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I had an interesting experience with stress recently that I’d like to share with you.
In October, I flew on a long flight to Asia. The airline was new to me and so was the airport for my stopover. Everything seemed fine flying from Germany and it didn’t take long to be waiting at my next gate to fly to Thailand. I settled in and started reading.
Then the announcement came up: my next flight was delayed by an hour and a half. That wasn’t much of a problem – I could keep reading and there was a cafe nearby if I needed anything. I had some sandwiches with me so all was well, really. Then the delay became two hours. Three hours. Finally, around 11 at night, we were told that our flight would leave at 4:30 the next morning.
People were furious. One man was shouting and speaking aggressively to the gate agents. A ring of people formed around their desk and it sounded like they were demanding things. I don’t speak the language so it was all noise to me. There were a few other English-speakers there and we made a small group. A few people translated for us so that was helpful.
We weren’t offered hotel rooms and with such an early departure, it might not make much sense to go all the way to a hotel only to come back a few hours later. So, a lot of people stayed overnight in the airport – sleeping on the floor, on benches, even in childrens’ play areas! It wasn’t clear if the plane would come at all. Underneath all these unknowns, it was still ok. Not ideal but ok. No one was in danger. We all had shelter and access to food for purchase. We really had nothing else to do but rest and see what happened at 4:30 the next morning. There was some freedom in that.
I didn’t feel stressed. My mind was wondering about the possibilities but those just came and went if I let them. I was doing a concentration meditation by following my breathing while everything else was going on. Outside of me was chaos and inside of me was calm. I had a choice in all this: I could get hooked into the panic, anger, and frustration all around me or not let it take over my mind, simply seeing what would happen next. The delays had already happened and going over them again and again in my head wouldn’t help anything. It would make it much, much worse.
As these things go, the 4:30 departure time turned into 5:30 and then 7. When the plane finally came, you could feel the relief in the air. We all made it in the end.
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