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The Pain Cave

As I stepped over the center bar of my bicycle, I glanced back at Hellen and Stu shooting a quick photo of Lydia and I preparing to disembark. We'd spent 3 days as guests in their home in Brighton, England. It always amazes me how well you can get to know someone in a few short days. When looking back on the memories and feelings it's hard to distinguish whether I knew them for a day or a decade. You quickly pop in and out of people's lives on the road. Not surprisingly, these short bursts can make a powerful impact. I find it peculiar that a part of me wanted to step off the bike and hang it up for another day. Just before I locked my boot into the pedal I had the urge to exclaim, "well, maybe we'll stay just another day." You want those warm moments over that last dinner together to linger. I remember feeling like this on holidays with my family where everything feels just right for that moment. You want it to last, but it has to pass to remain meaningful. Those feelings keep the candle of the spirit lit; something the Old Natives would have found valuable. We cannot exist without that flame. It's what keeps us human, compassionate, tangible.

It's Hot in France

My candle had be rekindled, and against my heartstrings I stomped my muddy cleat into the pedal. You wave goodbye, but you don't look back as they watch you disappear into the horizon. You never look back. Only onto the road ahead. Not beyond the bend. Just where the next pedal stroke you make takes you. It is the hardest of all places to be, right here and now. Coincidentally, it is the only place you can ever be. The bicycle runs on spirit. Some may argue it runs on calories burned by the body, but anyone enduring a long term challenge could tell you it is the mind that stands in the way, not the body. I've always got one more mile left in me, until my mind hits the breaking point. If I continually tell myself "I am too tired" or " I'm too sore" then that becomes my reality and my bike hits the breaks. The spirit empowers the mind and the mind empowers the body. When I've faced many hard days on end, the soul needs something to replenish its resivoir. When the tank is full, my body cuts through the rain and wind like red hot razor. What I tell myself has been more than important, it is dire. I start to become the man I tell myself I am. Self-destructive language should have no place in my mind, but it can creep it's way in. Especially if I'm tired, hungry or just not getting my way. The real Zen of cycling is not keeping my mind concentrated on the goal at hand, it is to see and accept things as they really are. When it's cold, wet and my hands hurt, they really do hurt.

In a conversation with Stu and Hellen, we learned about the pain cave. When it hurts you go into the cave, you accept what is found, it becomes part of you. Because it's true, life is suffering as well as sunsets. Pull into the pain cave and take a deep breath. You know what, it still hurts but my mind can accept it. The pain is worse when my mind is beating me up too, wishing I was somewhere else. The grip loosens as I accept the discomfort and I start to find peace in the cave. These things I've found to be true. When I'm freezing cold, I know I'll be warm again some day. When I'm so famished I'm hollow, I know I'll feel full again. The rain always dries. The sun always rises and eases the cold morning, just like those little moments of warmth with others that make the journey possible.

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