The Worst Roller Coaster Experience

By Anthony Gold

There’s a ride at Hershey Park called Sidewinder. It’s a steel roller coaster that starts with riders being pulled backwards up a very steep incline and then released. You speed through a corkscrew loop, then an upside-down loop, and finally slow down to a stop as the coaster climbs up a steep incline. And then the entire process is repeated backwards.

My love of roller coasters ended the day I rode Sidewinder.

It was a beautiful summer day at Hershey Park. The sun was shining, perfect temperatures, and surprisingly small crowds – making lines at the most popular rides relatively short. I had never ridden this coaster before and was quite excited to experience the thrill.

As my coaster was being ratcheted backwards up the first incline, my heart started racing in anticipation of the first big gravity drop. I couldn’t wait. The brake was released, the car rapidly accelerating, riders screaming, and we were on our way. But something terrible happened in my head.

As we exited the first corkscrew loop, I got very dizzy and lightheaded. Then, when we completed the upside-down loop, I thought I might pass out, vomit, or both. But there was an even more horrifying feeling. As the coaster was slowly coming to a stop, I was overcome with this panic-inducing thought: I have to do this whole thing again, backwards.

The ride was only half-way done. There was no way to stop the car. I couldn’t get off. I was stuck for the duration of the ride, which meant experiencing another big drop, corkscrew roll, and upside loop – all while riding backwards.

It was sickening.

Our negative thoughts and sad emotions are just like that roller coaster. Not only does it feel awful, but it seems as if we’re stuck with no way out. This is the ride (life) we’re on, and we have no choice but to go along as the helpless victim of circumstances.

But that’s not the case.

It’s the voice in our head tells us the world, other people, and our body are the source of our pain and sadness. That voice is known as the ego. It is conditioned by the past, which is why we seemingly reenact the past over and over again.

However, unlike Sidewinder, we actually can get off the ego ride any time we’d like. All we need to do is recognize that (a) we’re listening to a voice in our head – the ego, (b) that voice is not who we are, and (c) we can make a different choice – one for peace and joy.

We are so conditioned into thinking that our happiness (or lack thereof) is determined by events in the world and our bodies. I’m upset because of this, that, and the other thing. If only such-and-such a thing would happen, then I’d be happy.

But that’s not true. That’s just the ego voice, and it is wrong.

The ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does. (T-9.III.2)

There is nothing we – or anyone else – can do in the world to make us happy.

There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically. (W-pI.23.2)

Thus if we want to experience continual happiness and peace, all we need to do is change our thoughts – which means changing our mind from the voice of the ego to the voice of love. Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore how we get off the sickening ride (of the ego) and make a better choice.

And if you’re interested in seeing a video someone took of the Sidewinder roller coaster, check it out here:

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