@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.
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?
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.