I always prefer to take night flights, but when a day flight is unavoidable, killing 12h on a plane can get a little challenging. The in-flight entertainment system could be your salvation, but if you fly a lot you will exhaust the options soon. What to do then?! Keep calm and meditate.
If you think about it, being alone on a plane for a long period of time is a bit like a spiritual retreat. A chance for some introspection, to get some “me” time and put your head in order. There’s no internet, nowhere to go, not much to look at, no interruptions, you have nowhere to go but inwards. What does it sound like? YES, meditation.
If you are afraid of flying or just stressed by the whole thing, this meditation can help you get in good spirits for your long flight. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed even if you are a frequent flyer. The packing frenzy, the traffic, the check-in queues, that moment when you don’t know if you will get away with those 10 extra kgs in your luggage… Then security scans, shoes off, shoes on, immigration, customs, waiting, boarding, placing your luggage in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you, fasten your seat-belt and switch off all electronic devices…
You made it, now it’s time for YOU to SWITCH OFF
Now start to breathe only through the nose. Observe your breath and resist the temptation to control it. You are just a witness of that phenomenon that happens without you even thinking it Close your eyes gently and use each breath to scan your body from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. Each breath goes through that specific area like a healing wave and releases any accumulated tension. Let the tension leave with the exhale.
Relax your forehead, the muscles around your eyes. Feel the cool air entering the body through your nosetrils and notice how the air feels warmer when it leaves. Relax the sides of your mouth. Let it open slightly if that’s it’s most relaxed position for you. Unclench your jaw and your teeth. Relax the back your neck, the front of your neck, your throat and collar bone.
Stop a little longer on your shoulders, for four to five breaths. We hold a lot of tension there. Once you are ready and at your own pace, move your awareness down to the chest. Notice the air first fills some areas of your lungs and then others. Do not inflate your chest. Remember you are just an spectator. Your breath is breathing you, you are not in control. Your whole body is breathing and it happens without your intervention. Leave the belly soft, letting it inflate and deflate naturally with each breath. Make it stick out softly, nobody is looking, nobody cares. You are alone in your own air bubble floating over oceans and continents. You don’t hear the noises around you anymore. It’s just you and your breath.
Go down to the belly. Feel it rise and fall with each breath. Stay here if you wish. Feel your arms breathing too. From the shoulder, the elbow, forearm, top of the hand, back of the hand, fingers. The whole of the arm. Do the same with your legs. The back of the thighs, the front of the thighs, the calves, the shins, ankles, top of the feet, toes. Feel the soles of the feet in contact with the ground. Feel the vibration, your whole body is breathing. Keep our whole body in awareness. With each breath feel the air run through you as if you where a sponge. From the top of the head to the soles of the feet. Stay here as long as you wish.
Congratulations! Just by reading this you have already felt the bliss of meditation. You have probably scanned your body with each line and unconsciously followed the instructions. You might feel sleepy, then sleep. You might feel calm and content, or energized. There’s no magic formula. You are feeling whatever it is that needs to be felt right now in your body.
When you reduce external stimulus the senses stop bothering the mind and it goes quiet. I have my brightest ideas in those moments. Starting the flight with this simple meditation had me writing posts for the last 8h. I think I’m over India at the moment which is very appropriate! I feel calm and inspired, my head bubbling with ideas.
It doesn’t always go this way though, and there’s nothing wrong with you if that’s the case. Keep trying if you are keen. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Calm.com has some nice free audio meditations you can download to your phone before a flight. If your inner Buddha has gone out fishing and your inner jumpy monkey is in charge, check out 10 things to do to entertain yourself on a long flight. Coming soon.
Until then, namaste, and safe travels!