by Linda Anderson Krech
Gregg and I took our second bike ride of the season together last night. In previous years we would start biking in May or at least June, but this year is not like previous years. On that we can all agree.
I am thrilled to be biking again. For one thing, I feel like a kid when I bike. My worries can’t keep up with me when I ride, so I feel free and untethered. And biking also offers a portal into a precious sensory world that I treasure.
As I began riding down our driveway last night, and felt the gravel road beneath my wheels and the breeze on my face, I couldn’t help but smile. After a sedentary day spent inside, focused on my computer screen (including the latest virus graphs and most recent display of corruption), I was eager to disappear into the natural landscape and the sensory world that surrounded me.
When you’re on a bike, you have a different way of being in the world. By virtue of the fact that you must pedal in order to stay upright, you are forced to be in your body. That in itself is a gift, since many of us live in our heads, as though we are just walking talking thinking planning heads. But when biking, your body is infused with vitality as you exert your muscles and use your balance to travel, self-propelled, through the world.
But it is the sensory connection that I love most about biking. The sound and feel of the dirt road beneath my wheels. The beautifully stacked wood pile near a porch that we pass, and the nostalgic smell of freshly mowed grass all around. Yellow butterflies playing with us throughout the ride, chicory and red clover along the side of the road, and the mysterious song of a wood thrush on the way home. As I open myself to these experiences, I receive an emotional and spiritual reset.
Where can you experience a rich sensory connection in your neck of the woods, or your corner of the city? Whether you ride a bike, walk around, or sit on a park bench, bring your presence of mind to the experience. It’s more about the vitality in your eyes and ears, the curiosity in your mind, and the appreciation in your heart than it is about the environment you’re in. But first you must create opportunities for such sensory salvation, even when you are anxious and have problems.
And yes, we do have some daunting problems to contend with. All the more reason to connect with the world in a vibrant way. In the face of our challenges, we need to soothe our souls and reconnect with the beauty and wonder of life. But the magic of life will be lost on us if we ruminate. We must keep coming back to the reality of the moment. We must do our part to receive the present.
The natural world has no reaction to the stock market or the WHO announcements. It doesn’t care about the Supreme Court or abuse of power. The natural world, untainted by the news of the day, can help to keep us sane, but only if we embrace it with our full attention. May we all find a way to draw strength, wisdom and comfort from our sensory connection with life.
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 25 years.