Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go-
Late last year I found myself working and “living” in our fair city, Cambridge, UK. Having fallen back in love with cycling after trying to kill myself running, instinctively I brought a few bikes with me. Riding in Cambridge is not the horror show many would lead you to believe. The streets, bridleways and footpaths this spring and summer have been refreshingly pleasant. I wake early, and not long after that, I’m out finding a pedaling flow before the sun comes up – Bliss! My almost daily rides have truly been wonderful, that is until last Sunday morning.
As I approached a blind corner near the top of Chapel Hill, which runs into a lovely, peaceful wooded path. There was a woman walking ahead of me, and my presence startled her.
“You need to be riding back on Chapel Hill road with the other cyclist,” she told me hastily.
“Good morning ma’am?” I replied, as my unquestionable ‘Murican accent wafted in the still air.
“Why don’t you cyclist follow the rules like everyone else” she replied.
I dismounted slightly ahead of her, and as softly spoken as the world awakening around us … “My name is Jeremy, and I’m out here for the same reasons you are – Peace, kindness, finding equanimity in this mad world. Plus, my bike is filthy dirty … The road weenies don’t like it when I spray them with mud.”
Kate smiled and laughed at my “Cars R Coffins” jersey. I on the other hand, melted, as Kate let down her startled guard. We walked for a short while, then parted ways further down the dirt path that was unfolding in front of us … I had broken into her peaceful temple, and for that I was deeply sorry.
Cambridge, the United Kingdom, Europe and little ‘ole Omaha, Nebraska are desperately trying to “fix” cycling related things. My solution to our (yes our) epidemic of hostility and intolerance involves a fundamental change in the prevailing attitude(s) of each one of us. Kindness, gratitude, honesty and a smile are free
Oh, what a day… what a lovely day-
(an area of) farm track/road/footpath/bridleway etc. which consists of potholes, loose paving, stones, rubble, and mud.
His boredom was like a nostalgia for the whole world. He was homesick for everywhere but here-
When I close my eyes, and dream of being back home in Omaha? Sometimes, when everything is just right, Cambridge can look a lot like Nebraska! Minus Tower Bridge and the thousand-year old churches of course …
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy”-
Saunter into your local yoga studio and undoubtedly you will inundated with talk about – Mindfulness.
Why is this so? Primarily due to the images of relaxation, stillness, or acting in some idealistic way that mindfulness provides us in this atmosphere. Most yogi’s and mindfulness “practitioners” operate under the assumption that mindfulness, means continually being calm, serene and in control of your surrounding, even as the lady next to you in class rolls out her mat inches away from your perfectly oriented to the East sacred space. It’s because of this, that a mindfulness practice often feels as though we are failing in life, it erodes our personal sense of self-worth. Breaking News – Life is hard enough without aiming to be mindful and perfect all the damn time. Mindfulness, to me, is not a quest for perfection.
My mindfulness practice revolves around a well-known and often forgotten aspect about “life” – Life itself is deeply unpredictable. To translate the last statement into laymen terms – Life sucks most of the time, imperfection is the norm, and perfectionism will only lead you down a dark path. It’s how we live with and balance these hardships, that influences our moment-to-moment, mindful well-being. Even while practicing mindfulness, I can’t for the life of me, pay attention for an extended period of time. You know what most easily distracts me? It’s not the blonde hair or being a dude, or some new person in class … Its my own mind. I’m continually lost in my thoughts yet again, even right now. Yet, I bring myself back to the moment, even while dropping a screw fixing my bike or forgetting someones name I just met.
Many yogis’ or whatever, shroud themselves in the serious of a mindfulness practice, what’s lost is our collective sense of humor. Our minds often do what they want without us, if you can, look around during class and notice the stern faces and the concentration poured into being “mindful.” I often find myself spending an awful lot of effort aiming for something not fully attainable during class, during life. Mindfulness and a healthy dose of perfectionism only serve to make me feel worse about myself. The secret ingredient that is missing? A heartfelt smile and a sense of humility.
Shit happens in life, I make a mess of things a dozen or more times during the day. Mindfulness allows me to find comfort and humility in the midst of a crazy life. There’s no perfect mindfulness practice – Just you. I’m flawed and so is everyone else, but when you aim for improvement, instead of perfection? Everyone smiles.
I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel-
For the past two years in late August, I bike for nearly ten hours, one hundred plus miles, into the picturesque countryside around Omaha, Nebraska.. Out here, I don’t have a laptop, a navigation gadget, or anyone to talk to. It’s just me and my bike, and a few Western Meadowlarks greeting me kindly.
The first twenty miles are the hardest. I’m on an adrenaline high at first, I wake early and start riding East, where the brilliant glow of a sunrise brings a smile to my tired face. The air is clear on these desolate gravel roads, there is no sound of traffic, yet suddenly – I start to feel lonesome. I feel an urge to text a picture of what I am witnessing to someone, and when I realize I can’t, my phone is resting at home in the garage, a feeling of anxiety pours over me. I can’t turn back now as I turn south into a gentle breeze, so I begin to listen to my thoughts; I go over the events of the week, honoring my thoughts makes me feel less stirred up. Something surprising happens mid-ride, I feel a sense of peace. There is no particular switch that is flipped, I recall thinking at the time: I’m alone, and I’m happy.
Rarely do I get lonely riding anymore. I have loved ones and friends in my life whom I deeply cherish and value, yet, I don’t feel the need to be with them constantly. While it’s wonderful to go on a weekly group ride, I also happily wave so long to them when they turn around to head home, and I continue on … My time, this tender moment, is completely my own again.
I don’t partake in these grueling rides to prove anything. I’m out there, because I have fully surrendered to the power of solitude. It has taught me so much about myself. Most importantly, there’s no one to share opinions with, about who I am or what I’m doing. I don’t have a FaceTube status to update, nor do I have a future conversation with someone sloshing between my ears. What hits home the hardest is when I hit the 100+ mile marker, when I’m alone this much on a bike – man and machine, I can’t turn my back and avoid the problems in my life or allow a stray emotion to weigh me down. I can’t distract myself by blogging or surfing the net. What shines through, is the warm glow of my heart.
Time passes differently after 120 miles. I once watched a young doe leap over an eight foot fence from standing; slowing down as she turned to look at me, the sun passed directly overhead during this time, and I didn’t even notice I was heading West. I patiently listen to the wind as I unzip my jersey to cool off as I head home.
The most exhausting part of the ride, is heading home. I have forgotten about the traffic late at night, the stimulation, the nauseating advertisements seemingly everywhere. Sprinklers running, dogs barking, are a jolt to my body … Although friends, the cold shower awaiting me is simply divine.
You may plainly perceive the traitor through his mask; he is well-known everywhere in his true colors; his rolling eyes and his honeyed tones impose only on those who do not know him-
Why am I waking up this morning?
The answer is, hopefully, not because I have to or I should, but rather … I have a sense of purpose and direction for this wonderful day.
Being able to adapt well to a myriad of challenges, to be able to bounce back from a period of difficult times, requires me to have a sense of direction in my life and a belief that I am acting in a way that is consistent with my true personal values.
The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend-
Romanticizing, endlessly, about the past is a passionate avocation, and dare I say an easy one to indulge in, as long as you overlook the self-serving conversations such as renewable-clean energy sources, carbon offsets, living a gluten-free lifestyle and what happened this past weekend while on holiday. That said, some cultural bygones such as meaningful conversation among close friends really do have their merits.
Few “things” in life are in fact as pleasurable and fertile as engaging in heartfelt, close conversation. Whether you’re falling in love again for the first time, riding some sweet trails with a cycling buddy, listening to an insightful yoga instructor during class (thank you Cheryl, Suzanne and Maia) or beginning a new friendship. Open ended, seemingly unimportant conversation is essential to building a close relationship. Conversation is also the means by which we learn, via other people, how in which the world works. A meandering conversation unlocks doors to memories long ago stored away, and forgotten.
Without conversation, conversations that take us on spontaneous journeys through various ideas and opinions, how can we being to explore and awaken the minds of others, and ourselves? Be well and have an inspiring day!