Archive for the ‘aviation’ Category

Who is Piloting You Now?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

flyLast night I presented on the Flying Lessons system for navigating challenges, discussing this with a women’s consultants group in Tucson. As usual these days, we began our discussion by agreeing that these are complex and turbulent times, and that we’re piloting into uncharted territory. This makes the Flying Lessons principles all the more compelling, I think!

As serendipity would have it, I had been thumbing through one of my favorite resources, Love Poems from God, full of offerings from ancient mystics. I discovered that somehow I had forgotten about Kabir, a 15th century east Indian poet, religious reformer, artist and musician–as well as (translator/editor, Daniel Ladinsky reminded me) humorist.

Ladinisky points out that many sacred texts–including the Bible–were heavily edited. His goal in this book is to “un-edit” some poetry that is (in the case of Teresa of Avila, for example) sometimes bawdy, down to earth, and therefore practical spirituality. For then, I suspect, and certainly for now.

And wouldn’t you know that one of Kabir’s poems seemed to fit exactly the issue of piloting into uncharted territory without either crashing, falling asleep at the controls, or getting very lost.

You are sitting in a wagon being

drawn by a horse whose

reins you

hold.

Thee are two inside of you

who can steer.

Though most never hand the reins to Me

so they go from place to place the

best they can, though

rarely happy.

And rarely does their whole body laugh

feeling God’s poke

in the

ribs.

If you feel tired, dear,

my shoulder is soft.

I’d be glad to

steer a

while.

Reminds me of Flying Lesson #3, Take the Pilot’s Seat. The questions around this lesson include, “Assuming you are in the pilot’s seat, which part of you is in charge? The Big you, or the little one, the scared one?”

These are times that call for the biggest pilot we can summon, so I say we need all the help we can get. The “your pilot is God” image gets a little tricky, but it is true that our job now is to call on and embody all that is divine within us. Old strategies, old power structures, old flight plans…just aren’t working now.

So let’s take Kabir’s 600-year-old bet. What would happen if we decided to “Give Way to the Winds’ (lesson #7) and surrender the old fear-based tactics? When we hand over the reins, I’ll bet we’ll get there. Just maybe not in the way that old ego expected.

Creating Beauty as a Safe Landing Space

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

It’s so easy and delicious for me to sink onto a place of beauty in nature and feel safe in that “All Is One” feeling. Next to ocean, or stream, or wind through the pines I am reminded of the life force that courses through all things. I am in my safe landing space at those times.

And then we know there are other moments. Moments that suck. Moments that are almost intolerable. Moments when we don’t want to be here. Moments when we feel like life must be against us. These moments do not feel like safe landing spaces.

So what to do? Especially since those ‘other moments” are when we need a safe landing space the very most.

Well, I say we create beauty. We must.

I love to talk about Victor Frankl, because he is the most extreme example I can come up with of a human who could create beauty out of the most meager ingredients. A concentration camp survivor whose whole family was exterminated, he credited his survival to his decision to find meaning in every day.

If he could do that in those circumstances, surely I can do it in mine.

But how, in those moments of despair, frustration, fear, or anger do we create beauty? There is a lot of ugliness in the world, after all.

I think it’s a choice. About how to see.  Without being a Polyanna, without denying, we can choose to see beauty.

I can choose to find the beauty in an ordinary task like peeling a vegetable that God made, or even cleaning a toilet I’m lucky to have. I can choose to find beauty in weeding a garden where I’m making room for new life. I can choose to seek out the beauty that accompanies some of the worst tragedies, where in the midst of great loss there is some moment of exquisite love. I can choose to not be blind, but just to see “through a different lens.”

Maybe this is part of our work on earth. At least it makes our journey here more lovely.

Do it for you. Create beauty just to make your day better.

Do it for someone else. See if that doesn’t make your day better too.

See if when you create beauty, it doesn’t make you feel safe somehow. Safe in the fact that you are a creator. Safe in the fact that there is beauty in the first place. Safe in the fact that creating beauty is a well-worn path. A sacred one. One which has eternity in it.

Ah, now you have landed. In a beautiful place. On solid ground.

Choosing Oxytocin

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last weekend I surprised myself by getting scared on a routine flight with my husband in our Cessna 182. He had purchased a new gadget to increase our safety and he needed to test it. That meant I would be the co-pilot and observer, looking for traffic while he did some maneuvers.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to go in the first place. I knew when I asked him what maneuvers he’d be doing.

“Just some stalls,” he answered.

Stalls.  The S-word.  Especially accelerated stalls, my nemesis.

To practice a stall, you fly along and raise the nose higher and higher, ignoring the stall horn, which sounds when you’re about to force the airplane to stop flying. You keep raising the nose and then you can feel it fall, feel the airplane stop having lift. It’s not very comfortable.

Accelerated stalls are more uncomfortable than power-off stalls, because you’re going faster and the plane’s reaction is faster and more intense. My terror in flight training was not recovering fast enough and entering a spin.

Now, I trust my husband Jon as a pilot with every fiber of my being. An ex-Marine F-4 pilot who flew over 230 missions, he is fully capable of all these maneuvers, probably with his eyes closed.

But. It’s been 11 years since I had to do these stalls myself, and never have I had to sit in the right seat and be the passenger while he does them. So I didn’t like it. My stomach was rising to my throat and I felt light-headed and sensed a big lump forming in my throat.

“I’m not doing well,” I said. An understatement.

“It’s just a stall. Just breathe and get into it. You’ve done these a hundred times.”

“Not as a passenger,” I retorted, probably a little too sharply. He must have looked at my face, which had no blood in it, because he stopped.

There was no talking me out of it, because the fear reaction had already cascaded through my body. Adrenalin. Tension. No resuming a confident air at this point.

I tried my litany of techniques. “I’m just feeling fear,” I told myself silently. “I am not fear; I just have fear right now. I am the witness, the one observing myself having fear.” I shooed the fear energy away, asked it to return to earth.

My body didn’t buy this at all. It wanted to go home and take a nap. It wanted relaxation. It wanted oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the chemical we love to feel when we orgasm, or when we feel any other kind of intense pleasure. We can invite oxytocin instead of adrenaline by doing what Ellie Drake of Braveheart Women calls an “oxytocin breath.”

Right now, take in a big breath and feel it all the way down into your abdomen, which should rise. Now as you let it out, sigh your exhale out loud. Feel your body “let down,” releasing tension.

This is an important notion for me as a two-time cancer survivor. I believe the story Anita Moorjani tells in her book, Dying to Be Me. Her wondrous healing from a near-death experience taught her that fear not only stops us from performing; it can cause cancer. Or at least create the environment that allows cancer.

My advanced flying lesson was probably related to what I wrote about in Lesson #7, “Give Way to the Winds.” To recover from a stall in an airplane, you do what is counter-intuitive: you release pressure on the controls, even though your impulse is to keep pulling back, since you want badly to go UP.

To recover from a stall in life, you do the same. You release pressure.

I had to risk disappointing my husband, appearing to be  wimp, or suggesting to my critical self that I no longer had any piloting skills. I chose oxytocin.

“If we’ve done enough maneuvers,” I said to Jon, I’d like to go back now.” As I breathed my oxytocin breaths and took care of the “little Pam within,” the one who had regressed to the pressure of flight training a dozen years ago, Jon suggested I cure my ills by flying us home.

Dear Jon.  Getting back on the horse is a man’s method. That would produce more adrenalin. I choose to give way to the winds. I choose oxytocin. I need the feminine way. And so, I believe, does the world.

It doesn’t mean I won’t go flying again, or that I won’t ever be the observer when he does a stall. It just means I choose to allow my body to recover now, instead of pushing.

By the way, he’s forgiven me. It took me almost an hour to return to a relaxed happy state, and I think I was a lot nicer after that.

(Want more “flying lessons?” Order the book at FlyingLessonsForLife.com)

What motivates the creative artist?

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I’ve been away from blogging for awhile, and I’m aware that it’s partly because I suspected I might just be whistling in the wind. Even though I get some nice comments from people, I don’t have a great deal of evidence that a lot of people read my blog.

Which brings up the question, what does a creative endeavor mean if no one is receiving it?  Or another way to put it is, what does a creative endeavor mean to the artist if there is no evident feedback? This has been a dilemma for artists of all media for millenia.

I’m really not complaining, because my ego got stroked big time recently when my book, Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life, received a gold medal IPPY (Independent and small press publishers) award in the self-help category. I have to say, that felt really good! And, many readers are telling me how much the book means to them, and even buying copies for friends and family.

In reflecting on the boost this award and reader responses have given me, I’m wondering what role outer feedback plays in our success. I’m musing now on flying lesson #5, Communicate with the Controllers. In this case, the controllers would be the audience, or buyers or critics who give the artist feedback on the “worth” of her creation.

Should those opinions define us and be the bottom line measurement of our creative ability? I sure hope not, since there are books on the best seller list at this moment whose literary value I would question, for sure. And, there are some fabulous songs out there that aren’t being played on the radio.

But we can’t honestly discount feedback, either. Even when we’ve evolved beyond acting out of ego into a desire to serve, the audience counts. What “controls” the creative artist is a mix of his inner drive and desires and the way in which the world receives his offerings.

It’s the same, I suspect, whether we are mothering, making lattes or selling large scale paintings in a gallery. The motivation comes from inside. And, if the creative person is not “seen” by others, it’s easy for the spirit behind the work to wane.

Hopefully, these two forces work together. The woman I can’t forget, who used to work at the Starbuck’s in my local market, is someone who added to my life. Her smile, her humor, her energy came from a place within her that clearly desires to connect and enrich others’ lives. That spirit motivated me, of course, to buy more drinks from her and to emulate her way of being with others. A win/win.

And so, armed with my gold medal and nourished by that positive feedback, I’m back to blogging. I look forward to trying to serve you some nourishment that will quench your spiritual thirst, make you think, urge you to smile, perhaps bring a tear to your eye, and bring out that spirit within you that longs to create and connect.

Communicating with a Controller

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

I remember flying along this gorgeous coastline in Baja, Mexico, with my husband Jon. It was before I got my pilot’s license, and so when he urged me to stop photographing and take the controls, I got instant butterflies. 95% of me wanted to fly, but the 5% that was terrified had the capability of ruining everything.

This makes me think of the beginning of my career, when I was a classroom teacher worried about maintaining discipline. Even on days when I had 95% of the class involved and focused, I was always afraid of that 5% that might take those controls away from me.

If “flying” is a metaphor for the 95% of us that knows how to break free of gravity and soar, we still have to learn to deal with the 5% that suspects we might crash at any moment. I call this “communicating with the controllers,” which is Lesson 5 in my book, Flying Lessons.

The challenge of this lesson is dealing with negative feedback. That might include the kind of inner voice I heard when my husband urged me to take the controls and I was afraid I couldn’t do it. Or, it might be outer feedback, like the kind I would get from disruptive students.

I would submit that our reaction to both kinds is fear: fear of the fear we feel, or fear that we will not be able to stay in control. Or fear that we were incapable all along; thinking we were was just a lie. And fear can hijack a good intent, a calm mind, an open heart and a good experience.

The lesson I learned from Clio, my flight instructor, was about discernment. Which voices are telling the truth that will keep you safe and set you free? And where is your true voice, which you need to use when standing up for yourself is the answer.

Here’s a summary of Clio’s advice:

1. Be kind. The 5% may be afraid. Fear can make them (whether they are outer or inner voices) say terrible things. Take that into consideration.

2.  Be fair. Remember, they are the 5%. Are you listening to the 95%, or are they just invisible, their hands folded politely on their desks, their voices muffled behind their modest smiles…What if you asked them to raise their voices in song?

3.  Ask for help. Ask your partner, your friend, your angels, your guides, your God, whomever you trust the most for help. For listening. For caring. For hugs. For company. The 95% of the controllers are trying to help you survive.

4.  Keep the whole journey in mind. Remember, it’s this part that is hard. The big picture journey probably has a much more beautiful arc to it.

5.  Remember, everything is relative. You sometimes think the world is coming to an end. When yours looks like that, so does the larger one. Still, there are those other times when all is glowing, when the leaves of every tree are on fire with sunlight, and when the moon is huge and white and all-knowing. When life is holy. When you are perfect, just as you are.

 

The soul bird

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

“The soul-bird is waiting inside. Even if you have locked it in a cage, it is waiting to fly.”
from Flying Lesson #4

Lesson #4 contains a key moment, when you as a participant in the story, or the coaching or the retreat process, realize that there is indeed a soul-bird inside you who is longing to fly, and who was born to fly and knows how.

Next you realize that as a normal human, you have protected this soul-bird by building a cage around it, and have spent a lot of life strengthening and polishing the cage. At some point you may have forgotten that you actually ARE the soul-bird. You may have forgotten to the degree that you thought you were the cage.

But, no blame. This was just a mistake, not anything unchangeable. You’re right on time. It was just part of your development to concentrate on the cage. Now you are called to do and be something different.

Here’s the good news: Since you constructed the cage, you are the one who can open the door.

Now is the moment of choice.

Can you trust that little soul-bird to do what it came here to do? What adventure will it embark on when it spreads its wings?

This is what you’ve longed to do and be.

Open the door.

Taking the Pilot’s Seat: Bringing Forth Your Greatness

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The world needs your genius. You have genius, you know. Every one of us does. Your genius is your “original medicine,” as Angeles Arrien put it. It is unique medicine. So if you keep it from the world, the world will never see it again.

Taking the pilot’s seat means bringing out your genius. It means remembering what Marianne Williamson reminded the world about our greatest fear: that we are really great. Playing small, she reminded us, serves no one.

When we ask the biggest part of us—the oldest, most essential, wisest part of us—to be pilot of our lives, we invite our genius to be seen and to be at work in our lives.

It’s strange, isn’t it, that this invitation seems to require courage from us. How could raising the level of our performance and bringing out our greatness be a fearsome thing? Who is it who says it’s scary?

I think it is the child within, the egoic one who is afraid of being exposed, afraid of attack, afraid of shame, failure, and afraid its worse suspicions about our real nature will be proven right. But what does the one within you who is capable of observing this voice say about those arguments?

My larger voice—my essential self—says they are illusions. She says they are the energy of fear incarnate. And not the kind of fear that serves as a valid warning. The kind of fear that cripples.

And so, if there is an inner wrestling match about who should climb into the pilot’s seat and run our lives, how do we deal with this small, fearful one who would sabotage our authentic power? I think we just name her. And then recognize her need for comfort. Hold her as we would any child. Let her know this is not her decision. Let her know we will not leave her behind.

And then, as therapist Terry Real says, peel her sticky fingers off the flight controls, move her over to the passenger seat, and climb in and begin flying.

There’s no time to do otherwise. The world needs your essential self right now.

Taking the Pilot’s Seat: Controlling Airspeed

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

When I walk on the beautiful land in the Sutherland Valley, beneath the Catalina Mountains, the land reminds me that Mother Earth has a heartbeat, a rhythm. Being in nature attunes my body to her rhythm and reminds me of my own natural pace. So does meditation—it is a way of stopping to check in with the Source, and with my own body/mind, and re-calibrating.

I need to change my “attitude,”—an aviation term for the angle of the airplane– to pull the nose of my airplane up a bit and slow my speed.

When I think of the idea of slowing my pace, my “small mind” immediately panics at the thought. What will I miss? What will I not accomplish?

Fortunately my “larger mind” responds by asking, “Where are you going so fast? What is your destination or goal that is so crucial? Isn’t the journey the point?”

My small mind says nothing.

I remember Thich Nhat Hahn’s cautions about our pace, his advice about mindful walking and mindful eating and avoiding multi-tasking.

My small mind points out how many things I accomplish by multi-tasking. Is that really true? Recent research points out that our brains don’t operate at maximum efficiency when we do more than one thing at a time. Maybe we are sacrificing focus, intensity and depth of thought, excellence in problem-solving.

Perhaps I suffer from the aviator’s dreaded plague, “get-there-itis,” the disease that leads to unwise decisions like flying too late, or into bad weather, or when sick, or in conditions outside our expertise. If we crash, we might ask ourselves what was so important about that destination and how much time we really saved.

If I take time to gaze out the window, perhaps I’ll really see something like the scene in the photo of the water and cloud formations along the Sea of Cortez. What’s the hurry, really?

These are thoughts each of us must bring to consciousness as we pilot our way through a year that may challenge us to drop old patterns, to take responsibility for our own energy, to ask treasured family and friends to support us as responsible pilots who have taken the left seat. We may not be able to manage the strong winds of life, but we can manage ourselves.

What are your thoughts?  Interact with us at Facebook.com/FlyingLessons!

 

Rising to the Level of Peace

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Holidays, despite the fun and joy and lights, can exacerbate the tensions within and between us. People are tired and expectations are high. Sometimes scenes we imagined would be warm and close present unexpected tension. When that happens, it can feel like our feet are stuck in the sand. Hard to move out of the situation or through it with much grace.

The old way would be to try to power through it. Summon the adrenaline. Fight back. Use mental or even physical force. We know where this has led in our personal and corporate lives–to wars of private and global dimensions. Surely it’s the season to something other than digging ourselves deeper.

In my new book, Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life, I made the suggestion that we “rise to the occasion” by elevating our consciousness and finding a new, higher form of power.

Here are some practical suggestions, just in case you get a chance to practice! If you are triggered by someone and tempted to act out of the old kind of power, here’s an alternative formula:

1. Stop.

2. Breathe.

3. Call on your inner observer.

4. Ask that observer what the highest good could come out of this situation.

5. Ask how you might contribute to the highest good.

6. Review your options.

7. Make your powerful decision and then act from that place.

Now, how does the landscape look? Even that sand that once entrapped your feet might form lovely patterns from your position as the observer who can rise above the “gravity” of the challenge.

May you find true peace in your own heart during this holy season.

Giving Yourself the Gift of Fuel for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

 

Just because  you are reading this, I think you deserve congratulations for taking the time to read something just for you! No matter what your holiday traditions, this is a busy time!

Which is why I ended up reading my own Flying Lesson #2 over again. It’s Bring Enough Fuel for the Journey. Here are some excerpts and thoughts that struck me all over again as good advice for the season:

It’s food for thought that even though there’s no excuse for running out of fuel in the aviation world, we consider running on empty a normal part of our culture. In some circles there’s even a sort of nobility attached to being such a hard worker that everyone knows you never sleep. Even when people refer to someone as being a workaholic, rarely do they shake their heads in sadness or suggest a good treatment center. In many cases, overworking and overdoing is considered the means to success.

But when we have the ambition to fly, to rise above the gravity of our current situation, self-care becomes a crucial function. If we are going to push the envelope and move into a lofty territory where humans have only dreamed of operating we’ll have to pay attention to everything we’re doing and be conscious.

Being conscious is what piloting our lives is all about. And the proof of the pudding (especially the Christmas pudding) is how well we manage our own energy.

Have you ever stopped in the midst of rushing around to listen to a small voice saying something like, “What AM I DOING?”

This is the same voice who might ask other wise questions, like:

  • How about a 15-20 minute power nap?
  • What if I just took a hot bath instead of…
  • Is the food I’m about to eat truly my premium fuel?
  • What if I went to bed at 9 tonight?
  • Do I really want to go to that party?
  • Is this conversation nourishing me?

Never running out of fuel is about taking 100% responsibility for not burning out, not depleting yourself, and for knowing and cultivating the kinds of premium fuel that truly give you energy. Who else will do this for you?

Hmmm, maybe Santa. On the other hand, why not put this present right in the center of your being this minute:

Peace.

Joy.

Freedom to manage your own energy.

May you find the generous heart within that wants to give you these gifts this season.

In love and light,

Pam