Or a thin line between paradise and petrified…
I’ve started biking to work – which gives me a perfect opportunity to put so many of the practices of the mind into actual practice. What am I thinking about and experiencing while I’m skimming by the curb? They are right out there, barely covered by my little blue helmet… emotions.
Yes, feelings. Not hermetically sealed, nor air-cond cool, but perched precariously on a seat, with shining silver handlebars and wheel covers, behind a little basket, a light and a bell. Right out there – emotional musings from two-wheeled cruisings…
As I’m careening down the road with taxis giving about .5mm of space on any given side, I feel a bit of fear that something bad is going to happen to me physically. I realise that the adrenaline of fear can be very positive in the ‘flight’ response, directing energy to our legs (important when biking) and increasing reaction time. I also know that after extended periods of fear-stress on the body, muscles tend to seize up and become less responsive over time. So I remind myself to unwind after a ‘close’ call so that I can still be physically alert but not overly tense and immobile.
In many ways, fortunately it is only fear of bodily harm. Many people are debilitated by fear of other ‘deaths’ – failure, rejection, embarrassment… I don’t have that issue on the road, and to reduce my chances of something bad happening to me physically I really have to take off the ‘emotional gloves’ – I may look like an idiot flapping to cars about the direction I’m taking, talking to drivers who can’t hear me to make a connection, or waving a thanks or warning to buses. By making this connection with people, rather than relegating them to just vehicles I’m more visible AND safer. And I’m happy to place the priority of living and thriving over the fear of looking ‘uncool’ in this, and other situations.
“Why do they need to pass and make a quick left in front of me, almost nipping my front wheel???” Argh. I know that when someone does something stupid (=dangerous) I can get into a bit of a huff. It’s not as though they are going to get home more than 15 seconds faster if they cut me off (and if they hit me, it would take substantially longer…). I know that often when I’ve had a fright, I’m really ready for a fight! It not fair, it isn’t safe, it’s not courteous, it’s … tiring. Anger wears me out. So I set my mind to think about programming.
In Canada, all school kids were taught basic bike safety and hand signals, it was a law to wear a helmet there, drivers were taught to look out for bicycles (and I was still doored a couple times). But it isn’t here. I know that I’m shocked with some of the stuff that drivers and even other cyclists pull off. They just don’t look at the road the way I do – we were programmed differently. Now I don’t have to like it much, butunderstanding that saves me from needing to hold on to those negative feelings and fume. If it annoys me enough, I’ll do something about – that’s when anger is useful. I’ll keep you posted on that front later.
You thought I was only going to talk about ‘negative’ emotions, right? Every time I get on my bike, I’m so thankful that my lungs are strong, both my legs work, I can see… the list goes on. While it is a choice for me to get on my little blue 3-speed, I am physically capable of doing it. Thank you thank you thank you.
I’m also grateful to all the vehicles who don’t run me over, and to those who wave or let me through when they don’t ‘have’ to. Thanks again. I think this time on my bike also gives me a space between home and work, work and home, or anywhere in between. It forces me to slow down (even when I like to think that I’m speeding along), and focus on the here and now. And just like any exercise, the deep breaths that I take – in spite of a bit of black smoke now and again – fill my lungs and body with a general sense of well-being. I’ve taken back time (and given myself an excuse) to really breathe.
It’s not only when I’m racing cars out of the light that I feel exhilaration, but I’ll be peddling along and spontaneously chuckle. I feel good and it seems that the act of doing something I enjoy (even though it is for the supposed purpose of commuting) makes it a pleasure instead of a requirement. Priceless.
Now I’m not suggesting that everyone gives up four wheels for two, but once again, I urge you to discover – or re-discover – what makes you happy. I love mind-body challenges, but mental-emotional workouts are also great, exploration on a creative or social front… Whatever adds to your personal stock of energy, whatever keeps you rolling more happily along the path of life…
The key that unlocks energy is desire. It’s also the key to a long and interesting life. If we expect to create any drive, any real force within ourselves, we have to get excited. – Earl Nightingale
May your ride be long, interesting, safe and delightful.
Take care and have a great July, Jennifer