I practice yoga between 5-7 times a week. It's an hour or so of dedicated time when I can be on the mat, not thinking anything, just breathing and moving through the physical practice. When I'm done, I feel so peaceful, so alert, and with such a sense of clarity. Those feelings often stay with me throughout the day when I practice, but there are certainly times when I lose those feelings and feel out of control.
Friday morning found me on a crowded plane en route to Germany via Turkey. I had an aisle seat (I still struggle with feeling claustrophobic in window or middle seats), and across from the aisle was a man in a suit, his wife in the middle seat, and their daughter in the window seat.
The flight itself wasn't terrible, but it wasn't easy.
Going on about three hours of sleep, I was tired, and emotionally drained from a 40 minute hellish ride to the airport in a taxi without breaks, and my luggage weighed an extra twenty pounds thanks to the Tibetan singing bowl and Turkish cushions I had purchased on the trip. I ran from one end of the airport to the other to get my tax return on the things I had bought and finally made it to the terminal, my shirt damp with sweat. Waiting for the call to board, I sipped a starbucks while deliriously contemplating how Candace became Konats.
We boarded the plane and I tried unsuccessfully to sleep. People were talking loudly, a woman was crying for no apparent reason, and my vegetarian omelette tasted like rubber. Finally we began our descent into Germany.
The plane dropped a bit, hitting pockets of turbulence, and when the wheels touched the tarmac, we all lurched forward as the captain slammed on the breaks. Then he let the breaks go and our bodies were slammed against our chairs. Then the breaks were applied again and we all lurched forward. It wasn't the best landing.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the man in the suit frantically looking for the barf bag in the back of the seat in front of him. His wife, covered head to toe in Muslim dress, was holding her hands over her mouth, her eyes extra large, as she made this closed-mouth moan.
Oh no, I thought.
Then, without warning, projectile vomit spewed all the way across the aisle, onto my arm, my leg, my travel blanket, my scarf and my purse. She continued to vomit as we slowly taxied to the terminal.
The smell was rancid, and I sat there, wide eyed, with someone else's vomit on me, red with rage. I turned to the girl next to me, a Russian who spoke no English. With pleading eyes, I looked at her as if to ask, "What should I do?!"
For a solid 20 seconds, I thought I might start to throw up given the smell, the lack of circulating air, and the fact that the lady was still retching and gagging across the aisle. I concentrated on my breathing, forcing my heart rate to slow down, and tried desperately to reach that space of calm clarity that I feel after my yoga practice.
When I was certain that I wasn't going to vomit, I glanced over at the couple. The man was covered, and I mean covered in brown chunky vomit, his nice suit completely soaked. His wife, now crying, hid her face in shame. Something in the way she looked at the ground softly crying struck me.
Had I not ever been sick while traveling? I had indeed. After experiencing the WORST sickness when I was getting used to the water during my Costa Rica study abroad, another awful bout of sickness from traveling in Ireland, and being hospitalized in Germany last year with some mystery illness from Thailand, I knew well the helplessness, the shame, the embarrassment of feeling so awful so far from home.
My anger turned into compassion. I identified with her. I leaned down and fished a bottle of water out of my purse and handed it to the man to give to his wife. I wordlessly, expressionlessly wiped off the vomit on my arm with my travel blanket. I removed my vomit-sprayed scarf, and used it to wipe my purse. I balled them up and put them aside.
The couple stayed on the airplane as we all got off, the man stood up as we passed by, shielding his poor wife from judgment. I wished that I could ask if I could help them, but we didn't speak a common language. So I moved on down the aisle, off the plane, and through passport control.
Thinking about it now, the anger I felt had to do with my ego. I was disgusted by the vomit, yes, but I was also scared that I might throw up, potentially bringing shame and embarrassment to me. If you take out the I's and the Me's, the ego, all you're left with is vomit. And, I mean, I wouldn't voluntarily put myself in a position to be thrown up on, but at the end of the day, vomit is simply vomit. It will wash off. The woman didn't intentionally throw up on me. Is it really that big a deal? Further, is it worth getting upset over, disturbing my own sense of peace and then projecting those feelings onto the woman and the other people around me? No, it's not that big a deal, and it's not worth getting upset about.
Being able to identify with her reinforces the whole idea of yoga. Yoga, in Sanskrit, means union. It means dissolving any kind of identification we have of our separate selves (ego) and realizing a true interconnectedness between everyone. It was a nice lesson for me. That being said, it was so good to get home and take a hot shower.