Flying by the Seat of the Pants

(An Unauthorized and Incomplete Guide to Zazen)


Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, CAIn flying an airplane, three motions are fundamental: pitch, yaw, and roll. Although the balance of an airplane hurtling through space may seem different from the balance of a human body that walks or sits on terra firma, the same fundamentals are at work, and the same three motions are at play in the balance of the body.

Nobody flies by the seat of their pants because they want to; it’s done out of necessity, and only through a kind of grace. Seat-of-the-pants flying, you might say, involves a selfless realization of the aircraft in three-dimensional space: consciousness comes together with a sense of the three motions, at a location where the balance of the body can initiate action before the intention to act even crosses the mind.

photograph of Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, California by Ingrid Ringel