Spiritual growth is often imperceptible. As we learn, grow, and discover, there may always seem to be a new frontier to explore, a deeper understanding to achieve, and a better way to live. But all this striving can keep us so focused on what there is left to do, that we’re often blind to just how much work we have done and how far we’ve come.
A recent experience at an airport showed me just how much I have grown. I am by nature an impatient person. On the day I was to return home from a week away, I had booked a late flight out. That meant waiting for hours in a hotel lobby until it was time to leave for the airport. I kept busy with brief walks outside in the stifling summer heat, working on my laptop, and reading. It was still a slog. When the shuttle came to pick me up, I was happy to be on my way.
And then I heard from the airline my flight was delayed two hours because of stormy weather. Shortly after that, the delay was changed to three hours. Now in the grand scheme of things, this kind of inconvenience isn’t an especially big deal. But at the time, the idea of an interminably long day becoming even longer was disappointing and frustrating.
At the gate, I settled in. My flight that was supposed to depart at 10 p.m. was now scheduled to go out at 1 a.m., meaning I would make it home in the wee hours of the morning. That meant I had a choice to make. In years past, I may have fumed, complaining—at least inwardly—about how unfair it all was; about how it shouldn’t be happening, not to me anyway. I hate to admit it, but I may have even taken my frustration out on innocent others, airline employees, store clerks, or anyone else who had the poor fortune of crossing my path when I was in a sour mood.
I didn’t do any of those things this time around. In fact, I wasn’t even tempted. Instead, I remained calm and even managed to enjoy some of what was unfolding around me, including the cute sight of the under-5 set toddling around in their pjs, dragging blankets and stuffed animals across the floor under the watch of weary parents. I also caught the enlivening image of a group of teenagers, punchy and giggling, routinely corralled by their chaperone. I discovered staying focused on those things helped keep my mind off the fact I was hungry and all the restaurants were closed. It also kept me from worrying about the flight being canceled and having to spend the night at the airport.
“Not all victories are big, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth celebrating. And sometimes the best thing you can say about a day is that you got through it.”
Opportunities for Spiritual Practice
Eventually, I boarded the plane and arrived home a few hours later. I unpacked some essentials and got into bed around 4:30 a.m. Was it the best day? Not even close. But it wasn’t the worst day either. I thought about why. Specifically, I thought about the spiritual practices I have learned in Unity throughout the years and realized I had been practicing three of them that day. First, I didn’t personalize the experience. I saw the delay as simply happening, not happening to me. Knowing it didn’t have anything to do with me, my wants, or preferences helped me stay in the flow without anxiety. Next, I noticed I was practicing gratitude. Gratitude for making it to the airport. Gratitude for the good humor and frequent updates of the gate agents. Gratitude for the consideration and friendliness of my gate mates. Finally, I practiced acceptance. I had no control over the weather or the airlines. Complaining and worrying would do nothing other than disturb my peace and make a long day feel even longer.
These weren’t grand epiphanies to be sure. Not all victories are big, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth celebrating. And sometimes the best thing you can say about a day is that you got through it.
More than that, it’s important to relish every opportunity to look back with gratitude and forward with hope that we are indeed progressing along the spiritual path. Each time we choose peace over agitation, cooperation over conflict, and kindness over and over again, we are living as the divine beings we are. And, especially on our most trying days, that’s more than enough.