HOW TO BIKE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND WASH AWAY YOUR OLD SELF IN THE PROCESS

makeshift cue sheet

  1. Dip your back tire in the Baltimore harbor before you leave. Use caution, so that you don’t somersault into the grey-green water.
  2. In the shower at the YMCAs in North Carolina and South Carolina, scrub your ignorance away, hard. You have become dirtier than you think.
  3. When Valeria at the hospital in Georgia wants to hold your hands because you remind her of her granddaughter, whom she hasn’t seen for twelve years, you send her waves of healing energy. You pray that the palm-to-palm contact will wash away her throbbing and endless pain, moisten her dry, cracked lips, soothe the churning hollow of her stomach.
  4. Launching yourself from that broken rope swing 30 feet up in the air will be worth it after you have realized that your ribs are not broken, and that your side will turn from purple back to brown after a few weeks, long after you are out of Arkansas.
  5. Sip water. Constantly.  Even though you’re in Texas in the middle of a cold spell (it’s 94 degrees instead of 100). If your Camelbak has even a single drop of water in it at the next water stop, after 20 miles, this means you aren’t drinking enough. This means that you will also pee constantly. Pee whenever you see a good spot. Better to moon an old Southern couple and go in their front yard than to show your derriere to a million drivers when you can’t hold it anymore and have to go by the side of Route 66, like your friend who will get pulled over by a cop.
  6. Every river, every stream that you see in Colorado, dive in. There is nothing so cleansing as having the Earth’s lifeblood flowing between your fingers, the sound of nature’s wisdom trickling from a waterfall, your ears drinking the music of splashes, mouth making bubbles of breath below the surface.
  7. If the water at the abandoned school in Monument Valley, Utah, comes out of the tap grey, don’t drink it.
  8. Pedaling through the mountains of New Mexico in the rain is the definition of meditation. Another definition of meditation is to sit and let things happen to you.
  9.  David who has had four types of cancer and can no longer speak from his throat will buy you 10 water bottles when you cross the border into California and have another hundred miles to pedal with no other water source in sight. Pay it forward. Give one to the blind man who sleeps by the side of the highway and weaves along the shoulder line, hoping to be hit one of these days.
  10. Run into the Pacific Ocean with your arms thrown wide, just like you promised 4-year old Jayden you would after he showed you his port scar. You will hear the waves murmuring, and you will murmur back, I am home I am home I am Home.

______

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” -Pema Chödrön

This week, I am working on cultivating 3 of the yamas elaborated upon by Patanjali in the Sadhana pada of the Yoga Sutras:

1) ahimsa (“non-violence”)

Ahimsa is not just outward violence perpetrated physically. It can also be negative self-talk (within the mind, or negative talk with others) — talk that ultimately is alienating. Self-harm and self-deprivation – in the form of not respecting our bodies and minds – constitutes violence as well. All this must be acknowledged. My concrete goal for this week is to observe and alter my body language, both when interacting with others (eye contact and giving the perception of being receptive) and when I am alone (good posture!). Today, my phone broke which allowed me to practice acknowledging strangers as I encountered them on campus. I found that most people will smile back if you acknowledge them! That added a warmth to my day. For true ahimsa is ultimately not just tolerance but is acceptance.

2) satya (“truthfulness”)

I want to acknowledge “what is” as an observer – at the end of the day, to reflect and think about what was done, and if it could have or probably should have been differently without berating myself.

3) asteya (“non-stealing” or non-covetousness)

My goal here is to practice entertaining less desires in the context of my daily schedule and academic life, specifically with regards to the outcome of the efforts I put in.

The poem above is a reflection on a long trip I made by bike and is inspired by some reflection on the three yamas. Traveling always grows my mind and turns on its “awareness switch,” and this written piece was an exercise in writing things as they were: a meditation on what was done and what was seen, without judgment.

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