When we wait for our circumstances to transform so that we can finally experience wellbeing, we neglect a possibility: real thriving is an inside job.
A recent bike trip was a great reminder for me!
A few months ago, my husband David and I toured southwest Utah on our bicycles with a group of friends. (What a stunning part of the planet!) We knew a 33-mile uphill climb was happening on day 4 of our 7-day journey. With our panniers full of gear, we’d average a 7-9% incline to our goal of over 10,000 feet, then zoom downhill another 33 miles into the next town. (If those numbers mean nothing to you, suffice it to say this day’s ride involved a very long uphill and a very fast downhill.) I’d set my mind on staying positive and focusing on one pedal stroke at a time in a slow, steady cadence. I’d treat this as a marathon, not a sprint. (Wrong sport, I know, but you get the drift.)
It was a marvelous day! The weather started out cold, yet gently warmed up with the sun as we slowly made our way up the hill. I felt at one with my bike, the world, and myself. It was like meditating on two wheels.
That is, until we passed a sign that said “Cedar Breaks National Monument Visitors Center Soon” or something like it. Without an odometer on my touring bike, I didn’t know how many miles we’d ridden. But the sign let me know we were getting close to the highest point. Now cognizant we’d almost “arrived,” I also became aware that my backside hurt from being in the saddle so long. Ouch! No worries. Let’s keep plugging away …
So we did. We rounded a steep curve only to see another sign like the first one. Hadn’t I just seen that sign? With my mind now fixated on getting there, I noticed my legs were incredibly fatigued and my stomach was growling. I mean, I’VE BEEN ON THIS BIKE FOR A L-O-N-G TIME. AREN’T WE AT THE TOP YET?!? Apparently not. We kept pedaling.
A lengthy stretch later, we rounded yet another steep curve to see a third sign, “Cedar Breaks National Monument Visitors Center Soon.” I yelled, “BULL!” Up to this point my aggravation had only been in my head, but now it was clearly out loud. I felt angry—what dunderheads had posted these silly signs! (As you can tell, my irritation had gotten the better of me.)
After a million more pedal strokes (I’m sure I’m exaggerating!), we rounded another steep curve to enter the Visitors Center parking lot. I ate a quick peanut-butter-banana sandwich (food of the gods for a hungry cyclist) and headed to the overlook. The vista was so breathtaking—and my awe of it so complete—that I totally forgot about my sore rear, aching legs, and angst. (How fascinating!)
On our ride the next day, we encountered a huge hill. This time when I noticed my body and mind begin contracting into frustration, I refocused my attention on the beauty of the surroundings, the gift of my muscles at work, or my breath. A deep sense of flow was there, just waiting for me to tap into it. Turns out that to shift gears from irritation to liberation, the only thing that really needed to change was within me.