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Today I Flew

Today I flew. 

I flew on an airplane home from a weekend retreat.

One thing I love about flying is the natural transition it offers. A quiet-ish area, no internet, and a confined space is the perfect arena for introspection. Whether it’s a 40-minute flight or several hours, each plane ride is an opportunity to reflect. You can leave behind any distractions that threaten to pull focus from the trip and prepare for the time to come. Whether it’s a trip for work or for play, this transition time can be so helpful. 

On the way home, a plane ride offers the opportunity for debrief. You literally leave behind whatever experience you just had, looking at it from 10,000 feet. Before you return back to your regular life growing closer and bigger in the window as you approach the ground. Another few quiet-ish hours with no internet and not much room to move allows more reflection. Unless you’re tired from the trip; then it offers a guilt-free nap, knowing you can’t be very productive anyway!

Plane time is unique compared to the transition of driving on a trip or taking a train ride. On the plane, once you make it to your seat you are no longer responsible for anything except just sitting there. In a car you may have to drive or navigate. On a train, you have to pay attention to the stops to know when to get off. But on a plane, you’re served snacks and drinks, don’t have to worry about where you’re going, and can’t do anything to control the journey anyway! Plus, it is a gift to not have an internet connection or be tied to the rest of the world for a few hours. Until our society gets better at intentionally disconnecting, our mental health benefits from the forced “airplane mode” we take each flight.

An airplane ride is just a unique environment unlike any other regular part of our lives. 

Today my flight took off at sunset. This beautiful transition from day to night mirrored my transition from the retreat back to my regular life. Have you ever seen a sunrise or a sunset from the sky? It’s beautiful; bigger than a sunset viewed from the ground. Today’s was a true gift as we ascended up into the air and I began reflecting on the retreat. 

I do some of my best introspection on these transition plane rides. It’s a practice in stillness and contemplation, two spiritual disciplines I thought were reserved for monks and mystics. Here are a few reflection practices I enjoy on my trips. I encourage you to try them on your next plane ride:

To your destination:

  • Write a brain dump of everything you didn’t get done before you left and what you’ll be returning to. Try to move as much from your thoughts onto paper as you can, knowing that this list is safely housed outside of your mind while you travel. You don’t need to spend any mental energy focusing on these things until you return back home. 
  • If you’re in a window seat, watch the entire takeoff and landing. Wear sunglasses if needed. Take a picture or two if you want, but watch it through the window, not through your camera lens. 
  • Think about and journal what you’re looking forward to on this trip. Who are you excited to see? What are you wanting to do? How will the next few days enhance your life? How can you support others on this trip?

On your way home:

  • Again, watch the entire takeoff and landing if you’re in a window seat. Notice the time change from one to the other, the location of the sun in the sky and how that affects the ecosystem of the airport.
  • If you’re in an aisle seat, take notice of the feet and shoulders that line the center. Take a moment and think about who each of these people are. Curiously wonder why they’re on the same flight that you are. Thinking about others, even in curiosity like this, helps us grow in empathy.
  • Reflect on the trip you just had. What are the highs and lows? What did you learn? What action steps need to be taken from the past few days? 
  • Revisit your brain dump from takeoff. Is there anything on there that seemed urgent a few days ago but is now less important to you? How has the past few days of work or play changed your priorities? Is there anything you need to add to the list? Or anything you can remove from it?

Today I flew. I flew on an airplane home from a weekend retreat. 

I appreciated the gift of not being responsible for where I was going. Not only in location, but as a reminder of who’s really in control of where I’m going in life. 

Thanks for making this a part of your day!
Feel free to share it with others!

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