Trying to tie my shoes, clumsy, not able to work out
the logic of it, fumbling, as my father stands there,
his anger growing over a son who can’t even do
this simplest thing for the first time, can’t even manage
the knot to keep his shoes on—You think someone’s
going to tie your shoes for you the rest of your life?—
No, I answer, forty-five years later, tying my shoe,
hands trembling with this memory. My father
and all those years of childhood not being able to work out
how he loved me, a knot so tight it has taken all my life
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.
Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that-
There are many misconceptions about the role “results” play in achieving our goals (whatever they may be.)
We should define a couple of words before we move on – outcome and process. An outcome is centered on results, beating others and posting it on social media. A process involves focusing on what we need to do perform our very best, such as how we prepare and nurture our souls, training, or even practicing mindfulness. Notice how an outcome is focused on “things” outside of you. While in contrast, a process is focused entirely on you?
Most of us think that (myself included at times), in order to get the results we want, we need to focus on those results. Wanna get better at yoga? Gotta be more flexible! Loose a few pounds before summer begins … When does the outcome of a competition occur? At the end of course. If we become obsessed on the outcome, we are not focused on the process – What we need to do to perform our best from the start to the finish. What makes you nervous before yoga class or a big ride, the process or the outcome? It’s the outcome, and more specifically, a bad outcome such as not performing well or tumbling over trying to reach your “peak” pose. When we focus on the outcome, we are far less likely to get the outcome we want.
When we pause to focus on the process, we increase the chances of achieving the results we so richly deserve.
Sometimes, I can’t shift my heart from the outcome to process, the best thing I can do when this happens, is to get out of my mind completely. In other words, I go for an early morning walk, bike ride, or like yesterday morning – yoga practice in a quiet park. These moments gently take me from thinking about the outcome to, feeling the process.
It has always seemed that a fear of judgment is the mark of guilt and the burden of insecurity-
I ask of you on this lovely May morning – Are you really curious how the next five, ten, fifteen years of your life will look like?
Possibility and wonder flourish in the wide open spaces of uncertainty. If we were absolutely certain about how everything would turn out in our lives, we would have no room to consider what might happen if we choose a different direction, a different path altogether. Imagine how “life” might be like stuck in an endless one-way street, on a set deserted railroad tracks with rails so straight and narrow, we would never be able to see beyond our next step.
When we pause to think about it, like our beautiful lives, a seed is both fragile and dense with endless possibility. Provided with the proper conditions, a tiny seed can grow to be a beautiful tree or a plant that bears yummy fruit, flowers or those things called vegetables! In our hyper connected world it pays to remember that a seed grows at its own pace. For that seed to be its absolute best, it will need plenty of love, compassion, kindness and care.
Friends, we are no different, anticipation of what could be possible, is what makes life exciting. In order to breathe possibility into reality, we need fertile ground, a stable environment and a warm, kind and compassionate heart.
May a dose of uncertainty grace your lives this morning … What will become of this seed, your life? Only you possess the magic, that is your frigging awesome life, in the palm of your loving hands.
*It’s good to be back with you, my Dear Readers, after finishing the Citizens Academy of Omaha’s Future last night. There are many stories and new topics to share with you, until then – Take care and be well! And before I forget – Its National Bike Challenge Month!*
“Be a lotus in the pond,” she said, “opening
slowly, no single energy tugging
against another but peacefully,
I couldn’t even touch my toes.
“Feel your quadriceps stretching?” she asked.
Well, something was certainly stretching.
Standing impressively upright, she
raised one leg and placed it against
the other, then lifted her arms and
shook her hands like leaves. “Be a tree,” she said.
I lay on the floor, exhausted.
But to be a lotus in the pond
opening slowly, and very slowly rising–
that I could do.
There are some questions that shouldn’t be asked until a person is mature enough to appreciate the answers-
We are made up of many “things,” so are our handy gadgets, fancy cars, spiffy shoes, colorful yoga mats and ridiculously expensive bikes – A bunch of cells and molecules blended craftily together. If there’s a major distinction to be pointed out between us and these cherished inanimate objects, it’s that we tactile beings are blessed with the ability to feel our emotions and to communicate them to others. Or do we?!?
While we have the ability to express our emotions to others, sometimes – most of the time, we don’t always do it when we desperately need to. It’s important to pause and ask why every once in a while. As you may have noticed in my recent posts, I have been asking myself “why” quite a bit of late. I do so because we live in social media/hyper connected world that tells us, don’t feel upset,” or don’t feel sad, don’t worry, and to “Be brave and stand tall” when adversity graces our lives. It’s also important to remember that the world we live in has a double-edge sword, waiting patiently to chop our heads off when our emotions sway the opposite direction, when we boast and brag about a new gadget, personal best and buying a new bike. The net result of all of “this,” is one sad but brutally true underlying message – Stop being and don’t feel anything.
My posts of late have been painfully tedious for one important reason: I’m starting to make a habit of honoring myself and you, each and every day. One last question before we part ways this morning: Before you click “publish, “like” or post anything online … Is there a moment where you think about the ramifications of your action(s), a moment where you stop being and fail to feel anything?!?
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling-
Meditation is like that. Full of seemingly impossible contradictions! Meditation is tedious and difficult to write about given our connected-analytic nature. Meditation is much easier to explain to someone who habitually thinks poetically. Like the inspired yoga instructor who creates a magical flowing class off the top of their head, or the mountain biker who flows with little effort on tight single-track. Meditation, my kind of Meditation that is … Centers on expanding our logical thinking into poetic and logical thinking. Still with me?!?
How then do we tap into being both a logical thinker, in addition, to being a poetic thinker? This is the essential transformation that a deeply rooted Meditation-Mindfulness practice teaches us.
Allow me to change logical thinker and poetic thinker into – Mind and Heart.
A few years ago, I decided to attend a local workshop and “learn” to meditate. The plan was to attend this workshop, receive a mantra or whatever and instantly become healthier, increase my focus, and calm my crazy mind in like, 13 1/2 minutes of practice twice a day. That was the promise printed on the meditation workshop website. I was “that dude” at the time before tearing my knees apart. An over-achieving runner, and I prided myself on the hard, mindless work I put in daily. Maybe this mindfulness meditation stuff would help me compete at a higher level?!?
On the day of the workshop, as I signed in and unfolded my freezing yoga mat in the picturesque studio, something began to stir within my mind and heart. I had a warm sense of excitement and anticipation that quite surprised me. I literally had no idea what to expect from this class, however in some “weird” way, I resonated with the people who were presenting the workshop and my fellow class mates – Each one of them had a sense of calm that was palpable and real. I listened attentively to their words and the stories they shared, but it was something far beyond the resonating words that was connecting with me, stirring my soul. It’s as though I had passed through a doorway into a serene, peaceful place where my heart expanded and connected to world spinning around me.
This was the first time that I had an awareness of my mind, separate from the peaceful part of my heart.
There are two ways of experiencing Mindfulness … Mind and Heart.