It’s busy inside my head. At any given time, I’m thinking about at least three different things: deadlines to meet, snippets of stories that I’ve read or am trying to write, work projects, grocery lists, communication that has or needs to happen, all of it often overlaid with a soundtrack of mashed-up sections of songs running through my brain at the wrong speed.
Probably most people are more or less that way. I know I’m not the only one who wakes up from a dead sleep, replaying on endless loop some stupid thing I’ve said or some opportunity I’ve blown, and I bet I’m not the only who tries to anticipate (overthinks) every possible outcome of an important future event.
I feel like I’m always in the past or in the future, or, on good days, mid-story in fiction.
So let me tell you about my recent weekend. I was in the present tense – just the present tense – for hours. It was amazing.
First of all, the weather. Near perfect autumn weather – by day, warm enough to be comfortable without a jacket but cool enough not to be summer, by night, chilly enough to justify a camp fire.
Then the setting. Two music and art festivals, less than five miles from each other. The annual Vulture Fest in Makanda, voted the “hippiest place in Illinois.” And the Wander Down Music Festival at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center.
Let me set the scene a little bit. The main stage at the Wander Down festival is nestled in the woods. A short walk through the trees gets you to the smaller stage, overlooking Little Grassy Lake. If you stand on the path and look back, you see the strings of lights illuminating the art vendors. It looks like a magic night market from a fairy tale.
The smaller stage at the Vulture Fest is in the Rainmaker’s Garden – a labyrinth, sculpture garden, semi-tame jungle and music site. The point of greatest duration for the 2017 total solar eclipse was in this garden. There’s a rumor there is a spiritual energy vortex either in the Rainmaker’s Garden or in nearby Giant City State Park. It’s a good vibes site.
And it kept me in the present tense.
I’m not one of those people who thinks contemplating the past is useless. Our personal pasts are there for us to learn. And if we never give a thought for the future, then our lives are a wandering, purposeless mess.
But sometimes it’s important to be wholly present just for the sake of being present. This is more than just “don’t be on your phone” or “spend time living, not just documenting.” It’s a state of mindfulness that shuts down inner busyness and distractions and leaves the mind at peace. I suppose that’s the goal of mediation, finding inner calm and quiet. For me, with what I call my “pinball brain,” it’s a rare gift, like a clarifying mental breath of fresh air.