I have been having such a great time training for the AIDS Lifecycle ride coming up in 104 days. (June is 104 days away - there is hope!) There have been big challenges - training despite winter temps; being patient with my 44 year old body. When out training - and I turn a corner on a hill - just to see MORE hill, I have started muttering to myself, "You chose this, you declared this, you can conquer this." I am finding the whole experience very Zen in nature.
It is about you and your bike - and the road, the miles, the distance, the committment. Its not about getting home at any certain hour - its about the mile you are in RIGHT NOW, no athletic activity I've ever been involved in is so very clearly about the "now" - THIS Hill - THIS mile. It reminds me of the "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - - which describes a a 17-day journey on his motorcycle from Minnesota to California by the author and his son. Free of your MP3 player, car radio, internet (although I do keep my cellphone with me and I've facebooked from on a training ride a couple of times).
Yesterday was such a great example. We all stretched together in a group of 25 or so - then hit the trail. We immediately spread out on our own paces (it's a bike ride not a bike race). We crossed the Golden Gate - which for me was particularly thrilling as I'd never done it on a bike. and as we descended down into Sausalito - we arrived before the city was awake moving between sleepy buildings and unawake pedestrians heading for coffee. I always make a point of saying good morning/afternoon to folks I pass, particularly pedestrians on bike paths. The sun was out after a drenchingly wet day Saturday - and everyone was ready to smile.
As our route turned up Camino Alto Hill - I teamed up with a beautiful woman who is going to college and working in a doctor's office - and we breathed together and chuggged up that hill. It was awesome and strong. :) In Buddhism - Sangha is a word in Sanskrit that can be translated roughly as "association" or "assembly," "company" or "community" with common goal, vision or purpose. and we always talk about how zen practice can't be fully appreciated until you find that community for yourself. Yesterday brought on that feeling of community - that feeling of vision and purpose. The people on the AIDS ride aren't there just because they love biking (some may HATE BIKING actually) but they are there for a shared purpose - we're all raising money for a great cause, everyone's lives have been touched by HIV and AIDS in some respect.
So it was interesting to notice the parallels yesterday between my spiritual place and my training with the bike ride. Going for miles and miles feeling like it was JUST ME and the NOW and then suddenly being swept back up in the community and sharing laughs and stories. I have yet to find a sangha in my personal spiritual journey - but the comradery and feeling on these AIDS training rides (I can't imagine what being immersed in the ride for seven days will be like, wow!) is a glimpse into that I think. I met students, energy traders, bus drivers, retirees, artists and activists in my four or so hours out on the trail yesterday.
My body is getting used to the training - and now I need to overcome some shyness issues and embrace the community on the trail as well; let my heart and soul get used to the training as well.