The Airplane Analogy


What exactly is meditation?

Interesting question.

I mean, meditation is usually depicted as ‘Sitting quietly, observing the breath, allowing the grass to grow by itself’.

Now there are many possible answers to that question… and probably every spiritual tradition which is currently in existence has a different answer for the aim, purpose and benefits of meditation. But the particular answer which we will be using here is based on the metaphor below:

Imagine you are living in a part of the world where it has been overcast for the past couple of months. Just grey clouds overhead, not a single glimpse of sunlight or blue sky for day after day after day… It has been miserable and depressing, and you need to do something to lift your spirits. So you decide to book a holiday abroad, somewhere far away, somewhere with bright sunshine and endless blue skies.

Finally, the day arrives for the start of your holiday, and you travel to the airport to catch your flight. You park your car in the long-stay car park, check in and then wait patiently in the departures lounge, until finally they call for your flight to board. You enter the plane, take up your window seat, and stare through the small, thick glass pane, as the plane starts to taxi along the long runway, and then turns for take-off.

As you look through the small glass window, you see that, even now, it is still raining hard outside, as the plane comes to a complete stop at the start of the runway.

… And then the plane starts to accelerate down the runway, with the engines on full throttle… faster, faster, faster… and then there is that strange feeling when the wheels suddenly leave the runway and the wings are lifting the entire weight of the plane… and the plane starts to climb upwards at an angle…

Going up… soaring up… up into the clouds.

For a moment, as you look out of the small window, all you can see is grey, depressing clouds pressed up against the pane of glass.

And then suddenly the plane breaks through the cloud layer… and brilliant, golden sunlight pours through all the small windows along the length of the plane, and the cabin is completely ablaze with light.

You see the blue sky and the sun above… and your spirits are instantly lifted.

It’s amazing. In a matter of seconds, the world and how you feel has been completely transformed.

OK… so what does that analogy have to do with meditation? Well, let us suppose that we, the personality self, existing in our physical body, are living out our lives below the cloud level, a blanket of unbroken grey cloud. We have a vague sense that above the clouds there is an infinite blue sky of unconditional love, peace and joy… but it is up there, somewhere, although we cannot see it, let alone feel it.

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