Posted by: John | December 25, 2010

Flying is Spiritual for Me

I’ve always thought of myself as spiritual in nature, although not religious. In my forty-plus years of flying, I’ve experienced moments that seemed to give me insight into something deeper than myself:  The sight of a glory – that round rainbow circling the perfect silhouette of my plane or glider – still amazes me, even though I now understand the reason why it appears; staying aloft in a glider – even though I know how to do so – takes me so close to nature I feel part of it.

The ancients gave the gods credit for things they themselves couldn’t explain. As I try to find solace between my thoughts when I meditate, I’m told I’m searching for God. My concept of God has evolved to a subjective, all-encompassing Maker:  The Maker of the universe with all its galaxies as well as the Maker of the glory I see from my cockpit. Am I not just doing the same as the ancients?

I’ve heard that spiritual experiences should change one’s life in some way; I’ve always considered myself as a seeker. As such, my life is always changing. I feel this is the way things should be for me. Is this some sort of self-deception? Am I just rationalizing the glories and the glider flights? I only know how I feel inside.

On more than one occasion while waiting for the tow plane to take the slack out of the rope to pull my glider on our grass strip, I’ve noticed butterflies flying in formation and drawing nectar from the plants. I know I’m a small part of everything – like the butterflies – when the tow plane starts to take off, pulling me into the blue sky. I feel warm inside, a part of the universal whole. Is this a spiritual experience? Who’s to say?

Each flight in an airplane or glider is different in some way. I believe that flying should be approached with an aura of relaxed awareness. This involves intuition which comes from experience (not from books). We must be present in the moment when we’re flying, but it’s just as important to be aware of where we’re going. The focus demanded in flying is much like that demanded in meditation.

Prayer and meditation are the supporting poles of a spiritual life. Because I see similarities between flying and meditation, does that make flying spiritual for me? I wonder if it’s even worth discussing. My meditation has always been private for me, and my flying, since I now have fewer students, is becoming more private as well. 

For now, I think I’ll be content to maintain my own ideas of what is spiritual for me. As long as pastel, sunset, cirrus clouds highlighted by a full moonrise still take my breath away when I’m at three thousand feet, I will consider my flying to be a spiritual experience.

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