On the first day of my solo bicycle ride across the country in 2015, I left my hotel in Williamsburg, VA and rode through old town onto the Capital Trail, a thirty-five mile bike path that took me through Jamestown, to the Tidelands, on a three day pedal to begin a steep climb over the Blue Ridge Highway, crossing the Appalachians.
About an hour out of Williamsburg on that 98° May 12, I saw a large cluster of kids ahead on the path. I slowed to glide through the bunch and someone said, “Where you going?” I said, “Going home to Seattle.” And they all shouted like I scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl - and continued to cheer and shout encouragement as I pushed forward with a feeling of excitement, adventure, curiosity and pride like I’d never known… and I was so excited, that for the next 65 miles, I forgot to drink water.
About five miles from my first night’s destination, one of my hamstrings blew and I dropped the bike and rolled onto the hot asphalt, seized up in pain, draining my hydration pack.
I had fallen into the spell of self-adulation, blinded to reality… until it hit smacked me off my bike.
Always striving to be mindful when I experience something negative, I affirm it, allow myself to feel it, and then choose how to respond to it. But this time, the positive stimulation took over and felt so good, I just rode it, literally. Not much awareness on my part.
I dropped into my “shadowy self,” the self we don’t see that often determines what we do and say. We’re all guided to some degree by our stories… and a lot of the time, they are so engrained into what we think we know to be true, we don’t see them hovering in the dark.
Over the 78 days I spent in the saddle crossing the country, I had the longest, consistent time to just be with my thoughts than I’d ever experienced… I realized that my body was so much more capable than my mind ever gave it credit for - and that it was me holding myself back from opportunities all my life, not external circumstances.
I learned that the most important thing I can do is to study and really get to know myself - what lurks in the shadows. And that learning more about my “selves” and how they fit into all the systems I interact with, was where I would find growth.
And then I learned about the other two selves that make me up. As Nick Owen explained it in “The Salmon of Knowledge,” we have two aspects of the mind - the individual and the awakened. The individual, our small, exterior marketplace self that gets us through what we need to get done in our everyday world, and our “Awakened” self, the. “Non-seeking, non-doing awakened mind, a mind of emptiness, that has nothing to prove or do.” It’s in this space that we can see ourselves objectively - and as Owen put it, “The secret to all transformation is to see ourselves in a more objective way."
But it isn’t easy and the work never ends. I have all this knowledge yet I still battle daily to become more aware and objective. And today, when I look at people in this country that support the Presidency, a part of me thinks that they are fully operating from a self they don’t even know exists - from stories that they don’t even know they authored. I should be tolerant in my thoughts - which I am not doing so well at.
I should look at them objectively and have empathy for them. They were never taught…. didn’t have the role models… but I just can’t hold onto that compassion. I just want to slap them and say, “By the way, are you the only person in the world - put on your fucking mask.” So I have a ways to go… and I have the rest of my life to work on it.
As a coach, I work with business leaders and those in my Healthy Aging practice to become invested in their own development - to learn about and get to know their selves, so they can do the same for every one they interact with. To expose them to the glory of curiosity and development.
When I think about what I just wrote… it’s such a simple, logical reality - it should be easy, but it’s not. I see myself as an empathetic, caring human being… that just occasionally wants to smack the shit out of some folks… that’s normal isn’t it?