Because Zen makes sense

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

The Zen of Bicycle Commuting

commuteThis originally was thought of as the Tao of Bicycle Commuting. But my commuting is not aimless, not effortless, not spontaneous, and not without planning. At first glance my commute is not in accordance with the principles of Tao. It is not Wu Wei, no action through no-action.

Zen fits better. Because my bicycle commute is about mindfulness, the moment here and now, about sounds, smells, about concentration, about some kind of art (“the art of bicycling”), about oneness between me and my bike, and oneness between me, the bike, and the ground. And it is about new experiences all the time, about awareness of my shifting emotions towards this daily exercise of mine.

The summertime in Norway is gone, the clock is turned one hour back. That means more light in the morning, and the last days I have had the feeling of running my bike straight in to the rising sun. I know my mobile phone photo is not the best, but I had to stop to make this image. I do not commute all the way on my bike, although it has happened. 60 kilometres from home to work is too time consuming since the route means crossing some mountains. I take the train to a station 14 kilometers from office, and commuting by bike the rest of the way. In the afternoon I ride back to this station, mostly downhill in the morning, and uphill on my way home. Together from my ride to and from the station in my home town, that sums up to 32 kilometers each day. Now and then I put some more kilometers into this, but usually I am quite satisfied with my daily routine.

While most of my route goes on pavement, some kilometers are on gravel, meaning a bit more technical skills, and even some more energy put into my riding. My cyclocross is the ideal type of bicycle for these conditions. I start out in the forest, with a car driving by now and then, before the traffic tighten up a bit when I approach the town where my office is located. I have to look up for moose crossing the road, and one morning I almost collided with one before he at last decided that this strange thing approaching actually was a Homo Sapiens, and jumped off the road.

I mentioned all what make this Zen to me, but I have to underline another mindful experience. I try to focus on my breath, I try to wonder about the pain in my muscles, I try to be aware of my movements, of my pedalling and the way I handle the bike. And I experience I get less tired when doing so, sort of looking at myself from outside, a bit like the moose I told about. Bicycling, and my “communication” with my bike, is actually a very mindful experience. Put together, my time commuting is Zen in more than one way.

And perhaps it is a bit about Tao nevertheless. The flow I experience, the automatic corrections I make, the closeness to the nature surrounding my route, the birds singing, this is all Tao. And the sun rising, the darkness turning into light, my feeling og being part of something greater than myself, that’s Tao. So perhaps Zen, or may I say Chàn, and Tao merge into my bicycle commuting.


Soft as Water

Today I went out in a chilly Norwegian autumn to meditate. Wind, a bit rain, dark skies and yeallow leaves from the birches landing softly in my hair. To meditate out in the nature always is different experience than meditating inside the house. And it is a meditation more close to the Tao.


While I sat there, listeting to the wind, and watching the lake in front of me, I remembered the words of Lao Tzu in the famous Tao te Ching:

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.


Years after years the soft waves had washed over the stony beach, making deep impressions into the hard granite. I touch the cold water. It felt soft, and the waves seemed to have no strength. Meeting the hard with the hard, the strong with strength, can be destructive. Meeting strength with wisdom, softness and patience, can be rewarding. We only need to look around to se the truth of this returning argument in Tao te Ching.

Wisdom and harmony yield ultimately good results, while victory through use of power often only leads to new conflicts. Tao, whatever that is, creates and uphold everything by the action of no-action, letting everything flow its natural ways. But the results never cease to to unfold.

What coud that tell us about how we should behave? I am not in the right to tell others about their lives, but to me the thought of the soft overcoming the strong from time to time is useful i tense situations, where conflict otherwise would have been he alternative.

Meditation and Planning

Meditation to me means focusing, being here and now. I try to mentally rinse my mind of past and future, not being afraid of drifting away in my thoughts, but being enough aware of what’s happening so that I can focus back. I focus back on my breath, on sensations on my body, on sounds, but most of all on my breath.
Then I observe that planning is the factor that most often make my thoughts drift away. I plan the day, I plan my work, I plan my presentations, I sort my ideas, I plan my physical training programme etc. And when I start this way of thought-wandering, I can be in my planning for many minutes before I sort of wake up and focus back.
This is quite a paradox, because I feel that in moments of stress, when my duties hang over me, I need being here and now more than ever. And at the same time my thoughts wonder off more than ever.
Not that I am judgmental towards myself. This is how things are, and I recognize my planning as an old, interrupting, friend. I often, though, wish that my old friend would postpone the visit to another time, and not disturb my meditation. But my mind function this way, I can’t force it, and I have to accept this well known disturbance.
And I guess I am not alone experiencing planning during my meditation. That’s a kind of comfort.

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