I have always been an extremely nervous flyer. Turbulence has pushed me to the point of tears on more than one occasion. I am the person on the plane asking the people around me if they heard that noise and if they think it is normal. I am constantly looking to the flight attendants for a look of reassurance, just making sure I don’t see any signs of panic on their faces.
I now always take my airplane pillow and a black sleeping eye mask whenever I fly. You know how they have those anti-anxiety vests for dogs? The eye mask itself wrapped around my head seems to have a calming effect on me.
I got the idea of meditating on airplanes from either Wayne Dyer or Deepak Chopra, talking about how a long flight is a great opportunity to meditate. Just the idea of flying made me nervous at the time, so I didn’t really give it much more thought. Since I started bringing my eye mask on flights, I have gotten more brave about using flying time to get in some travel meditation.
I also like to read books on my ipad when flying, and since there is a requirement to turn off electronic devices during takeoff and landing, I came up with the idea of designating takeoff and landing as times to practice my meditation. After the flight attendants go through their (somewhat terrifying) instructions for passengers, I sit up straight in the chair, with my feet flat on the floor, and place my hands palms facing down on my thighs. This also combats the issue of trying to get comfortable in an uncomfortable airplane seat, a nice added benefit.
I have my eyes closed with the eye mask, and there is a kind of sensory deprivation that the eye mask provides. Maybe in the future I will go so far as to get earplugs as well, but the eye mask alone really helps me. I then try to just go through my usual meditation ritual, or simply focus on breathing deeply in and out, and I don’t really care that I look totally ridiculous!
I don’t do this for every single take off and landing, it really depends on my mood. But it is a great way to get in a meditation if you hadn’t had time to otherwise that day, and also helps calm some flying nerves.
Meditation to Combat Anxiety
Yesterday when I was flying there was some turbulence during the flight, so I pulled down my eye mask and repeated to myself in my head “This is a smooth flight” while breathing deeply. The breathing deeply really helped, and eventually I shortened the affirmation to the word “smooth” on the inhale and “flight” on the exhale. One thing meditation with a mantra does help is blocking out all the other thoughts (especially the bad ones) that creep into the mind and cause the heart rate to increase to panic levels.
As I was doing this, I found that my heart rate was totally calm even though there was turbulence. I used to take propranolol whenever I was forced to speak in public, and found that it had the same calming effects on my flying panic attacks. When I was doing the “smooth flight” meditation yesterday, I felt the very same effects that I used to feel when I had taken propranolol to artificially make myself feel calm.
I still much prefer being on the ground to being in the air. When there isn’t any turbulence, I will admit that flying can be enjoyable. Mediation has helped me to combat my tendency to panic. I usually feel like I am the only one who has any fears about flying (especially when I look around on a plane and everyone else seems to be peacefully asleep or doing a sudoku while I am in panic mode) but I thought maybe this would help someone else too so figured I would share. Do you have a travel meditation ritual? i would love to hear about it. Happy meditating!