I want to begin a rather serious post with a little bit of flight attendant humor direct from what can be the funny skies:
(disclaimer: the airline I fly for does NOT ever use carts in the isles, we instead have fun reeking havoc in turbulence carrying items on trays and as a side note, we ALWAYS serve the whole can so you need not ever ask for one when ordering a drink from me as you will betray your status as a first time flier in the sacred skies 🙂 ).
And a share of the extraordinary view from my office:
I love where I work. It is one of the most unique spaces that we human beings can ever visit. Airplanes, to me, are sacred spaces akin to flying cathedrals full of opportunities for the most amazing teaching, growth and divine spiritual insight. When that much humanity is confined into that small of a space, magic or mayhem is bound to happen… and sometimes it is both. 🙂
For example, do you want an instant accurate assessment for where you are at any given time with the current level of your personal spiritual attainment? Just arrive on board an aircraft after a long day for a sold out 7 hour cross country or overseas flight, discovering you have been assigned a middle seat. Just sit back, buckle your seat belt and watch what happens with the self talk in your head at the thought! lol
Airplanes are one of the only spaces on this planet where we human beings are forced to give up so much of our illusion that we control much of anything in our external environments. Once you are up in the air, baring almost dying yourself or threatening the death of another, you cannot get off until it is time to land. You cannot control much about your experience at all other than what you think about it. And during the times that entertainment systems fail which are there specifically designed so that one does not have to sit with their own thoughts and within themselves in stillness, watch what can happen. I have seen what appear to be adults go completely to pieces throwing tantrums like toddlers whose toys have been taken away. What, you mean there is nothing to do???
And do you want to do a dance with the illusion of time? Try flying anywhere when mother nature does not want you to. One quickly learns the lesson that it is good to be in the frame of mind knowing that we are always located where we need to be just exactly when we actually need to be there. From the view at that window seat, one is never late, but always right on time. What about the baggage on planes… both the physical items and that which cannot be seen? Well the only time I have officially lost it with a customer was just a few days after 9/11 when two women were fighting over placing their carry on luggage in limited overhead bin space. In so many words I basically told them that they each could take their baggage and sit down and shut up because at that very moment men and women were dying in the middle east as my country was bombing another using the justification of the names of others who died on flights that had supposedly hit buildings. Needless to say, I am not proud of my approach, but I heard not one peep out of those women for the rest of that flight.
Airplanes provide a space where are our social customs and norms regarding personal body space completely have to go out of the window. I have witnessed grown adults hair pulling and seat back kicking over the chosen angle of recline to a seat. And flying through pretty good levels of turbulence? I have seen card carrying, confirmed atheists crumble and find God as they struggle to remain calm and just continue to breathe as items not buckled down hit the ceiling.
…and the flight attendant’s role in all this? For me it is a sacred role of observer of humanity and in return touching the title of Sky Goddess, complete as confessor with beatific maternal presence extraordinaire. We are the ones that are to remain calm and smiling no matter what. We are the ones that breakup the fights at the back of the bus (this is referring to the Airbus brand aircraft I work the cabin on outside the safety and security of the bomb and bullet proof front of the cabin cockpit door) and we remind others what exact civil manners must be expressed at 39,000ft in mixed company.
The only time you need ever worry on one of my flights is if my smile ever disappears for a moment. However at this stage of the game, it will only ever be replaced with a calm knowingness that I trust myself, I trust my training and I live my life embracing any fear knowing that when my number is up, it is up. I die daily visiting the bardo of antarabhava when working.
Airplanes are a space that we so often lightly and casually enter, placing our lives in the hands of complete strangers, trusting in the creations of science and men to move us safely in unpredictable nature as we desire rapid travel from A to B. Because of this, there is always gratitude from me for any safe take off and any safe landing. There also is not once that I do not have a bit of awe when I look down out the window at altitude over land and marvel at the millions and millions of toothbrushes I am flying over and all the unique life stories that are attached to each of them. There is not a time that I do not fly over the open ocean and have a pause as I think of those souls in that moment in time who are experiencing the challenge of being lost at sea. I always send them a thought that they are remembered and that they are not alone in that moment. And if you ever have any doubts about the existence of an energy field around a human body, just watch what one person having a really bad day can do to the emotional state of all others forced to be confined around them in a small tube in the sky. It is an EXCELLENT place to practice witnessing the feeling of pain without having to experience suffering.
Over the past decade +, airplanes have been the source for some of my greatest teachers and space for deep teaching to take place. Next time you have a trip that requires a flight, join me flying in what can be cathedrals and temples in the sacred skies above. All that and nirvana moments provided by the middle seat are only ever a trip away. 🙂
A few more thoughts for those who find they are afraid of flying:
And to close with a bit more humor to lighten the baggage in the airline industry:
If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then something is definitely wrong. However, take it with a pinch of salt, because this air hostess is one who is proud of her wings and doesn’t mind wearing the humorous stereotypical scarf associated with them. With the right attitude, one can always laugh and rock wearing what is to be found on the human uniform.