It was a sunny November afternoon in Nazca, Peru. We were freshly in love and ambitious as hell, eager to quite literally go to new heights. He was terrified yet he hid it well and I wasn’t sure if we made the right decision, but hey, fuck it - we’re here, right?
Don’t get me wrong…this whole crazy idea was mine. I volunteered for this shit. I always think these things are a good idea right up until the moment they happen. Fears flooded in as we climbed aboard this plane, which I probably would have thought was adorable had I not thought of all the statistics I knew of tiny airplane crashes. Thinking, thinking, thinking.
Jon and I squeezed in the back of this 4 person plane with us and two pilots and no room to spare. The engine whirred, the propellers spun, and to my surprise this plane took off without the necessary speeds I thought were required to leave land.
Unbeknownst to me, Jon was quite literally terrified of heights (he didn’t tell me until a year later when we were in a Ropes Course in the Poconos 😂). His eyes wide, me trying to keep my cool, we rose higher and higher.
And then it happened. I remember there being almost like a mental breakaway, where all my thoughts ceased and I became fully immersed in this experience. I saw the varicolored sky shift between hues of blues. The sharp mountains rising around us like a protective natural barrier. I could hear and most predominately FEEL the vibration of the plane’s engine. I could smell the exhaust swirl around us as the sweat under my thighs slipped on the vinyl seats.
We were flying over the Nazca desert, headed towards the Nazca lines: ancient structures created over 2,500 years ago with stones upturned to reveal their different colored undersides. These stones were mathematical works of art, depictions of nature with some designs spanning over 1,200 feet long. They created various shapes that could only be seen from the sky in this vast, sun-scorched desert: the monkey, the spider, the condor.
My mental breakaway was a breakaway from my usual thinking mind. I became suspended in between a world of thinking and a world much simpler - a world of thoughts. I wasn’t thinking about the chance of the plane crashing. I wasn’t thinking about how much training the pilots had. I was experiencing the moment - fully enveloped. The thoughts were much simpler: ‘wow’ just felt enough. It was a memorable experience. It was like I was free - free from fear, free from my day job, free from my legs needing to walk on land. 360° of gorgeous views effortlessly imprinted in my memory for a lifetime. And this right here folks is presence.
This suspended feeling of witnessing and spontaneous bursts of singular thoughts, without the need for an inner monologue was put on pause when the pilot invited us to look down and east. It was there that we could see the first art structure, la ballena, the Whale. I had to strain my eyes, cock my head and look real hard, and bam - it popped into my conscious view!
I floated in between conscious worlds - one where I was thinking, analyzing, scanning, questioning: how the hell did they even do this?! - and one where I was observing, sensing, feeling, and absorbing. I was fully aware of my body, my adrenaline, my five senses heightened unlike my daily life. I felt so alive it was like I’d burst through my skin….
…And then it happened. The plane dropped from the sky! Well, it would drop about a meter or so from wind or turbulence or whatever and suddenly my analytical brain was right there to take the reins. OMG we’re dying…this is it…I KNEW IT!….And then the plane would catch itself and we’d level out and back I was in the world of thoughts, saved from the world of thinking. This happened over and over again, enough to keep my blood right up to the surface of my skin and the sweat free flowing.
It was a spiritual experience of presence which enveloped my entire being; but let me tell you - it was not permanent. I was drifting in between these streams of consciousness, flip flopping between presence, elatedness, wholeness, fear and astonishment. And this is how life can be: paradoxically awesome!
I remember rounding a mountain cluster and was encouraged to look down and west to the sloped rock face. And there I saw it - La Astronauta, The Astronaut. My first experience was visceral: tingling in my hands, tears welling up in my eyes, the experience of my heart beating inside my chest. I don’t remember exactly, but I could almost guarantee that my jaw touched the floor. The memorable part about this was my brain had no story about what I was seeing just yet - I was just there with it, taking it all in.
And then the millions of bits of information my subconscious brain took in per second began creeping into my consciousness. And pop, pop, pop - thoughts arose! Wait….if these art installations, or messages to the gods were created over 2,000 years ago…who were the astronauts? Who were the intended audiences of these images? Gods? Aliens? Were they visited?
And blah, blah, blah, the thinking continued, then ceased, then continued. Because isn’t that just life? When I am presented with newness I find it effortless to drift into the world of presence, which is probably why I love travel so much. It’s a gift to tap into your true nature and to take in the world like a sponge without creating a story or analyzing why, how, when all the damn time.
But here in my real life presence can be a much harder place to touch, although its becoming easier with my meditation practice.
Now I am not saying you need to get in a goddamn tiny plane and fly over a desert in a foreign country to be all in with your inner vibration, although that helps 😏 But you have the ability to do this anywhere - really! It comes with practice because nothing this good comes without discipline, but trust me - it’s worth it. To feel life viscerally, to be IN LIFE is a priceless experience.