I had just been to visit my mother, sister and family in Spokane and was looking back on the visit, as it was my first voyage following an accident in December that nearly took my life. It had taken some work to be in my seat on the airplane: security details, loud alarms in response to the metal holding much of my body together and the usual walk to the small plane waiting on the blistering tarmac.
Finally seated, the flight attendant gave us the anticipated instructions regarding seat belts, emergency evacuation and the assortment of beverages and snacks being served during our short journey. We were reminded of our flight being non-smoking and that fines were steep for sneaking a puff in the restroom.
As expected, the engines ignited and the interior of the aircraft became quiet as we settled into pre-flight status, glancing out the windows or leafing through the complimentary information at hand. Suddenly into the silence, a small but mighty voice shouted: “Here we go!!” A child of about 6 or 7 years, flying for the first time (I learned later), had voiced his enthusiasm with no constraint. “Here we go!” he shouted again with unbridled excitement.
The entire group of passengers broke out in laughter ~ a moment of such aliveness and expression! As the flight took off and the plane climbed to its planned altitude, I thought about the little boy and his youthful innocence. Did he offer a lesson to those of us on board that flight? Being a teacher of mindfulness, I realized he certainly had a lesson for me. Where were my thoughts? Was I looking back on my visit, regretting this or that? Was I wishing I had done something differently? Was I already landing, so to speak, even though the plane was still on the ground when the child shouted his delight? Was I rehearsing for some time in the future that had not arrived yet?
Could it be that I am waiting for some other time, better than now, to express myself fully? Will there be a better moment, a more appropriate situation in which to be fresh and honest in my self expression? Is there a way I can be this little boy yet embrace my maturity? Is there a way I can be my experience, alive and uncluttered, without a selfish agenda?
Having experienced death at my door, there is a truth I live with everyday and it is this: if not now, when? And the knowing comes down to this: There is no tomorrow, only today. Yet how many of us have been taught to plan ahead and to fill some future space with our most precious dreams? Someday I’ll be happy ~ when I’m rich, or thin, or in love.
I find myself, so often, already at the destination terminal, when the plane hasn’t even left the ground. And I ask myself: am I here, now? The voice of a child guided my way back to myself on this hot July day and his words will be with me forever:
“Here we go!!”