Sometimes I just want to look down. Mountain biking is all about looking ahead, anticipating our next move before we get to it. What we are doing right now has already happened, in a blink of an eye, and it does not matter as much as what lies ahead, which then passes in a blink of an eye and we're again looking ahead. It's a strange space to be in, not here right now, but always one second ahead. It sort of goes in-line with and against the peace we try to seek in our everyday non-riding lives. Live in the moment.
I am horrible with meditation, I say I am going to practice it, but I don't even know where to begin and I don't put any effort into beginning it. I do, however, try to practice being in the moment. Not letting my thoughts wander to anxiety about the future or regret about the past. Just right now. The perfect moment. I'm exactly where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to be doing. This, obviously, is not the practice of looking ahead.
I find both mountain biking and being in the moment a great practice for the brain, and the soul for that matter. But how to do both without them conflicting is sometimes conflicting. On my best rides I am energized and feeling aggressive - strong and intent. The focus it takes to be an aggressive rider is somewhat meditative, nothing else exists in that moment except for you and the trail and your bike and your breath, and I'll say it again - what lies just ahead. And what lies just ahead is constantly and rapidly changing. It's a perfect combination of being strong but relaxed. Relaxed enough to flow like water through the trail. Strong enough that your brain and body work harmoniously to muscle over and around obstacles that you only see as clear paths. It's trickery in a way. That is not a rock. Look beyond. That is a ribbon of path around that rock or that rock is now a launch pad into the next section of trail. Thank you rock for being such a great launch pad. It's not an obstacle it's only what is beyond.
Lately, in life, I've been practicing being in the moment and being satisfied with that moment. The other day I went out for a ride and all I wanted to do was look straight down. I did not want to look ahead or to think lightning fast. I did not feel the energy to have my body react spontaneously. I said to my friend I was riding with - these are the days I just need to hike. The problem, however, was I was not certain I was feeling that way until I got on my bike and tried to ride. And I say 'tried to ride' literally. I could not for the life of me get motivated enough to master some of the tricky sections of trail I had mastered a million times. I was paralyzed really, by fear mostly. Because I noticed if I'm not feeling particularly energetic or motivated suddenly that steep, rocky, narrow section seems very undesirable. This is not fun, this is not what I want to do right now and even though I may possess the skill the brain is very much in control. That's the thing with mountain biking, it is a mind-over-matter sport more than anything. If I put my mind to it, I CAN do it. It's convincing the mind to let go of reasonable or unreasonable fears. It is reasonable to be afraid to jump a gap. However, we desire to challenge ourselves and the thrill and satisfaction of achieving a new goal usually, hopefully, overrides the fear. And that's outside of the physical feeling of mastering a new trick or section of trail. A mountain biker knows when something feels right and when it doesn't and we all ride in pursuit of that 'right' feeling. Not to mention the endorphins and adrenal that we've all become addicted to when we are doing our sport and we are doing it well. The mind-body connection is unavoidable. And that brings me back to my original statement. Sometimes I just want to look down. It could be a variable brain chemistry thing, it could be something else going on that I am unable to put out of my head. But it is an uneasy feeling for someone who is normally driven to wanting to achieve and master. After two or three rides like this I start to wonder, will I get it back? Will I always feel this unmotivated, will I always just want to look down instead of looking ahead?
I am sure the answer is no. Just as sure as I am in this moment right now. For now, I will accept and resign myself to look at what is right in front of me. Life is a balance - work, family, relationships, me. Sometimes I need to jump off that tight-rope and just sit. Nothing happens when I sit. Maybe nothing is supposed to happen right now. And then after some time sitting I will be ready to look ahead. Look fast and strong and look ahead.