Biking, Buddhism, and the Body-Mind Connection; PART 1 Beginner’s Mind and Eliminating Obstacles to Success
In my studies of Buddhism I have read many times that “to begin properly, you must first cultivate “beginner’s mind”.
I find this true in all aspects of life. This is true when seeking out enlightenment. It is also true when trying to get enough exercise now while you’re still young so that you won’t be a complete wreck when you’re 90 years old.
Knowing enough to realize that you don’t know enough yet.
In my journey to establish and maintain a baseline for healthy living, I have exercised this concept of beginner’s mind many times. I embraced beginner’s mind when I was open enough to realize that I had to learn a few things first if I wanted to live a better, healthier life.
I made conscientious decisions to not smoke, not drink too much, to become a vegetarian, and to get a little bit of exercise when I can. Each of these decisions required a little bit of thinking, and quite often hard work. I watched documentaries, read books, and checked out websites to educate myself on my decisions. I rolled up my sleeves and got sweaty. I frequently failed, made mistakes, learned from them (most of the time), and made adjustments to my lifestyle.
My most recent evolution in lifestyle involves bicycling for health and environmental reasons. While I basically spent my entire childhood on BMX bikes, I hadn’t really learned what it means to be an adult on a bike.
The beauty of biking is that it is so elemental, so intuitive, that there isn’t really anything you need to know, you just need a bike to ride. It truly is a revolutionary, proletariat activity. But there is also a science to biking that I was never aware of. So I am back to beginner’s mind.
Getting a decent bike is definitely one of the biggest steps. I learned that after years of crappy bikes, nothing beats making the investment in getting a real bike. Getting that bike properly adjusted is important. After weeks of riding daily, I got the bright idea to raise my seat 3 inches and overnight my calf muscles went from knotted, angry masses of stiffness, to being balanced properly. My thigh muscles aren’t as tense, and my back is not so stressed. Other things I’ve learned the hard way have also improved my situation. For example, a water bottle is crucial in helping me perform better and recover faster. The proper clothing makes a difference. Now I take a bag with a change of clothes to work and just go ahead and sweat up my bike clothes. A quick change when I arrive and I look and feel ready to work.
Not knowing what you can’t do goes a long way toward keeping you from getting discouraged.
In my experience, the biggest factor in achieving any of my modest successes has been due to beginner’s mind. If I had known how much work it was to make that 10 mile trip to work …at 6:30am… in the dark….in the snow… I would have said “forget it!” Not knowing what it was really going to require to be successful, I simply got on my bike and took off down the road. Once I was on the road and realized that I hated the situation that I was in, I saw that I had already gone too far to turn back, and I forced myself to deal with the situation and be successful. Having made that first trip proved to me that I was capable, even if it was a crappy experience. Thus, beginner’s mind removed an obstacle for me.
- Why did Bhodidharma go to the West? (West Michigan, that is) (analogmutant.wordpress.com)
- Seven Bicycling Tips For Beginners (or Re-Beginners) (blogher.com)
- Biking in the City (brodyleven.com)