Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IN SEARCH OF BALANCE

Let me be upfront. I’m not sure where this is going today. Like an unmapped ribbon of road laid out in front of me or, perhaps, like a fine single track previously undiscovered or travelled lightly, I’m pretty much just forging ahead  looking for direction or clarity or maybe just release. I’ve had this “bug in my head” for some time now and sometimes I think I have it nailed down and then, just as I start to put finger to keyboard, it flies away like a beautiful Maple leaf with its fall colors as a breeze just keeps easing it out of my reach.

I know it has to do with balance. Some of my professional training recently would lean me toward Mindfulness. There is also an element of personal accountability mixed into this stew of thoughts making electrical connections in my brain. An image that continues to come to the forefront in times of quiet respite is a see-saw.

A see-saw bike

(The cycle as a see-saw)

I know this particular period of contemplation coincided with or just prior to…

my return to cycling after many, many years away. A physical injury from an unlikely and unpredicted source led me to an awakening from an essentially decade long period of somnolence in some areas of my life. In short, I was unbalanced…

My priorities at the time had become over weighted. Work, of some type, permeated my waking and sleeping moments. I recall my graduate students poking fun at me because the class notes I prepared for lectures were time stamped at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning.This is not a new story for anyone. The American culture has often been criticized for too much emphasis upon work and I was by far NOT the most imbalanced person I know when it came to work. Still, for me, I was out of balance. My previous activity levels of a good hour of step aerobics followed by 2 hours of racquetball 3 or 4 times a week were gone – out of sight – out of mind. Those hours were replaced with falling into the recliner upon getting home from work and sitting there mindlessly absorbing our culture as presented by the TV.

So, the injury moved me to do something different. I had to hit “my bottom” in order to change my lifestyle and thus my balance. Now, the Mindfulness aspect of this, as I understand it, would be that I accept where I was in that lost decade and move on becoming more focused on what is around me here and now. This is one of the great gifts and great lessons of cycling. For if you aren’t in the “here and now” while riding, you are going to get hurt when the present reaches up and smacks you back into the moment.

While riding and being present in the moment, I still find that thoughts somehow manage to fling off their suppressions and come to the forefront. Having a wonderful memory of my father one day while riding still brings me joy. It came out of the blue when I was more in balance. I wasn’t carrying my worries with me. I was enjoying a great descent with a warm wind in my face and all of a sudden I had such a feeling of peace and of certain knowledge that my dad was with me.

It is little moments like these that keep me in search of balance. As I cycled more and became more educated about the world of cycling, I began to perceive what I thought was imbalance in the larger society. This led to advocacy and I’ve been fortunate enough to find a vehicle through cycling to try and change my little part of the world. I see the great imbalance in what we say (I don’t want to pay these gas prices!) and what we do as a nation (We don’t cut back our use of fuels. We still drive 1 or 2 miles to the store when almost all of us could manage that short distance on foot or cycle and be the better for it.)

Of course, advocacy can provide you with an opportunity to become unbalanced just as work can give you an opportunity to become unbalanced. More time in meetings after work means less time to ride. This leads me to the next thought in this mishmash of thoughts and that is “what is my personal responsibility?” Certainly I can’t reach out and make people live their lives differently even if it is the result of good intentions. Just as I had to do, people have to come to their own “bottom” and find that they are tired of being on either the low end or the high end of the see-saw. Both ends, to me, represent imbalance.

I’m working on the proposition that the best thing I can do is to be personally responsible for how much gas I use and what efforts I make to live more in balance with the world around me. Hopefully, by being personally responsible, I can  intrigue someone else to try it and then maybe they will similarly influence someone else.

So, here I am today at the end of my path of thought. Maybe I’m back where I started, maybe not. Wherever it is, I accept it as is and look forward to what is around the next corner. How’s your balance?

Until later,

- Zeke

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