The Zen of Bicycle Commuting
This 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.