by Emanuel Kuntzelman
I recently decided to buy a bike. Now, at this point in my life, it is very easy for a lot of “expert authorities” on safety to hear this, scratch their heads and inquire if I’m really sure that biking in the city is a good decision. “At your age, you want to buy a bike?!” This could probably be the most offensive objection I can imagine, and like the spiritual journey we are embarking on, there will always be naysayers, “experts” assuring us we are crazy as we traverse our transformative path.
During our Greenheart Transforms Ibiza retreat, I was having a conversation with my good friend Jerry Brownstein, and he was mentioning some of the keys to his own personal transformation. He said that one of the most important for him was “don’t ever allow the FMA card to enter your mind.” FMA being “For My Age.”
We are so trained to follow this way of thinking, constantly aware that we shouldn’t be doing something because it isn’t aligned with someone our age. This is certainly a barrier to our own personal transformation. We need to ignore those ideas that our ambitions might be too large for our youthful age, or that if we are of a later age to enjoy the childlike wonder along our path.
It is this youthful exuberance for life that has been revived since purchasing my bike. Sometimes we have to stop intellectualizing the process and over-thinking our intentions, and riding through the streets of Chicago has been a reminder of embracing action.
I remember when I was 6 years old, learning to ride a bike. A number of my friends had already learned to ride, and I was still riding with those horrifyingly embarrassing training wheels. The reason I had not yet learned to ride a bike is much the same reason why it took me a while to have other transformative breakthroughs: I was thinking about it too much. As a child, looking at this two-wheeled, narrow vehicle, I kept wondering how it was possible to safely stay balanced while in motion. That was my problem until one day, my mother said “We’ll just give it a try and take off the training wheels, start at the top of the hill. And don’t worry, I won’t let go.”
Of course, she gave me a push and I started off whizzing down the hill, quite sure my mother was running behind and holding the bike, even though it would have been much faster than she would have intended to run, but I just needed to stop thinking, allowing myself to ride free. And that sensation to this day remains one of the most freeing, ecstatic moments of my life. When I got to the bottom of the hill and saw my mom standing at the top of the hill with a satisfied smile, I realized there was nothing mechanical or rational I needed to learn. All I needed was faith in letting go.
But what about safety? Some people might say that riding a bike around a big city like Chicago is a very dangerous activity. Sure, riding along the lakefront is alright, but what about the busy city streets full of cars? The transformative journey is a challenging undertaking, and even though I’m careful riding my bike, if we just stuck to the Lakefront Path because it was the safest route, we would miss out on a lot of eye-opening experiences.
There is a freedom, not just in coasting down an open street, but in being able to go from point A to point B on my own accord. Just the first few days of riding my bike in the city has clearly demonstrated that I can get somewhere just as fast as a car at no expense, no fossil fuel consumption and no stress of sitting in traffic. In fact I’m enjoying the freedom of gliding through the open air and enjoying the sites from a new point of view.
Changing my choice of transformation has definitely allowed my perspective of the city to change. I rode down a street I’ve ridden in a cab many times, and from my bike I couldn’t even believe it was the same route; it was like it was some place I’ve never been before. Biking is very much a “be here now” activity when you are riding down Division Street watching for cars, doors, lights and potholes. It’s a grounding connection with the real world.
In this type of view, it forces you to be cognitively present. Where a running and sitting mediation allows you to drift off into holistic outer space; I can see how a biking meditation requires your total presence of mind, and so in many ways will be a much needed and valued addition to my meditation techniques.
So, I bought a bike, but what I’m really saying here is that each of us, every day can make a decision to find our inner freedom, exercise our inner will, improve our life, develop a healthy habit and make that personal contribution to our own evolution. It could be as simple and mundane as buying a bike, but it does symbolize a true, deep and profound spiritual process within the individual. I encourage everyone to symbolically go out, and buy their own bike.
Oh, and I hope to see you next week, meeting up at 746 N. LaSalle, so we can bike together to the lakefront for session two on the I Ching.