Mantra Meditation

“Roger, Roger”

Captain Clarence Oveur

        Have you ever been scared on an airplane?   (Or are you totally asleep?)

        I think it is safe to say,  we all have had our moments of being scared in-flight, and we’ve all got our stories. I know I do. (Today!) Two or three rooted in reality, and the rest complete figments of my wild imagination.

        I try to remind myself of the hundred thousand flights that happen each day with little notice, but then one horror story a year preoccupies my mind. (But really, woman gets sucked from her window seat; do I need to let someone know there’s condensation between the panes of my window? Or birds shuts down engines on airplanes? Do I need to alert someone of the seagulls off the starboard side?)

        The whole process, from the start of selecting a flight, to the circus at the airport and the security strip tease you need to do, puts us on cortisol overload from the minute we even think about flying.

        I had “a thing” happen on a flight home from college many moons ago. Something went wrong at takeoff and we had to return to the airport and do an emergency landing, a real one; head between the knees, instructions over the loudspeaker to “brace brace brace.” Now, all these years later, occasionally, when I’m on a flight with a low flight pattern in the beginning, and the captain does not greet the passengers in the timely fashion I need, then my panic gets going that something is wrong.

        Recently, exhausted, and therefore more “over-sensitive” than usual, I tapped the shoulder of the man sitting next to me with his headphones on, and laser focus on whatever he was working on on his laptop. “Excuse me, are you scared?” I asked him. I then proceeded to plant some ideas as to why I was, dragging him into the abyss of my mind.  Think Anne Lamott; “My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I try not to go in there alone.”  

        The poor guy. Said he traveled about 300 days last year and was not a great flyer, but had no choice with work.  One minute he is focusing his attention in a productive manner, a minute later being pulled off task hearing my concerns (not without adding, “you know the TV monitors did all shut off a few minutes ago…”)

        That, like most flying stories, ended just fine, but for the fact that two of us spent about 20 minutes in my self-created personal hell. Even if it’s imaginary doom, the reality is that panic that surges up is awful. I understand why people drink or don’t get on airplanes at all; we all want to avoid such unpleasant feelings, or avoid unnecessary suffering as my meditation teacher says. The question is how do you discern between real threat and paranoia, and how do you stop irrational fears from holding you back from living?

        I try to channel my best cognitive therapy techniques and remind myself how many times I have been right about a looming flying catastrophe, (zero), and then I tap into some techniques. (One friend found less fearful flying by tapping.)  Emotional Freedom Technique is a pretty cool focusing self-soothing technique. I’ve done a couple trainings with this guy, )

       Anyway, whatever it is, you need to refocus your mind.  Sometimes I can change my terrorized vibe by literally tuning out, putting my headphones on, listening to inspirational music or meditations. And sometimes I need a simple focusing tool, like using a mantra, to corral my thoughts.

        A mantra for me has been effective in many ways. But in the beginning I fought it, and overthought it. First, I wondered how can it be that someone else gives you your mantra? Then I was told to select my own, and the meaning didn’t matter (huh?)  Saying it out loud or chanting it, not a chance. Then I tried it, and stuck with it, and now it is in the old medicine bag of in-flight tools. Here are some other cool facts I’ve learned since then:

~ A mantra enunciated correctly sounds more like MUN-truh.) There is intentionality behind these simple sanskrit syllables, with both the vibration and the formation with your mouth and lips playing into the effectiveness of the mantra (thus the meaning not carrying so much importance.)

~ There are mantras for healing; check out one here.

~ “Om” is the universal vibration of the universe, linking all living things.  For  personal coaching in Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound meditation technique in the Chicago area, reach out to

~ There are mantras for releasing the chakras, and each chakra has a different mantra associated with it. Take the word “Om.”  Actually pronounced (Aaaah  – “O” “O” “O”  – “Mmm”)  Maybe you’ve been asked to chant it aloud in a yoga class. If you do, you can actually feel the vibration move throughout your body. The “Aaaah” starts down low in the belly, then the “Oh” you feel in your heart, and finally the “Mmm” you feel the hum in your head. In the world of yogic wisdom that’s energy moving from your lower chakras, though your heart center, and then into your more spiritual chakras located in your 3rd eyes and crown.

        There’s so much mantra wisdom, mostly over this head.  Whether its a syllable you try on for size, or a mantra given to you by a teacher, it is all good. You can silently repeat it 108 times with a mala, or chant it, or simply use it as a touchtone of sorts that aids you in returning to your intention.  This last one is the way of Centering Prayer, one of the many ways of mantra meditation.  

        One thing is for certain: the more you simply practice mantra meditation, the more it will sink in. Simply said: mantra mediation works.  


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. A boatload of great information, resources and inspiration here, Elinor. Thank you! Especially love the Lamott quote…

  2. I love the plane story. I was once on a flight so bumpy and scary, I held the hand of the person next to me. It made a world of difference. Great work💕🙏🏻

  3. PS- the person I held hands with was a complete stranger. The power of togetherness can be extraordinary !💕

  4. Love Anne Lamott!!!!
    Great meditation suggestions!
    (New blog post up. Link in my blue name.)

  5. Not that I’m glad you have to deal with airplane anxiety, but it makes me feel less alone. Thanks for the good advice. (My personal technique involves bringing my lucky baseball. Don’t even ask.)

    1. you are not alone, dude.
      woman I was with this weekend kept referring to her terror of flying. guy next to her on friday started screaming engine was on fire as they were rolling down runway. (he clearly did not have his lucky baseball!) aborted takeoff, everything was fine, not sure “what became of the man.”
      we’ve all been there. laugh or cry, you get to choose:)

Leave a Reply

Close Menu