Zen and The Art of Endurance Training

by Melody Jean

zenartofendurancecontemporaryseekerWhen road biking, something happens. It’s becoming more noticeable each time I ride. While I push myself physically to keep pace, climb thousands of feet and focus on the road by anticipating what’s ahead and what’s coming up behind; my mind is doing something else. It’s busy conjuring-up some of the most serene images and eclectic thoughts. I’ve spoken to other endurance trainers, who understand what I speak to here; especially runners. It’s as if our minds go on a journey while our body’s face the physical challenge.

The Beauty Outside and Within

The picture here is an actual photo from a recent ride. As I cruise at speeds sometimes faster than 35 miles per hour, or climb hills several hundreds of feet high, I’m privy to scenery all around me that’s living and breathing. It’s gorgeous – from the sun’s warming rays, to mountains on the horizon and rolling hills, to endless fields, crops, and animals ranging in all sizes, from dogs to llamas; I’m often in awe. Yet, the scene in my mind is equally beautiful to which the other cannot compare. It’s mystique and filled with wonder and beauty, which only I can see.

The Images in My Mind

Sometimes my thoughts are mundane. What will I have for dinner? Should I head to the store, or wait until tomorrow? Other times they spring forth ideas at a more practical, different level of consciousness. I’ve been known to formulate concepts for marketing campaigns, which prior to those moments, I had struggled with for days. Yet sometimes my mind goes even further, or better said, soars higher. It’s as if I’m speaking to myself and I develop analogies or sonnets, if you will comparing bike riding to life.

A Blank Place

I would be remiss too, if I didn’t mention that sometimes my mind goes to a place which I can only describe as a “blank” place. At the end of the ride, I’m unsure what I was thinking about at all. But I’m at peace. And I feel good. Even beyond the ‘after exercise glow.’

Levels of Mind or Something Greater

I can’t help but pause and wonder sometimes if I’m just speaking to myself, or if something greater is at work. Perhaps, other levels of mind? Is something higher helping to guide me? Could the eternal light force, or higher energy, really be pointing me in the right direction? Actually pushing me to utilize my own inner workings, consciousness, the higher part, to answer questions that have been plaguing me – from marketing concepts to the biggest mystery of all, ‘the meaning of life?’ I wonder.

Quieting the Every Day World

My father has always said that if I can learn to quiet my mind from the thoughts of the everyday world, for even just a few minutes, something better, sweeter can come forward. I always struggle with this. I’m not one to ‘sit still’ so meditation doesn’t come easy. With biking, I’m still moving, I’m doing, I’m exerting strength, I’m watching out for cars behind me, and gravel ahead, yet my mind is at ease. I go through the motions, and my mind goes on a journey. It’s a Zen of some sort; perhaps my own personal meditative technique to some degree.

Not a Master of The Mind

I’m not a master of the mind by any means, yet I’m accepting of the idea that the mind has many levels if we let ourselves go there. Maybe this is what he means – if I find a way to free my mind from TV, my phone, work, social responsibilities, obligations, and the like, that I will be able to find another part to help guide me. He often says “the answers are within you, you are the door that blocks the way, find the key.” Perhaps I’m beginning to, with the help of road biking.

Consider This

“Life is a lot like cycling, filled with ups and downs. Just when you think that you can’t go any further, because the hill is just too great to bear, you see a crest. You reach the top, and you’re offered a reprieve downhill. This brief descent prepares you for the next set of rolling hills to which you will have to conquer, and the cycle resumes.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny Grulke

I just ran across this post – I’m not sure how old it is, but I am an endurance horseback rider (just starting out) and like your father believe in quieting my mind and being present as much as possible – which is difficult in today’s rush. I want to begin to use these principles while I am training with my horse… it is somewhat different than biking, as I have another sentient being going along the journey with me, my horse. Yet I believe there are many similarities as well. I enjoyed this post and hope to follow along with you as a Contemporary Seeker. (What a nice way to put it!)

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Melody Jean

Hi Ginny — I loved your note, I’m so glad you shared! AND that this post resonated. I purposefully don’t show dates on the posts because these types of things are sort of timeless in a sense. When one is meant to receive a message they do, like you did! I absolutely agree that training with your horse is a form of this meditation activity. Especially, too, because many ancient traditions (like Shamanism) believe that horses are very spiritual beings. With that, it’s sort of a double whammy, I’d say (in that double Zen like). Any moving activity where your mind can go someplace else for a while and get a break from the monotony of the world is a form of this, which you described. I am glad that you will be following contemporary seeker, and I encourage you to comment about your thoughts along the way as you did. Namaste’ to you, my fellow seeker.

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