It seems shameful to admit all this but…I am a freaked out flyer as soon as turbulence starts. I don’t take xanax, ambien or alcohol. I seem to prefer white knuckling it to being in a fog on arrival. I never leave a plane without leaning into the cockpit to thank the pilots and their divine skills for delivering us safely. People reassure me by suggesting to think of turbulence as waves across a windy bay. That I’m in a boat on water, not in a flying capsule 35,000 feet above it. It’s really impossible for me to hold onto this imaginative exercise for even half a breath. Early in February 2015 with only a few days of the 28day meditation challenge under my belt, I boarded the late night flight from Kona, Hawaii to Los Angeles. That was the first leg of my journey but the most anxious one considering we’re over open ocean for the entire flight and 2,512 miles of it. It seems impossible for a 75-ton airplane to stay suspended in the air. I’m scared of heights too. I feel as though all my female parts are whooshing out of me looking down. Flying over ocean… it’s that same feeling again. Almost immediately after take off the turbulence begins. The dim lights off the Kohala coast are behind us now. It’s just the black abyss. I’m in the aisle seat across from my husband. I grab his hand, squeeze the blood out of it and give him the look of “please god, reassure me that we won’t die tonight”. We’ve both taken a Kavinace PM to relax and it’s working for him. He knows this drill. He says, “ its just turbulence. We’re fine”, and closes his eyes. I’m on my own. I make eye contact with the young man sitting in the window seat next to him. No solace there. He looks equally dismantled frantically adjusting his blue United blanket under his head against a shuddering window. I give him a feeble thumbs up. My breath’s caught in my throat. I tighten my seat belt for the 5th time. I reach into my bag fumbling around for my computer and headphones. The turbulence intensifies. My fear risen to terror. I manage to lift the computer into my lap holding it tight so it won’t fly away. I put my headphones on, open the computer, and click the red circle with the eighth note iTunes logo. I type in “Sharon”. After that it was pure grace where I ended up. Sharon’s dulcet voice came into my seat with me giving me with what turned out to be life saving instructions on: Calming the mind; Counting the breath. “Allow your attention to settle on the feeling of the breath. Let the breath lead the way,” My entire body is burning hot. I begin repeating silently to myself what she says. As I feel my inhale, “In”. As I feel my exhale, “ one”. That’s as far as I get. I’m hijacked by terror time and time again. What I want you to know is; that I did begin again and again and again and again and again for hours that night. Her 10-minute meditation looping. I can remember the first time getting to three, four, five… before the terror flooded in again. Sometime in that flight across the Pacific I actually fell asleep counting my breath. I woke up to see Santa Monica Bay with her arms out stretched.
My mind was calmed counting my breath. This meditation is powerful medicine. It’s actually life saving.