The Zen Traveler Meets JFK

Some people would like to give the world a coke.

I would like to give the world a mat. And if I cannot give the whole world a mat, I would like to send 5000 of them to JFK airport to be handed out in the security line to all of the people that were there with me yesterday.

If my mat had been part of my carry-on going through security yesterday, I am not sure whether I would have rolled it out and taken child's pose, or used it as a weapon. It was that bad.

This past year of frequent, long-haul, run-you-ragged travel for work has made me calm and cool in most airport situations. Airports are places in which we often confront our own powerlessness and lack of control over portions of our lives. Travel has taken my anxiety and replaced it with a general sense of calmness within the chaos. I am sure that a lot of it is yoga, breathing, and a focus on mindful living. But the honest truth is that, at times, you are too tired to even care about anything other than getting home. I have found that "Zen" traveling is 90% cultivated calm and 10% submission (Or maybe it is actually the other way around).

Yesterday I met my match.

Okay, so it wasn't this bad. But it did feel like it.

Sometimes, even the Zen Traveler has limits. Ninety minutes into the security line at JFK and I felt like a broken person. We don't need to go into the pushing, the shoving, the heat, and the TSA employees actually screaming at people and mocking others while we waited in the inefficient line. I would rather not talk about the people who tried to take their luggage with them through the metal detectors, or the man who demanded to know the point of taking off his shoes.

My hat goes off to the sweet couple from Italy who defended me from a line-cutting gentleman intent on pushing his family to the front of the line and literally pushing and knocking down people in his wake.

But much to my surprise, I watched almost as an observer as my own hand stopped the gentleman and I heard the rather strong voice that I found coming out of my mouth: You need to stop...right now. Right here.

Someone please give that man a mat.

Mindfulness is not the same as passivity. Being Zen doesn't always mean letting people run you over for the sake of silence. The truth is that calmness is not always silent. Sometimes you have to stick up for yourself - and others.

At some point, enough is enough. Being an observer and not acting - not saying anything - while someone pushes and knocks people over and disrupts the essential order of things - can actually be the wrong choice.

You can be a mindful AND active participant in life.

So I told him to step off in the most polite way I knew how. And it didn't really help matters beyond a few minutes. He still pushed his way up to the top of the line to cause even more trouble at the metal detectors. But in the wake of the craziness, there was a sudden comraderie almong the others in line. I met a couple traveling to Venice for a cruise and gave them the crash course traveler's tutorial on what they had to take off for security. A lot of knowing glances were exchanged. The theme was - we are all in this together.

And we are.

When people say "traveling mercies" as we head out on our travels- they mean it.

We can all use some mercies on our journeys. And a little perspective never hurts either. I can't remember the last time I was so grateful to finally be home.