Last Monday night a group of us from my Unitarian-Universalist church discussed writings of Unitarians who are also Buddhist or Christian . As a teenager, I drifted away from belief in a god while trying to hold on to some sort of Golden Rule Christian ethics, so I sort of, sort of qualify as a Christian Unitarian. I haven’t totally rejected the tradition, and while reading a biography of Theodore Parker, a nineteenth-century minister at our church in West Roxbury, as well as a number of his sermons, I find a lot to think about and follow in the tradition of activist Unitarianism based on the teachings of Jesus without the millennia of added baggage which he preached to the “farmers and mechanics” in what was then the outlands of Boston.
Then we moved on to Buddhism, which several in our group practiced seriously. They told of multi-day silent retreats, strict discipline, and solitary meditation, detaching oneself from the world to see what is and is not. After hearing about these practices, I started to wonder why I was never attracted to practicing meditation when it worked so well for people.
As we were leaving, I realized that once again, I was the only person who biked to the discussion. That seems to happen a lot, and I realized that bicycling was my practice, that my meditation is not detaching from the world but becoming hyper-aware of it. I’ll call this comparable practice, “Bicyclism”. Just about every morning, no matter what the weather (and it’s been challenging a few days this winter), I dress appropriately–warm, but cute, or at least not too threatening–and head into the world of cars, trucks, trees, geese, and rivers, for a 45-60-minute trip across the city on my bicycle. I try (and maybe have) to be totally in the moment
and aware of everything around me. Every so often, I command my tensed-up shoulders to relax, because though not everything that I encounter is non-threatening, the whole experience feels better when I can be calmer. There are, however, real penalties if this concentration is lost, adding a bit of reality to this meditation.
I’m surely not the only one who feels this way, though there is often no bike but mine parked at the various events and meetings I attend. I never realized before that while there are lots of reasons to ride a bicycle–exercise, fresh air, closeness to the environment, low carbon footprint, and others–in the end, I bike because I bike. The journey is the reward. Riding a bike is what I do to live a full life as well as to get places. I am a Bicyclist.