Taking It Easier

Over the years, as I have exercised, either on my bike or running, I have found it hard to take it easy on the route that I have chosen. Obviously, if I am going a shorter distance, I will be pushing harder; if I am going longer, I will measure my effort in accord with how long I need to keep going. If I don’t know the route, then I have to keep more back in reserve, just to be able to last the distance and navigate whatever hurdles there may be.

I was musing on this on Sunday afternoon, as I undertook a planned long ride: on the way out of the city, I wanted to tackle the Guadeloupe Canyon Road running up San Bruno Mountain (it features in the famous Bullitt car chase – any of the segments that are obviously not urban). If I were just going up the mountain and back, as I sometimes do, I would be working harder up the climb; this time since I was going further, I put my bike in the lowest gear and took it easier.

The next climb on the route was up from the Camino Real in San Bruno to Skyline. The road I chose is one I have only ridden once before, but quite recently, so I was well aware that the hardest sections were near the top, and paced myself accordingly.

I was aiming for the Sweeney Ridge trail; once out on the trail, which was paved from the end of Sneath Lane (as far as I had ventured before), to the summit, I had no idea what to expect, beyond seeing the ridge line some way above me. It turned out to be a great climb, tough in the middle, but very doable. There was a great sense of accomplishment – not to mention outstanding views – once I reached the top. To add to the adventure, I had decided to try the dirt trail to get down from the top to Pacifica, which I wasn’t well equipped for, but managed, more on foot than not. And then I had one big climb left to get home, but this was one that I knew well enough, and knew I could manage, even with tired legs.

With the shelter-in-place world continuing without a clear sense of the exit (however much some people are trying to “liberate” their states), I feel like I will have to adapt a similar approach to this unknown duration. And some parts of it are going to be hard. I get texts from friends expressing how depressed they are, especially from lack of physical contact – having devoted much time in my most recent talks to highlighting the nourishing aspects of in-person interaction, I can entirely sympathise.

Finishing up articles from a New Yorker of a couple of weeks ago, the descriptions from the novel phase of the lockdown already seem passé. We know how this feels now. And we will keep on knowing new dimensions of it as it continues, even if we don’t know exactly what those are now. Sometimes the future looks grim, and sometimes the present might not be as scary as you may think. We can learn fresh ways to discover how interconnected everything is, and also learn more about what it is that some people are experiencing.

In this fluid world, I do trust that our practice helps us: having few desires, being more attuned to interiority and living in the moment. Hopefully using skillful means and compassion to navigate the complexities and unpleasantness.

While I was waiting in line at Rainbow the other day – one of those things we have just somehow accommodated to – I was also reminded of something I have already posted from La Peste:

‘Tarrou added: “Query: How contrive not to waste one’s time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one’s days on an uneasy chair in the dentist’s waiting room; by remaining on one’s balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by listening to the lectures in a language one doesn’t know; by traveling the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course by standing all the way; by lining up at the box office of theaters and then not buying a seat; and so forth.”‘

So our time continues on, and we don’t know the course, so we have to try to manage our energy for the duration, and hold a little back just in case.

In ways I am hoping to help this week – beyond apparently having steered a few people to take roams – there is a Zoom talk to the Hebden Bridge group and friends today, starting at 11:30 PST, and this Saturday, the 25th, I will be offering the zazen instruction for Zen Center’s online zendoThat starts at 8:10 PST.

IMG_3789.jpgAlmost at the top of Sweeney Ridge.

IMG_3801.jpgAlmost back down at sea level.

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