Episode 28: Biking

I used to do a lot of running. And then my knees gave out on me and told me to stop doing that. While I occasionally run just because it brings me pleasure – now I mostly bike.

I find a great deal of pleasure in this. There’s something about being on the road, wind in your face, pushing yourself into and sometimes just a bit beyond what your body was built to endure, climbing long hills with a rhythmic ticking over of the pedals that causes the muscles in your legs to feel a little burn and the lungs to ask for just a little more oxygen. I love soaring at the edge of danger down the long other side of the hill as the bike navigates the twists in the road and the bumps in the pavement.

I love the knowing grin and lift of the finger or nod that bikers exchange when they see each other coming in the other direction. There’s a camaraderie you feel for and with each other that makes you feel a sense of community with people you’ve never met and may never see again.

I love the long, quiet runs on back roads with little traffic where trees overgrow the pavement and canopy the overhead view, creating shadow and shelter and silence amidst the noise of the city.

I love the disconnect from phone and laptop and keyboard – the digital world that buzzes you throughout the day demanding response and requiring you to drop what you are doing and pay attention. On the bike, you can but give attention to one thing – and that is the effort needed to move you forward safely while negotiating your way down city street or winding country road. There is sometimes danger in this effort, and that it requires attention to detail only makes the experience more rewarding.

I love the feeling of utter exhaustion when you climb out of the saddle feel the taut muscles in the upper thigh and lower back; and then the quiet, almost meditative routine of laying on the ground and stretching, playing back the moments on the ride that gave you the most pleasure.

This bike-riding has become a spiritual discipline for me. When I ride early in the morning, I find that my mind is alive with new possibility. Thoughts, dreams, schemes, and ideas pass through my brain as I try to filter nothing and let imagination take over. Every once in a while, one of those musings actually germinates into something meaningful and doable – and that’s ok. Mostly, though, it is the mind at play while the body is at work. And that’s even better.

When I ride at the end of the day, something very different happens. My mind goes almost numb as it decompresses from the toil of a day’s hard labor and nimble, focused concentration on weighty matters. I need this time to let the body restore its equilibrium. With my psyche in need of some balance, the physical exertion needed lets the mind rest while it takes dutiful control of things. The brain goes on hold for a while and just breathes in the nothingness it so desires.

I am grateful for such moments. Not everybody derives the same pleasure from the experience. I rode once with my wife, and she hasn’t been back on a bike since. Biking isn’t her thing.

She finds other ways to quiet her soul and spirit. She crochets, cross-stitches, does jigsaw puzzles.

How about you? What distractions do you build into your day that take you away from the routine, that provide respite to you heart, soul, body, mind, and spirit? What disconnects you with your toil and connects you with your smile?

Gentle listener, we are all in need of something that differentiates our work from our play – something that shuts the thinking mind off and lets the whole body come alive. As you travel these sometimes weary roads, may there be times of solace and restorative joy for you along the way. And may your whole being come to know the abiding presence of the sacred as you journey Into the Mystic.

Categories: Column Into the Mystic

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