“Experience is not what happens to a man (or woman); it is what a man (or woman) does with what happens to him (or her).” Aldous Huxley
Do you enjoy having new experiences? Have you had any unpleasant experiences lately that taught you something you needed to learn? Can you see any experience as a door to deeper understanding?
Last week I traveled to Denver where I had lived in the 1980’s. Needless to say, it is huge compared to the Denver I knew, the one with only three skyscrapers, the one without a huge botanic garden, the one where trees did not completely overshadow my apartment building.
What I remember the most about the time I lived in Denver was that I found a spiritual path that has served me well, one that does not keep me attached to one set of ideas, but one which has taught me to trust all possibilities and be open to new experiences.
Enjoying New Experiences
I had several new experiences on this trip: deep meaningful conversations with new friends, a wonderful day in the Denver Botanic Gardens, the exposure to “Soundsuits” created by Nick Cave in an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, a trip to Vail through the magnificent and enormous Rocky Mountains, and four dry days of beautiful sunshine—something we haven’t seen in Asheville in months. I felt I was dancing with delight all week.
Despite this philosophy at the core of my life of being open to new experiences, I like the comfort of routine: regular meals with healthy, organic food, a similar bedtime each night and a good eight hours of sleep, and some meditation time. For the most part, these comforts were easily integrated within the vacation time because my friend and I were staying with very accommodating friends.
Events Are Spiritually Challenging When Unexpected
However, our actual trips to and from Denver were the most irritating experiences I’ve had in years like the early days of learning to dance when every step was stumbling and awkward and rarely flowed with grace. These red-eye flights left very late in the evening around 12:00 or 1:00 am and took me way beyond my comfort zone. They totally disrupted my eating and sleeping routines. The trip to Denver included the flight to our major airport being cancelled close to the time we planned to leave for the local airport, so we had to drive for two hours to get the flight which was then delayed for an hour. We had been unable to choose our own seats and the ones assigned to us were the last seats which do not tip back. The last time I had been forced to sit in such seats, I deplaned with serious back pain. In this case, there were no pillows available to support my back and no extra seat to which I could move. In addition, when we tried to relax and sleep as most people around us were trying to do, a stewardess behind us chattered loudly and incessantly.
So, what was I to do with this? It was impossible to relax physically. This was a three hour flight. I was accepting of the need to drive rather than fly to our major connective city. I was relatively patient when the flight was delayed. But by the time we boarded the plane, I was feeling that this was too much, and my patience had run out. I felt frustrated and angry at everyone who had contributed to this problem. All I wanted was to go to sleep, but this was impossible because of the discomfort. I hate to admit it, but I think I snapped and glared a lot.
Frustration Is the Result of Not Letting Go of Expectations
But what upset me the most about this experience was that I was unable to reach a place of peace that would have allowed me to accept the situation, go within and let go of my attachment to the discomfort. I have done this in other situations. Why not this one? Probably because of my expectations.
My expectations were that I would have a comfortable seat where I could lean back and sleep. I thought I would have a pillow available. I didn’t realize they were no longer available except in first class. If I couldn’t sleep, I thought I would just read, but I was so upset, I couldn’t focus on reading. Most of all, I hated being in an environment where I had no control over my personal physical comfort, and I was unable to adjust my mind to accommodate the reality. I was stuck mentally, unable to take the next step.
Fortunately, I was able to let go of my frustration about the trip as soon as I arrived in Denver. I was so grateful to be able to sleep on a comfortable bed and immediately plunged into the joy of being there. By the time we left for home at the end of our visit, my friend and I knew what to expect. Although the trip home was also in the middle of the night, our plane left on time. This time I had no expectations and was able to be in the moment each step of the way.
Releasing Expectations Creates Inner Peace
There were still no pillows available, but the seat back tilted a little. I took a lot of deep breaths, reminded myself to be patient, read a little, did something close to meditation, and reflected on how grateful I was to be traveling with a dear friend, to have had a few days of sunshine, and enjoy the wonderful uplifting energy of a city where my life had been transformed. Although I was still physically uncomfortable, I was able to be in the moment more.
Would I choose to take another red-eye flight? Probably not, but if I did, I’d emulate some of the smart teenagers I saw traveling. They brought their own pillows and sometimes a blanket, curled up in their window seats, and slept like babies.
Choose the Dance of Peace
It’s all about how we deal with the challenges because they won’t stop appearing in our lives, but we can use them to grow and expand our practice of our spiritual principles. We can always choose the dance of peace.
How do you deal with uncomfortable situations you can’t change? Please comment.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
Related Articles: Nick Cave’s Art (scroll down and watch the first video), Why You Aren’t At Peace Right Now – Eckhart Tolle, Eckhart Tolle – From Beng Upset to Being Peace (video)