Tuesday, July 30, 2013

searching for epiphanies

you might consider this a follow-up to imperceptible and incremental . . .  the concepts are connected in my mind, at least, and hopefully by the end of this, yours as well.

I love a challenge.  I love to stretch and grow and push just a little bit further than I've been before.  I like to learn new things.  I love to incorporate new knowledge, to take it in, absorb it, make it a part of who I am, adjusting myself just a little bit with that process.  this applies to Big Things like taking a class or taking on a new project I've never before done, and Little Things, like learning a new fact about an old friend, or looking up a word in the dictionary to find it has a meaning different from what I knew.
even this morning, watching the sky change from dawn to daylight, seeing a few pink clouds high up in a sky of blue with fluffy white clouds, changed me.  I now hold a new vision, a new memory of sunrise, in my mind, which forever adjusts the me I was before that sunrise.
it's possible to walk through the world without paying attention.  but life is ever so much better when you learn how to be aware.
of yourself, of others, of the environment surrounding you.  of sunrises and breezes and critters that scamper through shrubs.  of what other people say and do.
maybe not of the media.
aware of your body and how it functions, when it feels best and worst, and how it's different when you stretch it, gently.

and here's the tie-in to imperceptible and incremental:  being aware brings you subtle gifts.  rarely do we receive Lightning Bolt Thoughts or Observations;  more often it's a small understanding or recognition that clicks or simply brings a smile to your face.

I've spent plenty time searching for epiphanies.  I want the next "ah-ha" or a Lightning Bold Realization.  I want to cry Eureka! or discover something never before understood.  (especially when it's time to write a new blog post . . . after writing 982 posts on this site I beg the universe for new, creative, enlightening thoughts to share with you all.)
and this is what I've learned:  epiphanies do happen, but not on my schedule.  they come when they come, and my job is to be open to listening, observing, and absorbing the message.  they often come in little teeny things, and only occasionally in anything large.  sometimes I have to dig for them, and separate the epiphany from the chaff.
and just like the imperceptible, incremental change that moves us forward, these small, seemingly insignificant little awarenesses do the same.  with each new awareness we shift and grow, moving further along our path.

you can live your life planted firmly in what you know and what's comfortable.  you can refuse to accept new information, you can stay exactly where you are forever;  this is a choice that is yours alone.

but if you decide you want to step forward, to see what might happen with a little bit of change, the world will open itself up for you.  it's when you decide to become more aware that you fall in love with what's truly available for you.  it will teach you patience, though, because there are few Lightening Bolt  Thoughts along the way.  more often you get pink-tinged clouds and solitary dragonflies, the occasional iridescent-winged hummingbird.
but stick with it.  it's worth it.  because when you add up each little piece, each cloud and bird and owl and smile and hug and intimate conversation, you suddenly have a world of delight.
one crescent moon at a time, you will imperceptibly and incrementally move toward what, in hindsight, will be the greatest epiphany of your life.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

incremental and imperceptible

yesterday evening john and I attended an outdoor dinner function that began at 5 pm.
at 5 pm it was 100 degrees.
the function was in someone's backyard, and they'd set up huge table umbrellas to block the sun, but there were gaps between umbrellas and as the sun moved, stripes of sunlight moved across people's faces and bodies.
one woman kept getting caught in those strips of sunlight, which she tolerated with a cheerfulness I could only imagine:  I was dripping sweat and drinking glass after glass of water, remaining overheated and somewhere between uncomfortable and miserable.
a bit later the sun had dropped lower and the air seemed just a little less full of heat.  the sunlight-striped woman commented, "I feel just a teeny bit less hot, like this much," as she held her thumb and index finger next to each other, with room for not even a piece of paper to slip through.
we all laughed.

this morning on my bike I began thinking about change.
I'm a better rider than I was seven years ago when I began cycling, but the process has been so slow, the increments of movement so slender, that I couldn't begin to tell you how it happened.  it's as if each time I rode I got a half a piece of paper better---which sounds negligible---but after 150 times on the bike, that stack of paper is a good half-inch thick.

as with most things in life, change--movement, progress--is slow.  with many things we are excessively grateful it's this way (say, aging, watching your children grow up and move on, having your hair turn gray, and so on).  yet sometimes we're impatient.  we want it now.  we want to work at it and then reap the reward, not work on it for 5 years and THEN reap the reward.
but it just doesn't work that way.
it comes slowly, it comes in little incremental changes so slight they're usually imperceptible.
it usually happens that when we master a new skill we don't even realize it's been mastered until we're on to the next challenge.
it's the rare person whose hair turns gray overnight:  it's the even more rare person who moves from "not able to do it" to "doing it well" in a single day.

so each day I go out and get on my bike.  some days I push hard, some days I'm grateful to reach the top of the hill without collapsing.  some days I take on huge challenges and some days are recovery days.  I'm unable to see myself improving.  and even more importantly, I will someday reach a point where I will no longer improve but will start to lose strength and endurance.  and luckily, that process will be incremental, too, with changes so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.

life moves in both directions, and we're simply here to do our best, as often as we can possibly do it.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

double triple, or the hexa

let me tell you about the double triple.  we could call it the hexa, but for some reason double-triple sounds more fun, and is actually the official name, anyway.  hexa would just be my own little nickname, and it just isn't as cute or as fun to say.
if you're confused, I apologize, and I'll stop now and get to the point.

there's a well-known and popular ride in colorado called the triple bypass.  it's been around for 25 years now, and draws approximately 3500 riders.
the ride begins in evergreen (elevation approx 7800') and goes up and over 3 mountain passes---juniper (11,140'), loveland (11,990'), and vail (10,560'), with nice big valleys between the 3.  the ride ends in avon, colorado, with a total elevation gain for the ride of about 11,000 feet.

and then because that isn't enough, some people turn around the next day and ride back to the start in evergreen, up and over those same 3 passes, another 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

one way is a triple bypass; both ways is the double triple bypass.

at a party last january a group of my biking friends decided it would be fun to register for the double-triple bypass, and john went along with the flow and signed us up . . . I've spent the past 5 months knowing that come july 13-14 I was going to be riding the toughest thing I'd ever done.
finally, about a month ago, I started visualizing myself at the end  (woo hoo!!), congratulating myself for having completed the hardest back-to-back rides of my life.  and somehow, this got me through, and last sunday at 3:35 pm I was DONE!

let me tell you more about the double triple.
it's hard.
it's very hard.
I've never ridden so much at those kind of altitudes, and I think this makes a significant difference.  in utah, the highest peaks I hit are around 9,000 feet, which means the bulk of my riding is well below that.  in colorado, we were never lower than 7500 feet, and spent about 70 miles (each day) above 9000 feet.
muscles just don't work the same way at those higher elevations.
nor do brains.

in addition, most of the people who ride this ride are quite fit, and I was humbled time and again.  I have never been passed by so many people.

oh, but it's beautiful.  beautiful.

and I'm done.  I'm not fully recovered yet, but I am done.  I've completed the toughest thing I've ever done on a bicycle, and I am so very, very thrilled that it is now behind me.

woo hoo!!

maybe next january you'll want to sign up for the double triple bypass.  hey, it's beautiful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

the art of not listening to yourself

sunday morning I awakened tired.  I sat on my couch sipping coffee thinking that I was exhausted and my knees ached and I would probably never ride a bike again.  or at least not that day.
halfway through my cup of coffee I started thinking about what time I might leave, and what route I would take, and if my legs would make it.

and then I got on my bike.

I rode up emigration and down to the reservoir, then started up big mountain.  it wasn't until I had about 15 miles in that I finally decided I was capable of riding, that I was actually going to make it to my destination and back home.

the entire first 15 miles were a battle between competing thoughts:  I can do this, I will do this, I am fine . . . and there's no way, I'm not going to make it, I should turn around now.

to be honest, those latter little thoughts pop into my head just about every ride.  they begin while I'm sitting on the couch contemplating a ride, and they niggle away at me until I'm well, well into a ride.  and what I've learned is that I simply can't give in to them.
that's all there is to it.
if I gave in to all of the "I can't, I don't wanna, it's too hard" thoughts that pepper my mind, I would never do anything challenging.  because they are always there.

therefor, I call it the art of not listening to yourself.
the art come in with the separation of empowering thoughts from those that disempower and turn us into couch potatoes.  the art is in choosing to pay attention to thoughts of how you truly want to be, what you truly want, who you are deep down in beneath all of the muck that we collect as we move throughout the community, state, world.

I work hard not to listen to the "no way" thoughts.
and my new trick is to do what coaches and trainers have been telling athletes to do for decades:
visualize yourself at the finish line.
I picture myself throwing my arms up in exultation, looking and feeling thrilled and awesome, tucking one more success under my proverbial belt.  I visualize myself feeling great, not dragging myself over that end point.  I visualize myself ending with gusto.
and it seems to work.

so I'm continuing to strengthen my art.  I am not perfect, but I'm tired of those "I can't, I donwanna, it's too hard, I'm not good enough" thoughts.  it's time to move onward.  I am capable, I am strong, I can do whatever I set my mind to.
life is not long enough to waste any time on negativity.

so join me in visualizing the end results.  bravo!  brava!  woo hoo!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

the bear I didn't see this morning

halfway up the canyon this morning I saw a deer in the road not far before me.  I slowed down, and it stared at me, watching me approach.  then it glanced to my left and I looked there, too, up the hillside to where two more deer stood watching the tableau.  then the deer in front of me trotted over to her friends--one of them a spike, it's velvet antlers still stick-straight and seven or eight inches tall--and I bid them a quiet good morning before slowly pedaling off.
what a great beginning to a day.  it makes up for the headwind, the tired and grumpy muscles, the sweat, the gnats that crash into my eyes and cheeks and mouth.
when I turn around at the reservoir, the headwind becomes a tailwind, and the rest of the ride ranges from less-difficult-than-the-first-half to pure joy and fun.
on the way down from the summit I told myself that if I saw biking buddy bob coming up the hill I would turn around and ride back up to the top with him (I know his schedule, and knew that I would encounter him within the next mile or so).  so when his bright light alerted me to his presence I slowed, turned around, and rode back up to the top with him.
at the top, a gentlemen I see regularly was resting, and the three of us exchanged good mornings, and then he said,
"did you see the bear?"
excuse me?  the what??
"there was a bear down below, oh, about half a mile past the fire station."

I began mentally composing today's blog post, titling it "the bear I didn't see this morning."
how could I have missed out on seeing a BEAR?  unreal.  I look everywhere, I'm pretty vigilant about critters . . . oh, I was devastated.  he got to see a bear; I didn't.  sigh.

so bob and I began our descent, mostly riding side by side, talking, hoping against hope for a safe-and-non-threatening bear encounter.
we were chatting about his wedding anniversary and this and that, keeping an eye out for lumbering quadrupeds, when all of the sudden a lumbering brown quadruped startled and ran, not 8 feet from us, along the side of the road, turning into the space between two homes.
a bear!!!
I saw a bear this morning on my bike ride!  holy toledo.
not a cub, I'd say the bear was twice the size of a saint bernard, brown with lighter shading on its withers, not at all winter-fat but leaner, athletic looking.

so, end of story:  I got to see the bear I didn't think I was going to get to see this morning, after never even considering that I might see a bear while riding my bike in emigration canyon.

woo hoo! how lucky can I be?!