“Don’t Let the World Shut You Down.”
Joanna Macy, Deep Ecologist
Shikantaza in Biker’s Paradise
Joseph Campbell on Aliveness
Jane Fonda on Embodiment
Roshi Joan Halifax on Stability
Light Hands on the Handlebars
Music – PONY – Waifs
With what-all’s going on in the world, raising a jigger-of-joy is not so easy. For me, an 100% proof method for upping my joy-quotient is to roll-out my two-wheeled pony and ride. I can peddle-up a sensation akin to contentment in as little as two-tenths of a mile, or so. And if the countryside is spectacularly conducive to raising a glass – and lifting the heart and mind – I spin into a joyful inebriation in no time at all.
This screams road trip: Recently, I peddled my two-wheeled pony around the American Southwest – leaving behind the New York Times, CNN and the bewildering miasma of the collective mesmerism. My intention was to maintain: a spam-free mind; balanced seat; resilient stance; nurture a joyful disposition – not easy for me – and bike my buns off.
So with two ponies – both road and mountain – atop my Suby-WRX, my husband Landt and I motored-off for Chaco Canyon, and on into the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park regions around Lake Powell and Boulder, Utah. Full-on fall foliage: need I say more about the scenery?
First-stop Chaco was an instant consciousness changer: a context that spam-filters the modern world. I was cast in it’s spell, once again, as I spun laps on the circuit road while Landt took the Chaco mystery-tour for his first time. I’m always amazed at how biking – which creates an instant breeze through the system – serves as a clarifier with each passing tenth-of-a-mile. It’s as if the layered kleshas of consciousness re-prioritize in my field-of-view – like shifting multiple open-windows on thecomputer screen of awareness.
While biking, thoughts which do not subserve safety and joy on my two-wheeled pony get spammed-out: they simply recede, revealing a clear window on the immediate scene. A kind of biker’s shikantaza may arise – beyond the egoic-endorpin rush – an open-presencing of place within an 360% awareness.
This stable-state – I’ve found – can be experienced, not only on a cushion in a zendo after hours of staring open-eyed into space – or at a wall – but can come through on a bike-seat, as well, after quite a few miles: hills and heat help. Assuming, that is, one is into such sport of embodiment practice – ALONE!
Solo biking, hiking, trekking and skiing have all taught me lots about my mind as a clogged sieve, and my regular need for the spam-filters of exercise and fresh air. Both subtle-embodiment practices like yoga, and aerobic exercise in the outdoors offset the stasis that creeps into my system: a sclerotis that loves to germinate under the guise and guile of hyper-busyness – social and otherwise.
To offset sclerosis of the soul, taking time-out to re-embody: to exercise and oxygenate – and allow consciousness to clarify – takes intentionality.
Workout guru Jane Fonda spoke of such intentionality during a recent retreat at Santa Fe’s Upaya Zen Center www.upaya.org. On the subject of Wisdom & Time: Composing a Life, Composing a World, this intensive included anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Rabbi Malka Druker. A fitness retreat on all fronts for futurists and social activists living in the embodied now!
Looking fitter than ever,Jane Fonda said that many people who are all buffed-out – the gym-jocks of both genders – are not necessarily embodied. She averred: Girls tend to move out of their bodies early in life, and live next door to themselves.
At home in our bodies, Roshi Joan halifax reinforced the need to maintain a strong-back and soft-front, and to intentionally keep a light-hand on the tiller of life – without the stranglehold of anxiety that can result from overexposure to today’s uncertainties. Roshi Joan Halifax affirmed: We need to develop mental flexibility to see clearly and observe the emerging world – and to hold it lightly. Consciously playing with the forces of change invites a fundamental insecurity.
Cultivating joyful resiliency, and a light-minded capacity for subtlety and nuance in life, is like biking down a 14% grade, curvy scenic road. Wariness and joy become interchangeable open-windows on a speeding screen: now you feel it – now you don’t.
Plenty of culinary joy to be felt at Hell’s Backbone Grill www.hellsbackbonegrill.com in Boulder, Utah. Blake Spaulding and Jennifer Castle met as former Grand Canyon specialty chefs, and established this end-o-the trail restaurant eleven years ago – followed by a wake of joyful Buddhist practitioners who settled smack in the midst of a rural Mormon community. Working sustainably with local growers, all produce is organically raised – so you eat clean and fresh – along with yummy warm breads; imaginative combinations dished-up every day; and a fine wine selection – taboot – in this remote upcountry enclave.
When I asked Blake how she maintained her resiliency and contageous joyful nature? Daily practice: she responded. And I’m about to marry the most marvelous man! Furthermore, she stated that all employees must manifest a joyful nature in order to maintain their jobs – and they all do so quite charmingly well. Thanks bodhis for the upbeat atmosphere and culinary-squares to keep me spinning.
Hell’s Backbone Grill staff even dished-up joy at breakfast – witnessing me carbo-load three day in a row. After downing a final breakfast of blue corn flaps – with all the fixings – I biked my buns off: down the spine of Scenic Rt. 12 – with its Bierdstadt vistas and Moran panoramas flowing fast, left and right : through a hailstorm into Mormon valley inholdings along Hell’s Backbone Road – with it’s otherworldly-chroma of roadside weeds; out the historic Burr Trail into Capitol Reef’s moonscapes toward Glenn Canyon.
Daring to I sneak a peek at the bike’s odometer: it read 32+mph as I peeled down-down-down a steep switchback on the Notam-Bullfrog-Middle Point Roads. Is this joy – or a spam-dunk? With far-away Lake Powell directly in my crosshairs, any irregularity in the granola-road could have pitched me right into the drink.
In that instant – with an open-presence recall of Roshi Joan Halifax’s light-hand-on-tiller admonition – I softened my white-knuckle grip on the handlebars; stabilized my seat; pulled focus on the immediate field-of-view; and braked gently – stopping slow-and-long into a scenic pull-out to breathe.
The landscape, quite literally, took my breath away. Taking a deep one, I exploded with a joyful lion’s roar out over the canyons. Landt and I had hiked the canyons earlier on the trip: we’d driven-up the same route.
This shikantaza joy ride down the Notam-Bullfrog-Middle Point Roads brought to mind, as well, Mary Catherine Bateson’s quips during the retreat: We live longer but think shorter – We need to think wider and further. Right then, behind me, in tiny rear-view handlebar mirrors, Landt drove-up: way late for the ferry over Lake Powell, we were. A startled prairie dog looking on, I fast-strapped my pony atop to the WRX, and we made for the Bullfrog landing – arriving in the nick-o-time.
Heading home to Santa Fe, I paused to pony through more spectacular red-rock-scapes over the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge; down to the Lee’s Ferry put-in for the Grand; and along easy-does-it Marble Canyon Road. By now, my well-practiced light-grip on the handlebars suddenly released altogether: I found myself pulling joyful sun-salutations as I wheeled through ever-unfolding Indian Country with a chi-full glee.
Chi: that sense of gut-level aliveness we all wish to abide in. A quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell has been hanging around my office for some time: People say we’re all seeking meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking:
What we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.
Alive, well, and back in Santa Fe, I stabled my old Specialized Tricross pony. Next day, I went to Bike-N-Sport www.bikensport.com for a tire-fix. There, a $6,000 high-performance, just out-of-the-box, feather-weight Italian bike caught my fancy. The too pretty blue-and-white Pinarello Paris had cushy white handlebars; the latest in gear-tech; and I could lift it with one finger – no less.
Try it: the lads urged me. No pony this: doing rounds in the store – like riding a specialized swan feather – the bike flew off beneath me as I rounded the sales counter smartly; nearly plowed into the women’s sale rack; and braked just short of the glass Oakley Glasses case.
Joy Ride? Only 6K between me and Icarus!
StoryShards – soon – at Santa Fe Soul
November 12-13, Fri night 7-9pm & Sat 9-5, $95
Lisl Dennis 505-986-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org