I have been looking at this Washington Post feature for several weeks now, trying to decide whether to write a post mentioning its tiny little religion angle.
The headline got my attention right from the get-go and then it stuck. Anyone else? I am talking about: "Can’t sleep on airplanes? These products and techniques can help."
Yes, dear readers, I have even stared at this piece on my iPad while on an airplane, during a two-stage, coast-to-coast flight during which I nodded and nodded, but did not sleep a wink. You might say that I am the target audience for this travel piece. I once failed to get a minute of sleep during an entire 15-hour flight from Delhi to Chicago that left the ground at 1 a.m. Believe me, I tried. I took enough Melatonin to stun a horse.
Now, the religion angle in this piece is hidden right there in the headline, in the word "techniques."
Hold that thought. First, here is the evocative overture:
The rumble of a jet engine is a comforting sound to some air travelers, making it easy to sleep on virtually any flight. For others, just the thought of being trapped in a pressurized aluminum tube is enough to send massive doses of adrenaline into their bloodstreams, ensuring alertness for days.
Pamela Wagner falls somewhere in the middle. Though not a white-knuckled flier, she says the noise makes rest impossible.
“I’m used to super silence when I’m sleeping,” she says. “Not exactly what you get on a flight.”
True. The interior of an aircraft is anything but silent, with noises ranging from chatty passengers to screaming children and, of course, the constant whine -- of the engines. It’s also uncomfortable, even if you’re in one of those lie-flat business-class seats, which don’t always lie all the way down. Try falling asleep in a sitting position, even when you’re not on an aircraft, and you’ll know why sleeping on a plane can be a pipe dream.
The bottom line, saith the writer: "Having a snooze on a plane is not getting any easier."
Well, it's never been easy for me -- unless there were empty seats on the plane and I could completely lie down. Yes, readers! I am so old that I can remember when there used to be a few empty seats on airplanes! I rarely get to fly business class, but even when I do the large seats or semi-private sleep cubicles don't work for me -- unless I can get completely horizontal.
So where is the religion angle in this that caught my eye?
The whole point of this piece is to point readers toward the right combination of tech (noise-cancelling headphones, of course), clothing, drugs, eye masks, water bottles, travel pillows, etc., to get the job done. I mean, do people take an extra rolling bag onto an airplane just to carry all of this gear? Check out the video at the top of this post. That thing is satire, right?
Finally we get to the "techniques," including deep-breathing exercises that verge on, well, you know.
Which brings us to the point of all of this:
Meditate before you fly: “Anyone can meditate almost anywhere by simply practicing a technique that uniquely works for each individual,” says Jeffery Martin, a meditation and sleep expert at Sofia University in Palo Alto, Calif. He recommends a mantra, or silently repeating “love,” “peace” or another word or phrase for 20 minutes while waiting at the gate.
First of all, I love that the Washington Post Style team -- located in Washington, D.C., a city loaded with people who may as well travel for a living -- reached out to a school IN CALIFORNIA for advice on this subject.
Oh, and what kind of school would have faculty offering the right brand of wisdom for this spiritual-but-not-religious topic?
Clearly, inside the Beltway campuses such as Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America would be totally lacking in people who know anything about prayer and meditation. And the Franciscan monks at that urban monastery in D.C. that is known around the world? I am sure the monks wouldn't have a clue.
No, someone -- or lots of someones -- inside the Post newsroom knew that this was a job for distant Sofia University, which describes itself this way:
Nestled in the heart of the now famous Silicon Valley, Sofia’s location in the San Francisco Bay area was most well known as the home of humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Since 1975, our legacy school, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, has continued to be an international leader and pioneer in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.
Maybe the goal of this Post piece is to point readers toward a kind of hip American pop culture or advertising approach to relaxation and meditation, in which just about any kind of semi-religious technique in the world is seen as more acceptable and less judgemental than those linked to the major faiths that are practiced in America.