Zen Traveler: Keep Calm, and Carry On (Your Mat)

Zen Traveler is a recurring series of posts here at Grateful Yogi about mindful travel.

You know who I see a lot of?

This man:


Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune
 This is Jeff Smisek and he is the CEO of United Airlines. His title isn't really important or relevant. Mostly, I mention him because I see him quite a lot. He is the star of United's in-flight advertisement and safety video. Usually, by the time his smile flashes in front of me on a television screen, we are 5-10 minutes away from wheels up.

Which is how I ended up in Gate E6 in Minneapolis-St.Paul - staring at a board proclaiming that our flight was leaving 2 hours late at 7pm - even though it was already 7.15.

And in my head I was thinking - I just want to see Jeff.

Our issue wasn't weather - but something with the steering on the plane.

Side note: Take all the time you need with making the plane safe. While I wish the parts you needed were in Minneapolis, and not Chicago - I'm looking to make it home alive.

You can learn a lot about people in an airport, and even more about yourself. Air travel makes the world accessible to us, but it also means that unless you are a pilot, you relinquish a lot of control.

Which makes the gate area a great place to carry on with life despite delay.

Yelling, screaming, and complaining will never get the plane there any faster, and it will certainly not make the situation any better.

So when the staff at the counter announced that it would actually be a 9.30 or 10pm departure (pesky little part that was needed to help the pilots fly the plane), I grabbed my iphone out of the socket in the wall and wheeled my bag into the bathroom.

And changed. Into my spare set of yoga clothes. Because Gate E13 was about to become my yoga room:



This section of the terminal was fairly empty - most flights had already left and the only people around were my fellow UA 519 passengers and the night cleaning crew.

I always carry on a very thin travel mat and a spare set of clothes (I promise you this takes up minimal space as I am a confirmed overpacker and still can fit it in). I actually found myself elated at the amount of time that I had.

I made a quick playlist to help me drown out the airport noise, and got started: pranayama, abs, sun salutations, standing pose series, warm down, savasana. 70 minutes.

I know that some of you are thinking - aren't you worried about what people think?

Actually, I'm not. And it took me a while to get there. In the beginning, I might have been more self-conscious. People say that travel "beats you down" and it can, but it has mostly made me more patient and empathetic. Every single person in that airport has somewhere to go - and we all have the same goal - to get there. Almost 100% probability that I'm not going to see any of these people again. Plus, I'm also hoping that they might see me doing yoga and at least take a deep breath. Or be reminded that it's all okay.

I finally saw Jeff at 10.20 that evening, half-comfortably snuggled in my seat with a faux-pillow made from my sweatshirt (I'm fairly confident that I could craft you a usable pillow out of most any item of clothing.). It was late, I had just worked out, and I fell asleep before the flight attendants had a chance to come down the aisle.

When I landed - Jeff had emailed me and sent me 3,000 bonus miles for the incovenience. Thanks, Buddy!

We don't get a refund on our time when we are sitting at airports, or train stations, or in traffic. Life just doesn't work that way.

 Delays happen that are outside of our control. How we choose to fill the time is a deliberate choice.