Paying attention to one’s breathing proved quite simple on the bike. In fact, on some hills breathing was about all I could manage to focus on – as in, keep breathing.
On the flats though, it became clear today that cycling makes bringing thoughts into view quite easy. (At the risk of being labelled a psychopathic successor to John Bunyan I gave each of the thought types a name. Or should that be a cyclopath? Boom boom.)
So welcome Mr. autopilot, who turned the pedals , changed gears and negotiated the pot holes for me. Mr. Time travel was there too, distracting me with predictions of the route ahead, what I should do when I arrived in Lewes and, most annoyingly, with a current count of hills.
He was also busy showing me – he’s a great storyteller – how that conversation would go, and how that meeting would pan out.
Mr. Avoidance began to make an appearance, usually, yes, at the foot of a hill, calling aching legs as witness to his logic.
Finally, Mr. Analyze was frantically rushing in and out of the room in an effort to gauge the gap between whether I was enjoying the day or not and suggesting how that could be changed.
Doesn’t sound like cycling? Doesn’t sound much fun either!
But gradually, over a couple of miles I began to use the breathing rhythm (all jokes aside) as a focus for where I actually was and what I was actually doing. I gently reminded Mr. Time Travel that I would take the road as it came and told him that I would let him help me decide what needed doing once I actually arrived. and I began to just be on the bike, soaking in the sounds, experiences and sights.
Leaves fluttering down beside and in front of me, the rushing of wind (on the downhill) in my ears and yes, the quizzical looks and bleats of the sheep in the fields nearby. By the end of the ride I had also counted up at least 7 places and objects that I had never noticed before on that route.
But perhaps the thing that changed the most was the acceptance of the hills. Yesterday it had been “Oh no, not another hill!” Today it was “Hello hill. Welcome. Thank you for that lovely curve. Thank you for helping me get fitter.”
(It strikes me there’s a larger analogy here, but I’ll leave that for you to ponder on.)
And the result? All in all I enjoyed that ride more than I have done in the past. I arrived sweaty, but calm and without any sense of rushing. I also felt I had begun to realise something of the concept that my thoughts were, after all, trying to help me. I just need to be in control and become more aware of when and how they can be put to work effectively.
Or, to use Mark Williams’ phrase, to practise changing gear.
Well, I’m going to say to the sheep again tomorrow , and to the hills, but as I write this Mr. Time Travel is already fashioning a worthy tale of what could happen if I hit a pot hole, get a puncture or am pushed against the kerb by an itinerant motorist.
Thanks Mr. Time Travel, we need to talk!