The Perception of Time
The Perception of Time
I am sitting on the floor of the Amsterdam airport on my way to Kenya for a safari. This trip has been on my bucket list since I was a child, but that is another story.
After about 36 hours of travel, at 11:30 pm local time last night, I turned to a group of 3 fellow passengers and said, “Well, that is one of the worst airline experiences I’ve ever had.” And one of them pointed to his new friends and said- “I thought it was great. We got to know each other. Nobody was injured.”
I was reminded of the power of mindset. He and I experienced exactly the same circumstances yesterday- our flight from Amsterdam to Kenya turned around after 2 hours because of a notification about tire pressure. Then the captain decided to make an emergency stop in Frankfurt because it was closer than Amsterdam and he was concerned about our safety. The fire brigade was called. When we landed the entire plane erupted in applause. We were safe.
Our carrier, KLM, doesn’t have much clout in Frankfurt. The correct tire had to be located outside the airport and brought in. We all waited over four hours on the tarmac until a tire was found and installed.
Some of the most uncomfortable situations for me are in those places in between- in the transitions of time between getting to the airport and being on the plane, or in standing outside a spin class waiting for them to open the room. There seems to be a part of me that shuts down in these situations. So much of my thinking is on where I want to get TO- it’ll be great WHEN I’m sitting on the spin bike with my favorite spin instructor in the front of the room, that I don’t pay attention to where I am in the NOW. I don’t focus on conversations, and I find myself half engaging, and just trying to get THROUGH these places in between.
Yesterday, in that four hours on the tarmac, there was plenty of time for me to just sit in this discomfort. In my Master’s Program in Spiritual Psychology I was well trained that when discomfort like this arises- school is in session, there is something to learn. I had a choice. I could let my compulsive and anxious tendencies take over or I could find a way through this pattern.
None of us knew how long it would take to get the tire fixed. At first there was optimism- maybe it would happen like a racetrack and we could get back on course before the crew timed out. But by the time they opened the doors to let in a breeze I knew, as we all did, that we would be spending the night somewhere other than Kenya.
I did finally stand up with and engage in conversations with others. We talked about nothing really, the superiority of Emirates Airlines (of course), what it’s like to teach English in Kenya, and why we were all traveling. I spoke with several people I realize I’d severely misjudged when we boarded the plane together, including a mother with two rambunctious young boys. Once I spoke with her, I found out how much we have in common- she’s also a coach. Honestly, this has always been the case with me- it’s easy to judge someone I don’t know, but when I spend time with people, I always find something to love.
I begrudgingly accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be joining my group at the Giraffe Manor or the baby elephant sanctuary today. I gave up any illusion that I was in control of what would happen and as Michael Singer so beautifully exemplified in his book “The Surrender Experiment” I surrendered. I consciously chose to use this experience for my own growth.
The tire was repaired, the crew timed out, and we flew back to Amsterdam to spend the night. Thankfully they were able to reschedule our flight. The captain apologized profusely and promised we would all be well taken care of.
When we landed, I waited in line with the other 400 people on the plane to get hotel vouchers, then we waited another hour for a hotel bus, and of course, there was another line to check into our rooms. This morning was more of the same- over an hour to get back through security and clear customs, and then a gate change that pushed us back another hour.
A few years ago I would have been pushing ahead of the crowd to be first or demanding a better room or gaming the system by changing my seat again this morning.
Not today. Today I am sitting on the floor typing this while my new friends, the passengers of KLM flight 568 pass by me and smile. Some say hello and exclaim, “We made it!” I’m happy to see them. Now they feel like my people.
As far as I know, nothing tragic happened from this delay. Everyone will simply push their lives back by one day.
But I’m taking away a new awareness about those places in between. These bits of time between this and that. I can bring a new awareness to this time. It’s now a place to slow down and be present. To surrender. To see another human beyond what I assume about them.
To just be. With me.