It’s so fucking awesome to be at a show when the band is jamming and the people are into it and bouncing all over the place. You know what I mean. You know what it is like to be at a gig when one of your favorite bands is just tearing shit up and the music takes control of your body and mind and you just get so high from the intensity of everything coming together into one big ball of FUCK YEAH! Times like that are moments that make you glad to be alive. You know what? You can feel that way just about anytime you want. Just SAVOR THE MOMENT.
I was painfully vomiting bile while pissing gastric juices out of my rear end a couple of weeks ago, and it reminded me of something I already knew: We often don’t appreciate good things until they are gone. There I was, violently and painfully throwing up gallons of stinging barf while stinging green fluid shot out of my ass and I thought to myself: “Man, I really like being healthy. It must be terrible to be sick all the time…” and my thoughts then drifted to my ailing grandparents. I am so lucky to have had one pair of grandparents live so long and I do all I can now to be there for them and to savor the time we have left.
My grandpa is ninety-four and my grandma is eighty-six. They have been married for sixty-seven years! They are both slowly dying and the pace has started to quicken. Yesterday, I watched my grandpa scream in unbearable agony as the catheter in his penis got snagged on his hospital bed. The nurses were just trying to change the bed sheets and they had to turn him from side to side. His whole body is in pain and it hurts him just to be touched. As his urethra practically got turned inside-out, and the teary-eyed nurses struggled to correct the situation, I turned toward the wall with tears streaming down my face, and kicked with one foot down at the floor as I thought: “God, this is what they do when they torture somebody!” After the temporary hell had subsided, I sat with him and we talked. I told him that I do not want him to have to live in such misery, but I am still glad to be able to sit with him in the present moment…and he told me not to worry. He said, “Its okay Marc… I have never been afraid to die.”
So, there I sat, meditating on the present moment… savoring the opportunity to talk with my grandfather while also taking mental stock of all the good things in my life. I sat with closed eyes as I held his hand and we just…lived for a little while longer. Later, I went to the board-and-care home where my grandma was lying in bed all alone. She is practically blind, substantially deaf, and has Parkinson’s disease. The strain of being separated from her husband makes the tremors even worse. I kneeled down by her bedside and told her that I had been visiting grandpa everyday and I will continue to do so until the very end. She turned toward me and reached up with trembling arms. I leaned forward and felt the warmth of her body as she kissed me and said, “Thank you Marc.” I savored the moment. Death was not yet in the room, but he is definitely on the way. But for that moment, my grandma and I were still together, basking in the joy of simply being together. I made certain once again to pay careful attention to the feeling of gratitude, and I drank it all in with magnified senses.
Now, you don’t have to experience some sort of physical or mental anguish in order to appreciate the present moment, but (for some), suffering has the unique ability to force deep realizations. Since every one of us experiences suffering many times during our lifetimes, it would be wise to tap into the heightened-consciousness that emanates from concentrated focus on the present moment without the added hassle of feeling distress. In simpler words, you can feel that “FUCK YEAH!” moment just about any time you want to; just pay close attention to what is happening. In Buddhism, this is called, “Sati.”
Sati is a small word with a lot packed into its multi-faceted meaning. Basically, it means “mindfulness.” Mindfulness of everything around you at all times. Most of the time, we drift into a robotic frame of mind as we go about our daily routines. It is so easy to get wrapped-up in day-to-day living that we forget to really FOCUS on the present moment. Most of us get up, go to work or school, and move through the same schedule so many times that without even realizing it we drift into pervading state of mind that is more asleep than awake. For example, one day I was looking at this incredible sunset and I said, “Look at that!” The guy standing next to me looked at the sky and asked, “Look at what?” “At the amazing sunset, man! LOOK AT IT!” I said pointing excitedly to the west. He just looked at me like I was dumb, and said the sunset was no big deal. There it was. Right in front of him, and he did not see it. He gypped himself out of being amazed by the obvious. The feeling of appreciative joy is called “mudita,” and it is yours just about anytime you desire.
Here’s another example: You know how sometimes at a gig the band takes way too long go come out and perform its set? You stand there all smushed in the crowd and your feet and legs hurt while you inhale every stinky body odor that ever came out of a human hole and… SHIT! WHEN IS THE FUCKING SHOW GONNA START? This happens a lot. When it happens to me, I just close my eyes and think about how great it’s going to be when the music starts, how lucky I am to have feet and legs that work well enough to be sore, and even though the guy in front of me smells like poop, I am glad to have air to breathe. In short, it really helps to take stock of all the good things that we take for granted. Sati is deeper than simply counting your blessings, but that’s where it begins.
Eventually, you can reach this joyful state of mind in the most ordinary moment. Like when you are just walking around; take a big breath and feel it flood your system with life-giving oxygen. Some Buddhist monks have developed sati to the point where they are experiencing a “heavenly moment” at all times. The ones whom attain this state are called Arahats and they have attained Nirvana within their own lifetime. That takes a lot of practice and dedication, so the rest of us will have to do with something less. Even so, simply learning to more fully absorb the pleasant qualities of the present moment adds a new dimension of wonder to everyday living. It is kind of like being a kid again. Just do something like take a bite of chocolate—or anything you like—and think about how delicious it is and go, “Wow!” Take a drink of water and feel the wet coolness wash down your throat, quench your thirst and think, “It sure is great to have water!” Go ride your skateboard late at night and feel the cold wind on your face, the warm sweat on your brow, and the splendid sensation of movement. The whole world becomes new again and it empowers you to be able to better endure the next hell moment.
Today, I was back at the nursing home spoon-feeding my grandpa his dinner. My dad came in, pushing my grandma in a wheelchair. She looked so weak and frail and her body trembled from the Parkinson’s. It made me sad. Then I saw the sporty, black and white checkered cap on her head. She looked like she had been driving a convertible sports car. It made me smile. Slowly, she leaned toward my grandpa’s bed, reached out, took his hand and they both said to each other, “I love you.” I started to cry… not from sadness, but from the joy within that heavenly moment.
Write to Marcus at: [email protected]