A few years ago I took a flight from New York to Europe, and soon after the plane started to cross the Atlantic, we ran into choppy turbulences. It was a really bad flight, the plane tossed about by rapid bumps and jolts for several hours. Curiously, I happened to sit next to an Hassidic Jew from Brooklyn, who resorted to prayer, swaying his body to and fro, with violent side movements of the head, the long curled side-locks swinging, which gave the whole experience an apocalyptic touch.
When I stepped out of the plane I had developed fear of flying.
At the time I was traveling extensively. I had to cross the continent on several occasions, fly to Europe on a regular basis and at times even go to Asia. I had always loved flying and now I dreaded it. Sure enough, I had one flight worse than the other. It was the time of choppy winter storms, heavy winds, nasty turbulences and again and again the plane was tossed about and shaken by strong winds and stormy weather.
I had one white-knuckle flight after the other and nothing seemed to help. I knew all about turbulences and that they did not bring aircrafts down, I understood what happened aerodynamically, I took motion sickness medication, a drink or two, tried to talk through it, distract myself – nothings seemed to work. Until someone gave me a breathing exercise and a mantra:
Breath in: Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guroo Dayv-ay Nameh
Hold breath: Aad Such Jugaad Such Hai Bhee Such Nanak Hosee Bhee Such
Breath out: Aad Such Jugaad Such Hai Bhai Such Nanak Hosee Bhai Such
I had no idea what it was all about, but I soon realised that chanting this mantra somehow changed the vibrational level and I did not get sick, nor did I freak out in a silent panic attack. Whenever felt the aircraft shaking, I started to whisper the words and it relaxed me quickly. I then resorted to explore the sensations and energies in my body and found it to be quite entertaining – a little bit like a thrill ride at a fun fair.
Then I realised how it was related. Flying through a turbulence means losing the illusion of control. I always had felt safe in airplanes, completely trusting the pilots and technical equipment – but after the first incident of turbulences, it became very obvious to me, how fragile my trust for my physical safety being guaranteed was. Fear of flying is the fear of losing control and I often think about this analogy, when the changes and adaptations to a life lived in a state of surrender, are getting a little bit more intense. But like I learned a few years ago – letting go of fear is all about relaxing – either by going right into the feeling, or working with the breath and a mantra.
We all have fear of losing control, it is normal and the bodily reaction is to hold on and trying to stabilise. But like with motion sickness- letting go of the idea that a shaking floor beneath your feet is a sure indication of death., this leads to the surprising insight – that going with the movement without trying to fixate on a stable object, does make it much easier.