Recharge and Take Flight!

Jeff Hill flies a stunt RC aircraft at the Aviation History Museum got the attention of a Red Tail hawk. David C. Bowman/NASA Langley

Spring has sprung, and photos of crocuses and lilies are flooding the pages of Facebook. Travelogues of Spring Break vacations inspire us all to get out and try new things, visit new destinations, and dream big. The fresh air provides new-found energy, and the birds and bunnies beckon us to come out of hibernation & say hello to neighbors.

I was looking out my kitchen window this morning, and was fascinated by birds of all kinds – robins, mourning doves, crows, and even a pair of ducks. It’s a beautiful day, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining brightly – a rarity for this dreary Chicago Spring. It’s that time of year when we think about renewal –  soaking up some sun and fresh air, getting our hands back in the dirt, and gaining new perspective on our lives.

But, back to those birds. They are fascinating in their approach to life. When they are not airborne, they are hard at work hunting and gathering, persistent and determined. The robins seem to take a team approach, the ducks are inseparable – courting perhaps, and the crows, well, they’re crows.

Birds, whether by instinct or decision, take off with finesse, gain altitude, ride gracefully on the air currents, stay on course, level off, pace their energy to complete their journey safely, use their sense of vision, as well as vibration, hearing, and smell. Birds can communicate with one another, and use their inner compass as their guide. As they prepare to descend, they slow and pace themselves, always manage to make a controlled landing.

My mind now wanders to people who fly airplanes, and those who are fearful of flying. I personally like to fly, but must admit the I was a bit intrepid at the thought of traveling across country years ago in my then-boyfriend’s single-engine airplane. That seasoned pilot, who had been a flight instructor and a charter pilot assuaged my fears, and thirty years into marriage, I am still flying with him.

I am amazed as I try to comprehend how a pilot uses all his or her senses to initiate and complete a flight. The term mindfulness can be confused with thinking, when really it’s about connecting our senses to an action or observation. Consider how mindful a pilot must be when flying solo. He must be focused and aware of his energy level to complete a safe flight, and know when to divert if fatigue sets in.

Pilots use their senses in a very integrated way. Visually, they are continuously scanning the environment inside and outside the cockpit, watching multiple gauges, and reading maps. Sight works in tandem with hearing as the pilot interprets the gauges while listening to the engine, the wind, alarms, and even conversation in the cockpit. They must also be able to sense changes in vibration and wind speed/direction. And, in the event of engine failure or an emergency, the pilot cannot lose composure.

When we travel, the destination is our primary concern. Even though we are paying for the aircraft, the pilots, staff, the airport, and air traffic control, those are not areas we research. It feels right to just trust that everybody is doing their jobs, and that quality controls are in place. Consider a new perspective now. You are a pilot taking that flight as a passenger. The point I make here is that not one of us can change the way we think unless we consider other perspectives first.

And, just what does aerodynamics, perspective, and mindfulness have in common with health or health coaching? One blog will not cover it, so there will be more to come on this subject. But, consider these analogies: heading, compass, communications, attitude, momentum, power, balance, gaining altitude, leveling off, altitude, turbulence, descent, controlled landing, fueling (up for new adventures), and maintaining a clean engine/aircraft, to name a few. We’ll have some fun creating our own piloting world, and exploring a different kind of ground school.

So, the next time you see a bird or a plane, take a minute to think about what it takes to become airborne, appreciate the sky, the ground, the wind, the sun’s rays, the moon…welcome to mindfulness. Enjoy the sights and smells of spring as well, and start fresh, set new goals, and envision brighter days ahead.

And, just for laughs, here are two photos of me after returning from that cross-country flight all those years ago. Happy to be home and proud of myself for taking a risk!