Are you a passenger or a pilot?

On a recent Paragliding trip to the Pyrenees I was thinking how much like life Paragliding is…

Dealing with the turbulence
I would be lying if I said I was comfortable when flying through turbulence. As soon as my wing starts involuntarily moving around I find my body tense and my vision instantly becomes locked on the end goal, creating blinkers in a haze of rising panic. I become a passenger being bounced around in the thermic air. If I do not nip these emotions in the bud I stop actively flying and risk freezing up. I stop enjoying the journey and my imagination goes wild, picturing being sucked up into the atmosphere never to be seen again by a giant thermal or of dropping out of the sky.

When life gets bumpy we all have the habit of doing this, becoming fixated on the pain or the confusion to the detriment of our journey. It is a normal reaction. Nobody likes suffering and life has a way of when we’re down, throwing more than one obstacle in our path. It can be all consuming.

But what can we do to enjoy the flight and become a pilot rather than just a passenger?

Have faith in yourself,
It is ok to feel pain and to feel like you can’t cope at times. You are maybe experiencing something like losing a loved one that means the pain will always remain with you. To feel heartbreaking, world crumbling pain and loss is OK. Allow yourself time to process what has happened. If you are ceasing to function as a human being after an extended period of time it is time to reach out to ask for help. In the past when turbulence got so strong in the air I have reached out to my instructor over the radio. His calming voice, a voice of reason cutting through the panic gave me something to focus on and to distract me and to talk me through and to remind me to breathe. It is ok to ask for help and reach out to others but it is also important to build yourself back up too. You are stronger than you think, you can trust yourself to survive.

Enjoying the view
Don’t forget to look around and enjoy the flight. Some amazing possibilities might pop up to explore. But if you are so afraid and focused on your destination you can’t look around, you will fail to see the mountains bathed in golden sun light or the eagles soaring with you. Practicing techniques to help calm yourself and control your emotions are so beneficial. Whether it’s yogic breathing, visualisation or any other form of relaxation employing your chosen technique will allow you to relax enough to take in the big picture. These techniques require perseverance and practice.

Exposure
Like anything uncomfortable in life, the more you do of it, the happier you become. When I am flying, I am learning to read the terrain below me which affects the air currents so I can expect turbulence over certain areas. Knowing this I don’t experience crippling fear as I am not caught on the back foot. The more you fly, the happier you will be, the more turbulence you experience the less it will knock you off your feet as long as you have…
Our brains, like our muscles carry out most of their development and repair work whilst asleep or through constructive rest. Constantly being out of your comfort zone without adequate rest will break most people eventually. When I first learnt to fly, I needed to take longer periods of time on the ground between bigger flights. My brain needed to recover from the over stimulation caused by feeling so exposed and vulnerable. The more I do and the more comfortable I am in the air the less rest I require between flights. The same can be said for anything in life. Acknowledge your stress and take time out. Find time for extra sleep, take time out during the day to go and sit, walk or run though nature. Your mind and body will thank you for it and life will make a lot more sense.

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