Even as adults, the sight of a rollercoaster finds some of us shaking in our boots. We watch as it makes its slow ascent, climbing skyward, then the thrilling swoop as it speeds to its descent and loops around, and around, slow then fast, then slowing again, taking the riders by surprise at every turn. You turn the ticket over and over in your sweaty hands and finally decide to get on board. As it lurches forward, with your stomach in your throat and the wind whipping your hair; you laugh, scream, and hang on for dear life. Both exhilarating and scary at the same time, some might think it doesn’t seem like fun, but isn’t this what most of our lives resemble? A rollercoaster ride of thoughts, emotions and experiences.
Our emotions rule us in many ways and they are constantly being informed by our thoughts. What we initially think about something and believe, builds in us the corresponding emotion. Consequently, we then endure the ride wherever it leads us. Frequently, these thoughts actually serve a purpose by keeping us safe and preventing us from repeating the same mistakes. They serve to educate us and endow us with experience and wisdom. However, when they distract us from the present, then they’re at their most harmful.
Many of us go through life holding on with white knuckles and a look of terror on our faces, consumed with our emotions, unable to stop and enjoy the experience. Some of us love the thrill and exhilaration of the twists and turns, while others have already made up our minds about the notable risks.
Before boarding a rollercoaster, the trepidation evident on people’s faces betrays sheer fear and worry. They feel sick to the stomach and they haven’t even got on board yet. Then there are those who seem fearless and excited. We all have different thoughts circulating through our minds and we all anticipate and fear different things, which accounts for our different experiences. As a result, our emotions begin to manifest physically; we laugh, cry, shiver or shake.
Maybe there is wisdom in walking through our emotions, whatever they may be. By being truly present, we don’t deny ourselves the experience of truly feeling all that we can. A sense of clarity and peace comes with non-resistance to our emotions whether they’re negative or positive. Some believe the best way to dispel an emotion such as fear, is to face it head on.
Emotions are not always trustworthy either. They can be the result of thoughts we’ve held on to over the years; outdated and of little help. When they begin to impact our present experiences by keeping us stuck, it is time to form some new ones. By changing our thoughts, we change our experience.
Much like the challenges in our lives, we think things are insurmountable but eventually we are able to stand again. Much like the first few steps taken when disembarking a rollercoaster, initially you feel a little lightheaded and woozy, but you soon regain your centre of gravity and it all seems like a dream.
Even when grounded, we can look up at the daunting rollercoaster but we don’t actually know how we’ll feel when we’re up there cornering the rails at unimaginable speeds. Even when looking at the big picture, we can’t ever anticipate the twists and turns of our lives. People who make five or ten year plans are often surprised at the different roads their lives have taken them. It’s good and well to prepare for the future and give yourself the best possible chance, but is it really possible to divine where your life will take you?
The speed with which a rollercoaster travels is akin to the brevity of life. Without your noticing, it’s zoomed past and the moment is gone, leaving us dazed, demanding answers of ourselves. Did our thoughts get in the way of our bliss? Were we present enough to appreciate the moment? Were we filled with such anxious dread that the ride ended before we had time to enjoy it? Perhaps we can learn to ask ourselves these questions whenever we feel overwhelmed by the ups and downs life presents us.