Earlier today, as I said goodbye to my new friends with hugs at the airport terminal in Hong Kong, I was reminded of why I don’t like to fly business class anymore.
One of my new friends was off to Bangladesh, the other to Malaysia and I was in transit to Australia. After three men spent 15 hours on a flight squished together in economy class, I would have expected there to be maybe some resentment from not sharing the arm rest enough, relief to be off the plane and other minor annoyances. Instead, we were laughing and smiling with one another.
Let me rewind 15 hours...
Settled into my seat, we were in the air and above the clouds. I was enjoying a movie and noticed the man next to me was fidgeting often. I sensed that his body movements were maybe a window into agitation he was feeling in his mind. I took note to check in with him later.
A few hours later, I noticed he was sitting slightly forward on his seat, with his spine straight and arms at ease. He was meditating. I often meditate on flights, be it for 5 minutes or 50 minutes, however have rarely seen a flight mate also do it. I was intrigued.
A bit later I asked the inevitable question, “how’s your meditation practice going?”. Coming from me, this question is opening a can of worms, as those who know me know that if I’m not in meditation, I am usually talking about meditation. It’s a topic that I find I cannot stop talking about.
Fast forward a few hours, I am holding my first mindfulness workshop at 37,000 feet in the air with the two men sitting with me. Explaining the concepts behind meditation first, we then shared a longer practice together followed by a journaling exercise (Morning Pages). Our conversation went deep very fast, and we found ourselves in a discussion about spirituality, religion and lifestyle choices.
One of my new friends shared that his marriage had recently fallen apart, and he has found meditation to be a useful tool to navigate an uncertain time. So many priorities to juggle, including his two kids, thriving career, exploring his passion for music, staying physically active and a desire to build a regular meditation practice. His intention for this year is balance.
My other new friend is younger, about to graduate from university and enter the working world. He shared about his relationship and desires with money, clearly aware of the trade offs involved. His girlfriend of a few years is from a different culture which he made a few interesting observations of. His intention for this year is freedom.
The depth of human connection I experienced in the most unlikely of places was a special moment for me. There was a beauty that I witnessed in the fact that we were all strangers to one another, in some way we felt more comfortable being vulnerable, authentic and real. Instead of watching endless movies, reading an interesting book or takings naps, connecting with new friends made me feel as though I wanted this 15 hour flight to be just a bit longer.
I’ve taken many flights, long and short and know that I will take many more. I love sitting in economy class. It’s a humbling experience that keeps me grounded. And after today, a reminder of the chance for unexpected yet wonderful connections. Previously, when I did fly business class, I noticed that no one looked happy and most looked very serious. I rarely got to met anyone or had an interesting conversation.
After today, I am reminded how my experience changes once I place my attention on others instead of myself. I think this is what it means to be a mindful traveler. Staying aware, open and curious.
I also felt inspired by the stories I got to hear from my new friends. I enjoyed sharing a mindfulness practice together and feel grateful for the chance to plant a few seeds that I suspect may sprout over time.