Airplanes are great places for meditation. It may seem difficult at first, between the noise, the cramped space, and the myriad anxieties travel tends to introduce, but those challenges make for great practice.
That’s just the beginning, though. I think being up in an airplane has unique benefits to meditation practice.
Have you ever noticed how a movie you thought was sappy and boring on the ground can move you to tears on a long-haul flight? It’s not just you; this is a well known phenomenon. Maybe it’s related to the Overview Effect. High altitude puts things on the ground into perspective, generating empathy and compassion for everything and everyone below — and these effects can last a long time after returning to earth.
The transitional aspect of travel is also good for meditation. It’s easy to notice impermanence while traveling — you’re coming from an experience that has ended and going towards one that has not yet begun.
It can be harder to experience impermanence in the “This, too, shall pass” sense when one encounters the inevitable stresses of disrupted travel plans, but, of course, that’s a great practice opportunity. And what better feeling is there for a traveler than finally settling into your assigned seat after crossing hell and high water to make your flight? When I finally make it to that moment, I instinctively close my eyes, take a deep breath and say, “Thank you!”
I’ve heard it said by many teachers that sitting down to meditate should feel like coming home. That is, if you think about it, a simile of travel. And if it’s good practice for meditation to have a sense of travel, how much moreso for travel to have a sense of meditation?