I never used to be scared of flying in the slightest.
My first flight was when I was 18 to visit my boyfriend who worked on the mines. My maiden voyage was spent in the front seat of a Skipper charter plane to Granny Smith mine site. I sat at the front seat squealing with delight and excitement as the plane took off. Meanwhile the 25 men on the flight, commuting to work, all rolled their eyes with disdain. No-one was ready to share my enthusiasm at 5:45 that morning.
The flights that followed became very regular, I ended up working at that same mine site only a year later taking that same route to work every two weeks. After a few months of working there I took another job, this time on a small mine site where I flew to work in a 4 seater plane to work. That plane was no more than a car with wings, in the sky. This has to be, quite possibly, one of the scarier ways to fly, especially with even the slightest bit of turbulence. Sometimes we spent the flight white knuckling it for the whole 1 hr and 45 minutes.
I am a seasoned traveller. I have flown from London to Perth alone without a worry in the world.
Flash forward to 2012, when my first ever panic attack changed my life forever. Following the full blown attack that hit me from nowhere one December afternoon I began to get very claustrophobic. Places that never held any fear for me started to make me very afraid; but the two that topped the list was shopping centres and planes. Basically, my fear was of having another panic attack in that space and feeling trapped. Whenever I got my panic attacks I felt as if I need to run, far, far away. I desperately needed fresh air and I needed to be as far away as possible from the situation I found myself in. My flight or fight response was on overdrive. Slowly, I worked on my shopping centre fear as I faced it more regularly. However, the plane fear was still there. The recent plane crashes and disappearances only compounded my anxiety. I hear the door lock and the captain say ‘prepare for take off’ and my body and mind are off… the heart is racing, my armpits sweating and my brain is spouting ridiculous scenarios in my head:
‘what if I have a panic attack and rush over there and open the door’
‘what if I have a heart attack and die’
‘what if the plane crashes’
‘what if I completely lose my mind’
‘what if…. what if…. what if…. what if….’
In the recent trips I have taken I have always self medicated whether it be valium or booze. One of the goals of going away to work on my yoga teacher training was to finally master the mind, to release the grips that anxiety had over me. I flew home from Bali yesterday and much to my disappointment, it all resurfaced. I found myself in the same damn position. My heart started racing and my mind was becoming out of control. I reached to my handbag in defeat. I hadn’t had anything to drink but I had my one spare valium that I carry at all times in case of emergency. Instead of taking that valium, I looked down to my recently inked foot… ‘Breathe’ my tattoo whispered to me. ‘Breathe’.
I closed my eyes and started taking deep breaths. I followed my variation of a meditation that we learned at our teacher training.
So Hum Meditation
Inhale your breath rises from pelvis to throat.
Exhale your breath rises from throat to pelvis.
Imagine your breath like the tide of the ocean.
The tide rising on inhale, falling on exhale.
Inhale pelvis to throat, exhale throat to pelvis.
Now that you have established this flow of breath, listen to the words:
‘So’ on the inhale.
‘Hum’ on the exhale.
‘So’ on the rising tide.
‘Hum’ on the falling tide.
I followed this for ten minutes. My fear and anxiety were gone. I felt calm and composed, ready for my flight. I have realised fear will alway be there. Your ego will always be there to scare you with its ‘what ifs’ but you don’t have to listen to it. Listen instead to your breath, your breath is your anchor. It will look after you, and lead you to the truth. The truth is you are going to be ok. The truth is; fear is a waste of your imagination. Breathe, always remember to come back to your breath. Onward and Upward Bound xo