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Ask Chief Joseph

from the November 2004 Star Beacon

Spinning Out of Control

by Chief Joseph and John Cali

John Cali
     Back in my aviation days, another lifetime or two ago it seems, I flew airplanes for a living, and was also a flight instructor. In those days part of flight training included spin recovery. For many of my students this was the scariest part of learning to fly. When I was a flight student myself, spins scared the hell out of me.

     But the US Federal Aviation Agency, as it was called then, thought spin recovery training necessary. After all, many pilots had gotten themselves into spins. And, not knowing spin recovery procedures, never made it back home again.

     Spin training involves taking the aircraft up to several thousand feet above the ground. Then, from level flight, you pull the control stick back steadily until, nose-up, the plane shudders, finally stalling.

     You keep the control stick back and shove the right rudder pedal to the floor. Suddenly, below you, the ground is whirling crazily, dizzily, faster and faster. Nose straight down now, you’re plunging to Earth, disaster only seconds away.

     You ease the control stick forward while pushing on the left rudder pedal. The spin stops and you ease the plane back into level flight again.

     It’s fairly simple, but can be terrifying at first. Some planes were more difficult to handle in spin recovery than others. The Piper Cherokee was a popular flight trainer in my day. A relatively easy plane to fly, and forgiving. If you got a Cherokee into a spin, accidentally or on purpose, it would recover from the spin by itself if you just released the controls and completely let go of it.

     What a beautiful metaphor, I’ve often thought, for life. When we feel like we’re spinning out of control, all we have to do is just let go.

     Here’s Joseph.

Chief Joseph
     In your modern world many of you feel like your lives are spinning out of control. This is a time of great change and, often, chaos and confusion. And it’s happening faster and faster all the time.

     Many of you are holding on far too tightly. You’re holding onto everything — your values, your loved ones, your material possessions, even your spiritual ideals — far, far too tightly.

     And so the spinning continues, an ever-increasing downward spiral. You feel lost, hurt, not knowing where or to whom to turn.

     Now this is not a bad thing. For you will all eventually learn, in John’s words, spin recovery. The value of spinning out of control, or the feeling of it, is that it’s a grand opportunity for you to practice allowance.

     And you might ask, “Well, Joseph, what is allowance? And what has it to do with the state our world is in today?”

     The answer: Everything!

     Allowance is simply letting go, letting everything and everyone be okay just as they are, where they are. We know that may sound like a prescription for disaster to your ears. But look at where your world is today. Can it get anything but better from here forward?

     Many humans have this “saviour mentality” as we call it. Their values, their beliefs, their way of life are the way. You know, it’s my way or the wrong way — that kind of mentality.

     Until you, as a human race, are able to get beyond needing others to live as you think they should, you will continue spinning out of control.
But you, individually — in your own personal lives — can practice spin recovery and get your life back into “level flight.” It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world is doing.

     Even if every other human on the planet is spinning out of control, you have the power to live a peaceful, joyful, abundant life.

     Just let go of your controls and you will be amazed at what happens.


The Book of Joy: How to Live Every Day of Your Life Happily Ever After

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