Walking up and down the darkened aisle of the plane from Paris to San Francisco, it’s so clear that the thin blue carpet covers 33,000’ of space between this metal capsule and the earth. People watch movies, talk, eat, meditate, work, sleep, mostly oblivious to the true situation we are all in together in the jet plane of life, where we know the flight will end in our death. How do we respond to the fragility of our life, with fear? Love? Both?
After teaching together in France, Anam Thubten and I have been in the air for 8 hours, 3½ more to go, when a flight attendant shyly asks, is he a Buddhist monk? She is from Thailand, she explains, and there is a colleague in the first class cabin who is having a hard time. He says he is no longer a monk, that we are both Buddhist teachers. Overjoyed, she brings her friend back to us for encouragement and support. With tears in his eyes, he tells his story, then goes back to work grateful, blessed.
Before we know it, one by one she brings the rest of the flight crew down the aisle to crouch by our seats – we hold hands, offer prayers, we listen: My husband just died, he was 42… My dream is to open a muffin shop but I’m too scared…I’m raising my three kids alone…We wind up in the back galley with five flight attendants, all of us holding hands, offering metta/lovingkindess softly – a moment of travel magic.
Later he says, I travel all the time; this is the first time that’s happened. It’s auspicious, we agree. Thanks to the brave Thai flight attendant, we opened our hearts to our shared world, flying along at 600 mph, over Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada. This is how we can move through this fleeting world; opening to life, life opens to us. We open to love and love opens to us.
Image Credit: T. Goodman