From Chapter Seven of the book
How to Achieve Peace of Mind
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Boom Is the Shock of Each New Instant
By Jerry Dorsman
Boom is the shock of each new instant that you realize you’re still alive.
In Tennessee Williams’s play, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, the main character, a rich elderly woman named Sissy Goforth, is close to death although she doesn’t know it. She is busy writing her memoirs when she is paid an uninvited visit from a man who says he knows her. She learns that this man, over the past few years, was with many of her friends when they died and he has become known in social circles as the “Angel of Death.” This gives her a start and she begins to wonder if she might be the next to go.
What ensues, however, appears to be a guided meditation with the “Angel of Death” helping Sissy to live in the present moment. His favorite word is boom. He says it every so often as if he wants the present moment to explode. In one part, he describes boom as waves crashing on the shore, each wave creating a new moment, a new boom.
Boom: each moment explodes into possibility. Boom: life becomes fresh. Boom: death has not happened yet. Death becomes a miniscule event in the faraway future. In the play, Chris (the “angel”) says, “Death is one moment, and life is so many of them.”
The message: Live now. Seize the moment.
You can shock yourself into living in the present moment. Contemplating your own death is one way. Living dangerously is another. If you’re climbing on a mountain face or jumping from an airplane, you’ll likely pay attention to each specific moment. Certain rides at amusement parks can scare you into embracing the present moment with all your vitality.
But what can you do when you can’t startle yourself into living in the present moment? You can pay attention. You can attend to the details of the moment. The first way is powerful, the second way is subtle.
Consider that you have only one moment: this moment. If you miss it, you miss everything. Now, here are two ways to keep your attention in the present moment…
1. The thought of death. When people are dying, when they know they have only a few months or a year left of life, they learn to live now. Very quickly, their perspective changes. Each moment becomes precious. One meditation based on this is to live this day as if it were your last. Live today as though you will die tomorrow. It may even be true. You may die tomorrow or you may die later today. Allow this possibility to change your perspective now.
2. Act spontaneously. Your main purpose is to keep your attention on what you’re doing in the present moment. So how can you remain totally attentive to the moment. Act on impulse. Allow no thought to enter; think no thought whatsoever. When you act, act instinctively from your true nature and when you react, react instinctively to what’s happening around you. When with others, show your heartfelt feelings without hesitation.
Consider for a moment how you are when you become thoroughly involved in an activity. You lose yourself in it. Two hours from when you began you realize that you had been completely immersed. If you’re lucky enough to love your job, this can happen at work. Often it will happen when you get involved with your favorite hobby or a creative activity such as drawing or writing. It can also happen when you’re meditating or when you’re doing in physical exercise. How can you lose yourself in an activity? By paying attention. You become so vigorously involved that you give the activity your complete attention. In other words, you do nothing each moment but act, or react. From now on, whenever time passes like this for you, whenever you get so absorbed in an activity that you lose yourself in it, take notice of what you’re doing. You can learn from it. You can apply the same passionate attention to anything you do.
Here’s one final idea from The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore: “Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.” Pay attention. Catch each moment as it goes by.