Karen, a fellow Camino pilgrim, came into my orbit about five years ago in a divine manner. She lives in the Wood River Valley so I only see her once per year. On the lucky years it is twice. The coffee talks always last at least three hours but seem like less than one. Last Thursday, I rode my bike to Maude’s Coffee and Clothes for our latte chat. Towards the end of the third hour she inquired, “What is your daily spiritual practice?”
I had to reach deep and replied, “I do not have any set schedule like a 20-minute meditation at 8:00 AM. Instead, I try to lead an intuitive life with spiritual practice being present as often as possible.”
After saying goodbye, I took off for a long mountain bike ride on the White Cloud Trail followed by Corral Creek. They say that the best yoga is yoga off the mat. Many people associate yoga with improved flexibility of the physical body. The spiritual part is to transfer the flexibility to the mind and live a less rigid life. I decided to take this bike ride off the trail and see what life lessons were hidden in each pedal stroke.
To begin any ride, there is some preparation with nutrition, hydration, and fitness. The gears shift much better when the chain is well oiled and free of debris. Daily life requires similar basic planning and always works better with a mind free of fear, hate, or envy.
Most bike trails have rocks, hills, loose gravel, sand, and tree roots. When approaching an obstacle on two wheels, the trick is to look past the danger and keep the eyes focused on the path ahead. These bikes are engineered to roll over many big boulders. We are also designed to withstand many difficult moments. The only real brake is the mind. If you want to get stuck in life, spend all your time looking at some minor bump in your path. Better yet, stop looking forward and look backwards. A guaranteed wreck.
When approaching a steep hill, shift gears in advance and make sure to pace. In my early riding years, I would start up a hill like the roadrunner. Spinning as fast as possible and thinking the momentum would take me to the top. Wrong! Now, I try to go as slow as possible and keep the energy in my back pocket. In reserve for the steeper pitches. Shifting gears with too much tension on the chain will ruin the equipment. When facing an uphill battle in life, make sure to keep a clear head, steady pace, and know that most bad decisions happen when tension is present. When the path is smooth or downhill, practice gratitude.
With years of experience and thousands of miles, the one thing I know is that crashes are inevitable. Accept it and heal. Do not play the victim game.
There are many times that I find myself clutching my grips. It starts with rigid hands and the rigidity is quickly transferred to my arms, legs, and chest. The moment I realize that my knuckles are white I STOP. It is the flashing red light telling me that fear is present. A little time off the saddle allows me to catch my breath and change perspective. We all have in inner intuitive system that emulates the stiff grip. Use yours to diffuse fear.
Karen, I know you read these blogs, so this is how I use spiritual practice in every moment. See you next year!