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Be still and remove all judgment on others.
The phrase sticks to me like sticky rice on sushi. I repeat it again: “Be still and remove all judgment on others.”
I close my eyes and begin to ponder the first part of this contemplative thought: “Be still.”
I repeat it again to myself while snuggling into the faux leather seat that has busted open from too much wear—cushion padding now exposed. I begin to try and calm my mind, however, noisy children behind me begin to kick my seat and the captain has turned on his seat belt sign.
Ding! The light turns yellow and we’re ready for takeoff.
As someone who seeks enlightenment, but has yet to make her mind strong like a Jedi, when I hear this particular phrase, I interpret it as an observation.
I observe my surroundings, like most passengers on an airplane do right before liftoff, and watch from my window seat as the scenery turns, in the flash of an eye, into mountains, landscapes, and rivers—ultimately blurring the lines of the distinctive perspective that now ceases to exist.
On a micro-scale, what one might experience in the first 100 feet of a plane taking off is the full-forced view of an incredible civilization: man-made infrastructures and populated cities, with hustling automobiles, towering buildings, and intricately designed interstates. However, as the plane ascends higher into the sky, an entirely different picture can be seen from the window seat. Now, what appears to be within the view of the traveler is rolling hills made from sand and rock, flat lands of desert, and widening seas that chant of the season and time.
To be on an airplane, traveling in the midst of space and time with no proper orientation, is a place of observation. Zen masters would call this experience a deep understanding that all separate entities are anatta, without self, and anicca, without permanence.
According to Zen philosophy, “the true Self is not an idea but an experience—the experience which comes to pass when the mind has voided every metaphysical premise, every idea with which it attempts to grasp the nature of the world.”
However, the Zen scriptures like to make enlightenment seem like an easily accomplished task.
If I just sit here and stare out the window, I will finally become like the Buddha. Unfortunately, this is not the case. For in the midst of my airborne observation, I found children screaming behind me, women cackling in groups of three, and my own busy thoughts. I found myself judging and passing my agitation to them as my entitlement to my own “sacred space” wore me thin.
Except, that is the greatest lesson of all when we observe individual circumstances from the perspective of a passing plane. We can gather a different, deeper, macro understanding of humanity. People are no longer a bustling city landscape, filled with noise and distraction. They’re no longer crowded city freeways that leave no room for space.
If we sit with our thoughts concerning individuals around us, and watch them pass by like the scenery from the window seat, we can see what they truly are. We see how the noisy baby, who is crying in her mother’s arms, is scared—just like you and me. She shares the same beating heart that escalates as we put our trust and our lives in the hands of the pilot and the men who created the aircraft—hoping they did their due diligence.
We see that we’re not separate, but all parts of a whole. We’re all noisy, crowded beings, who from a higher perspective make up a beautiful, glowing sea.