The Present Moment – Lessons Learned from the Range

Present moment. We don’t have the future in this moment. We don’t have the past. We have the present. We have now.

Thinking about the future beyond what we need to do for our lives, creates worry. Worry wastes our valuable energy. Thinking about and replaying the past, perhaps reliving and beating ourselves up over things that have happened or things we would have done differently, or what we feel someone else has done to us or should have done differently, “should’ing” all over ourselves, causes needless suffering. We are the only animal that beats ourselves up over our past mistakes. If an animal makes that mistake, they move on – they are in the present moment.

When I’m shooting, it is very much an exercise in staying in the present moment. My meditative skills help my shooting. My shooting, conversely, helps further train my mind and thoughts to stay in the present moment. Sometimes I feel that my shooting is even a greater help in this regard than my daily morning yoga practice. Completely different feel to both, but absolutely the same ideas in play.

When you have a firearm in your hands, you can’t be thinking about what did or didn’t happen at work, what things you need to get done on your to-do list or how behind you feel in all of the things you want to get done. There is too much responsibility that comes with holding something in your hand that has such physical power. And there are too many little things to focus on to bring it all together for the shot to go off safely and on target.

Focus is absolutely required when shooting a firearm. It requires the right preparation, the right grip, a gentle and constant press on the trigger, and when the round breaks from the gun, you’re still not done – it requires proper follow through to make sure you’re set up for the next shot and that you don’t get in the bad habit of moving the gun too soon and throwing off your shot.

It reminds me of Hunt Seat in college, where I was jumping fences. When you got over the jump, you immediately turned your head and eyes to where you wanted to go, where you wanted the horse to go. You focus on where you want to go, and nothing else. Same thing here. You keep your focus on where you want the shot to go, keeping your sights aligned on target and gentle consistent movement. (By the way, I adored jumping and hope to get back into it again at some point, but one new thing at a time!)

The first time I shot my Glock 43, was at the end of the NRA pistol safety training at the range on July 24. It was an eight hour class, four hours on two nights. This was our second night. We had shot .22 caliber semi-automatics, and that was great and went well. There definitely was an adrenaline rush, which I have to say, is quite nice. It does something for me. Oddly, I also like the smell and what happens when a shot goes off. I also don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I always was a bit of a tomboy as a child.

The difference between shooting a .22 and a 9 mm, particularly when you had never shot a pistol before like me, is a big difference. After the rounds with the .22, my instructor had us get out my own gun, and he helped me with it. He coached me through shooting my first six rounds from my own gun that night. He started off by telling me that we would try two rounds, and if it scared me that we would stop and put the gun away as he did not want that to ruin me for shooting in the future.

There really is that big of a difference in the sound, the feel, the pressure of the trigger, the recoil, vibration and the sheer power of the gun. He asked me if it would be better if he did it first or if I would be o.k. to do it myself first. I said I didn’t think it would make a difference either way, and he said to definitely be the first to shoot my own gun then.

When I went to shoot the first round (and each subsequent round), he reminded me about staying in the present moment. Align your sights, press gently, take the slack out of the trigger, press, press, press, it will go off when it goes off, press, press…


Wow. Now that? That. That was something else! It totally made my socks go up and down, lol, as an old co-worker used to say.

He told me I wasn’t afraid of it; he was quite pleased. I was super pleased, though my eyes were probably a little glazed over by then.

Then he taught me to mimic a stronger grip by a push pull with my two hands on the pistol. Second round. Very nice. By the time we were done with six rounds, time was so fast and so slow at the same time. There was nothing but that moment, in that stall, in this weird communion with my pistol, and hearing his voice. If my mind would try to think or anticipate the shot, I heard his voice.

Gods I loved everything about it! Absolutely. Everything.

You’re supposed to be surprised when the shot breaks from the pistol. Why? If you anticipate the shot, you can end up pulling the trigger faster, or you might move the pistol early, misalign your sights and shoot off target. .

Stay in the present moment. Don’t rush. It will happen when it happens. Be patient.

Well, I haven’t always been the most patient person in the world. When I was in high school, I used to joke with my friend about my “id” taking over. “Id” was Sigmund Freud’s psychological term for the part of the self that wants immediate gratification and has a great focus on the physical and the subconscious.

I’m a true Scorpio girl, so the idea of immediate gratification is a natural home base for me, though a rather un-evolved base if I stayed there all the time, lol. But this idea of patience really works for me in shooting. Again a great metaphor and lesson for life. Patience is a virtue, which also was a focus of our work when I was in Job’s Daughters (a Masonic organization for girls).

All happens in its own time.

To me this also is the idea of not having expectations. So many times we have expectations of ourselves and of others. Expectations create conditions. We have conditions on our love, even on our love for ourselves. i.e. “I’ll only love myself if XYZ,” and insert your poison there. Conditions versus unconditional love.

Having expectations creates unhappiness. Being free of expectations leaves us free to be who we are, and it frees others to be who they are.  It leaves us free to love ourselves and to be happy, living our life fully in each moment. Taking our time, squeezing all the sweet juices out of life and savoring it. Taking time to press the trigger, gently, slowly and enjoying the shot when it happens, in its own time.

Anticipating the shot, what it will be like, when it’s going to go off, all of that is having expectations, which throws off your aim and your shot. Another lesson and a great reinforcement for how I choose to live my life – stay in the moment, do not have expectations and don’t take anything personally. What others do or do not do has nothing to do with you. It is about them.

Your expectations create a story about how someone else’s actions are about you. They are not about you. The gun doesn’t care about your story. You use your expectations to create chains around yourself and around someone else. Release your expectations and you find freedom, and happiness in that freedom.

I started taking private lessons, and I have only had one so far, though I have a lot scheduled this fall – I have a lot to learn! And of course, there will be much practicing between sessions. When I bought my pistol, I wasn’t exactly sure what my plans were, other than home defense; and as you can read in prior blog posts, I quickly decided that this is something I wanted to have available to me in the event that my life was threatened. To me that decision requires a great deal of practice and work. It’s a big responsibility.

In my first lesson, there was a regular target, and I was supposed to show my instructor how I was shooting. So he had me shoot a magazine, which in this case is six rounds. I did that. He had two suggestions. A slight change in my body position, which was awesome and more natural and comfortable.

Then the other was something he noticed I was doing when shooting. After the shot went off, I would pause before getting my sights aligned again to see where the shot went. So you can imagine that, as he said from a practical standpoint, if you ever really need to use your gun, having that muscle memory of that pause is not a good thing – you need to immediately get back on target so you can shoot again. I tried it without the pause, getting my sights aligned and back on target, and it was amazing. So we quickly moved on to learning how to move and shoot at the same time. I’m practicing that with an *unloaded* [emphasis added!!] gun at home, so no worries!

I think this is another great metaphor for life. Doing the work, then looking at the outcome before continuing the work – i.e. looking to or worrying on the past and not staying in the present moment. You can’t do anything about the past, all you can do is stay in the moment and get yourself together, work your plan. Or in this case, get your sights aligned on the target and press the trigger, do the work. You can’t do anything about where the prior shot went, and you can assess it later for ways to improve once you’re done with the work.

I also practice dry firing at home with a quarter balanced on my sights, which another instructor at the range taught me – great recommendation! She also is a great instructor. The idea is to keep the quarter balanced on the gun’s front sights as you pull the trigger, and that the quarter stays there. Trigger control. Smooth press. Here again, of course, the gun is absolutely unloaded, thus the words “dry firing,” yet all the other safety principles are still very much at work as well.

I have been going to the range about twice a week, and I have worked myself up to firing 150 rounds each time, so about 300 rounds each week. I quit bothering with using two targets and just use one each time; I kind of like the big hole in the middle when I’m done, satisfying. I also have found that it takes me a lot less time to effectively and accurately shoot 150 rounds than it used to as well, which has just kind of happened over time with a lot of practice. And yes, my instructor told me that would happen as well; he said to just focus on the mechanics of my shooting, the accuracy, and the rest would come.

In my life I never thought I would do this. Never thought I’d be into it. It completely surprised me. I’m totally into it! Hook, line and sinker. And pretty good at what I’ve done so far because I’ve employed all of what I have been taught. It’s been amazing, and I can’t wait to learn more! I’m in this one for the long haul.

I’m still in awe, each time I press the trigger, and each time the shot goes off, it’s…damn. It is pretty freaking awesome to be honest. The control and presence required for the outcome I want, is also another great metaphor for life.

Presence. There is so much in that word.

Sometimes people look at me, particularly men, and though they try to hide it and are quite respectful, I can see that they get a kick out of it. I get a lot of smiles. It doesn’t bother me. I look at it from someone else’s perspective. Here’s this little 5’2″ blonde girl, red boots, winning smile (so I’m told!), and she does this thing…and she is doing it well. It’s just that it’s unexpected. I don’t mind delivering the unexpected. It’s kind of fun being a surprise, an enigma. I’m a Scorpio girl after all!

I do so many different things, and love so many things in life, and you just never know what you’ll learn about me next. Of course, neither do I – who knows what I’ll learn about myself next?! And that? That is priceless.

Swagger & Staying in the Moment

Swagger. I just love that word! Words really are whatever we want them to be or mean. I’ve seen folks use “swagger” as maybe not always a good thing. I think it’s awesome.

I was walking around the Missouri State Capitol Building (the Mo Cap) this week. Spent two days there. Going back old school, a little like in my contract lobbying days. Yet different. Viewing it with different eyes.

As I walked around the building, I noticed how people walked. I noticed the swagger. We all have our own way of walking. And we spend a *lot* of time walking the halls there. Looking at our phones, twitching for our phone, waiting for the bells to go off, for something to happen, for somewhere else to run off to. Yet, we are in the moment, observing all around us.

I think in many ways, a good lobbyist stays in the moment. That moment where all the possibilities are and where anything can happen next. Anything. The best lobbyists aren’t worried about what’s going to happen next. They may think forward in strategy, but their mind is always on where they are and what they are doing.

Reminds me of a Yoda quote from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It was one of Yoga’s lessons where he said to Luke that his mind was never on where he was or what he was doing, and that was Luke’s challenge in life. Yoda was training Luke to stay in the present moment where all things are possible.

I talked in my last blog post, Unconditional Love in Lobbying, about the Mo Cap being like a living organism. I think that lobbyists, or the really good ones, feel their way through the moments. Lots of intuition in that building, going with your gut, your knowing.

This idea of the present moment is true in so many things in our lives. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in or what you do in your personal life. The moment holds such power. That is where your intuition, your knowing and your power lies. That is the lesson that Yoda shared with Luke.

What is the swagger? It is the confidence. It is the presence. It is being completely and fully in ones own power. Standing in your own power. Walking in your own power.

Body language can tell us so much. Notice how others walk or stand around you. Notice their posture. Then bring your attention to your own. Are you standing straight? Are your shoulders slouched? Are you hunching over like a turtle, trying to crawl into your shell?

Our body can tell us so much about how we are feeling. Are we worrying about what others think of us? Are we scurrying around in fear? Or are we, to borrow a quote from another favorite old movie of mine, Stripes, “walking tall and standing proud,” comfortable in our own skin? Standing in our own power?

If you find yourself trying to crawl back into your shell, talk to your body. Thank your body for its message, and then change your posture. Even changing how we physically sit, stand or walk can change the way we feel about ourselves.

It is honoring the body’s message to us, thanking the body for its message and recognizing the thoughts or emotions that the body just told us about. Then transforming those thoughts through work with our body. That’s something we can do wherever we are, whatever we are doing, in each moment.

Sure, there’s more that we can do. We can work with those thoughts, and that’s what much of life coaching is about. But just noticing our physical body, being present with ourselves and then through that, recognizing our thoughts, can make such a difference. From that place, then we can make a change, we can make a shift.

It’s the first step to embracing our swagger.