Staying Present

Riding a bike in the heat teaches you a lot about staying present in the moment.

35k into a 65k ride, it’s tempting to think about ice-cold Coronas waiting at camp; the floating dock with a slide to drop you into the rolling waves on the Channel; or the shady cedars on the beach.

But if you think about those things, you’ll suffer on the bike. And 30k is a long way to suffer.

If, instead, you focus on the hard blue of the sky; the little momentary breezes; the maples that cast shadows so deep that you plunge into them like waves…then you’ll have an amazing day.

In “Think Like a Monk”, Jay Shetty shared a story from his time at an Ashram in India.

Each day, monks would walk the same trail as part of their exercise. One day, an older monk instructed Jay to find a new flower on the same trail. So he looked for a new flower, and noticed an incredible purple flower that he’d walked past dozens of times without noticing.

The next day, the older monk told him to find an interesting stone on his walk. So he looked for a new stone, and found an interesting orange one–right beside the purple flower. He hadn’t noticed it the day before.

When he paid attention, it stood out so much that he was suspicious the older monk had placed it in his path.

Staying present is a practice. It’s a hard practice, because our brains are wired for distraction. And they’ve been trained (by our phones, by our ruminations, by our attention-deficient interactions with others) to think only of what’s ahead or behind, instead of what’s around us.

But eagerness for something better, and regret for something in the past both lead to suffering.

Staying present starts with noticing: first, your own breathing; then the forces at play on your own body; and then the world.

Sometimes, for me, cycling becomes meditation. Those are the days when I’m doing it right.

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