Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go-
Late last year I found myself working and “living” in our fair city, Cambridge, UK. Having fallen back in love with cycling after trying to kill myself running, instinctively I brought a few bikes with me. Riding in Cambridge is not the horror show many would lead you to believe. The streets, bridleways and footpaths this spring and summer have been refreshingly pleasant. I wake early, and not long after that, I’m out finding a pedaling flow before the sun comes up – Bliss! My almost daily rides have truly been wonderful, that is until last Sunday morning.
As I approached a blind corner near the top of Chapel Hill, which runs into a lovely, peaceful wooded path. There was a woman walking ahead of me, and my presence startled her.
“You need to be riding back on Chapel Hill road with the other cyclist,” she told me hastily.
“Good morning ma’am?” I replied, as my unquestionable ‘Murican accent wafted in the still air.
“Why don’t you cyclist follow the rules like everyone else” she replied.
I dismounted slightly ahead of her, and as softly spoken as the world awakening around us … “My name is Jeremy, and I’m out here for the same reasons you are – Peace, kindness, finding equanimity in this mad world. Plus, my bike is filthy dirty … The road weenies don’t like it when I spray them with mud.”
Kate smiled and laughed at my “Cars R Coffins” jersey. I on the other hand, melted, as Kate let down her startled guard. We walked for a short while, then parted ways further down the dirt path that was unfolding in front of us … I had broken into her peaceful temple, and for that I was deeply sorry.
Cambridge, the United Kingdom, Europe and little ‘ole Omaha, Nebraska are desperately trying to “fix” cycling related things. My solution to our (yes our) epidemic of hostility and intolerance involves a fundamental change in the prevailing attitude(s) of each one of us. Kindness, gratitude, honesty and a smile are free 🙂
This is my letter to the world – That never wrote to me-
I used to get upset with strangers who asked me for money, projecting onto to them an inner struggle I felt towards myself for having such a difficult time telling them “not today friend.” Yet each time I’m asked, and with the Omaha Gives campaign coming up shortly, I wonder again, about what it truly means to be compassionate, and my recent encounter with a homeless man in the Old Market has caused me to reflect once again how I continue to fail to live up to my aspiration to consistently manifest compassion, of which I know I am capable of.
It’s not that I lack compassion for the homeless and charitable organizations, just that, my compassion for them remains only a fleeting feeling. I don’t believe giving them money represents the most compassionate action I could take. I say this because the most compassionate action I could take would be to introduce them to compassion and kindness, a practice I genuinely believe has the power to help anyone, in any circumstance become whole, but I don’t do that either because it is woefully self-serving and akin to proselytizing, which I loathe.
I’m not just writing about and discussing homelessness and charitable giving with you. I’m talking about the part of me that believes selfless service is possible and that a selfless person would be overflowing with compassion. I’m writing about the part of me that keeps asking if there really is any greater value we can produce as human beings than to help another person to become happier. Because every time I turn down a homeless person’s request for money, ignore all the insistent ads about Omaha Gives … What I think to myself isn’t that I should have given them what they wanted or desire, but rather, exploring compassion would have given them what they need.
What am I trying to explain when I mention exploring compassion? For me, compassion requires both empathy and sympathy. Empathy involves responding to another person’s emotions with emotions that are similar to your own. Sympathy entails feeling regret for another person’s suffering. Compassion, on the other hand, is caring about another person’s happiness as if it were your own. The struggle I have with my very own definition, is how easily it causes me to mistakenly infer that compassion therefore means: Giving people what they want, well, just because they are bothering me at the market or begging via an online ad or an endless stream of emails.
I routinely find myself incapacitated by the thought of disappointing anyone. And though giving people or local organizations what they want helps, I feel it does not make them happy, it does so only transiently and usually leaves them unimproved, denying them the motivation to take on growth, and in turn, producing new challenges. Also, people quite often want what isn’t good for them. If our aim is to help others become happy and content, then we must apply our own judgment to the actions we’re asked to take on their behalf.
Compassion and kindness – Seva – remains my true path in life, although one I’m able to walk upon far less often than I want. When asked for money by strangers, my typical response is: “I don’t have any cash or change with me – Sorry.” But this is often not even true. I’m certain the reason I lie ultimately comes down to cowardice, though why I’m afraid to share with them the truth is not yet entirely clear to me.
God wanted to make heaven and the earth is that heaven. Nowhere in the universe there is so much love, life, beauty and peace. Enjoy your stay with the fellow beings-
Its Earth Day/Week\Weekend once again, which can only mean that it is time for a torrent of pecksniffian-esque blog posts and woefully self-serving “talk” beating us upside the head with the benefits of green living. Plant a tree, maybe two? Recycle this and that, munch on some kale and drive a Prius. Lament about our filthy ways, buy an Earth-friendly yoga mat and a 100% recycled content bicycle saddle. Peruse green-themed cycling and yoga magazines, grow your own “herbs“, and swap the old light-bulbs, (that work perfectly fine) for the energy-saving ones because the government said we had to.
With the infinite amount of environmental issues confronting our beautiful planet: Global warming, the increasingly trash filled oceans, deforestation of the Amazon Forest, Monsanto and our insistent overuse of pesticides and herbicides? There are far-reaching global issues for us all to feel terrible about.
I spend a lot, and I mean a lot of time riding dusty gravel roads in and alongside the farmlands here in Nebraska. Nothing troubles me more than seeing the signage of a freshly sprayed field with pesticide and herbicide. Pausing for a moment, beer cans and trash bother me more, but this is a rant for another day. From my humble perspective, these “global” issues seem far too vast even to wrap my simple mind around, much less address and take action on. Its only when we, you and I, pause for a fleeting moment during Earth Day/Week\Weekend long enough to acknowledge the scale of these problems and how long it might take, to take meaningful action. I get discouraged, if not pissed off lamenting these global “problems,” and nothing pisses me off more than seeing Natural Ice beer cans strewn along a 100 mile stretch of gravel road(s).
Allow me if you may, to turn my frustration over to the beautiful and inspiring poet William Blake. Blake once remarked: Don’t think big, think small in his Auguries of Innocence. William Blake goes on to eloquently write that the ability “To see the world in a grain of sand, And Heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”
It only takes a moment, a deep breath, a gentle heartbeat during one of these rides for me to shift my attention to a simple grain of gravel on the road or a single Black Eyed Susan sprouting in a nearby field. If I look at a kernel of corn in the palm of my hand, snap another bite of a freshly picked wild apple. If I really pay attention to the parts of the world that are right in front of me, right now? I eventually witness everything I was meant to see.
Do something small with me this Earth Day/Week\Weekend. Over time? These small actions grow into something amazing! If you are curious about my “small” project? Please feel free to contact me/leave a comment and I will be more than happy to share. Take care and have a wonderful weekend!
It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit-
Have you ever stopped at a “stop walk” when there’s no traffic? Waiting patiently for the signal to indicate its safe to cross the street, when out of seemingly nowhere, another almond chai tea latte sporting pedestrian comes along and proceeds to saunter on through? Do you lament, “I’m a moron for waiting!” Or do you think out-loud, “Try not to get run over you jack ass!” These benign and tedious social interactions, offer us a glimpse into our inner “moral police,” and how we spend more time defending our own egos than actually enjoying this inspiring moment in time.
I don’t believe we are abandoning morals in our society as a whole. We still lean heavily on moral arguments to justify our daily behavior (topic for another day … ), although we tend to prop ourselves up on “morals” more randomly, pulling out whatever moral code serves our interests best in any given situation. So how do we begin to tie in morality, which is a painfully tedious and a woefully self-serving discussion. With mindfulness, harmony and surrendering to the moment? Or, simply being?
What ever happened to here-and-now relational responsiveness in our society? Actions that are open-hearted, sympathetic, and not embedded in rigid ideas of the self, and our “personal interest?” Helping the elderly to cross a street or carrying their groceries to the car? Holding a random door open for someone? Waiting at a cross walk, and sharing a smile with the driver, before you both carry on? Its amazing what we can achieve as a society when people go out of their way to help one another with no thought of self-advantage.
Instead of being propelled by an outside force – Morality – Ego – Self Advantage … Allow your heart and spirit to propel you gently this morning.
Only the hand that erases can write the true thing-
Do you want to “train” with a riding partner who is hesitant to think that things will work themselves out fine and dandy further down the road? Or do you want to practice next to a Pollyannaish yoga princess who never, ever – never ever thinks that anything could go wrong during yoga class – Until it does, chipped nail polish and all? Have you noticed of late this “spiritual presence” wafting in the air, pressure of having to be positive, jovial, and enthusiastic every stinking moment of the day?!? Even my Son asked me the other morning if I was feeling excited about rebuilding a Cannondale Headshok that exploded on me recently. “What was that little dude?” I said, “You must be kidding.” He paused, looked into my furrowed eyes and simply laughed. He knew he was trying to manipulate me into feeling “something” I was not at the moment, or he wanted to watch Star Wars Rebels?!?. Anyways, he could not help himself. He just had to give this leaky, broken down fork, a fork that was going to bother me for the rest of the mountain bike racing season, a positive spin.
What’s lost in our “spiritual presence” conquest, constantly needing to be coaxed and persuaded into balance – Is perspective. What is truly lost, is the idea to question the way we experience ourselves and others before we even acknowledge these negative thought(s) or event(s). True spiritual practice kindly offers us perspective. Once we tap into who we truly are, we look at the particular, nuanced daily experiences with wisdom and a gentle heart. We don’t have to take “life” so seriously anymore. Just looking at our inner thoughts and feelings from the perspective of – Being – causes us to find peace and smile. A deeply rooted spiritual practice allows us to observe, allowing the wonders of life to unfold before our very eyes – naturally.
Kids and broken bike parts are wonderful when it comes to offering a new perspective on this “thing” called life.