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Observations placeholder

Reeve, Christopher – Mindfulness as a means of managing trauma



Type of Spiritual Experience


The quote starts with him remembering the past

A description of the experience

Christopher Reeve – Still me

And now I'm sailing again. But this time we're on the Sea Angel headed for Maine. It's night time and I'm at the helm. Down below Dana and the children are sleeping. The breeze is warm and gentle, and we're sailing down the path of a full moon. For a moment I look behind me, fascinated by the boiling water just astern. Then I look a little further back and see that there are bits of foam, but the water has begun to calm down. When I look even further behind us, our wake has disappeared, and there is nothing to show that we were ever there.

I think this image comes to me out of fear that the best moments of my life are behind me. I look back longingly, hoping that the memories won't disappear. To me they're very vivid, but I cling to them more than I ever would have before my life changed so drastically. At forty-two, still in my prime, I took it for granted that I could look forward to many peak experiences in every aspect of my life. I rarely if ever looked back, because the present was so rich and full of promise. But now, in spite of the pain it causes me, I can't help dwelling on the fact that so many wonderful moments are receding in the distance.

April 1st, 1995. Dana and I celebrated our third anniversary by treating ourselves to a huge suite at the Mark Hotel in New York.  After an evening out to dinner and the theater, we came back to the room and made love until morning. It was just as exciting as the moment I asked her to marry me and we forgot about dinner and went straight to the bedroom. There will never be another night like it.

It's six years since we filmed Remains of the Day; fifteen years since that wonderful summer working on The Bostonians; eighteen years since Fifth of July. The last time I performed onstage was in The Guardsman, at Williamstown in 1992. How can it have been so long?

Time collapses in my mind, and suddenly it seems that just the other day Tim Murray and my brother, Ben, and I were taking the Sea Angel down to the Chesapeake for the winter. I remember every detail of the trip. But Tim's gone, and my brother and I never speak about it.

Recently I went by our old apartment on Seventy-eighth Street and stopped for a moment to remember, to absorb the atmosphere around a place that was home for more than ten years. I looked up and saw that the cherry trees we had planted on our roof garden were still there, now part of somebody else's life. A block away the asphalt playground of P.S.77 looked exactly the same. When he was only four years old, Matthew and I used to play racquetball there against the wall. I remember how stiff my back used to get from bending over to hold the seat of his bike as he learned to ride without training wheels on the sidewalks around the Museum of Natural History.

 Twenty-two years ago I threw caution to the wind and invited all my parents - Franklin and Helen, Barbara and Tris - to the opening night of A Matter of Gravity and arranged for them to sit together. Twenty years ago I sat in the middle of a black tie audience at the Kennedy Center and watched Superman fly across the screen for the first time. Less than four years ago Buck was stabled at Sunnyfield Farm just down the road, and we worked together with Lendon and enjoyed being part of a group of dedicated riders.

Now when we drive by the outdoor ring and the barns, past the horses I used to know turned out in the pastures, I always look away.

I have to stop this cascade of memories, or at least take them out of their drawer only for a moment, have a brief look, and put them back. I know how to do it now: I have to take the key to acting and apply it to my life. There is no other way to survive except to be in the moment. Just as my accident and its aftermath caused me to redefine what a hero is, I've had to take a hard look at what it means to live as fully as possible in the present.

How do you survive in the moment when it's bleak or painful and the past seems so seductive?

Onstage or in a film, being in the moment is relatively easy and very satisfying; it is an artistic accomplishment with no personal consequences. To have to live that way when "the moment" is so difficult is a completely different matter.

Reluctantly I turn away from my fascination with the wake behind us and concentrate on what lies ahead.

But now the boat is damaged, I've been injured, and we've lost our charts. Everyone is fully alert, gathered together on deck, quietly waiting to see if we can navigate to shore. Off in the distance is a faint flashing light; it could be a buoy, another ship, or the entrance to a safe harbor. We have no way of knowing how far we have to go or even if we can stay afloat until we get there. We agree to try, and to help each other steer. In the morning, if we stay the course, our beloved Sea Angel will be tied up safely at the dock and together we'll start walking home.

The source of the experience

Reeve, Christopher

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