There was bad weather today in St. Louis. I know this not because I saw Jim Cantore clinging to a telephone pole while TV cameras filmed tree limbs falling down around him. I know this not because the NOAA Weather Radio sounds-way-too-much-like-Arnold-Schwarzenegger automaton voice told me so.
I know this because I was at the Charlotte Airport waiting to fly to St. Louis, and our flight left about an hour and a half late. I know this because when our plane taxied out onto the runway, it parallel parked (seriously — we backed in) by another plane. I know this because the pilot announced, “Well, folks” …(they always call us folks)… “there’s been a gate stop in St. Louis because of bad weather. We’re not going to be able to leave for another hour.” I know this because we taxied back to the gate and we all got out, and I got some very bad french fries and checked email.
When the pilot made his announcement, a collective groan went up in the plane. The man in front of me said loudly, “Well, THIS is a nightmare!” He pulled out his cell phone and called some poor soul (his wife, I presume) who was probably happily puttering away on a project at the office. He launched in from the minute the call began. He went on for quite some time about how the airlines had screwed up his whole day. He talked loudly. And everyone got an ear full.
I paid attention to the people around me as we de-planed. I listened to what they were saying. I heard the following words and phrases: “Well, this day is ruined.” “They’ve screwed me out of an entire day.” “Ridiculous.” “I hate small planes.” “I hate Charlotte Airport.” “Ridiculous!” “This sucks.” “Five f-ing hours!” “I should’ve just gone to Chicago.” “Ridiculous.”
It made me think of a talk by Eckhart Tolle, author of one of my favorite books, A New Earth. In this talk, he explained how the ego is wildly resistant to the present moment. The ego fights the present moment. It’s always trying to get somewhere else, where things will be better than what’s here now. The ego is actually fed and made larger by our emotional reactions to, say, traffic. Or airline delays. It gets to huff and puff and feel “morally superior to the present moment.” Rage actually feeds this part of you that isn’t at all interested in your highest good. Tolle closes the thought with the ego’s voice saying, “Reality? I’m TOTALLY against it!” (It’s pretty funny really.)
Now, I’m not writing about this so we can all judge the man on the phone or the people who got upset. (Or me, for having french fries.) We’ve all been all of these people. We’ve all experienced frustrating moments in our travels.
But think about it. Travel can really challenge the intent to live in the present moment. The very nature of travel is about getting somewhere else – anywhere but here. My extensive (too extensive, in fact) experience of travel is that most people approach it with this attitude: “Just get me there.”
The point of power is in the present moment.
Here again. Now again.
The choice of how you live in this moment is yours.
You can fight the moment, the airlines, and the woman behind the ticket counter. You can shout, “Ridiculous!” into your cell phone until the batteries die. You can arrive at the meeting in St. Louis, and take a full fifteen minutes of everyone else’s time telling them about your awful flight.
All of this will be like one of those cheap Asian strip mall All-You-Can-Eat buffets for your ego. It will cram itself full of your indignation. It will get puffy and big, and it will know that it is “right!” And that the delays were “wrong!” And you can find many people who will agree with you that the airlines do, in fact, suck.
Or you can take this challenge: See what it feels like to not do that. See what it feels like to call home when you arrive and simply say, “Yea, there were delays. But I’m here. How are you?”
Don’t do this from a mindset that says, “I am so nice. And so very good and holy. Look at me glow.” That’s just another way to puff up your ego. Do it from a mindset that says, “I’m not going to give any energy to this stuff I can’t control.” Watch the voices inside of you that are furious. Feel the space that arises when you don’t give in to that anxiety or panic or anger at the thunderstorms. Just observe. And breathe a lot.
If you can’t find your way to this place, then at least do yourself one favor.
Watch your language.
Watch out for the following words: Hate, Ruined, Sucks, Should’ve, and (today’s favorite) Ridiculous. Even though you’re traveling, and you don’t feel like you’re somewhere – you are somewhere, and your language still holds great power. Your thoughts do too.
So, if you’ve gotten that far, then you can take it to the next step. Be grateful. Yes, even in frustrating travel moments, there’s much to be grateful for. Be grateful that someone cares enough about your safety not to fly you into a storm. Be grateful that the pilot didn’t make you wait on the runway for 8 hours. Be grateful for your health. Or for Jim Cantore and his telephone poles. Or for airport french fries.
And my all-time favorite: Be grateful that you have some unexpected time to write a blog!
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