On the plane from JFK to Paris, I met Megan and Nikki. Megan is a "content creator" in NYC. She was reviewing the new Jet Blue international plane and flight to Paris. She will be meeting up with her friends in Paris where they will all head to South Africa for an adventure. Nikki, an art curator, was flying to Paris for work, where she will "hit the road running."
When we first boarded, I was seated in the window seat on the far right of the "more leg room" exit row and Megan was seated in the aisle seat of the same row. There was no one seated in the three seats on the other side of the aisle, so Megan moved to the window seat over there.
Nikki was seated in the aisle seat of the row in front of Megan, in the exit row that was not "more leg room." This is a significant point because Nikki said that her seat was quite uncomfortable in comparison to ours. Travel Tip: When flying transcontinental on Jet Blue, invest the little bit more for the "more leg room" seat.
As we neared take-off, seated in her (uncomfortable) seat, Nikki turned around and said, "does anyone else feel afraid (during take-off)?" Instantly, Megan and I hopped to our aisle seats and our three heads came together. It was as if Nikki's words were a powerful vortex that sucked us all in. It was instant bonding. There was instant support. We were instantly in the Sisterhood. The three of us instantly felt a deep sense of compassionate solidarity.
During take-off, I kept looking at Nikki. There can be a communication through the eyes, an energy, a message that says "I'm right here with you." I said that to Nikki with my eyes. I said that over and over, every time I sensed her looking at me, looking for the support.
When I wasn't looking at Nikki, I was looking out my window. I could see the NYC water below.
I watched as we flew higher and as we broke through the clouds.
And then, the clouds were below us. I was struck by how fantastical this reality was. "I am above the clouds" I thought, "like a bird." And then, the setting sun's colors began to soak into the blanket of white.
There was no way my iPhone 6S camera was going to capture the rapture of the moment. I had to try, though, and took a picture. Here (below) is the best my camera could do. Please forgive my camera. For your greatest viewing pleasure, please use a personal heart-soul-memory to bring you to your own sublime experience (before looking at this weak rendition of the miracle I experienced).
I stepped out of myself for a moment and witnessed my face pressed against the glass and the utter awe on this person's (my) tear-streaked face. Seeing myself like this reminded me of a scene from Stephen Spielberg's 1989 movie Always.
Warning: Ima tell you about the movie. Please know that what Ima tell you is word-for-word from Wikipedia, so, I'm not saying anything that's not out there in public domain. Still, if you haven't seen Always and want to see it... I don't want to spoil it for you. You may want to skip over the next three paragraphs.
1. Wikipedia writes: "Aerial firefighter Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) risks himself and his vintage World War II airplane in a constant and death-defying quest to fight forest wildfires, much to the dismay of his girlfriend, Dorinda (Holly Hunter). His love for Dorinda and the advice of fellow pilot Al (John Goodman) convince Pete to give up his perilous career, but he flies one last mission. ...During the fire bombing run, Al's engine catches fire and is about to explode. Pete makes a dangerously steep dive and skillfully douses Al's engine with a fire-retardant slurry, saving him. As Pete struggles to regain control from the dive, he flies directly through the forest fire, igniting his own engine..." At this point in the movie, Al and Pete are flying side-by-side, and Al is letting Pete know, sign-language style, how crazy-amazing that was and how grateful he is, when Pete points to his ignited engine and shrugs, just before his plane blows up.
2. Here now is the specific scene I was referring to: Al, watching his best friend's plane explode (with his best friend in it), has his face plastered to his cockpit window with an expression of utter horror. Looking, witness style, at myself, on the plane over NYC, that is what I looked like. Only, the look on my face is not horror, it's awe. Somehow, the look of awe on my face and the look of horror on Al's face looked the same.
3. In the movie, Pete of course dies. In the next scene of the movie, Pete wakes up in a kind of heaven. And then, in full Spielberg splendor, the real plot of the movie begins. Maybe that's why, to me, Al's expression of horror watching Pete die, and my expression of awe watching the miracle of a sunset soaking into clouds below our plane, look the same.
Ok, if you skipped over those three paragraphs, you can come back now.
This concept makes me think of a psychosynthesis map: the Egg Diagram. I've talked about the Egg Diagram before, but if you don't know about it, please ask me... I'll tell you lots more, as much as I know and as much as you're willing to hear. For now, I want to bring your attention to what I call the "portals." The Egg Diagram pictures two transpersonal points, or, portals. One portal is at the top of the egg. It depicts ascension or "ah-ha" experiences that open us to the sublime and re-connect us to that which is larger than our personal self. The other portal, at the bottom of the egg, is known as the "dark night of the soul." These are the experiences that rip our hearts open, like unfathomable loss. Ultimately, Dark Night of the Soul experiences deliver us to the same place that ah-ha experiences bring us - to the collective unconscious, to where emotions such as joy, love, and compassion live, to connection, to the Universal Flow, to Oneness, to (God*). *Please fill-in the parenthesis with whatever word or phrase makes sense to you.
During the flight, I invited Nikki to sit by me. She shared that her mother had died when Nikki was in her early twenties, and that her mom was what Nikki called: "my person." She told me about the intensity of her fear of flying, and how it had stopped her from completing other trips. I followed my intuitive tug to offer Nikki an impromptu coaching session, which she accepted. We did subpersonality work with a seven-year-old girl living within Nikki. The session seemed mighty powerful from a witness point of view. After the flight, Nikki said our session worked. She related that she had not felt afraid after that. I look forward to hearing how her flight back to JFK in ten days from now turns out.
There's another avenue that I find helps to bring about personal bonding on an airplane: Bongers. I carry my Bongers with me on all flights. I use them for self-massage and stress relief. Inevitably, my flying neighbors try them, like them, and voila... we've found a common point toward understanding each other, tapping into our shared humanity, and moving into compassion. I took a little video of Nikki and Megan bonging away. I'm sorry I surprised them by taking a video (and not a picture). They're pretty darn cute about it though.
When we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, Megan, seeming pretty ecstatic about her upcoming adventure, skipped away to meet her old friends. Nikki suggested she and I share a taxi to our destinations. Mine was on the way to hers. In the taxi, we talked about all things soulful. I do not remember the details of what we said. I just remember that we didn't see anything around us or stop talking for a moment - that engaging and present and pressing was our conversation.
I do remember one thread of the conversation. I was thinking out loud about how a spiritual guide had said to me, "you'll know you're on the right path when it feels light. When you're faced with a choice, weigh things in your heart and pick the one that feels lighter." I was relating this advice, in my mind, to the difference I felt meeting the couple at JFK and meeting Nikki. An argumentative style of communicating felt heavy. Spiritually connecting felt light.
And then I was standing outside the taxi and Nikki was driving away.