literally millions of miles. I have respectable accounts with about
half a dozen of the airlines' frequent
mileage programs. I have more then two million miles on American
Airlines alone (for which I've earned Platinum status for
life), over half a million miles on United Airlines, and between one
hundred thousand and one hundred fifty thousand miles on each of three
or four other airlines.
Sitting for hours at a time when you
a lot, you look out the window a lot. If you've brought paperwork to
do, you can get a lot of paperwork done while you're sitting there for
hours thousands of feet up in the sky. If you're done looking out the
window and your paperwork is complete, you may watch a movie or three.
If it's a really long flight and you've watched all the
movies worth watching and you're looking for something else to do to
while away the hours, to ease the interminable wait, you may
eventually delve into the seat pocket in front of you and read the
in‑flight magazine. Once you've read the in‑flight
magazine, you may even do the in‑flight magazine's puzzles: the
crossword, the Sudoku etc.
When you've done the puzzles and there's nothing left to do, you sit
there. You're sitting. Doing nothing. Sitting. And sitting. And sitting
... and sitting ...
You can just sit. Now, there are many ways of sitting. You can sit
berating the interminable wait. You can sit complaining to yourself
about the cruel lack of leg room which forces your knees up to your
shoulders. You can sit fuming at the guy in the seat in front of you
whose reclining seat puts his head almost on your lap. You can even sit
fantasizing the flight is over, bearing it, tolerating it,
suffering through it until it really is over.
But that's not the way of sitting I'm suggesting. The way of sitting
I'm suggesting isn't an effort. It's not a hardship. The way of sitting
I'm suggesting is an opportunity - and a rare
opportunity at that. The way of sitting I'm suggesting could even be
on long flights is an opportunity to practice this
The way of sitting I'm suggesting is pure
Long flights are actually priceless opportunities to practice and to
experiment with the gentle
of sitting - aka Zazen. And while I'm aware that referring to
plain sitting as "the gentle
of sitting" or "Zazen" runs the risk of making it far more
significant than it really is, calling it "the gentle
of sitting" / "Zazen" is
good enough for
... sitting ... noticing you're here but you want to be
somewhere else ... sitting ... noticing you're having
this experience but you want to be having any experience
except this experience ... sitting ... noticing you want
the flight to be over ... sitting ... noticing you want
this experience (whatever it is) to be over ... sitting
... noticing your impatience with the now ... sitting ...
... noticing your impatience with the here ... sitting ...
noticing you want to move on to the
thing - whatever it is ... sitting ... noticing you want to be doing
something else, anything else ... sitting ... noticing you
want to be doing anything else except this ... sitting ... noticing you
want to be anywhere else except here ...
We're almost never doing what we're doing when we're doing
it. While we're supposedly doing what we're doing, we're really doing
something else. We're not engaged in the task at hand. We're thinking
about something else while we're engaged in the task at hand. We're
distant from the task at hand while we're engaged in the task at hand.
We're never fully engaged with the people we're engaged with while
we're engaged with them. While we're engaged with the people we're
engaged with, we're judging them, we're noting their failings,
shortcomings, and imperfections. While we're sitting, we're never just
sitting. While we're sitting, we're doing anything but
This is the opportunity on long flights (and on really long flights in
particular): to ... just ... sit. To practice sitting while you're
sitting. To do nothing else while you're sitting except
sitting. To experience sitting completely, fully, and totally - and
nothing else except sitting. To take the time - for once -
to do what you're doing when you're doing it, and to do nothing else
but what you're doing when you're doing it. To be fully
engaged in just sitting when you're just sitting.
I don't have to live in a
to practice this. Today, here, and right now, seat 45H in the economy
class cabin of an Air
wide body Boeing 777‑300ER on a thirteen and a half hour non-stop
flight from San Francisco California to Auckland