It's rare that you are up in the clouds. Unless you are on an airplane, then you are stuck. Stuck in a plane for many hours with nothing to do.
Getting on the plane is an ordeal, check-in, baggage, security, finding bathrooms, finding food you want to eat, finding your gate, getting to your gate on time, finding your seat, turning off your phone.
Then you have to decide what to do. Read a book? Watch a movie? Talk to your sister sitting next to you? Sleep? Pretend to sleep? Listen to music? Listen to a podcast? Realized you didn't download the podcast? Make a new friend? Trade seats? Ignore the crying baby?
I love air travel, precisely because of the hassle and constrictions. The whole ritual, the striping down of yourself, your things, your attachments all occurs so that you can sit quietly and literally wake up somewhere else. Each time I make it through the process successfully (do not miss my flight, or forget my id ;), I'll end up in this small seat with a window to my left overlooking the clouds and a stranger to my right. Then the magic happens.
I can never decide what to do. All the books and magazines suddenly seem irrelevant. I'll browse the complimentary newspaper and flip the channels as if I'm bored on a Sunday afternoon. Then I'll turn everything off and just sit. This is when thoughts start creeping in, a small flow that I'll try and ignore, then a rush that starts to fill my head. Soon I'm overflowing with ideas and in need of a pad of paper and a pen.
That's when I give in, acknowledge I'm going to spend the whole flight doing nothing but thinking about whatever comes to me, and I dig in my bag and start writing everything down. If it's a short flight, I am always surprised by how soon we get to our destination because I'm usually still bursting with words. It's amazing and I think it happens because of the limitations: having to sit and stay in a small physical space, having to follow certain rules and signs that constrict your movement and behavior. Everything on an airplane is conducive to creativity; constraint forces new ideas.
I just thought about how cool it is to be literally in the clouds, and soar throughout the sky. Everything is left behind and there's really nothing you can do about your worries, schedule, commitments. The inaccessibility is a kind of freedom that opens space in the mind, new space for new things.
With all the travel going on right now, flights are often a burden--time taken away from the vacation or overall trip. But, I think the journey to the destination, that relatively short amount of time between the day-to-day normal and the new adventure (whatever that may be) is a gem. If you get past the obvious--how tired you may be, or how annoying it was to get on the flight--you may just find some sacred space to make a breakthrough. Time to sit and enjoy your mind.