Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change-
The first step on this “journey” of mine, was simply getting to know myself once again.
Before I competed in my first Gravel Worlds, I focused on “building strength” and training for the rigors of a 150+ miles gravel ride. A little over three years ago, I was struggling post surgery to get back into my cycling groove, needless to say I felt rather unprepared and woefully out-of-place. The week leading up to the chilly predawn start just outside Lincoln, Nebraska, I tried to imagine all the possible situations and challenges I could, and would encounter, and the associated mindset(s) I needed to adapt to them. I did not realize during the moment, that in doing so, I inadvertently found myself focusing on my true inner weaknesses – on the things that I need to improve, and on the behaviors that have eluded me for so long, that I pushed aside to compete, that did not come naturally to me … Anymore. Shortly after an early August rain shower, and two punctures, I quickly realized that I can allow myself to feel confident about my ability to deal with what the road had in store for me, for my life. Albeit not the strengths the stereotypical Lycra clad/carbon fiber cyclist, a little smile here and there, and a deeply rooted sense of humor kept two wheels up and spinning along into the evening.
Quiet simply, being yourself, being authentic – Is pretty inspiring!
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.
After we picked you up at the Omaha airport,
we clamped you into a new car seat
and listened to you yowl
beneath the streetlights of Nebraska.
Our hotel suite was plump with toys,
ready, we hoped, to soothe you into America.
But for a solid hour you watched the door,
shrieking, Umma, the Korean word for mother.
Once or twice you glanced back at us
and, in this netherworld where a door home
had slammed shut forever, your terrified eyes
paced between the past and the future.
Umma, you screamed, Umma!
But your foster mother back in Seoul never appeared.
Your new mother and I lay on the bed,
cooing your birth name,
until, at last, you collapsed into our arms.
In time, even terror must yield to sleep.
I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?-
How do we retain a balanced centre when all the structures we have centered our lives around appear to be falling away? Lately, I have been personally challenged on multiple fronts: My health, future decisions at work, and at home. In essence – I feel ungrounded.
It is important for me to preface that I had not practiced yoga seriously before, and that I did not understand the benefits a regular practice could afford me. I mention this because I want you to feel that I was, in certain ways, an unlikely candidate to be a “yoga” convert. Nonetheless, I discovered yoga when my friend Rachel instructed me during a physical therapy session (after one of my knee surgeries) to lie on the floor with my legs up against the wall. “Cool Jeremy?!?” she said. “We are going to breathe now.” In breath, I discovered a way to temporarily relieve the nausea like effects of severe pain and frustration, knowing I will never be who I was before. The kind of anxiety that cuts deeply, and shallows your breath.
In the months following surgery and slowly winding down therapy, yoga gifted a pathway for me to experience myself, in my body again. In a rich, inspiring-hued yoga studio, tucked away in West Omaha, lit in the evening with candles, with the sweet scent of Nag Champa dancing through the still air. I learned to stay in the moment, even as I yearned to escape it – To be outside training for the next race.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not escape the memories I associated with the abuse I put myself and those around me through – the warm spring air against my scarred, raw skin. The fact that I was still bruised and bleeding, the pale moonlight that flooded the cool sky at night. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the past and a lot of time wondering about the future. It is much more difficult to stay focused on what is happening right now in this beautiful moment. And still, in a pose, a flowing Asana, I could hold on.
The beauty of yoga is, is that it teaches us, that “things” do come to an end. The process of being immersed in a nurturing space and staying with whatever sensations emerge, and seeing how they come to an end is a profound process. To do this day, as I write sitting and standing due to being uncomfortable with my physical self. It has always been a source of shame to me that I have trouble being – Still – Not competing and comparing myself to others. Through yoga, I can express my true self in a good, a cool kind of way (even as a dude), my tense scarred face eases, and my heart feels wonderfully alive as though I could open it to the world, and I would just … Stay.
Lying on my wide, worn yoga mat early this past winter, I listened to my favorite instructor explaining the path of enlightenment to our warm class. Knowing the limitations of my own attention span, I don’t know enough about them to try exploring them here, but there was such exquisite beauty in her description of being released, unbound from suffering. My mind was scattered as my body was contorted on the grey mat – The whole of me was trying to emerge in this delicate moment. Like a blank canvas before the inspired artist, at first blank, then a beautiful image tremulously appearing.
What I discovered in me, the blank canvas early one Saturday morning, was enough (I’ll never be truly whole, but enough).
In the years since being introduced to yoga and mindfulness, my practice has ebbed and flowed, in so much that I don’t really practice “yoga” regularly in a studio now – the Asanas. Perhaps I will again soon? Perhaps not … Pausing, on second thought, I sit here smiling, knowing my devotion to yoga with immense gratitude for the true and singular comfort it brought to me. Through all of my suffering, the pain, the loss. It is necessary, to surrender, fully, to the things that sustain ones true spirit.
At first I sent you a postcard
From every city I went to.
Grüsse aus Bath, aus Birmingham,
Aus Rotterdam, aus Tel Aviv.
Mit Liebe. Cards from you arrived
In English, with many commas.
Hope, you’re fine and still alive,
Says one from Hong Kong. By that time
We weren’t writing quite as often.
Now we’re nearly nine years away
From the lake and the blue mountains,
And the room with the balcony,
But the heat and light of those days
Can reach this far from time to time.
Your latest was from Senegal,
Mine from Helsinki. I don’t know
If we’ll meet again. Be happy.
If you hear this, send a postcard.
Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know-
Do you have a favorite “thing” to which you identify with? Cycling, yoga, running, under water basket weaving? Listening to music? Flags? Religion? Sports teams? Society is increasingly being swallowed whole by the symbol based experience – I’m a cyclist, a super flexi-wanderlust-yogi, a weekend 5k master and a LvL 5 underwater basket weaver. Dear Reader, it’s time we remembered what we truly are – Timeless beings, trapped in a physical body. How much time do we spend doing “something” that does not signify something else, to someone else? How often do we take a break from our intensely representational world?
When I arrived home yesterday after work, I had the sense that I needed to “tune down” the processed, symbol based day I had so far, to a fairly unprocessed natural evening. I quite enjoy practicing mindful meditation while walking our dog. Thinking of nothing is really hard as the two of us meander along in the rain … “Why are our neighbors hopelessly obsessed with keeping their yard pristine? Oh this is nice! A sprinkler system running during a rain storm! This elm tree is interesting, I wonder how many cicadas are calling it home at the moment? Why are cicadas so damn loud? Really Dude – You are seriously going to pee on their trash bins?!?” I do remember one wonderful meditation experience I had recently in Utah, when I was able to just be aware of my physical self and surroundings, apart from the cultural and the social layering of interpretations the world flippantly heaves upon us. That is to say, I understood what I was as a being, not as a social identity – A middle-aged white male from Nebraska. Someone who is often associated with competing because I enjoy riding a bike and racing. Some dude who goes to yoga class to be “seen” … This experience was wonderfully freeing, and when I ended my session, I felt that I had returned to my life, – Being, with a renewed sense of energy, because I was choosing to take up my name (Jeremy), and eschewing everything else that society neatly fits me, us into. In stillness, I placed my name down for a short time, laid down all the symbols that help me process and live in this cruel world, and for a moment, I was able to just – Be.
I said aloud to our dog as we stepped back inside – “My identity ultimately does not depend on these “things” in order to exist.” He looked at me inquisitively and proceeded to lick his belly.
The real world, a world without symbols, mass shootings and senseless violence. The world outside of “whatever”, outside of our roles? Is more splendid than we know it to be.
Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. then your love would also change-
When I was a young lad, my next door neighbor shared with me, that the phases of the moon tend to make people crazy every 29.532 days, or so, or whatever it reads on the calendar.
She lamented, that it was caused by the gravitational pull of the moon on the Earth, the same tidal forces that cause high and low tides in our nearby lakes and streams, the argument being that our bodies are more than 45-73% water, and being composed mostly of water, we are thus influenced by the moon.
I was impressionable and fascinated by her voodoo science, seriously, who isn’t at that age? Having long since stored this tasty nugget of information into the darkest folds of my “brain“, the new moon last night, and a dear friend, reminded me of this theory and awakened my curiosity to do a little more research of my own.
Does a new moon, or any moon? The Death Star?!? Really have a measurable effect on our Being?
Before we turn into forest sprite’s and start dancing around the campfire, we need to define what a “full moon” or “new moon” really is. The moon-thingy revolves around the Earth, and this Earth-thingy revolves around the sun, which is gently rising in the East this morning – Let me know if this ever changes! The phases of the moon, simply represent the portions illuminated by the sun.
Now we can start dancing, for you see, all of this motion creates a very dynamic display for us forest sprite’s and werewolves – The moon dancing in the sky. So when you see that little sliver slice of heaven up above, or not, the rest of the moon is still there—the sun’s rays just aren’t reflected on the surface we are witnessing.
The full moon, new moon or any moon, may or may NOT be causing any mini gravitational tides in our slushy, water filled bodies. The extra light, and the lack of light, is literally messing with our heads, somehow, and seeing that this is not a research based science blog … Truth be told, we’re likely just being paranoid and superstitious. Or perhaps those who claim “lunacy” are those who transform into cheeky little forest sprite’s and hairy werewolves a handful of times during a calendar year – 365.242374 ish days.