Steel Bianchi  photo-Richard Masoner

Guest Article: Rule #6, My Sphere of Now, and My Inspiration

Guest Article: Rule #6, My Sphere of Now, and My Inspiration

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@Bianchi_Bob sent his article in just this week. Its sense of urgency required it to be published NOW. We all need reminding to live in the moment; here is a good reminder. Thanks Bianchi Bob. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

Rule #6 // Free your mind and your legs will follow.

There are some rules that just seem to resonate with people. I have mine that resonate with me, and I have some that I just ignore, and that’s OK.

For some reason Rule #7 is a big one with me, as are Rule #26 and especially Rule #65. I don’t really know why some stand out and some I just blow off, but that’s just the way it is…

I do have one rule that I hold well above all the others. It has an almost sacred place in my cycling persona. Free your mind. Free your mind.

Ten years ago I had throat cancer. I dropped from 232 pounds down to 170. After I completed surgery and thirty days of delicious radiation, I felt I needed something to do to get back to some sense of normal, both physically and (more importantly) mentally. My wife bought me a used, steel Bianchi bike, which I immediately fell head over heels in love with.

I had ridden a bicycle since I was a little kid, but this was different. This was a chance to get away from all the mental garbage of sickness and treatment. It felt really good to just float along.

Eventually I got a bit more serious and upgraded to a beautiful Bianchi Mono-Q. True love…

I started riding longer and longer distances, noticing at times during my rides I would suddenly think ‘….you know what?  I haven’t really thought of anything for several minutes now…’  I was just watching the road go by.

I didn’t know it then, but I had entered what I now refer to as my SPHERE OF NOW.

Then came the big test. Three years ago my 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of colon cancer.

We listened to all the doctors and discussed all the treatment possibilities, but we also all talked about the situation as a family and decided that we had no control at all over what was going to happen. I mean, who knows how long ANY of us have. I saw the other day that some guy went to a soccer game, there was a riot (big surprise) and someone ripped a toilet off the wall, threw it over the railing and killed this poor dude! Who the fuck knows how much time ANY of us have left…

We wanted to make sure we didn’t waste whatever time we had on worry and fear. We would try as hard as we could to just enjoy the time RIGHT NOW, and not dwell on the past (Why did/didn’t we do that) or the future (what-if, what-if, what-if).

The worst thing would be to find yourself at the end and realize you had missed most of the middle because you were not there. You were spending all your time worrying about the end.

That would make a pretty shitty bike ride too!

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.

– Eckhart Tolle

My amazing daughter is a natural at this.

She had 12, three-day rounds of chemo and several major surgeries. She fought like a champion with amazing grace and the strength of a fucking OX. We had seven wonderful months where we thought we had beaten it. Unfortunately it came back with a vengeance.

Just a couple months after a clear scan, they found two huge masses in her abdomen. The doctors told us ‘this is bad. For it to come back so aggressively, and so quickly, this is really bad. The chances of a cure are virtually zero…’

Well, that’ll rattle you, hearing someone say that about your kid.

She just smiled and fought on.  Again, she was so amazingly strong. If only I were as strong as her, I would say over and over.

She had another 12 rounds of the nasty chemo, followed by another HUGE surgery to remove the masses. These turned out to be her ovaries, which they removed. Bad news that she’ll never have kids, but good news in that the cancer was completely enclosed in easily removable ‘containers.’

Sixteen wonderful cancer-free months, but then a month ago the cancer returned for a third god damned time. We are scared, and there is worry and anger. We do still feel our feelings, but we continue to try to live in the moment, enjoy our time together, and not worry about the past, not dwell on what may or may not happen in the future.

It helps that my daughter is a fucking BADASS and she can have a massive surgery or a three day round of chemo like it’s nothing.  Her strength, grace, faith, and positive attitude are legendary. Her biggest concern is will I finish on time to go shopping on Sunday night before the mall closes.

So, you might be asking at this point, what does this have to do with Rule #6?

Good question.

I ride to stay in shape physically, but WAY more importantly, I ride to clear my mind. To get rid of any ‘what if’ thoughts, and get back to enjoying the moment. Be ‘in the now’ as they say.  (I wish I knew who ‘they’ were, I’d go ride with them…)

So I start off my rides early in the morning, and as soon as my brain starts to go there, starts with the what-ifs, I immediately dismiss it. Just let it go. That shit has no place on my bike ride. Normally the what-if thoughts return about ten seconds later, but again, I smile, I calm myself, and I gently dismiss the thoughts. Occasionally I will briefly acknowledge them with a quick ‘I’ll deal with that later but not now’ and I’m back to the magical moment of now. Eventually the thoughts give up and I’m left in a soft, quiet, meditative world where my mind is free. Nothing but the soft whisper of Vittorias on pavement. And occasionally a gentle notice of something nice coming into, then rapidly out of my little sphere of acknowledgment. Some beautiful purple flowers, then they’re past me, both physically and mentally. In the early morning sunrise a coyote runs in and out of my consciousness. Oh look, there’s another yellow box from Chicken Express. (WTF?  Do they give people a discount if they promise to throw the box in the road after they’ve eaten the nasty ass chicken??)

I once saw an albino peacock on a ride. I was in such a NOW state that I just looked at it and thought ‘that’s an albino peacock’ and just kept riding. Only a minute or two later I kind of giggled that it brought only that reaction.

I am in the moment.

I am here right now.

I am in the now.

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action. – Eckhart Tolle

Obviously, with a daughter battling cancer, we could worry ourselves to death and play the what-if game every single second of every single day. I told my wife that if we really wanted, we could try to capture all the possibilities of what may or may not happen. We could chart out a big decision tree with yes/no boxes and connectors, but we’d need a 300 foot by 300 foot white board and 10,000 dry erase markers to  even START to capture it all.

I will not do that to my mind in normal circumstances and I DAMN SURE won’t do that on the bike. The ride is MY time. FUCK cancer and FUCK what if. It is my sacred time to release. My sacred time to free my mind and remove myself from all that shit, and remove all that shit from my mind.

My daughter is beating cancer every single day. She just started college and she is loving all the wonderful and exiting things that entails. Every day that she wakes up, smiles, gracefully waltzes through her busy schedule, and lives her life to the max, she is beating cancer. She lives her life to the fullest. Every single moment she is savoring and enjoying completely. She wins, cancer loses. Every. Single. Day. She has beaten cancer every day for three and a half years now and I fucking guarantee that she’ll beat it again today!

Personally, I don’t want to miss a single second of the bike ride by wasting it on regret over past decisions, nor on worry over what the future may or may not hold. I don’t want to miss a single moment of right now on the bike. Free my mind. Free my mind.

I only hope that one day I can learn from my daughter, and enjoy every minute of not only the bike ride, but every minute I have left here on earth.

// Guest Article

  1. I need to go for a ride… and just when I think it hurts too much I’ll know it needs to hurt just a little bit more.

  2. Wow. Truly amazing what we can learn from our kids about being mindful. While it’s nothing akin to what your daughter has offered, my kids have an innate ability to live in the moment I can only dream of.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this out, will be thinking of the two of you when I head out in the AM, ever practicing “be here now”.

  3. Thanks for sharing Bianchi Bob. Inspiring and humbling. The V clearly is strong in your family.

  4. Great,great article….an inspiration.

  5. Thank you for sharing your family’s story. I hope she continues to fight like a girl- with grace, mindfulness and like a badass.

    I find freeing the mind comes naturally on the bike. I wish I could encourage some of the people that watch life through the camera lens of their phone or iPad to put it down and just enjoy the moment authentically. Kids want to see the Johor delight on their parents’ face not the back of a phone instead.

    Being mindful is part of the agreement I have with my class of 8yr olds.

  6. Never…fucking…give…up. Ever.

    Chapeau.

  7. Thank you all so much for your amazing notes. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it!

    -Bianchi Bob

  8. We are Velominati. We ride. We ride it all.

  9. Your daughter sounds like an inspiring young woman, Bob.

    My own family has been through an eight-year journey with my father’s (and later, mother’s) cancer which was uplifting, amazing, humbling and shit all at the same time. Bought us into contact with incredible people, made us think in different ways, challenge our lives. Dad was a headmaster – loved that he could still teach us things so profound, twenty-something years after we left school.

    Wish you and yours all the best, mate.

  10. Your daughter sounds amazing – I hope she wins that daily fight for many years to come. Hemingway I think said courage was ‘grace under pressure’ and it sounds like she’s got made of the stuff.

    And your example of dealing with it is an inspiration. If anyone can read that without a moistened eye they are cold as ice.

    It also makes me appreciate really how little shit I’ve ever had to deal with, and I hope I would be half as good at handling it.

  11. @Bianchi_Bob

    Thanks for sharing such a personal and touching story with us Bob. With the kind of determination your daughter has, and continues to show, she’ll be kicking ass for a long, long time. And you too.

    Ride on mate, in all forms of life.

  12. Your daughter sounds amazing – I hope she wins that daily fight for many years to come. Hemingway I think said courage was ‘grace under pressure’ and it sounds like she’s made of the stuff.

    And your example of dealing with it is an inspiration. If anyone can read that without a moistened eye they are cold as ice.

    It also makes me appreciate really how little shit I’ve ever had to deal with, and I hope I would be half as good at handling it.

  13. Bob, first, Bianchis are the most consistanly beautiful and ridable machines, end! Second, just getting on a bike is meditation and doing it with V is a higher level. Lastly, it sounds like you and the wife have done an increadable job in all departments (she did give you that first Bianchi) and the result, after all you 3 have been through, is a life well lived!

    It would be nice to see an image of your daughter but only if all of you are comfortable with that. She is the one we should draw inspiration from not some finger pointing one dimensional bike rider! I wish her and you and your wife all the best.

  14. With the birth of my first child due at any moment, I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to go through something like this.

    Your daughter is the definition of the word hero, as are all who battle any sort of disease/condition/ailment with that kind of strength and grace.

    There are so many things that all of us can learn from your story. I will be meditating on “Free your mind” for the rest of the day, for sure.

    Thank you for sharing with us, and all the best to your daughter and your entire family.

  15. Hero

  16. @KW

    Here is a picture of my daughter a few minutes after her recent surgery.

    https://flic.kr/p/oUTyDL

    Seriously, WHO LOOKS LIKE THIS AFTER SURGERY!!

    If only I were as strong as her!

  17. @Bianchi_Bob

    I really don’t know how people in your situation keep it together. I imagine I would be a complete mess. But you and your incredible daughter manage to manage and rise above the mire. Peace, love and nipple lube to you all.

    FUCK CANCER

  18. Thank you Bob. I really, really needed this.

  19. Yes, Bob, thank you very much for inspiring us like you have. That is dharma. That is how to live.

    My deep respect and good will to you, your daughter, your wife, and everyone close to you.

    David

  20. Great great article @Bianchi-Bob. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/porter-gale/cancer_b_1861265.html

    Liz, in the article, I’ve known since before she was born. Her mom was a dear friend. A sister really.

    While I enjoy riding with others, and racing (the competitive side of me); what I truly love about riding, is riding alone. Letting go of the worries of life and just being in the moment. Beth knew this, Liz knew it too. You never know where those life lessons are going to come from.

    Thanks for sharing..

  21. @Bianchi_Bob

    @KW

    Here is a picture of my daughter a few minutes after her recent surgery.

    https://flic.kr/p/oUTyDL

    Seriously, WHO LOOKS LIKE THIS AFTER SURGERY!!

    If only I were as strong as her!

    Awesome girl!

  22. Bob, fantastic. Perspective can humble us. Your perspective is an order of magnitude higher. Thank you.

    All the best.

  23. Thanks for putting thing into prospective . Your perseverance through it all is a fight that should never be fought. All the best to your family. By the way you’ll be riding with me tomorrow morning at 5am and again at 830pm hell maybe all week . Cheers

  24. @Bianchi_Bob

    @KW

    Here is a picture of my daughter a few minutes after her recent surgery.

    https://flic.kr/p/oUTyDL

    Seriously, WHO LOOKS LIKE THIS AFTER SURGERY!!

    If only I were as strong as her!

    That is an amazing photo and you can see the strength in her eyes. I see there a potential Mercxx and she may well be the right age to destroy the peloton and be the next Vos Boss. It is incredible to hear through your words how the rides are helping you. The stress must be immense and that time alone to get away from it all must be so precious, I hope and wish for a bright future for you all as a family.

  25. Spot on Bob.

    At about 14 or 15, I heard Dark Side of the Moon for the first time, and the lyrics to “Time” crystallised your exact thoughts in my mind. I always lived every day, ever wary of falling into mediocrity and keeping my hand firmly on the tiller of my life.

    Them when I was about 26, my only son died at age 3. He drowned in a backyard swimming pool. If ever I wondered about wasting a moment, I never did again, having that knowledge that we never know how long we have hammered into me.

    Live every day like it may be your last, even though it probably won’t be, and never spend a day dead, not even for tax purposes.

    These days, I work in Emergency Medicine, and do 14 ten hour days straight on a contract. Apart from seeing a lot of bad juju, I get a lot of what I call “jangle” in my head. My bike, incidently also a beautiful Bianchi Mono-Q with Record/Shamals, always travels with me, and is probably my saviour. After a busy day, I’ll go out at night when the cars are in and the stars are out, and cruise a 40km loop around the river, through the cane-fields. It is better meditation than anything else could be, and keeps me sane and active.

    People often ask me how I manage to survive the long work stints I do, and the answer is, my bike.

    Good luck to your daughter, and may her grace be rewarded.

  26. A brutally honest piece of writing. I love that it has come from a dad, your perspective is inspiring. Mindfulness is something I encourage in the the children I teach. Kids are so much more present in the moment than their parents generally.

    Wishing your daughter all the badass-ness there is. And that photo is gorgeous.

  27. The existential spin on this and tying it to the bike is awesome. Somewhere Martin Heidegger is proud.

  28. @Bianchi_Bob thank you, it is so great to SEE her and her wonderful strength and beauty! That is the best possible image – ever.

  29. I don’t have the words to express my feelings here, but thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  30. My real job when I am not riding my bicycle is to manage a pharmacy serving a cancer infusion center. I will tell anyone that the strength and resolve that our patients have when battling their disease will make anyone else seem like a pansy. I wish Bianchi Bob and his daughter the best outcome possible.

  31. Thanks for writing that Bob, its a great piece and great story.
    Best wishes

  32. VVow, amazing story and makes all the “stuff” in day to day life look insignificant.

    I just rang my wife and asked her to give our two children big hugs and love.

    Will endeavor to be a bit more in “the now” an not stress the small stuff.

    Thoughts across the oceans and keep fighting.

  33. Strength, courage, love. You have no shortage, but know you have mine as well.

  34. As a parent I was holding it together until I saw your daughter’s picture.
    Beautiful. Strength in spades in those eyes.

    Best wishes,
    David

  35. Thanks so much for sharing such a heart warming and deeply personal story. It’s fair to say all our lives are touched by cancer in some way (my wife has had two battles and I lost my mother at a young age to it), and the way your family is stoically dealing with the challenge is an inspiration to us all. I send good karma, and best wishes all your way. Ride on.

  36. @Bianchi_Bob-Thank you for sharing a wonderful piece. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

  37. Dear Bob,

    Thanks for sharing this and putting everything into such a wonderful perspective. There’s a reason this is the best bike site on the internet and it’s because you feel comfortable sharing such a great story with a bunch of strangers. Some people might ask how you can be so selfish as to go on bike rides instead of being with your daughter, but they don’t understand the bike and what is means to us or what it can do mentally and physically. I know from reading the comments that you struck a chord with many of us. You get it and I’ll bet your amazing daughter does too. Best wishes to you, your daughter and family for the future.

  38. @davidlhill

    As a parent I was holding it together until I saw your daughter’s picture.
    Beautiful. Strength in spades in those eyes.

    Best wishes,
    David

    +1.

    Your daughter and my sister would make great friends. My big sis fought a brain tumor at 12, and more at 13 and again at 14. The damage to her mind has certainly taken tolls and limited her abilities in many ways. But her spirit, tenacity, unyielding optimism and love of life make her a hero to me. I watched her fight to learn to walk again as a teen, struggle with diminished learning abilities, but still taking correspondence to make up the years she lost while in the hospital. I can’t help but tear up every time I think of her finally walking herself across the stage when she graduated. She turned 39 this year. 25 years this summer of being free and clear.

    These are the people who have lived Rule #5, #6, and 10 while not on a bike. These are my heroes. My heart breaks because I know not all families with those who deal with childhood cancers are as lucky as my family was. I also tip my hat to the surgeons who save lives every day.

    VLVV

  39. Bob,

    Thanks for your story. Beautiful girl, and still smiling. I wish I had a fraction of her strength.

  40. @eightzero

    We are Velominati. We ride. We ride it all.

    What he said. @bianch_bob

  41. I bet I’ve said it a thousand times if not 10 x that… F*** CANCER… Bob, your daughter is beautiful and awesome and rocks. Best of luck, strength, spirit and everything else for you and yours. RC

  42. Fuck Cancer! Your daughter is a hero to us all!

  43. Hey Bob, that is some pretty humbling article. I’m grateful for you sharing this. I was supposed to cut the grass today, but Fuck it, I’m going out on my bike! Consider yourself inspirational

  44. Speechless…

  45. i would love to ride with you !

  46. Thought everyone would enjoy hearing this: My daughter spoke and a big fundraising event for the Make-A-Wish foundation last week. The event generated over $175,000 towards granting kids wishes. Awesome.

  47. @Bianchi_Bob Brilliant news! Pass on our congrats.

  48. @Bianchi_Bob Wonderful. What an amazing daughter you have.Congratulations to all.

  49. @Bianchi_Bob – Fanfreakin’tastic. What a strong girl you have. All the best.

  50. As a cancer and chemo survivor, one of the few things that could be worse is having it happen to my child. You and your family are doing it with a grace and dignity that I can only begin to aspire to. I try to remember to use Tolle’s ideas of “Time is an illusion, all you have is this moment.”, and when I do my day is always better. Truly well done, Bianchi_Bob.

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