The Late Night Buddhist

Get on your bikes and ride

By Scott Taylor
Reader Columnist

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining a mountain bike outing with four of the many athletic, kick-ass ladies who inhabit this beautiful playground in which we live. I call them “kick-ass” not only because they’re amazing, capable and admirable in their own right, but also because most of them can kick my ass in any chosen athletic activity: mountain biking, skiing, hiking/ trail running, paddleboarding, climbing, etc. (except ping pong — insert wry smiling emoji here).

They had chosen to try biking a trail high up in the Cabinets that was well known for hiking, not so much for mountain biking. We soon discovered why as it turned into a hike-a-bike; the trail was narrow and deeply worn into the bear grass, making pedaling impossible in some places. There were impassable stone steps, tire-shredding pointed rocks and talus falls. In places the trail edged steep slopes where an errant swerve could mean a sudden loss of several hundred feet of elevation, ass-over-teakettle style. I guess it was what serious bikers call “technical.”

It was this quality that demanded precise control of your bike (something I’ve yet to discover; I’m constantly leaving bits of skin and blood on trailside trees, or struggling to keep my front wheel on the ground and out of the huckleberry bushes when grinding up a climb), and prompted my new friend Tammy to philosophize about how negotiating a bike trail is like navigating our way through life.

“You know, I’m so focused when I’m riding,” she said. “I don’t think about obstacles, I don’t look at the places I don’t want to go. I see where I want to be, I point my front tire there, and I go. I wish I were that focused on the direction of my life.”

You said it girl! We can focus on the hazards, cower from the cliffs, curse every step trudging uphill, or we can choose to see the path that leads to wherever we aspire to dwell: success, triumph, peace of mind, happiness.

In Buddhist philosophy the path to enlightenment, liberation and happiness is known as the “Middle Way.” The Chinese philosophy of Taoism — Tao meaning “the way” — also describes a path that leads to happiness and contentment. It was this “Middle Way” that I should have been focusing on when I was bombing downhill back to the cars, trying to keep up with Sue, and struck a rock with my pedal that slammed my knee up into the top tube of my bike. After several minutes of lying in the trailside brush writhing — alternately wailing and moaning — the ladies helped me back on my bike and I coasted, semi-crippled, down to the trailhead, where a cold beer and a couple of Advils soothed the pain.

So whether we heed Freddie Mercury’s — and appropriately, in this case, Queen’s — call to action or travel our path by some other mode, we’re more likely to reach our chosen destination if we focus on where we want to go, rather than where we don’t. Choose happy!

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