It’s easy to feel lost out here. Disoriented.
As one political pundit commented, we’ve lowered the bar so that a debate free of aggressive non-interrupting is a “normal” debate, even though the President of the United States calmly parades lies that are life-threatening to people and the planet.
Where are we? I thought I knew the rabbit hole, but this is beyond the rabbit hole.
Are you lost too? Does the drama, fatigue, worry, and false information make you feel like you don’t know much anymore? How do we find our way out of here?
When I was in flight training, I had to train on instruments in case the weather closed in and cut off visibility. For a private license, you need at least a dose of this training, so that when lost in the clouds, you have a chance of turning around and getting out of the situation.
My flight instructor, Clio, would take me out flying (me in the pilot’s seat, she in the passenger seat with her own set of controls). Then I would have to fly “under the hood.” The hood looked like a Ku Klux Klan cone hood without the eye holes. I could see the instruments on the panel, but nothing out the windows.
If I had been 20 today, this might have been no problem, since I would have been trained in video games. There’s an altimeter that tells you your altitude. An airspeed indicator. A turn indicator that shows you the angle of your wings. A compass, of course. A heading indicator that shows you which way you’re going. Pilots who are instrument rated can fly with zero visibility using these instruments. Plus, now GPS and other flight instrumentation have been transformed, and you can see everything about where you are and where you’re going on your iPad.
But for the sake of this metaphor, stick with me at 20 years ago.
So I’ve got the hood on, and Clio is asking me to do various maneuvers. Then she has me close my eyes and takes me somewhere and turns the plane to an unusual angle, and I have vertigo. She takes the hood off. I have no idea where I am. I’m dizzy, disoriented, and now the instruments aren’t helping me. Why is that huge mountain peak in front of me? Where am I? How do I get home?
It takes a few minutes to switch methods of gathering information. My brain has to go back to primarily visual information with instrumental backup. “Broaden your scan,” Clio coaches me. When I look at the mountain and the compass, I see we’ve gone around to the other side of it from where we usually fly. Practicing cuts down the tendency to panic.
In today’s world, the optics, the visual information “outside the plane” are pretty unreliable. How things look is often not how they are. The weather is chaotic, changing, and clouds of a political and factual nature often obscure that illusive truth.
This brings us to my Flying Lessons for Life lesson #6: Broaden Your Scan.
This one is connected to the third eye, that chakra between your physical eyes, the seat of your inner seeing, your inner knowing. I need that right now. Do you?
The third eye brings us gifts that are discounted in our culture: intuition and “seeing” of a spiritual sort, or perceiving things beyond the rational realm that are nevertheless present and true, even when invisible.
Animals have instincts, and we do too. We have the same DNA as the grey whale, who knows when and where to migrate from the Alaskan feeding ground to the same bay in Mexico to mate and then give birth the following year. Information coded in our bodies is rich and deep.
We also have intuition, a way of feeling what is right, a deep knowing. There are many ways to strengthen this ability. We need it to guide us to what Buddhists call “right action.”
And, many of us rely on spiritual information. This means asking deep inside your heart, going to the Source in all humility, and asking how we may serve. Now, we know that this can be tricky, for we’ve seen egos hijack this “serving God” thing and really create a mess. But spiritual practice leads to better discernment.
Some definitions of discernment are: “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure,” and “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” Wouldn’t these be welcome abilities in our leaders?
On a spiritual level, there’s a big difference between discernment and strategic thinking. If I were flying into bad weather and got lost, strategy would take me so far as to decide on a plan. Then I’d need discernment, good judgment. I’d have to look at the instruments to see where I was, decide on the safest turn and/or change of altitude, and think, observe, and draw on my training while I was performing the maneuver on instruments. Think Sully Sullenberger.
We’re talking about our inner instruments. And we can do things to hone them:
>> Choose a practice that strengthens your intuition.
>> Try listening to your body and recognizing your instincts.
>> Have a regular practice of meditation and/or prayer and pay attention to guidance.
>> Look for “signs of truth” in your daily life, relationships, and in nature.
>> Put your hand on your heart and remember that there’s so much we do not know, and ask for help.
Well, on my final exam for my license, the scary fount-of-knowledge-and-power examiner from the FAA flew out with me to test me on my skills. Part way out, he said, “I have a feeling another plane might be behind us. Would you turn so we can look?” There was no plane there, but I got the valuable teaching.
Your body knows what you need. Your heart knows more than your mind. Your inner eye sees more than your outer eyes. And if you combine rational evidence from the outer world with inner knowing, maybe you and I can find our way out of this storm.