The title of this article alone is enough to scare off most helicopter pilots. And if it doesn't scare them away, it's going to remind them of those occasional moments of terror when even the non-believers among us seek divine intervention, “just this one time,” to save us from one folly or another. But the spirituality I have in mind is of a different sort.
I consider myself fortunate in many ways. One is that I've had the opportunity to move back and forth as the need has arisen between three different career paths: helicopter pilot, writer and healthcare professional. As my financial requirements have surged or waned; as the need to be closer to home for a period has arisen; or sometimes, as the mood has suited me, I've been able to move to or return from each of these career paths in my life. My current path is back in healthcare. But I am, at all times, a helicopter pilot.
I am currently employed by a large, faith-based hospital system and recently had the mandatory “opportunity” to attend a two-day Leadership Development Institute. One of the themes of the Institute was “Spirituality in the Workplace.” We discussed the meaning of spirituality and how it compared and contrasted with religion. Admittedly, these are not subjects often overheard in the pilot break room or during safety briefings. But I discovered a meaningful connection that touched me, and — since we're in that touchy-feely frame of mind — I thought I would share it with my flying brethren.
Spirituality vs. Religion
During our training sessions one morning, we divided into small discussion groups and pondered the meaning and relevance of spirituality. Here are some of the revelations that came forth:
• For those who are religious, religion — and a fundamental belief in God — is the foundation for one's spirituality. One's belief in God drives one's spirituality.
• It is very possible to be religious, yet not possess a molecule of spirituality (not a good thing).
• Comparably, it is possible to be spiritual, but not necessarily religious (not a bad thing).
Regarding those who fall into this last camp, questions arose as to the source of their spirituality: if not from “God,” then from where? In my extremely humble opinion, the “where” is nothing more but nothing less than the thread of shared humanity that links all of us, one to another.
Now you may have noticed that I've avoided any attempt to define “spirituality.” That is intentional — and, candidly, reflects a bit of cowardice on my part. Spirituality is not an easy word to define, particularly outside of the scope of religion. But to me, and most of the members of my group, spirituality refers to one's active role as a caring member of humanity: our interest in and willingness to play a role in the lives of others; our concern for the future of our species; and our ability to have empathy for others and to act on that empathy.
The Grand Canyon Experiment
OK, if you're starting to look around the room for someone to hug, relax. I'm about to start talking about helicopters again.
For several years, one of my flying jobs was working as a tour pilot in the Grand Canyon. While many young people see this job as a stepping stone to something grander and more prestigious, like ENG or EMS, I have to tell you: I loved that job and I felt privileged to be paid to fly a new jet aircraft over one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth. Now I was not paid much, I confess… but I was paid, nonetheless. Of course, there were those days — with 100-degree temperatures, 30-knot winds, and almost eight hours in the cockpit — when I found myself with too much of a good thing. But not a day went by that I didn't have moments of sheer joy and gratitude to be where I was, doing what I was doing.
The Grand Canyon tour business is highly federally regulated. Every passenger on every commercial trip over the Canyon is counted and only two real routes are approved: the “Short Tour” through the Dragon Corridor and the “Long Tour” through the Zuni Corridor. Though both are beautiful, the Long Tour offers pilot and passengers a magical, spiritual moment that is unsurpassed in any other place I've flown (including Hawaii and other mesmerizing locations). Let me attempt to describe it — though I think it is impossible to capture in words or pixels.
The official entry point to the Zuni Corridor requires that you fly tightly defined paths and altitudes from the airport for about 10 minutes before you reach the Canyon. The Canyon is over to your left, but because you are flying with departing aircraft immediately overhead, for much of this time you're just 100 feet over a forest. The Canyon remains invisible, below the tree line, except for a few tantalizing glimpses that make the tourists leap for their cameras just in time to see a brief snatch of red rock disappear beneath a carpet of pines.
As you get nearer to the launching point, the forest slopes gently uphill to your left and you begin a sweeping left turn, pointing your aircraft straight towards the Canyon, still unseen, in front of you. The forest slopes up towards the belly of your aircraft as you hold your altitude. Closer and closer you get to the treetops as you near the precipice. Finally, you suddenly launch into space as you go from 50 feet AGL over the trees, to one mile AGL over the Grand Canyon. The windscreen is simultaneously painted, from one end to the other, with the Canyon's reds, purples, oranges and browns.
It is a moment that takes your breath away. It is magical. And yes, it is spiritual for pilot and passenger alike. I have flown this moment nearly 1,000 times, and every single time, the hair on the back of my neck has stood up, driven by something bigger than me and something shared with those around me.
Cockpit as Laboratory
Now, back to my training session and spirituality discussion. As we began pondering this concept of spirituality, it occurred to me that for years, I spent every day in a spirituality laboratory. In my laboratory, my cockpit, I was able to repeat the same experiment over and over and observe the results. In fact, there may be some important information to be learned from these experiments and resulting observations.
My leaps out into the Grand Canyon were, in fact, a crucible in which was mixed mankind, incomparable beauty, excitement, power, and, for many, a touch of fear. The whole mixture was ignited by “the moment” and the result was a spiritual experience. While people's reactions varied widely from the humorous to the highly emotional, one could see patterns emerge:
The walnuts. I'm sorry to say this, but there are some people in this world who just don't get it. I don't know whether it is a permanent disability (I suspect so, for many) or a temporal lapse, but this group is lacking something fundamental found in the rest of us. They are totally unmoved by the Grand Canyon moment, and in fact lack cognizance that the moment has occurred. They may be arguing with their spouse, yelling at their kids, or just cleaning their fingernails. But they don't get it. What a shame. I call these few the “walnuts” because in my characterization of their clinical condition, they have a void, about the size of a walnut, at that place in their brains that for most of us contains the nucleus of what makes us human. I do not say this unkindly, but with sadness and sympathy.
The religious. For people with a fundamental belief in God, “the moment” confirms everything they ever thought they knew about their God and immediately brings them into his presence. They cry. They shout. They sing. They pray. The see the hand of their God at work in the Canyon and they are deeply moved by it. Even if you are not religious, it is meaningful and powerful to be in the presence of someone living this experience. There is no doubt in my mind that for many of the religious, the moment served as a renewal of their relationship with their God.
The spiritual. For the spiritual, “the moment” appears no less moving and emotional than it does to the religious. It may be a sense that there is something larger than us at work in the universe or just a profound appreciation of beauty and majesty that is so much bigger than we are. It is something to be shared with those around you — and sharing is what links us spiritually together. For that moment, everyone in the cockpit is linked together. That in itself is very spiritual.
The totally freaked out. Like Group 1: a minority. The best example of this group that I ever saw was a woman seated next to me who began to have an epiphany about what was going to happen to her about five seconds before we exploded into the Canyon. Totally involuntarily, her legs began running backwards, attempting to propel her into the back seats to postpone the inevitable. Alas, the harness prevented this from happening, and she leaped into the Canyon with the rest of us, screaming bloody murder. Her spirituality was in question at the moment.
OK, so where am I going with this whole idea? I'm not entirely sure. Except that for me, the whole thought process has given me a new appreciation for what we do. My helicopter has allowed me to share a spiritual moment with thousands of other spiritual beings. The net result: thousands of spiritual moments in my life that otherwise would not have occurred. How cool is that?
Other Cockpit Moments
As I began contemplating this idea a little more fully, I started to spot other moments in the cockpit where humanity and, perhaps, spirituality are revealed.
Think about the times you have been flying when you have found yourself approaching dangerous weather or IFR conditions, or have encountered a mechanical emergency. Your life was reduced — or perhaps elevated — to moments of complete clarity and focus. You were presented with a problem and you were entirely focused on the data, the options and the decision. You were living as much in the moment as it is possible to be. This is what living is about, and that is a spiritual experience. While these moments are not to be sought out (in fact, we are educated and trained to avoid them), when they do occur, we are transcended into a different state — perhaps, a form of spirituality.
What about instructing? As you take a new student through their introductory flight and watch them barely able to control any single element of the aircraft — but at the same time filled with excitement and awe with what they are doing — it is a powerful, perhaps spiritual experience. We have been there ourselves. As they continue with their training you get to learn much about them as you share the same space with them and observe them in the cockpit crucible. You see them angry. You see them frustrated. You see them scared. And you see them filled with joy: the first time they hover, their first solo. These are wonderful, spiritual moments that link us one to another.
To be honest with you, I've never had these thoughts before, let alone shared them. And yet, I knew there was something special about what I did and always felt fortunate to be doing it. It wasn't the money (God knows — for the religious among us). It wasn't just the fun. It wasn't just the excitement and the challenge. Perhaps all along, a part of it has been the spiritual nature of what we do. Fly safe. Fly aware.
10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice
I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.
What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.
There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:
1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.
2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.
3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.
4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”
Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:
- 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.
- 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.
- 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.
- 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.
- 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.
- 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.
- 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.
- 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.
- 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”
- 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!
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