I really like hanging out at airports. Airports are a microcosm of the world. People moving to and fro trying to get to their respective destinations. I enjoy wandering, wondering and watching as people move through the liminal space that is an airport. I’ll even strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler and discover all of the reasons that brought them to the same place and time with me. Usually, it is a pleasant experience laughing at situations that are occurring around us, sharing other travel experiences, or even celebrating the events that brought us to that moment. Sometimes there is a lostness that permeates the air between us as if even though they have a ticket they don’t really know what they will face when they get to their destination. They are just traveling. The airport becomes a last sanctuary before they have to face whatever their next dreaded destination is. For me, mindfulness makes that time before boarding and take-off an opportunity to embrace and meditate on the transient nature of community.
An example of the transient nature of community occurred a number of years ago. I was sitting in the boarding area for a flight that I took multiple times a year. Most times it is fairly uneventful. And due to my penchant for arriving several hours before my flight I had lots of time on my hand. Generally, the wait involves scrolling on the internet, texting friends and family or reading a book, but that day I decided that I’d be fully present. And it started out interesting enough with a performance for WWII veterans coming to Washington, D.C. for an Honor Flight in the concourse. There was singing and dancing for the heroes that lasted for at least 30 minutes. And you’d think after the performance was over things would go back to the usual hubbub of flight. They did not at least not for me and the others waiting for our flight. We were all pretty engaged at this point and started discussing the performance and as these kinds of conversations go we started talking about the reasons that brought us all to D.C. that day. Oddly enough, the group of strangers that I was speaking with were representatives from their state for the Headstart Program. It was serendipitous, because Headstart was a program that I attended before entering kindergarten and I believe contributed to my subsequent love of school. I let them know about the impact of the program on my life and how much I appreciated their work. They were happy to see the results of the program in action. And after a while we returned to our companionable silence, occasionally noting the things happening around us or chuckling over the unexpected performance. Little did we know how quickly things would change.
After a bit of time had passed we noticed a commotion happening at the ticketing desk. Nothing aggressive, but a seemingly distraught young woman was attempting to get the assistance of the booking agent. The young woman was about to board her flight and an elderly woman seated behind me had asked her to help her find her husband. The young woman was trying to get assistance for the elderly woman because her flight was boarding soon and no one had actually seen the elderly woman’s husband. To complicate things further the woman did not seem to speak much english and we had no fluent German speakers nearby. Together, our band of travelers worked as a team to help gain assistance to locate her husband who we figured out through context clues was suffering from dementia. Some of us calmed the elderly woman who was also crying and distraught while reassuring the young woman that we’d take care of her. Another set of us went to find assistance first from the airline and then from the airport security. With the help of all of us in that boarding area the two were finally united. As endings go, so much was left open-ended. And for the rest of our wait for our flight, we continued to bond and hope for the best for the once separated couple. We exchanged contact information so we could check on each other and see if we could figure out what happened to the couple. One of us even tweeted the airline who let us know that they couldn’t share further news due to the delicate nature of the situation.
Soon we parted ways moving from the twilight space of our boarding area to the next phase of our journeys. Every now and then I return to that trip and think about all that happened in a short amount of time and in a relatively small space. I have not spoken to any of the folks since that day and yet those few hours stuck with me. And for the most part most of my travels have been fairly uneventful since. Now, what does this have to do with mindfulness you ask. A lot of times I use my in-between time at the airport for things that pull me from fully engaging with all the life happening around me. And I could have easily done that on that fateful day, but because I decided to allow myself to be aware, moment-by-moment on that day I was able to connect with those around me and participate in the truest ideals of community. In that transient place mindfulness pulled me in and caused me to be engaged and fully present.
How do you use moment by moment awareness to be engaged in the world around you? What are some unexpected ways and places that you build and engage in community? How do you use your in-between time?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
One thought on “Traveling While Mindful: Mindfulness and Building Community”
Traveling while mindful… interesting. I found traveling while mindful means understanding no matter your travel arrangements ANYTHING can happen ‘out of the way’. However, being mindful while traveling allows you to overstand all circumstances with mindfulness and heart. While recently traveling I met some of the most challenging moments. Fortunately, I was mindful and made myself less stressful during the moments of late arrivals, delayed departures, travel temperatures, and unexpected seating arrangements with the understanding that it could happen ANYWHERE and not becoming depressed or disappointed in my choice of travel, especially, when my choice had sentimental value. Being mindful while traveling on an airplane, bus route, train or car/vehicle keeps you F.L.Y.ing (First Love Self) 1st class. However, I feel/think the convenience of traveling by vehicle is most rewarding and accommodating. My recent travel arrangements I chose were most interesting because it made me feel closer to my GRANDancestors who traveled in the manner I chose frequently and I felt each of their presence every step of the way. Traveling while mindful… I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How do you use moment by moment awareness to be engaged in the world around you? Carefully, Genuinely, and with much understanding and appreciation.
What are some unexpected ways and places that you build and engage in community? Since, I strive to live with no expectations only acceptance, I can build and engage in community with appreciation and understanding in many different places in many unique and optimistic ways.
How do you use your in-between time?
In-between time… interesting… for several reasons, I feel we are always in-between time. Therefore, I use all time wisely, always present and engaged to the best of my ability with all my heart and mindfullness.
Sincerely and Genuinely Mindful,
Candace L. Owens