“What kind of bike ride is this going to be?” That’s the question I asked Tom so I would know what to expect on our trip along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. It was going to be a nice, fun bike ride, but it would be better if I wore my sneakers and yoga pants instead of my usual jean shorts and flip flops because it was going to be a longer ride. I was the last to get ready (as usual) and hopped onto my bike along with Tom and his parents, Dave and Sharon.
We started the day out riding through the neighborhood to get to the trail. It was sunny, leisurely, and flat all the way through the beginning of the trail. But then, Sharon started picking up speed and passing all of us. I was a little confused, but then got my answer after Dave joked about her wanting to race all of us. She was preparing for the upcoming hill. After I found out about that, I started booking it too. There’s no way my heavy, three speed city bike was going to get up any hill without putting some ass into it. Stopping or going too slow on the way up would mean I’d be pushing my bike the rest of the way to the top.
I made it up the first hill no problem; but, to my surprise, there wasn’t just one hill. There were multiple hills, each getting steeper and we continued: 9%, 10%, 11% grade! I went into survival mode, and put all my energy into finishing our “fun activity” and making it back. I finished. I might have had to stop, hop off my bike, and push my way up some hills; but I finished and got back on my own power.
I was not a happy camper. Without realizing it, I had created all these expectations of how the bike ride was going to be. There were all these minimal requirements for what makes something fun and enjoyable or not. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. The more I get attached to the outcome, the less room there is to enjoy something else that comes my way. I get stuck in tunnel vision, and there’s less room for God to work “magic”.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks advice from Krishna on the eve of a great battle between good and evil. He is torn between whether or not he should fight, and the consequences that each bring. Krishna tells him
“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.” Bhagavad Gita 2:47
In other words, we do the action without attachment to the outcome. However, to live without expectation doesn’t mean to go through Life blindly and just expect everything to happen. No. Work still needs to be done. Actions still need to be taken. Skills still need to be learned in order to be ready for what is comes.
Ben Saltzman speaks of the Hero’s Journey in which the hero leaves the comfort and security of home and sets out on a mission. Our hero has no skills, no internal fortitude, and no connections at the start of this journey; but is not deterred by any of it. Our hero still acts, and through those actions, learns those skills that are needed to complete the journey. We are the hero of our story.
“We still go. We take the action. We put it out. We move into the world because we become the person that can fulfill on the mission along the way. We learn those skills.”
I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed my bike ride more if I had better conditioning. It probably would’ve been more enjoyable if I hadn’t been attached to needing to stay on my bike the whole time for this to be a success. But even despite that, the whole experience wasn’t a loss. I gained the strength and skills to do this again. I gained the experience of knowing the trail. I gained the insight of seeing how I think.
Will I do this ride again? Sure… just maybe after I’ve gotten a little more distance and hills under my belt and come to grips with it being ok for things to not work out “perfectly”.