December is a time of celebration, reflection and family. It is also a time of travel. By train, plane and automobile, we are all doing what we can to get closer to the people and places we love.
I’ve been traveling for other reasons recently and just returned from a trip to Boston. I did get to spend time with someone I love there, and it made the whole trip worthwhile.
Last Thursday, I was sitting on a parked plane about an hour after the scheduled departure. First and foremost, I was grateful for my aisle seat. I created a little space in the chaos.
I woke up that morning at 3:30 am to the sound of wind ripping past my bedroom window. The wind sounded angry and I had a feeling it would do damage. As I was headed to the airport a few hours later, I saw fences blown over, dust and debris flying through the air, and knew that my flight would be interesting.
As I sat on the plane waiting for an announcement, I couldn’t help but look around. People on airplanes always offer a wide range of human behavior. The delay was 1% frustrating and 99% relief for me. Taking off into 80-90 mph winds is not an appealing idea.
I watched as passengers grumbled and rolled their eyes. We didn’t have any information about our delayed departure, so I knew it would be awhile. I tuned out to my surroundings and tuned in to some music, listened to my new favorite song and settled in.
Instead of worrying about things I had no control over, I chose to feel blessed that…
- I had a block of uninterrupted time to write
- The air temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold
- I wasn’t flying in the wind
- I would be in a beautiful city before the end of the day
As soon as I turned my focus from the negative to the positive, I felt lighter and happier and more open to letting go. There is no secret or magic formula to switch the direction of your thoughts, just make the choice to think differently.
Choose to think about things that deliver
This is not to suggest that you go into a state of denial when dealing with unpleasant situations. In fact, when the opportunity presents itself, I suggest proactive behavior. Many times though, there is nothing for us to do, so we worry and wonder.
When something happens in your life that is out of your control like delays and departures, or illness and tragedy, notice your initial emotional reaction, admit that things are out of your control and make the choice to change the direction of your thoughts.
In yoga class, I’ve learned some unique breathing techniques that I use outside of the studio. My favorite is a big sigh. When you get overwhelmed, or are moving a little to fast for your brain, take a deep, deep breath in through your nose and then let it out in the form of a big, loud sigh through your mouth. For maximum impact, raise your arms over your head as you are breathing in and let them drop to your sides as you sigh.
I just read Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner. I laughed and cried through Priscilla’s journey of bringing calm to her life. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she describes that sigh is an acronym.
S = Sitting
I = In
G = God’s
H = Hands
I’ve always thought of that intentional sigh as letting go, and now I think of it as trusting God to show me the way.
While I don’t believe we are in control, I do believe we can prepare for the best, especially when traveling.
Here are a few tips if you are traveling for the holidays
- Pack light and carry on.
- Bring a snack to avoid expensive, calorie laden airport food.
- Stretch whenever and however. (even if you think you look funny.)
- Make space where you can.
- Unrush. Sometimes you can’t avoid running through the airport, but whenever you can, do it. Arrive early so you don’t feel hurried and rushed.
- Last but not least, don’t forget to sigh.
My flight last week was scheduled to leave the terminal at 9:45 and didn’t take off until almost noon. I was more grateful for that delay than ever after connecting with a friend who was on an earlier flight on the same route. He said it was the scariest flight he had ever been on with passengers screaming, praying and throwing up, imagining impending doom. Be grateful for your next delay at the airport, or anywhere in life.
Wishing you safe travels this holiday season and always. The journey can be meaningful as long as you are open to changing your mind. And of course, when the destination is family, friends and love, it’s always worth the trip.