If you want to have a good time – and I mean a really good time – go to an airport security line. These people know how to party. 

photo: eyeliam at flikr

I mean, they’re patting down complete strangers. And they have a legal right to do so! They’re wearing snappy uniforms and ordering people around. They’re rifling through everyone’s luggage – willy nilly, pawing through lingerie and athletic socks.

photo: z egloff

Does it get any better than that? I don’t think it does.

Actually, the process of standing in line, waiting to interact with the airport-security party-people is even more fun.

photo: Josh Hallett on flikr

And by “fun,” I mean excruciatingly frustrating. Bordering on torturous.

If you think about it, though, why are we in such a hurry? Other than getting on our plane, of course. But once we get to the front of the line, it gets pretty crazy, you have to admit.

You’ve been standing there, comatose, anywhere from one to a thousand minutes, and suddenly you’re on a game show. The object of the game, which you have no choice but to play, is to – as quickly as possible – strip off all your clothes and valuables and throw them into a plastic bin.

And your shoes – don’t forget your shoes!

photo: Ines Yeh on flikr

Whenever I’m in one of these lines, peeling off my shoes, I tend to notice how ratty they are. You need to buy some new footwear, I tell myself. But I never remember. Perhaps it’s the stress of being in the airport security line. It’s too hard to keep anything in my brain. Anything other than: Did you remember to pull your liquids out of your suitcase and throw them into the bin? You did? Well, check again. In case you didn’t really do it, but just hallucinated that you did!

photo: Jack Kennard on flikr

Last weekend, I was in an airport security line. I was having all the fun described above. I’d pried my shoes off my feet and made a note to buy new ones. I’d thrown my liquids into the bin and double checked to make sure I actually did it. I was waiting for a potential pat-down from a TSA professional.

photo: gchutka

My pat-down, however, was not forthcoming. That’s because we were in the slowest line ever in the history of airport security lines. That’s right. All the other lines – which we could have gone to, but noooooooooo, we had to stand in this one – were moving with the speed of a cheetah.

photo: flikrfavorites on flikr

Not ours.

I’m pretty sure the guy at the machine had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Now, I’m not making fun of people with OCD, because I have it too. Why do you think I had to keep checking if my liquids were really in the plastic bin?

But this guy. I’m just saying. He was a hard-core, super-serious, triple-checking fool. He was not going to let any bag through that machine without memorizing its contents and writing a haiku about it.

photo: xb3 on flikr

Or maybe he was on a mission from God to test our patience. That’s what it was. And here’s the thing.

It worked.

As I was standing there, anxiously anticipating my intimate encounter with a TSA official, I woke up. You know how that happens? Suddenly, you remember who you are. You remember to slow down and breathe.

That’s what I did. I took a breath and sunk into my heart. Ever since I took a class on Heart Math a few years ago, I’ve been making it a practice to settle into my heart. To live from that place. The Heart Math folks point out that a heart-focused meditation practice decreases stress and increases well-being. I’ve found this to be true, both in meditation and throughout my day-to-day life.

So that’s what I did, right there in the middle of the tortoise-slow security line.

photo: frefran on flikr

All of a sudden, I was glad the line was so slow. If Mr. OCD hadn’t been taking his time at the x-ray machine, I never would have taken a breath. I wouldn’t have remembered to focus on my heart.

It was an amazing feeling, to be standing in the middle of chaos and anxiety and to be absolutely untouched by it. Not only that, I realized that we’re all ultimately untouched by it. Tapping into my heart was tapping into the truth.

My heart is a slow, expansive place. It is quiet and huge and absolute. In that moment, it was the hum underneath everything – the shoes in the bin and the crying baby at the end of the line and the shiny badge of the TSA official. Even the squinty eyes of Mr. OCD.

It was a luscious, luxurious moment. 

Then the line started moving again and I forgot. I slipped out of my heart and into my head.

But it didn’t matter. Because I didn’t forget what had happened. I didn’t forget what was real.

So if you want to have a good time – and I mean, a really good time – go to an airport security line. I’m serious. You can thank me later.

photo: Amy Gahran on flikr

What makes you remember to take a breath? How do you pause and sink into the truth?

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