Solitude and Prapanca

It was a cold and blustery day. I could have gone for a ride outside but Big Nellie was all alone in the basement. So I went downstairs with a magazine, a book, and two water bottles are started spinning.

An article in Adventure Cyclist magazine about Joe Cruz (great name), an accomplished cycle tourist, had a paragraph that really resonated with me. Every time I do a solo tour people ask me if I get bored or afraid. Solo touring has made me appreciate the difference between loneliness and solitude. And as Cruz says:

Being by yourself makes a tremendous difference in how open you are and how you put yourself into the cultural context of the place your visiting. …[W}hen I am solo, I am getting a great big hug from the place, surrounded by mountains or terrain that grabs me and holds me and over hours lets me disappear, and the chatter in my head goes away and the place I am visiting becomes part of me.

I am infinitely more loquacious when I am on a solo bike tour. I talk to everybody I meet. Considering how introverted I am, this is quite a feat.

There is something to be said for touring with others as I did in 2016. And I find I much prefer doing event rides with a group of friends. Solo touring is a whole different ballgame.

Of course, solo touring can be a drag if you let it. More specifically, if you are prone to letting worries run away with your mind, you are in for a very miserable time. I was on my way to Indiana along the C&O Canal towpath in 2005. I was about 40 miles into the day bumping along on Big Nellie when I found my mind hijacked.

“This is so bumpy. All the weight is over the rear wheel. What if my rear tire blows out? What a spoke breaks? What if it starts to rain? This is going to suck.”

Over and over again. For hours.

After finishing the magazine I started reading the new book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics when I learned that this kind of escalating worry binge has a name. Buddhists (in the ancient language Pali) call it prapanca.

I was crushing prapanca all the way to Brunswick, Maryland when I stopped my bike and literally gave myself a good talking to. Out loud. (The other trail users gave me a few hairy eyeballs.) I resolved to forget about all the catastrophes that might come and enjoy the fact that it was a perfect summer day and I was on vacation doing what I love to do.

And off I went with a smile on my face.

A few days later, I noticed that my rear rim was cracking. I stopped at a convenience store. The clerk told me about a nearby bike shop. The bike shop dudes told me that they’d replace the rim and pointed me to a Mexican restaurant and a motel. The next day I was back on the road with a full tummy, a good night’s sleep, and a new rear wheel.

Take that prapanca.

 

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More Trail Droppings: Dinosaurs, Religions, Social Media, and Other Matters of Little Import (Rated PG-13)

At times, bike commuting, despite what Flogini says, is not particularly meditative. It’s quite the opposite, like giving acorns to the squirrels in my brain. Thoughts just careen about up there. So I write them down and contemplate them. Here are a few.

  • Shannon writes a very insightful blog about parenting that I have been following for a few years.  The other day we got into a twitter conversation about dinosaurs. Little kids love dinosaurs. Chris M. chimed in that Pokemon serves a similar purpose. Kids have very hungry brains. They need to fill them with facts. Dinos. Pokemon. Sports statistics. It doesn’t matter if the facts are organized or not, kids just jam them in their brains anywhere they will fit.
  • Adults need more organization for their facts. Publishers figured this out long ago. If you can’t think of anything to write about, make a list. “Five ways to survive allergy season.” “Six ways to drive your man wild in bed.” And so on.
  • Religions figured all this stuff out long ago. My dino knowledge was displaced by the Baltimore Catechism. It’s a Q and A of Catholic dogma. I only remember the first two (Q: Who made me? A: God made me. Q: How did God make me? A: In his own image and likeness.) For what’s it’s worth, I was an altar boy. I learned the Mass in Latin. Let’s see, do we have room in your head for one more “Mea culpa?” Oh yes, over there behind the fusiform gyrus.
  • Religions are bonkers about lists. The ten commandments. The seven chakras. The five pillars. The nine jhanas. The eight beatitudes. The holy trinity. The twelve days of Christmas. The four noble truths. The twelve apostles.
  • All religions boil down to one good idea: be nice. This, however, is far too simple. Sermons would be way too short. We’d have our Sundays (or Saturdays or Fridays) back. We’d get into all sorts of trouble. Can’t have that. We need some lists! Maybe if we have some lists the kids won’t notice that we are being shitty to each other. Thank God.
  • I think John Lennon had it right. Religions fail when they divide. My religion is the only true religion. My people are more better than your people. Be nice? Hell, no. Let’s kill each other. Ugh.
  • I follow Dan Harris’s twitter feed. Dan Harris is a newsman who had a full out panic attack on live television. Eventually it led him to start practicing meditation. Now he’s made a side business out of promoting meditation for skeptics. The other day he tweeted about meditation for golfers. I replied. “It wouldn’t help me. My best club was a machete.” (He liked my quip, BTW.)
  • I have a mantra I use whenever I play a sport that I suck at. I learned it from Canadian hockey players at Boston University. During my freshman year, I lived on one of the hockey team floors in a dorm. (This was actually a reasonably pleasant experience except when they would take slap shots in the hallway.) My roommate was not a hockey player. He used the word “bullshit” as any part of speech. I always thought this was rather odd until I played ping pong with the hockey players. Whenever they screwed up (they were, to a man, outstanding ping pong players), they’d say “Fuck me!” It’s really kind of mindfully Catholic. They never said “Fuck you!” It allowed them to move on without lingering on their failure. “Fuck me” is my mantra. Mea fuckin’ maximum culpa.
  • There must be something to this. One of the ping pong playing hockey players was a Catholic who ended up being the captain of the Miracle on Ice US Olympic gold medal team at the Lake Placid Olympics. How do you say “Fuck me” in Russian?
  • Buddhists would make awesome golfers. You have to be able to put the previous shot behind you, forget about what might happen, and just focus on the situation you are in at present. Play it as it lays. See the ball. Hit the ball. Deal with the consequences later. The reason you never see Buddhists on the PGA tour is they spend hours every day sitting under a banyan tree meditating and doing yoga instead of hitting buckets of balls on the driving range. You will never see me on a golf course. I spent way too much time in the woods saying “Fuck me!”
  • Another reason why I can’t golf worth a damn is the fact that I have floaters in my eyes. I hit a golf ball. It goes up in the air. And it joins dozens of floaters in my field of vision. My golfing partners would see it clear as day. I’d just say “Fuck me.”
  • I’ve known my first Facebook friend (FFF) for ten years (pre-dating Facebook, in fact). FFF unfollowed me about three years ago. FFF stopped socializing with me 2 ½ years ago. Next I unfollowed FFF. Six months ago I thought “Well this is stupid” and I unfriended FFF. A few weeks later I thought “Well that was stupid” and we refriended, after which FFF stopped communicating with me altogether. I sent FFF a Christmas card that went unacknowledged. I have an acute case of social whiplash. So I was going to unfriend FFF again. Then…
  • The other day FFF started following me on Instagram. I…just…don’t…get…it. I feel like I’m watching a dysfunctional ping pong match. 
  • I have asthma. Not the “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” kind where you have violent gasping attacks. When I have an asthma attack it’s very subtle. I just feel off. Sometimes I start involuntarily breathing deeply. Or I cough for no reason. It’s my body telling me I am hungry for air. I inhale some albuterol and ten minutes later I am back to normal lung function.
  • I didn’t realize I had asthma until I went to my son’s 8th grade Christmas show and started quietly weeping at everything that happened. My lungs were low on fuel and it was affecting my mind. When I took my first puff of albuterol it was a revelation. I had forgotten what proper breathing was like. I felt like I had been given a third lung, which, in a way, I sorta had.
  • A similar thing happened to me with allergies. One spring while living in Providence I noticed I was sluggish and had a head ache. After I moved to DC, the headaches got really nasty. I have always been allergic to poison ivy. As an adult, I became allergic to planet earth.
  • Riding up the little hill to the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail the other night, a cyclist pulled up along side me. He: I like your bike. Me: So do I. He: We have the same bike. And we did. His Surly Cross Check was pea-soup green and had silver fenders. Mine is black with black fenders. He flew by me. His Cross Check is more faster than mine. Maybe I can blame my asthma. Fuck me.
  • Finally, okay, let’s vote:

 Is BlissfulBritt Ashley Judd’s long lost twin?