Fear of flying

Sometimes it’s not faith that makes it possible to face your fears, sometimes the fear of missing out on something is stronger than the fears that would hold you back.

I used to have a crippling fear of flying…okay, maybe not crippling. My desire to get to far away places very quickly often outweighed my fear of flying and when I studied abroad in Germany my desire to save money outweighed my fear of flying.  By 2007 a bunch of regional airlines had sprung up making it (much) cheaper to travel by air than by train between countries in Europe and I traveled a lot while I was there.  I think I took ten flights in two months.

Flying wasn’t the only fear I was facing on those trips though. I also used to be afraid of travelling alone.  I used to only travel with family, or friends, or boyfriends. About a year before Europe I found something I wanted badly enough to face both my fear of flying and my fear of traveling alone. In that case the thing I wanted to do was go to Veronica Marsathon in Austin and I didn’t care that no one else I knew was going.

I had definitely conquered my fear of traveling alone after Austin and Europe, in fact at that point I almost preferred traveling alone. I also felt like I might have conquered my fear of flying after all those flights.  I no longer got anxious before getting on planes. I mean, I still got anxious on take off and landing, but other than that I was mostly fine.  Of course, I get really bad motion sickness on any moving vehicle so I always take Dramamine when I fly and sleep through almost everything but take off and landing, but even so, I felt like I’d made a lot progress on my fear of flying.

A couple of days after I got home from Europe, I had a wedding to attend in Puebla, Mexico. I flew from Seattle to Dallas, Dallas to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Puebla.  That last leg of the flight was on a tiny plane. You know, the kind where you can almost touch both walls while standing in the center aisle. Also, there was a really bad thunder and lightning storm over Puebla when we flew in. Looking out the window of the plane you could see lightning striking all over and you could see, it looked like hundreds of, little fires all over the ground from previous strikes.

Flying in a storm like that was terrifying, but it was also beautiful. I’d never seen anything like it before and I’ve never seen anything like it since. I had no way of knowing that my flight would get caught in lightning storm, but I can’t imagine having missed out on that amazing, beautiful, and terrifying experience. Now I never think twice about getting on a plane alone.

United

I Identify as Jewish because my mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish, and I have a Hebrew name, and of course because of the food, but I think of my Jewishness as more race than religion. I identify as Christian because I believe in the things that Jesus espoused (love and forgiveness). I identify as Buddhist for similar reasons. I think of my Christianity and Buddhism as more philosophy than religion.

Not that I am a non-believer. I have a lot of faith, but what I believe is that the divine is something that we don’t, and most likely can’t, understand. Our eyes and ears can only see and hear a small fraction of the spectrum of sights and sounds and if we can’t even see and hear everything around us how can we possibly expect to understand all of the mysteries of the universe. I think it is our instinct to try to make sense of the things we can’t understand and so we create stories to make sense of it all and those stories, while different in many ways, are also very similar.

I think if you asked yourself, “What would Jesus do?” and “What would Buddha do?” the answers would be remarkably similar. I think those two stories are (at their core) the same in the same way that different languages have different words for the same things. Not only are those stories the same, but the people telling them (and all people) are, at their core, the same as well.

People hoping for peace in the world will often say that there is more that unites us than divides us and maybe it sounds like that is what I am saying too, but it’s not.  There are similarities and differences, things that unite us and things that divide us, and we get to choose which we want to focus on.  Maybe there are way more things that divide us.  Maybe there’s only one thing that unites us.

What do you want to focus on?

I read somewhere recently that optimism is a practice not a personality type and people often refer to their religions as practice as well. I would say the same of focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us. These are all acts of faith and they require practice.

Gratitude

Gratitude has long been a component of numerous religious practices and expressing gratitude has been a growing theme on social media as well (with 365 days of gratitude, and #gratituesday, etc.).  Timber Hawkeye, of Buddhist Boot Camp often brings a gratitude wall to his speaking engagements and people put up all the things they are grateful for on the wall. Expressing gratitude is a type of prayer and another type, also present in many religious practices, is asking for what you need or want in your life.

My own practice is to write down the things I want and the things I’m grateful for on pieces of origami paper and fold them into paper cranes and put them into what I call my please and thank you box. Also, sometimes I just fold the cranes as a sort of meditative act.

Cranes

If it is true that “with our thoughts we make the world” this practice or prayer, or meditation, or expressing gratitude, or focusing on positives, or whatever you want to call it, helps us to build a better world for ourselves.

Make yourself a gratitude wall, or a please and thank you box, or find your own way of asking for what you want and expressing gratitude for what you have.