At some point, we all spend perhaps more time than we should ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future. When we do this, some would say our “life is passing us by.” I think those people are wrong. Our life is in fact right there in the moment, where it always was, and it’s not going anywhere. Of course, that is precisely the problem with immersing ourselves too deeply in either the past or the future. Our life isn’t going anywhere and neither are we. So how can we stay present in the moment?
When I was a teenager, every KISS tour prompted the same regimented routine [which I realize today was a lot of work without the internet]: get the tour dates, find the date for tickets on sale, save up the cash, camp out at local ticket outlet (even if just one hour before), store the tickets somewhere that wouldn’t get lost, and make sure I have a reliable ride to the show.
There was one more routine I had to go through every time. It was the obligatory questions from my dad. The same questions, every time: “Why are you going to see them again? What the hell is so great that you have to see it again? He’s (as if KISS was a single person) gonna stick out his tongue, breathe fire, blow everything up and go home!”
What papa didn’t understand was the deep feeling of gratitude inherent in those priceless moments of the concert. For whatever reason, I imprinted on KISS records. The aural quality of the electric guitars was a form of sonic power to which I was immediately attracted. I believe I have the same childhood-induced attraction to commercial jetliners, with their exceedingly loud, ground-rocking jet engines.
If KISS records meant sonic power, a live KISS concert was the ultimate party of light, sound and camaraderie to celebrate that power. And of course, knowing every note, reading every interview, air-strumming every riff and studying every poster, the guys in the band seemed downright familial. Every show was not only exhilarating, but also like seeing old friends.
What was obvious during every show was that the show lasted a finite amount of time. Once they hit the stage, they would be gone again in less than two hours. In those precious few minutes, I wanted – needed – to be as present as possible, to absorb and relish every fleeting moment that would never come again (at least, not until they toured again).
This keen awareness appeared more recently with another passion of mine: roller coasters. Lots of people complain that they wait over an hour for a two-minute experience (as if a line was designed to take a pre-determined amount of time, which the park management arbitrarily adjusts throughout the day to make you more or less perturbed). And yet, the people wait. Why? Because the experience of those two minutes of bliss on the ride are worth the privilege of waiting.
I noticed this most poignantly this past year. I had the opportunity to ride roller coasters while going through some painful life circumstances at home. I knew I could have two minutes of bliss so long as I chose to be in bliss. If I was to enjoy the ride, I could dwell neither in problems of the past, nor in the apprehensions of the future. Once the train left the station, it didn’t care if I enjoyed the ride or not. It will run its cycle and be done in two minutes. I knew I could not stay in my head while my ass was in the seat. I had to be conscious, deliberate and present for at least those two minutes. I could put my attention to what I saw, perhaps the falling and twisting horizon. I could focus on the sensation in my hands, either gripping the bar or the wind between my fingers high in the air, or he shaking of the car underneath my pelvis, or the falling in the pit of my stomach. It was then an experience not for my head, but my whole body.
Granted, I find roller coasters to be great physical catalysts for bliss. (I can think of a few others.) One day, perhaps I’ll be able to will myself into bliss as easily as with a catalyst; I’m working on it. When we can get out of our minds and experience life as it is right now, whether we judge the present to be good or bad, we find it is truly the only real moment we can affect. The past is dead, and the future has yet to be “real-ized.” Living in the past and/or future is to live in your head. I speak from experience. Sometimes it’s great to be out of your mind. I recommend it.
Steven Reeder is a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, owner of U Line Coaching, whose writing has featured by GayLifeAfter40.com and Metropolitan Community Church. For more information about one-on-one or group coaching opportunities, visit http://www.ulinecoaching.com