of what scares us is stuff that we play out in our mind before we even put ourselves in the situation we dread.
I’m not sure exactly what worked, but my fears had evaporated. The flight was fine and I watched 3 films.
I landed in LA not knowing a soul. There was a big full moon as the very expensive taxi sped towards downtown.
But I didn’t feel stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.
I was excited. Facing some of my biggest fears felt great.
And I can recommend Grand Budapest Hotel if you haven’t already seen it. Next time I’ll watch it when the movie screen isn’t almost pressed against my face, because the person in front has reclined.