What Is Spatial Disorientation?
Lately on my spiritual journey, it’s been hard for me to figure out up from down, left from right, how fast or slow I’m going…which is what spatial disorientation, an aviation term, is.
June is notoriously a bad month for me. There’s usually a lot of disappointment. This time last year, I lost a client who was pretty vile to me. Two years before that, I had a couple of stalled job interview processes.
This year, it’s been pretty tough. I’m stuck in a lull that I can’t really speed my way through. And I’m trying to process my father’s death.
And with that processing, I thought about his love for aviation, which is admittedly a sore subject for me because his love for flying cut into and delayed my college journey significantly.
But that isn’t the point of this blog post, as much as I want to talk about that.
My dad was VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) trained and rated as a private pilot and loved to fly in his Piper plane, many times by himself and many times with my brother. I flew with him a few times.
As you probably surmise, VFR means you can fly by sight, and that’s when it’s clear skies. IFR is when you fly by your instruments, because the skies aren’t always sunny.
Back to My Janky June…
Although today is a fairly sunny summer day with some cloudy days (yesterday was the Summer Solstice and the first day of summer and Cancer season), my June has felt more like the infamous Juneuary of the Pacific Northwest, the last gloomy death throes of late spring where you never see the sun and you shiver in highs of the 50s.
And in those times, when fog clings to the treetops and all that is in front of you is a wall of clouds, but you have to keep going…well, it’s scary.
I remember flying with my dad once, sitting in the co-pilot seat — maybe he was taking me back to college, I can’t remember — and it was just a wall of big grey clouds. I had never felt so clouds in my life. It felt like a roller coaster ride because the visuals were scary, but my dad being IFR-rated, we were fine.
He could look at his instruments — the altimeter, the airspeed indicator, the compass, the attitude indictor (which shows you the direction of the sky and ground in relation to the plane).
He didn’t need to see. And I wasn’t afraid. I trusted in his training, his experience, and that the instruments were giving us the right information.
This June, though, I realized so much of the spiritual journey is not a VFR type trip. It can be very IFR.
Walls of clouds. Lightning. Thunder. Turbulence.
Flying Is Not “Blind” Faith
When you’re flying by the instruments that are measuring your orientation in space, your airspeed, your direction, you don’t need to believe or have faith that you’ll stay up in the air.
And, even when you get into trouble, you can communicate to an air traffic control tower. They can guide you to the nearest runway…or sometimes road or field, depending on how far away and how deep in trouble you are.
Aviation has become a lot safer since the 1950s. Commercial flight is much safer than driving and continues to get safer. Of course, this is not to discount the idea of you do have to believe in the second law of thermodynamics to see flying as just another way to get around.
And I don’t want to dismiss those who have a fear of flying. It’s really weird to get in a metal tube that goes super fast and then suddenly leaves the ground, goes 30,000 feet up, and then comes back down and stops.
But the spiritual journey is a lot like flying.
Spatial Disorientation Is About The Pilot
It’s really rare that aviation instruments fail. So if a pilot can’t determine where they are in space, they have to discount what their body is telling them. Our vestibular, auditory, and proprioceptive systems help us know where we are in space.
But, for a pilot could get some major turbulence that jostles the plane and it could also be cloudy or dark. So then if the pilot doesn’t see the horizon, then they may decide to do something to the plane (e.g., take the plane down when it should be taken up) that doesn’t reflect reality.
And this is why trusting your instruments are important. If you feel like you’re upside down, but your attitude indicator shows you’re right side up, that means your body is unfortunately betraying you and you should trust your instruments.
A lot of air crashes involves artists like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Patsy Cline, and John F. Kennedy Jr & Carolyn Bessette Kennedy — all those involves spatial disorientation and resulting pilot errors.
The scary thing about spatial disorientation is that if you get into an accident (which happens about 5 to 10 percent of the time), 90 percent of time, it’s a fatal crash.
And here is where we’ll depart from comparing the spiritual journey to flying. Believe it or not, the stakes are not as life or death.
The Ties Between Fate and Will
When I was an evangelical Christian teenager, I thought a lot about the idea of what is in our control and what wasn’t, what is predestined, and what is left to be unwritten.
I think it’s both. There’s a lot that is out of our control — the economy, how foreign governments (and maybe even our own to some extent) act, how corporations move, whether it’ll be a sunny or rainy day tomorrow, what family we’re born into and what resources they have to give us as children, our genetics, etc.
But depending on the person, there’s a lot that can still be done. It’s like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You get to choose but you can’t create the choices or the consequences. The given circumstances shape how we choose.
So CYOA was how I resolved the fate vs. will conundrum.
How does that tie to spatial disorientation?
The Spiritual Journey Is Not About “Blind” Faith
The spiritual weather, a lot of times, is your given circumstance. What’s going on in the energy, in the stars, in the collective…it’s all things we can’t bend. We have to bend to or away from them.
But a lot of times, you may have a destination in mind — like how I moved to Seattle over 2 years ago.
There was no flight plan, per se. There was just a destination and a timeframe for departure. The rest I had to figure out on my own.
With my cross-country move, all I knew was that I received strong guidance from my ancestors to go, and that was actually after I had decided that it would be a better place to kickstart my life and business.
And I was right. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. It’s still hard, even today.
But I’m not flying blind.
Trusting Our Spiritual Instrumentation
Spatial disorientation happens, and it’s not about preventing it from happening.
We can’t prevent every instance of turbulence in life.
It’s how we respond to the disorientation that matters.
And this is why I believe it helps to develop your intuition, to have a spiritual team, to have a robust relationship with your healed and helpful ancestors, to have some form of divination that is trustworthy, to have trustworthy and reliable coaches, mentors, and advisors, to have friends and chosen family.
All of these resources and more help you not to panic and make the wrong choice. They’re a part of your spiritual instrumentation, when you have to fly through dark nights of the soul, through stormy spiritual weather, through unending, obscuring clouds and fog.
Rough Air, Can’t See…
I’ve flying through very turbulent spiritual weather and my body feels like we’re about to crash. It feels like a nosedive. I can’t tell whether I’m up or down, how fast I’m going. Maybe this is what riding on Space Mountain feels like (I’ve never been on it).
But my spiritual instruments are telling me that I’m right side up and that I’ll be landing soon. But I can’t really see a thing. And it’s freaks me out.
And yet I’ve been here before, so many times. What’s interesting is that a lot of times, it did feel like, Jesus take the wheel! Very VFR type flying.
And now, I can’t even wait for the skies to clear. I’ll probably land this thing in the dark. So I’m trusting the instruments. And now I’m IFR.
The best way to learn how to deal with spatial disorientation is experience. And I am definitely learning.
Believing in the Unseen, Believing in Yourself
There’s some bittersweet irony for me that I live right by the seaplane pad in Seattle. I just heard a seaplane take off. They take off and land in the waters of Lake Union. And many times, as you know, it’s cloudy.
I love just north of downtown, so when planes are coming in from the west, from the Puget Sound, they’re coming in pretty close to tall buildings and until recently, a big red construction crane that was right by the lake.
All those pilots are believing in the unseen, or probably better put, unperceived. They may not have sight of the horizon. They may have to fly through clouds. But they land, precisely where they are supposed to land.
If spatial disorientation is about the pilot, then it’s also about self-belief, too. Believing in your training, your experiences, your team.
This month in particular, and even right now, it’s taking a LOT of energy to believe in myself, that I’m not crashing this plane and doing wild, endangering shit.
And to keep extending this aviation metaphor…I’m trying to fly to somewhere new, a place where there’s less turbulence and darkness, a place of peace.
I don’t really have any other choice but to keep going the way I’m going, to keep doing things the way I’m doing them.
But I’m so glad I’m not doing this alone. I have earthly and spiritual support, and…I have me. And everything and everyone is saying that I’m safe…except my body. But even my body is coming in line with reality, even if I can’t fully perceive it.
And yes, some of the ways my body can become more aligned is through meditation, chanting, and having crystals that ground me like polychrome jasper and black obsidian.
But this is an invitation to find whatever works for you. What are your spiritual instruments? Who is on your spiritual team?
Really think about this now before you end up on some wild flight. Know what works for you. Write it down on a post-it note so you remember. Start exploring if you need to switch out some of your team members or instruments, or need new ones altogether.
It’s OK to be scared. But you can be brave and be scared at the same time. That’s what bravery is, after all.
I hope this helps you have more successful flights in the stormy spiritual skies…you’ve got this!✈️
Having the Expansion Principle in my life as an energetic technology is why I have been able to get through tough times. If you’d like to learn more about it and have a distance EP session with me, here’s where you can learn more.