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!
What day is it? “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. My favorite day,” said Pooh-
My acts, these posts, are not necessarily random but they are based on kindness and service.
Seva, above all else, has been essential for my transformation, personal growth and for tapping into my creativity (little what’s left of it). At every step of my journey I have felt the need to be sharing in some shape or form with you. I have believed from the very first post that it’s important to see that we are all in this together, it’s not about acquiring more stuff or taking care of what you have, it’s about actively contributing to the whole “thing” I like to call Life.
Life, all the beautiful beings we consciously choose to ignore, the furry cute little creatures, plants and even mother earth, we are all in a symbiotic relationship with one another. When we step outside of our ego driven selves to take time to give, to contribute, to listen, to love, to heal, to teach, to be compassionate in our daily action(s) for all forms of life? We are expressing mindful love through Seva. As we take time each and every day to become more mindful of our thoughts, words and actions we begin to take a breath of unfettered mindfulness. This breath allows us to slow down, to pause, to listen and not react to the little things spinning around us or being trampled under foot.
When we act with mindful love guiding ourselves, we bring the best out of those we interact with on a daily basis. Winnie the Pooh once said “Beings are like honey pots, those that get the most mindful attention yield the sweetest of honey.” Action and reaction -aka- the Law of Karma begins and ends with how we mindfully care and love after our own gardens first <— This is critical, and then learning that through Seva, we can bring forth the best in all the beings we live with.
Some, many folks, try to express mindful love through “pay it forward campaigns” – “social media pats on the back” and a “look at my loving attitude,” self-serving way of living. Seva is as simple as sitting down with a friend after yoga class who is going through a difficult time, cleaning out your cluttered closet and giving what you haven’t worn in five years to a local homeless charity, volunteering at a local animal shelter, or working in a food kitchen for a day. If you don’t have time for this? Then maybe consider donating to a charity or organization that makes you smile and your heart gently glow. The Action and Reaction – The Law of Karma – isn’t as important as the feelings of love and kindness behind it. When the right energy is sent with the most humble of gift(s), the world can simply multiply your actions a million times over.
I encourage each and every one of you taking a moment to read this post, to embrace Seva. May kind, and compassionate thoughts spring forth from your heart this weekend – Take care and be well!
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.
There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors-
Recently I have been reading some old posts and drafts that were never tidied up, and there is one in particular, I would like to share with you again … When the time is right. At the time I was still exploring and awaking to my true path in life. I was crass and rude then, cocksure and quite frankly – mean-spirited. Competition and ego oozed from my pours, and I was not a very pleasant person to be around.
Life has thrown me a series of off speed pitches of late, thank you for understanding the lack of posts and my absence. I hope each one of you reading this morning has a wonderful weekend – Take care and be well!
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.
Don’t mistake activity with achievement-
The importance of selfless service can be found deeply rooted in our local communities.
My heart has been wanting to share my dedication to selfless service for some time now. Recent world events, a few long bike rides and the time I spent attending the Citizens Academy for Omaha’s Future has allowed me to collect my thoughts to present to you here. I have so much to share with you, I have finally decided that now is the time to pour my heart out. There still are some lingering thoughts that trouble me: Is it truly possible to give to others without expecting anything in return? To cast my pride and ego to the side? And of course, yesterdays post addressing compassion.
Recent world events in Nepal and locally have got me thinking about the “behind the scenes” act of charity. I think we can all agree that on its face, charitable giving is fairly noncontroversial. Agree?!? Someone is in need, we sense their pain, and we lend a helping hand in return. Over the years, we have developed the ability to respond to subtle cues in others, not only intuitively, but emotionally. We are literally tuned to feel empathy, to experience someone else’s feelings as our own. Our capacity for empathy is so deeply ingrained in our being, that we respond not just to actual suffering of living beings but to representations of suffering as well. Remember in the Star Wars movie when Luke Skywalker had his hand cut off? Old Yeller anyone?!?
Charity, empathy and harmony are in our genes. And yet charitable action, as personal habit, has some dubious, counterproductive features. First, our charitable impulse tends to be reactive, not proactive – The homeless man on the street and the charitable begging of Omaha Gives. We are “all-stars” when responding to the disaster that recently happened, not at preparing for the one yet to happen. How many of those who donated recently to Nepal’s victims would have contributed similarly to an effort to bring their antiquated infrastructure up to code years before the quakes ever happened?
Because we depend on raw emotion to spur us to give, our giving is susceptible to the many distortions that beset perception at hand. Every second of every day around the world, there are countless people in need, hungry and wounded and homeless. Just like those in Nepal, here in Omaha and a community near you. They are quite frankly, non-events; tedious and boring, and boredom does not elicit the empathy required to motivate charitable giving.
While charitable giving will always be necessary, I argue that, morally, if the life of a devastated family in Nepal is really as worthy as the life of a family in Omaha, Nebraska, then that life should not depend on whether someone in West Omaha rolled out of bed in a charitable mood; should not depend on the viral appeal of the Omaha Gives media blitz. Should not depend on whether that family’s suffering has been successfully bundled into a sufficiently sexy narrative about the latest “spectacular” disaster on another continent.
Instead of patting ourselves with compassion and kindness on our backs, as we click “donate now” for the poor people in Nepal, we should ask real questions about our own individual process of compassion, and whether better ways exist to harness it for genuine, love soaked good. Through further soul-searching, I found that you must be in a selfless frame of mind before engaging in selfless service, or your efforts may be tainted and off-putting.
This is my letter to the world – That never wrote to me-
I used to get upset with strangers who asked me for money, projecting onto to them an inner struggle I felt towards myself for having such a difficult time telling them “not today friend.” Yet each time I’m asked, and with the Omaha Gives campaign coming up shortly, I wonder again, about what it truly means to be compassionate, and my recent encounter with a homeless man in the Old Market has caused me to reflect once again how I continue to fail to live up to my aspiration to consistently manifest compassion, of which I know I am capable of.
It’s not that I lack compassion for the homeless and charitable organizations, just that, my compassion for them remains only a fleeting feeling. I don’t believe giving them money represents the most compassionate action I could take. I say this because the most compassionate action I could take would be to introduce them to compassion and kindness, a practice I genuinely believe has the power to help anyone, in any circumstance become whole, but I don’t do that either because it is woefully self-serving and akin to proselytizing, which I loathe.
I’m not just writing about and discussing homelessness and charitable giving with you. I’m talking about the part of me that believes selfless service is possible and that a selfless person would be overflowing with compassion. I’m writing about the part of me that keeps asking if there really is any greater value we can produce as human beings than to help another person to become happier. Because every time I turn down a homeless person’s request for money, ignore all the insistent ads about Omaha Gives … What I think to myself isn’t that I should have given them what they wanted or desire, but rather, exploring compassion would have given them what they need.
What am I trying to explain when I mention exploring compassion? For me, compassion requires both empathy and sympathy. Empathy involves responding to another person’s emotions with emotions that are similar to your own. Sympathy entails feeling regret for another person’s suffering. Compassion, on the other hand, is caring about another person’s happiness as if it were your own. The struggle I have with my very own definition, is how easily it causes me to mistakenly infer that compassion therefore means: Giving people what they want, well, just because they are bothering me at the market or begging via an online ad or an endless stream of emails.
I routinely find myself incapacitated by the thought of disappointing anyone. And though giving people or local organizations what they want helps, I feel it does not make them happy, it does so only transiently and usually leaves them unimproved, denying them the motivation to take on growth, and in turn, producing new challenges. Also, people quite often want what isn’t good for them. If our aim is to help others become happy and content, then we must apply our own judgment to the actions we’re asked to take on their behalf.
Compassion and kindness – Seva – remains my true path in life, although one I’m able to walk upon far less often than I want. When asked for money by strangers, my typical response is: “I don’t have any cash or change with me – Sorry.” But this is often not even true. I’m certain the reason I lie ultimately comes down to cowardice, though why I’m afraid to share with them the truth is not yet entirely clear to me.