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I love long flights. Part of me is of course glad that normal life will soon resume when we begin to descend, but almost always I’m wistful, not quite ready for it to end; there are books to finish, luxurious and rare daydreaming to do, and thoughts to jot down with no chance of distractions. The internet is temporarily, and blissfully, not part of this world. These delicious hours at 32,000 feet are a near-total pause between chapters of our lives. There are a zillion things going on down below, but none are on our radar.

We’ve managed to pause.

Flights excepted, extended pauses seem increasingly elusive today. There are just too many things on our lists to check off, too many demands on our attention, not enough hours in the day to pause, really pause, to notice what’s really around us and what’s really going on in our heads besides the incessant monkey chatter.

But we can certainly take shorter pauses, and lots of them. The easiest way to create a quickie pause is to simply begin to notice your breath. If you really pay attention to the breath, you’ll notice an almost endless variety in the character of each breath; they’re all completely different from one another. If you can make it to a count of 10 cycles of inhales and exhales, and not be distracted to the point of losing count, it’s an almost remarkable achievement. Even highly experienced meditators find it difficult. You simply start over if you don’t make it to 10.

You can then expand the pause beyond breath awareness and into deep listening to whatever sounds appear. Once you really pause, you can usually pick up many distinct sounds, from cars in the distance, to wind, distant voices, birds and insects, clocks, and countless other sounds native to your environment.

Attentiveness alone can serve as an advanced hearing aid.

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