Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and the Spirituality of Paying Attention


During the nineteen years I lived in Alaska, I observed and respected many small-plane pilots who are a big part of the lifestyle there. Navigating the Alaska terrain and traversing some of the remote territory requires Alaskan pilots to have a special skill and trust in visual flight rules (VFR), or regulations for when weather conditions are clear enough for pilots to see where they are going. A high percentage of Alaskan pilots are not certified in instrument flight rules (IFR), or regulations that govern how to operate an aircraft when visual cues are not safe to use. VFR is the norm in Alaska. Because VFR flying is visual, pilots must be very aware of their surroundings when flying this way. Both IFR and VFR are vital methods of survival and safety. Both are about rules and trust.

What do you trust in? What rules do you follow for safety and survival?

One of the ways I lean into feeling safe is that I trust in Providence. And I have a “rule of life” which is daily prayer. I also love experimenting with creativity around prayer. Creative prayer also frees me from any legalistic baggage and can be another sacred way to experience the wellspring of the Divine.

As a Spiritual Director at Central Florida Psychological Consultants, I remain committed to the “visual flight rules” of the universe — which are paying attention to surroundings, being in the moment, practicing presence, practicing gratitude, and holding a belief that some sort of spiritual prayer practice can be anyone’s compass, guide and strength.

I invite you to engage in some creative prayer and mindfulness this week by trying some of these prompts:

  • Notice aircraft in the sky. When you do, pause to appreciate the miracle and wonder of air flight and the journey that planes represent. Pause and ask God for wisdom for your journey.
  • Reflect on times when you or loved ones have flown and you have prayed for safety and traveling mercies. Be grateful that you arrived safely. Write a gratitude note in your journal for that safety.
  • Choose a word or phrase related to pilots and airplanes. Observe how those words might relate to your life. Examples of words that might come to mind are: miracle, trust, awe, God, navigator, turbulence, glide, smooth flight, takeoff, landing, preparation. Choose a word you have observed and pray about its relevance in your life.
  • Finally, please pray for all pilots, whom God blesses with skills that keep travelers safe.

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Written by Beth Knight


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