I was reminded of my spiritual failures while squirming in an airplane seat, the middle of three in a row, fighting for leg room between an unacceptably fat man on my left, and a restless student on my right who had constructed a sprawling combination of Starbucks cafe and Apple Store on her tray table.
My fat neighbor was squeezed into the aisle seat, apparently catatonic, so going to the bathroom would be a struggle of obsequious courtesy and grim determination. It seemed easier to climb over the back of my seat then wriggle across the laps of the passengers in the row behind than attempt to wake him. The student, meanwhile, had pulled the shade down over the window, the better to view her various laptop screens, so I couldn't even check for Gremlins grinning malevolently on the wing.
At times like these, I wish my brain could happily occupy itself with the melodrama of reality television shows, bestselling thrillers, and vacuous lifestyle magazines. But I had brought a biography of Cicero, providing a distraction from the disagreeable seating predicament for about two pages before my focus on shifted irrevocably back to muscle cramps and bladder issues.
If only I could meditate like a luxuriously bearded holy man, I thought. If only I could transcend my current circumstances by departing the physical body existing in realms of pure thought for the duration of the flight. Alas, whenever I've taken the spiritual path I've soon found myself detoured back to the main road of materialism. Let's face it, sitting cross-legged while staring into nothingness is about as much fun as sitting in the middle seat.
Let's face it, sitting cross-legged while staring into nothingness is about as much fun as being stuck in the middle seat on an Airbus. I'd like to see the Dalai Lama maintain his serene composure in 35B when he's being repeatedly elbowed by a coughing child playing handheld video games in 35A and there's a farting behemoth in 35C.