The Minds of Passengers and Pilots

One of my favorite experiences is taking people flying in a small plane. Sitting next to me in the cockpit, they can see all the screens, buttons, maps, and gears. They hear the radio calls and listen to the weather reports. They have the same experience that I do as the pilot, except they have no context for understanding what it all means.

If they’ve never flown in the cockpit of an airplane before, they don’t know what the buttons do. They don’t understand the coded language of the weather reports. They can’t track what ATC asks us to do, and they don’t know how to read the navigational maps. Their experience of flight comes alive when we finally take off, and they can look at the world transform before them as we gain altitude. New to this world, these flights often become thresholds for an awakened passion for learning more about the art of flying.

As the pilot, my experience is entirely different. I am processing weather data, altitude, wind direction, course heading, radio communications, fuel levels, traffic separation, turn coordination, horizontal stabilization, and terrain obstacles. I’m also paying attention to my passengers, casually engaging in conversation and ensuring they’re enjoying their flight.

The difference between our experiences is how I think of the evolution of consciousness. Ordinary (fragmented) consciousness is like the passenger’s experience. They are present to the moment but don’t have a deeper awareness of the dynamics that make that moment possible.

Unified (non-dual) consciousness is like the mind of a pilot. It’s a mind trained to be sensitive to flight dynamics but is freer to enter that open, watchful state of transformation. The pilot can hold attention at a broader level with more input streaming in but experience less reactivity and distraction. In the strangest way, you are grounded in Being while soaring through the air.

Ancient traditions describe transformation as “new seeing.” Teilhard said that the aim of evolution is “ever more perfect eyes in a world in which there is always more to see.” In Advent, as we approach the thresholds of love, hope, peace and joy, seek the awe of the passenger and the Oneness of the pilot. It will be the best flight of your life.

We are in this together,


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