Bicycle Meditation

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“What better place is there to ride a bike than right here, right now?”

I love to wake early on a Sunday morning and go for a bike ride. Unlike the many people who pass me as I plod along, I do not ride for exercise or any other discernible purpose. I have no particular destination, and no time table. I ride just to explore and look at the world, for though I have been exploring and looking for nearly five decades, I still find the world incredibly interesting and beautiful.

I live in a city, and sometimes I ride through industrial areas or train yards, sometimes I ride through residential areas, and sometime I ride in parks or out to the countryside. The distinction between natural and man-made is not of much use to me as I ride along; what’s there is there, and what’s there is what I am interested in seeing.

Occasionally on these bike rides I become utterly unaware of time and unconcerned with distance as I ride. Hours and miles pass by, but absorbed in the sheer joy of exploring the world I lose track. Yet inevitably, at some point, this changes; my legs start to tired, the thought of returning home settles in my head, and then I grow impatient.

In that duration when I am unaware of time and unconcerned with distance, I am exactly where I want to be. The moment that I want to be somewhere else, I become acutely aware of time and distance. Up to this moment the miles passed effortlessly; after this moment the miles are an obstacle, and I am keenly aware of the amount of effort required to overcome them. Whereas I had been completely content with where I was, now I’m discontent.

The 6th Century Zen poet Seng-ts’an wrote “Do not like, do not dislike, all will then be clear. Make a hairs-breath difference, and heaven and earth are set apart.” Perhaps, on these terms, heaven is just to be fully at home wherever you happen to be peddling; earth, what the Buddhist call “samsara,” is the desire to be a little further along.


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Written by Thomas Schenk.


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