Friday, May 18, 2012

Bicycle Diaries of a Big Girl: Meditation, fact or fiction?

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRANDON KNAPP.

Yesterday, I felt like a sack of potatoes stabbed repeatedly by sewing needles threaded with barbed wire. But I got on my bike despite the gnawing pain in my stomach. Needless to say, my focus was not 100%, but once I started riding, my stress-induced stomach ache relented. I started to wonder about the mind-body connection.

Walking meditation, a common mind-body practice, is about awareness through physical movement. It's like "The Shower Principle" from 30 Rock: when your body is on auto-pilot (like when taking a shower) your mind is free to wander without purpose. Because of this, we sometimes get our best ideas or biggest realizations in the shower. But does this translate to cycling? And if so, why isn't bicycle meditation more widely practiced?

Well, because of traffic laws, you might say. Or the greater focus needed to safely operate a bicycle. Maybe you would point to the rules of the road, not to mention responsible interactions with pedestrians and fellow cyclists, which require a certain amount of outward alertness. You might say these things to me, but to that I say: Expand your mind. Follow me on this bicycle meditation scenario.

So you're on a deserted Indy Greenways trail during a mid-week afternoon ride. It's maybe a trail you've ridden every day. Okay, every other day. Okay, maybe once a week if it's not raining and you didn't have Mexican food for lunch. Regardless, every muscle in your body works to create fluid motion, moving both you and your bike forward on a familiar path.

Your body contacts the bike in only three places, making correct bicycle posture a must. Good bicycle posture is different from sitting or standing up straight during other meditative practices. Imagine your hands gripping the handlebars. Your wrists align with your palms. A slight bend in your elbows, combined with an open upper body creates a dynamic shock-absorption system. Your chest, biceps, forearms and fingers all work together for steering and balance.

Now imagine the slight curvature of your back. Your spine becomes dome-like, and your sit bones point straight down and back. Your pelvis is rolled forward as your thighs and calves efficiently pump. And on your pedals, the balls of your feet rest gingerly, connecting the strength in your legs, butt and stomach to the gears and wheels of your bike.

Your entire body is engaged on a bicycle. You feel your breath drop in and out of you, almost in tandem with each pedal-push forward. Begin to focus on your breath, and your mind starts to wander. You stare straight ahead at the trail. The miles pass, but you have no formal attention on the distance you've traveled.

The burdens of your workweek creep into view of your third eye. They clutter your thoughts: the worrisome items on your to-do list, your responsibilities to co-workers, friends and family, the thing you didn't say or said too loudly. But as you continue to focus on your breath and correct posture, distractions melt away.

For a moment, you grasp at your authentic self. Body engaged, mind flowing free with thought, you are at peace. And you have reached an honest-to-goodness meditative state. All while riding your bicycle.

Now my meditative friends, tell me, do you think bicycle meditation can work? Check out more information on bicycle meditation methods, and let me know what you think.

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