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Thursday
May212009

Living in the Moment

I learned something the other day; I read that the human brain is only about 3% of our body mass, but it uses 20% of our oxygen intake. This is probably why a bike ride is so mentally refreshing.

Even if a person has some serious problems it is hard to even think of these and ride a bike at the same time.

I imagine the brain automatically cuts down on the thought process in order to conserve oxygen needed for the physical effort.

Meditation, clearing the mind of all thought, takes concentration and practice as you sit quietly; otherwise random thoughts constantly slip back into one’s mind.

On the other hand, go for a three hour bike ride at a brisk pace and you will probably not have a single extraneous thought the entire three hours. It would be extremely difficult to sit and meditate for three straight hours.

Much of our daily thought process is superfluous; idle chatter about nothing. When thoughts are bad such as worrying over a problem it is not a good thing.

As much as some of us would like, we can’t ride our bikes all day long, but we can train ourselves to remain in the same wonderful mental state we experience while riding. That is living in the moment.

The moment is the only thing that is real; most idle random thoughts are either about the past or the future and by engaging in such thought we slip out of the moment into realms of imagination about the future, or memories of the past; neither of which are real.

What is life but a succession of moments one after another? If the moment you are in is a pleasant and happy one, then you have a pleasant and happy life.

If at this moment you have a problem, the great thing about living in the moment is, if one moment is not particularly pleasant, there will be another along right after it.

Dwelling on the past is a pointless exercise; no matter how hard you try your past will never get any better or worse for that matter. What is the point of reliving unpleasant experiences and feeling the pain all over again? Or longing for happier times you may have previously experienced. It is not real; it is in your head.

Worrying is another futile pursuit; often the problem is only imagined in the first place. I heard worry described as "Praying for something we don't want."

Even if a problem is inevitable, time enough to deal with it, if and when it arrives. Why torment yourself in the days or weeks leading up to the event? Remember with any problem; before the problem you were, after the problem you still are. The problem is transient, you are not.

How do you get to live in the moment? Ride your bike is one way, or practice meditation, but often we can slip out of the moment once we stop bike riding or meditating.

What worked for me was to become an observer of my mind; I become aware of my thoughts and recognized when I was slipping out of the moment and into the past or future. Just by being aware of these thoughts is enough to stop it.

Another thing we tend to do and not realize we are doing it is to compare ourselves to others. Family members, co-workers, even strangers on the street.

By doing this we feel either inferior or superior to the person we are comparing; both are not good. If you feel inferior it is not good for your self esteem, and if you feel superior then you are pre-judging that person and not having pleasant thoughts towards them.

The old cliché “Money can’t buy happiness,” is true. Happiness is not dependent on material things; it is a state of mind. And by simply being aware of the mind, and its thought processes, it is fairly easy to reach that state.

Life is but a journey through a succession of moments, but it is a more pleasant ride if you are aware of each moment. The following is part of one of my song lyrics.

The unknown road I travel on is of my own creation, and the journey means more to me than the destination.

"The Pursuit of Happiness," I feel is not a good term. It implies that we have to chase happiness in order to reach it. To pursue something puts it somewhere in the future, which if you believe what you have read so far, the future is only imagined and therefore unreal.

If you take the attitude that when I have achieved certain goals in life, or when I am in the right relationship, then I will be happy, you are in pursuit of happiness. Choose happiness now, this moment. All else will follow.

 

Reader Comments (8)

Living in the moment is a good concept, and one worth contemplating. As a side thought to the same point think about this while living in the moment.
We can not control the past, It is gone.
We can not really control the future, we can not guarantee we will be here tomorrow.
What we all have equally is this moment in time. That is the only thing we can control, We can all control what we do right now.
We all have the same gift, this moment right now, so in that we are all equal. It is a great gift. I guess that is why we call it the PRESENT.

I love a brisk ride on a fine-handling road bike mostly for that very reason: it's the best kind of meditation there is.All my concerns melt away while I'm out there concentrating on my ride and on the scenery that flows by me. It's temporary, like transcendental meditation is, but if I string enough rides together day after day, it add up to a lot of serenity I wouldn't have otherwise.

For me, it's a getaway, and I have to do it solo, without any constraints, and without paying any attention to numbers... so, no groups, no computers.

May 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Fantastic little piece, Dave. Great for the subtle bike advocacy but then the life messsage in general. I'm forwarding a copy (with a link of course!) to a number of friends.

May 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKymbo

I guess that's why commuting is not as much fun as a pointless ride.

May 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPete

I have a friend (about 40) who went through a divorce for the first time in his life. He is a cyclist of course. He told me that during that time of turmoil at home, he increased his time out riding a lot. It was his method of getting away from the unhappy camper at home. A sort of meditation/relaxation. I never knew what that is like, for I'm single and no where near his age. But I think I now now. You are right in saying that as the working class, none of us can afford to spend all our time riding bikes. But for the little moments we do have, it's important we go out riding in a pleasant state of mind. I do think of the future when I ride...but its hard to worry when you're riding. There's something about cycling that affords us this luxury...and maybe you're right...the brain has far better things to do when you're under some amount of cardiovascular stress :)

May 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Dave I think you've hit on one of the primary reasons why people become addicted to cycling, or other sports. I read years ago that symphony conductors tend to be long lived and the article posited that this was because their chosen profession did not allow stray thoughts while practicing it. In effect they were meditating at work.
Same is very much true for cycling. On the mtn bike I find that if I am in my head too much the ride becomes unpleasurable. I fail to find the flow and in fact will more than likely take one or more bad spills.
The road bike within 10-15 minutes (usually following the first steep climb) always takes me to a place where it is just me, the road and the bike. I may be grunting to climb a hill, spurring myself to keep cadence but all of the "monkey chatter" has been left behind. Hard to dislike yourself when you're out riding for joy.
Same is true for me in the winter of freestyle nordic skiing. Ten minutes into it and its just me, the trail and the woods.
World would be a better place if more of us got out like this in some fashion every day.

May 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

Great post.

Riding a bike does put one in a different state of mind - the speed, the sensation, the effort involved. I commute almost daily, an hour each way, most of it on bike path - no cars or traffic. Even though I'm a music fan, have no desire to use an iPod while riding at all - though I see many riders doing so. The ride alone is enough for me.

As far as being completely "in the moment", that doesn't occur to me unless some speed or technical sections are involved - mountain biking usually.

When I was younger, used to ride dirt motorcycles quite a bit and raced motocross as well. I remember during races or practicing at race speeds - would be completely in the moment - no other thoughts in my head. A rare sensation.

Interesting stuff....

May 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Great post!

Blood (& oxygen) delivery to the brain is not compromised during intense exercise, however. It receives a very steady flow of blood regardless of bodily movement.

July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterelSid
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