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Chill out

Become one with your airplane

The word “mindfulness” is the latest buzzword these days, and so overused that it’s become nearly meaningless.

However, mindfulness has been the goal of meditation practitioners for thousands of years. One definition is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” In simple terms, a mindful person is fully focused on what’s going on in the present moment.

Paradoxically, it’s a mental workout that leaves you rested, and stronger. So, what’s the good of this for pilots? Meditation improves your mind’s strength of concentration and attention, and it’s also known to reduce overall stress levels.

Find a quiet spot without distractions or interruptions. Subdued light is helpful. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, or cross-legged on the floor in the manner of most meditation practitioners (lotus position). You can kneel, a posture that’s easy on the joints, or stand, or lie down; any way is fine. Use a pillow or folded blanket for cushioning. Just be comfortable enough to stay in that position for a while.

Set a timer for 10 minutes. If you’re skeptical, even one or two minutes is enough to get the idea.

Close your eyes and begin to “feel your breath,” the sensation of breathing in and out. Try to only concentrate on your breathing. You might silently think, “breathe in, breathe out” as an aid to concentration. Inevitably, your attention will wander. That’s your mind jumping from what’s happening now—your breathing—to an amazing array of thoughts.

Your thoughts will go something like this, “Breathe in, breathe out. What’s that smell? Did the dog pee on the rug again? Breathe in, breathe out. Remember that pizza we had in Hoboken? Breathe in, breathe out. I need to buy oil for the airplane,” and so on. At some point, you may think, “concentrating on my breath is stupid,” but stick with it.

Just “return to your breath” and continue until the timer goes off. Then, open your eyes and take a moment to notice your surroundings and how you feel. That’s all, that’s meditation. A meditation practice is a workout for the mind, working to make it stronger so that it can become more focused.

—Dennis K. Johnson

How the best stay fit

Michael GoulianMichael Goulian: I use an app called MetPro. I’m linked with a nutritionist and trainer who monitors my macros (carbs, protein, fat) based on my metabolism. That person is available all the time for questions, et cetera. The app also has specific workouts that I do based on my goals. It’s great! My workout of choice is long distance road cycling; and I regularly log rides of 30-plus miles several times each week.

Patty WagstaffPatty Wagstaff: I’ve always been athletic, so I do a lot of different things; I love to ride my bicycle, ride horses, swim, walk my dogs, and work out. Now I’m doing Orangetheory, the interval training workout that’s popular. I mix it up with yoga and sometimes Pilates. I take the stairs versus the elevator. I try to eat a plant-based diet but do eat chicken and fish. I stay clear of fast foods, sugar (as much as possible), and all dairy. I will indulge myself from time to time, because that’s what life is all about.

Getty ImagesKirby Chambliss: I try to eat healthy; more protein less carbs and skip the bread. My workout routine is I walk about 5 miles a day five days a week and lift weights several times a week.

Dennis K. Johnson

Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.

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