I flew to Houston this week, my first time on an airplane while wearing my collar. It was on an airline that requires pre-check in. When you check in on-line, you receive a number and letter, A through C. No one wants to be in group C. People in group C know the plane is full and there will only be middle seats remaining: no one will make eye contact, everyone will puff up like a rooster to take up as much room as possible. The collar offered no support in confronting this awkward situation.
I always fly with an unrealistic expectation of catching up on one of the numerous ignored books from my bedside table. But traveling in a collar makes me feel like I have a responsibility not only to be pleasant, I feel like I need to represent the ministry well. I have a duty to talk when engaged. I carry with me an idea that if every person is a child of God, then they deserve my attention if they want it. Even when I am not in a collar, there is something natural about my presence that attracts others to talk to me about what really matters to them. It is as though I have a neon blinking sign on my forehead that says, “TELL ME EVERYTHING.” It is a rare plane ride when I am able to completely immerse myself in the book I brought along.
My plane reading this trip was Be Love Now, by Ram Das. Ram Das promotes a level of consciousness taught to him by his guru in India and supported by his psilocybin experiments. We are all part of God. We are all part of the One. Every moment is an opportunity to meet God in ourselves and in others. It requires moving our awareness to another level of consciousness and, at the same time, staying present with this moment and what is. There are things one can do to prepare to meet the kind of Love that is pervasive in the world and ever-present. Ram Das likens it to the way in which lovers prepare for a first date: pay special attention -- be clean and presentable to The Beloved, shower, shave, powder, and perfume. Putting on my collar sometimes feels like preparing myself for a date with The Beloved, reminding me to meet God in the presence of others.
No one spoke to me about anything of particular import on this plane ride. There were a few niceties, “Excuse me,” and, “Would you like peanuts?” At one point, I closed my eyes and imagined that the man on my left and the woman on my right were extended aspects of myself. I expanded my meditation to involve the entire plane, all in different stages of life with different gifts and challenges. When Ram Das writes about reincarnation, he is considering times before this life and possibly after. I imagined instead that it is all in the now. Right now. And on this plane, on this trip, we chose not to discuss what mattered to us. The man on my left played solitaire on his phone for an hour. The woman on my right flipped through magazines. I silently honored where they were on their journeys and read more than 100 pages about being on another plane.