UNIVERSAL DHARMA

Because I Care ~ DREAM COME TRUE

I made my first airplane flight in 1967, from Amman in Jordan to London, just before the outbreak of the Six-Days’ War between Israel and its neighbors. I was young then, and like most young people, played it cool, as if I’d been flying all my life, so I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the flight much. It was 3½ years more before my next flight, from India to Australia. Since then, I have flown a great deal, but never enjoyed it as I might, as I was always afraid something might happen and the plane would crash, especially when we encountered air-turbulence— and I have been through some rough patches, when I thought the wings would snap off. Flight-attendant friends of mine assured me that this was highly unlikely, but my fear persisted.

Not long ago, therefore, I was pleased to receive a letter from a friend, who experienced the same nervousness about flying, but who had a breakthrough in his way of looking at it. For the sake of others who might have the same fear— and apparently, they are not few— I will reproduce his letter here. Nor is it for just such people, but for those with any kind of irrational fear that makes them suffer needlessly.

"This little story I would like to share with you is about flying.

"I have been on airplanes many, many times. I fly on a regular basis, but continue to ‘hate’ flying. It scares me.

"While on board, I say to myself, what if one engine stops? What if all of them stop? What if a wing catches fire? What if the plane is not properly maintained? What if just one little bolt snaps? What if the plane crashes? How can I put my life at the mercy of a mindless machine?

"On my last trip from Los Angeles to Sydney a month ago (I have done this trip several times before), I reflected that the plane has to cross the entire Pacific Ocean with virtually no place to land if anything goes wrong. What if the plane loses fuel and needs to land? Where would it land? What if I die here?

"Then, and every other time, I sit back and think that I should never fear death. Death is inevitable. After all, flying is the safest mode of transport. If ‘my time is up,’ I would face death anywhere, even in the safety of my bedroom. There is insecurity everywhere. Volcanoes and earth-quakes may happen. A lunatic could approach me and kill me on the street. I will only get what my Karma sets forth for me. There is no escape, and there is nothing to fear.

"Those "logical" moments of thinking quell my fears and make me relax.

"Ironically, as a kid, I always dreamed of flying. I would watch birds with envy. I would look up at airplanes and think how lucky were the passengers on board. How privileged they were to be able to see coastlines, clouds from above, and real maps which I could only see in books. How wonderful it would be to feel that one can actually defy gravity and fly like a bird! I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to fly. I was lucky enough to be in Lebanon, a land of many mountains and glorious cliffs. I would often climb to a high point, look down, and pretend I was flying. I even tried to build flying machines, but they got me nowhere higher than the ground.

"Unfortunately, the dream of the child was replaced by the fear of the adult. When I boarded a plane for the first time, I was 24 years old. I was a neurotic and paranoid survivor of a ravaging civil war. I was a fearful creature. Fear arose in me every time I flew.

"Whenever I flew, I invariably looked out the window, saw what was underneath me, enjoyed the view, and wished I could see with the eyes of the child who has died within me. The little joy I occasionally got from flying was always overwhelmed with a much stronger sensation of fear— even if I suppressed my fear with the delusive effect of alcohol.

"Today, I flew from Sydney to Emerald (Queensland). I had to stop over in Brisbane to change planes. As soon as I boarded the plane in Sydney, the same fear came back to me; I wasn’t surprised. I started to wriggle, worry about every bump, and wished to get there as soon as possible. When we reached Brisbane, the wind was fairly strong. The landing was rough. I was very nervous.

"When I boarded the little twin-propeller plane to Emerald, I had a window seat. The trip was rougher. I was even more nervous. I played the song of calmness as I normally do, reminding myself that there is nothing I could do and that whatever happens and there is no need to fear anything. It worked as usual.

"Looking out the window, I remembered some words about the present— the very precious moment of the present that we normally overlook. I was not thinking of flying at all then. I was only remembering the words. At that moment, I realized that I was only suppressing my fear about the unlikely event of a plane crash. The calm I thought I had was nothing more than a fool’s paradise. Even though I managed to suppress this fear, I thought, I was still unable to enjoy the moment I am experiencing now; the present.

"As soon as I awakened to this fact, I looked at the beauty of the scenery outside as it was then, in that very moment; without having to wonder and ponder as to what could happen next. I immediately jumped inwardly and realized that I AM FLYING! I am above the clouds! What a wonderful view it is. What magnificent technology man has developed to allow me to see this. I am indeed flying, and I love it.

"Every new moment brought new scenery. The bumps turned into gentle rocks of a cradle, an adventure ride. I was flying with the clouds. I saw mountaintops. I saw towns like little models. I am finally flying!!! For a few minutes, I was totally oblivious to the future and what it might bring. It didn’t seem to exist (does it ever before it actually happens?). I was just simply enjoying the present moment(s) and the joy they brought to me. My childhood dream had come true.

"Do we ignore the present because we are unable to catch and possess it? I wonder."

FEAR

"Every kind of fear grows worse by not being looked at. The effort of turning away one’s thoughts (like the ostrich with its head in the sand), is a tribute to the horribleness of the specter from which one is averting one’s gaze; the proper course with every kind of fear is to think about it rationally and calmly, but with great concentration, until it becomes completely familiar. In the end, familiarity will blunt its terrors; the whole subject will become boring, and our thoughts will turn away from it, not, as formerly, by an effort of will, but through mere lack of interest in the topic. When you find yourself inclined to brood on anything, no matter what, the best plan always is to think about it even more than you naturally would, until at last its morbid fascination is worn off".

(Bertrand Russell).


 

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