Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
This month’s newsletter may be one of the most meaningful, and dare I say profound, newsletters I’ve written since back in May of 2006, when I started these monthly letters. You see, this month I turn 60! So I hope you’ll relax and spend a few moments with me while I share this story with you.
Last week on a flight from Portland, Oregon to San Diego, California, I had the most interesting experience I’ve ever had on a plane. And that’s saying a lot from someone who travels as much as I do. I journeyed through so many emotions and when the flight ended, I knew I wanted to share this experience with all of you.
I’m a window seat girl. I love to fly, and being able to look out the window and enjoy amazing scenery is pure fun for me. I also like the window seat because I can settle in and get some work done after I put on my noise reduction headphones. But none of this happened on this particular flight.
As I approached my seat, I noticed there was actually a side panel and NO WINDOW next to my “window” seat. I asked the flight attendant if I could switch my seat but the flight was fully booked. Hmmm, interesting, I thought, and took my seat.
Two young men were seated next to me. I sensed they were in their early 20’s. They seemed to know each other, but not well. While we were still on the ground and before I put my headphones on, I overheard the young man in the middle seat asking his buddy if the seat would recline, what the knobs above his head were for, and how to use the seat belt.
This peaked my curiosity. Could it be? True enough, I heard the young man in the middle seat say to his buddy that this was his first time flying in a plane. Wow, I thought. How incredible. And I knew for sure that on this flight I would not be wearing my headphones, nor would I take out my computer.
Yes, of course in theory I know that there are always people who are flying for the first time, yet for me who treks around the world and is such a relaxed flyer, I knew this was a special invitation sent to me by circumstance to participate in an extraordinary event. And I wanted to share in the beginner’s mind experience with this young man. Turned out that this sharing would involve both young men!
I didn’t initiate any conversation with him right away. I went to the back of the plane and told the flight attendant that when she came around to offer meals for sale, I wanted to purchase one for the fellow next to me as it was his first time flying, and I wanted to help make this flight a memorable one.
Listening in once more to the conversation going on next to me, I realized that both these young men had just enlisted in the Marines and that was why they were flying down to San Diego. Boot camp!
Now, I couldn’t help myself. I introduced myself and for the next two hours had one of the most engaging, honest, fun, and inspirational conversations ever!
Both guys had just graduated from high school. Turns out my first time flyer fellow lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon, which is not near any major airport, so on the rare occasion his family traveled, they drove. My other Marine had flown a few times but only short hops from Oregon to Alaska.
Were they afraid to fly? Absolutely! At one point they asked me how fast I thought the plane was going and when I answered, “Probably close to 600 MPH”, I thought they’d pass out. They asked me about trips I had taken, planes I had flown in, and about certain cities and if I had visited them.
I have a curious nature and am often fascinated by the choices people make in life. I wanted to know more about why the military. We talked about what that process was like for them, why the Marines, if their parents were supportive, what their fellow classmates and people in general thought, what their training would involve, and about their fears and hopes.
They were open to sharing, and I was so impressed with their honesty and self awareness. I chose not to tell them that in a few days I’d be turning 60 and was going through a time of self inquiry and looking back and looking ahead. I wanted the spotlight to be on them.
Yet through the hours I spent with them in a very present state of consciousness, I could sense memories of choices I had made, new beginnings I had experienced, and the many roads and air miles I had traveled.
I felt such gratitude for this window seat that I had moments before been willing to exchange. Now I was sharing a conversation I wouldn’t trade for anything. Life is full of such lessons!
I also felt deep gratitude for these two young men who were willing to share so much of themselves and what was going on in their minds, bodies, and hearts. I continue to think about them daily.
Without knowing me, or much about my life, they had given me an amazing birthday present. They reminded me in such an unusually profound way, to stay in, and appreciate, the beginner’s mindset. It’s all too easy with a few decades of life under my belt to think I’ve seen it before, or done it before, or perhaps know a few of life’s answers to the big questions.
I had been pondering themes for my years going forward and now it was crystal clear. Beginner’s mind, each day anew, living the moment and letting go of as many preconceptions as I can; these would be my mantras.
So as I move into my next decade, I continue to be blessed with abundant health and vitality. I enjoy a life that includes much laughter and adventure, work that I trust brings meaning to others, many loving relationships, and the world’s best readers!
I’m hoping, whatever your age, that you’ll join me in exploring your own beginner’s mindset, and until next month, continue to find Joyinmovement!