Since I practice zazen every morning, and a short meditation at night, most of the time I do it by myself.
In few occasions, now less frequent due to the lockdown, I have company. The Zen group I belong used to get together once a week. And I have a group of friends, interesting women they are, that invite me once a month to a little lecture and meditation, which I enjoy a lot.
So meditation is a lonely business. It’s a personal practice. I am disciplined, I’m constant, I see how I’m doing in my practice. But I meditate with someone who looks after me, or I practice joyfully with friend or path companions. The feeling is different.
And there are those mornings in which I have a different partner, a quiet one, that joins me in my practice.
There is nothing like a bicycle well manteined, clean. Ready to be used with confidence.
Owning a machine brings some responsability. It needs to be cared for. The air pressure on the tires needs to be checked. If you know your bike, you can detect a strange noise on a ride. If you don’t pay attention to it, disaster may come. Little by little, if you let it go, your beloved bicycle may turn apart, you may have an accident on rute, or at least a bad time.
What I have learned from minimalists is that having things takes time from you. That’s why they say it’s better to own only what you need or what you’re ready to care for. A bicycle is a simple machine, but having one gives you a responsability. It is part of life. If you don’t want the nuisance of owning one, you may walk. But you will not experience the joy of riding and keeping a bicycle.
When I thought everything was going smoothly, I discovered it was not.
You know, I was practicing zazen daily, going out in my bicycle, working on my degree paper. But there were some things not really working.
My degree paper was something that gave me a headache. I was stock in my art work. I was not teaching any more. And, why not, a terrible pain suddenly appear: sciatica – the physician said.
I was not having a good time. But I have been in a process of spiritual growth and mental health. I was supposed to care for others and lead them to better living. I should of been fine.
A had to stop cycling. I wasn’t working at all. I was going crazy with my degree paper. I couldn’t wake up on time. I was not feeling well.
One night, feeling awful, but without pain, I sat on my meditation bench, close my eyes, and started breathing consciously. After a while, like a tenuous light, came a thought: sleep well, and when you wake up, do your zazen, go for a ride, and start again.
Next morning, at the sound of the alarm, I didn’t want to wake up, but I did. I went out of bed, did zazen, and got my bicycle for a ride. It’s incredible how a short ride can make me feel! I was happy, I was back again.
Everyone should explore inside, and find out what can make your life shine again. Some have some rituals to enhance their lives, others go to a special place, others take a walk into nature. I have zazen and my bicycle.
Early in the morning, the alarm wakes me up. I go outside to feel the new day. Then, I get ready to zazen.
Everyday I do the same. Now, is it again or always?
Since it is a repeated activity on a daily basis, one could think that the answer to the question is always. But somehow I feel that, with such an answer, the activity may turn just into a repetitive action that is done as a habit.
So what I have found that works for me is, first, to look, and watch the sky, and thank for the day. You know, every time the sunrise is not the same, the colour of the sky, clouds, the way they look or the absence of them, temperature, makes each morning a new experience.
Then, I get the sense of this particular day, of this particular experience. I get conscious of the moment, ang get ready for zazen.
It may be a trick for the mind, but it works for me. The daily experience becomes an “again”, not an “always”.
I’m up and dressed. It’s chilly out here. I try not to think to much, take my bicycle out and get ready to ride.
I start pedalling, feeling the cold air in my face. I see the road ahead. It’s almost empty, just a few joggers and a girl walking her dog.
The night rain left some puddles that I avoid. I love to see the big trees around, the quietness. I keep a comfortable cadence, fast enough but not too demanding on my knees. I keep pedalling until my 3 laps are completed, letting my thoughts come and go.
At the end, the feeling is good. While I do some stretching, a smile shows in my face.
2020 was really something. The lockdown, due to the pandemic, changed a lot of things for all. I had to learn to teach online. I lost dear ones. I learned and confirmed some things of value, like friendship. One thing that I knew and I had the chance to reassure is that I am finite. Life may end in a moment.
I have been trying to declutter. I see images of beautiful clean and simple interiors, but it seems that I am more of a baroque soul than a clean minimalist. I most say, though, that I’ve done a fairly good job in cleaning my mess.
Art has become my main activity, after many many years of teaching. The time has come for me to be working in my studio again.
It seems that writing is also back. It’s not that I’m that great at it, but I like to tell stories, and writing gives me that chance. I’m using a pen name, chosen as a tribute to my maternal grandmother, a great character.
Finally, I am at the last semester of my second master degree. It keeps me very excited to learn new things, that I may be using to work with others to discover new ways of dealing with life and its complications.
So I’m starting the new year with thankfulness, joy and expectation. With projects that will keep me rolling.
What a strange thing is silence. There is always some noice around us. Somehow, I search for silence. Saturday night I was in a house in the country, at the Sierra Gorda. No cars, no voices tha could be heard. But nature produce it’s own noice. A concert of insects and frogs was on. Even though, it was not the sounds I can hear when I’m in my house, in San Luis Potosí. When I meditate early in the morning, there’s already sounds of cars and people. I can seat quietly, and go on my meditation without distraction. When riding my bicicle it happens the same. I go through the traffic pedaling, with full attention on what is going around me, but I’m listening without listening. I am conscious of what is happening, but not holding onto anything. Those moments are precious, an important part of my daily simple life.
Today I was looking at my cat through the window. He was very quite, not sleeping, just being there. At other times, he can be very attentive, following the movement of a little worm passing by.
Suddenly, he may decide it’s enough, and stand up, stretch, and go to wander around. He may find a spot of sunlight, and lay down to savour the moment.
If he’s hungry, he’ll find something to eat, or look for that person who will give him food. He may look after me, just because he wants some company, or could it be that he knows I like him and wants to be kind to me.
If he is feeling energetic, he may go on hunting. Very careful not to be seen, following the movement of a bird, waiting for the right moment for a fast run and a jump to get it. Sometimes he might be generous, and share his pray with me.
At night, he may move around the house, like a guard on duty, watching for an unwanted presence, making sure we are safe. Taking a nap in between rounds until he discover I’m awaken to greet me.
It make me remember what was said by a Buddhist monk: when I eat, I eat. When I sleep, I sleep.
Sometimes I think that there may be people thinking: what is he talking about, bicycles and zen, or meditation?
Well, let me tell you that back in the 70’s there was a very popular book called “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, by Robert M. Pirsig. I didn’t read the book, since I was not interested in motorcycles, but the idea got stocked in my mind.
Then I discovered that zen was not a thing of the temple only, but a way one sees life, and the way we do whatever we do. And bicycling, not racing, but riding a bike, was an activity that allows you to be in the present moment, now, with full attention.
When I started with meditation, and trying to have a rich spiritual life, what I constantly found was the reference of a path. So I had to move, in a direction. Well, I thought, what a wonderful thing! I have a bicycle, I can ride the path. And discovered that, like practicing martial arts as I did, or drawing, I could bike the path.
A few months ago I was in the bookstore, wandering after picking the book I needed, when I spotted a little book: Mindful thoughts for cyclists, by Nick Moore. What a discovery! I was very excited. I bought it and started to read. I have given the book to other three bicycle enthusiasts. I gave the first one, even without finishing the reading, to a new friend, Cecilia. It’s a beautiful book.
At the end of the book we can read: “The awareness we can cultivate on the bike can help us to detach ourselves from desire and entrenched thought patterns and view things more objectively. It’s raining. It’s cold. This hill is steep. I am traveling at 25 miles per hour. That’s it. No value judgement, no good/bad, right/wrong. The moment is sufficient unto itself. Does it need to be about anything else?”
I keep on my intention to review why I have what I have, and reducing what I don’t need.
I have discovered that it is not easy for me. I’m attached to some of my stuff more than I like. I keep some clothing that I haven’t used for quite a long time.
There are, also, some small collections. My VW little toys, pipes for tobacco smoking, 6 bicycles, and old mail stamp one…and a lot of books. Do I need them? No. Do I want to keep them? Yes. Then, what about decluttering and having less?
I think that the object of this exercise is to be able to have less, to get rid of things I don’t need or use, to be conscious of what I acquire, and, most important, not to be attached to things.
In this quest I don’t intend to make an immediate change. It has not been as simple as I thought. So I’m going slow, but going. Specially there are things that I have found very difficult to get rid of. So I’m letting them to be there, until I can manage others.
So far, I’m keeping my collections. I love my bicycles, they stay. But I’ll keep looking in my clothes.