So you are about to get on a plane and fly. Whether flying 20 min to a nearby town or 20 hours around the world, if you are like me, you think about a few things as the cabin door closes and the plane pulls away from the gate toward the certitude of flight.
“Are the engines attached well? Will they stay attached???”
“Why are these wings so floppy as we roll over bumps?”
“Did the maintenance crew do their job properly?”
“Did the pilot get a full night’s sleep!?”
At some point, in order to remain calm and stay sane, I put my faith in external forces beyond my control and settle in for what is to come. It’s right about this time that I wonder about how my life has gone so far.
“Did I do enough to be satisfied?”
“Have I experienced everything I want to experience?”
“Is Heaven real? And will my pets be there???”
“Will the food on this flight make me wish this was the last flight of my life?”
And though I consider much and deeply, it is always the potential crash that takes over my imagination. As I attempt to think of whether I have fulfilled my destiny or made a difference in the world or the people close to me, I am drawn like a moth to flame toward the terrible consideration of what if feels like to be in a plane crash… Obviously this has happened zero times for I am sitting here writing this now [hopefully for years to come].
Over-thinking leads to self doubt, frustration, non-starting, and the reliance on belief systems for action. The amount of kinetic activity that contributes to ‘flight’ is far too much to be able to think our way through it. At some point we need to be able to turn the thinking off and attempt our efforts, often times despite our dearly held belief of, “I can’t”. Ultimately flight, like faith is felt.
Faith in Self – What is it?
After many years of attempting faith, I have noticed that without experience faith tends to be blind. On the other side of the coin, with experience faith tends to freeze, stagnate, and devolve into a belief system. One key to find faith in one’s self is to see that the Self is not only ‘an experience’. Yoga teaches that The Self, as such, is the experience, the experiencer, and the act of experiencing all at once! These three together are the very substance of Faith. It would be like being the plane, the passenger, and pilot all at once. You are never apart from faith. Faith is as close as your skin and as real as your heart beat. Faith is always already available, in the same way a sunrise is to a sunset. Faith does not depend on a narrow band of experience for validation. Faith frees our experience to be what it is without the need for it to be different. Faith is literally being open to an experience we do not know. In this moment. Faith is being open to all that is present in this moment, especially that which we tend to ignore. Faith includes all the parts of our self; that which we experience on a daily basis and that which we cannot and do not see.
In Yoga we could be asked to fly; to weight-bear on our hands and arms and hop, jump, or balance in mid air. This is not so different psychologically and emotionally from the experience of flying in a plane. Except on the Yoga mat I am the plane, the passenger, the pilot, and the flight. There is a checklist of operations that happen before every flight on a plane and thank God for that! In the body and on the mat it is no different.
Checklist for flight:
Heart and ribcage –
- The center channel of the body is extended from inside from the pelvic floor to the skull.
- Ribcage buoyant and expanded on all sides with full faith that this experience is enough and does not need anything added to it to be perfect.
- All natural curves present in spine.
- Shoulders blades and collar bones wide
- Armpits hollow and firm on all sides
- Head of arm bones pressing out from midline with shoulder muscles firm on all sides
Arms – Together with the shoulders these are as close to wings as we have.
- The arm bones are pressing forward away from heart and toward the earth
- Muscles of biceps, triceps, and forearms firm on all sides
- Elbows neutral (facing each other, without hyperextension and without bend)
Hands – The foundation of all flight is fed by the Heart and connection to the earth. The placement of the hands can create a firm and reliable foundation inspiring greater Faith in the heart.
- Hands in a neutral placement at a supportive width [roughly center of palm to outer shoulder]
- Finger pads pressing without turning the finger tips white ; base of fingers pressing and baring a slight majority of weight
- Center of palm lifting away from floor
With all of this to think about it can be a bit daunting, like over thinking the possibilities of operator error and maintenance malfunction before taking off in a plane. At some point, we can put down all the thinking and take a leap of faith. Flying on our wings and knowing that falling is part of life and does not ultimately define our strength or faith. If we fall to earth once again smashed on the rocks of illusion, we remember our Self. We remember that faith is not only an experience. Faith is experiencing! All of life, the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys. Faith is that substance of Self which experiences – through this body of limited sensation and feeling – and our contact with our Self grows over time. The more we know, the more we let go of the known and open to deeper and deeper contact with Faith as our Self. We eventually learn to have Faith not only in that which we have experienced but that which we have yet to experience and what might be beyond our experience. We stop selling ourselves short and rest in a deep and profound trust in our Self and what is greater. Then when it comes time to fly, we have no need for thought or belief systems. For flight like Faith, is Felt.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.